Smartphones have evolved over the years, and so has smartphone photography. In the early days of Android, most smartphones came with a single rear camera, which fulfilled the needs of those years. While everyone agreed back then that you would need only one camera on the back of the device, the placement of the camera itself alternated between being located centrally on the X-axis or being offset to the top left corner on the back of the device.
In an attempt to differentiate themselves from the crowd and competition, OEMs like LG and HTC began experimenting with dual rear cameras with devices like the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC Evo 3D way back in 2011! The idea with those devices was similar to the “3D” depth sensing for photos and videos that we now see across most devices.
What worked for single rear cameras in placement, worked for these two as well for their dual camera setup. With the introduction of the second camera though, we also had the possibility of placing the cameras side-by-side horizontally, but these phones in 2011 did not touch those areas.
Huawei added some more combinations for placement when it made the jump to three rear cameras with the Huawei P20 Pro in early 2018. We now had three cameras placed vertically and offset from the center of the X-axis. There could have been more possibilities with the placement, as we will see further on, but at that stage, Huawei stuck to this design. Samsung then released its own device with three rear cameras with the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018), which followed along the general trend for placement. The Oppo R17 Pro did something slightly different in the placement by placing the cameras centrally on the X-axis, but still followed the vertical placement pattern.
Huawei really shook things up with Huawei Mate 20 Pro in terms of design, offering a grid placement setup for the three rear cameras that quickly became synonymous with the phone as its prime identity. You can very easily spot the Mate 20 Pro by simply looking at its back — it was unique, symmetrical and more importantly, functional.
We will have to dwell some more on the triple rear camera system, as this is likely to be the dominating trend for 2019, even though we have already seen phones with four and five rear cameras. The addition of the third camera opened up some more placement possibilities. Device makers sought to accommodate all the three cameras in a more symmetrical fashion, making the horizontal placement method very popular. We see this on popular flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S10+ (which shared the same placement setup with different number of cameras across its siblings) and the LG V40 ThinQ. On the other hand, the vertical placement setup also saw its takers in the form of the Sony Xperia 1, and the offset continued on with devices like the Xiaomi Mi 9, the Huawei P30 Pro, the Honor Magic 2 and many more.
The upcoming Honor 20, rumored to be launching next month as Honor’s next flagship, is also expected to come with an offset camera placement, with three or maybe even four sensors (reminding us a bit of the acclaimed Huawei P30 Pro), as was revealed by the leaked case renders of the device. So we are likely to see devices stick around with these main design patterns for the most part.
OEMs are going crazier when more cameras are added to the mix. Samsung retains sanity with the Samsung Galaxy A9 2018 and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. Nokia doesn’t, as is clearly visible with the Nokia 9 PureView which is using a trypophobia-inducing scattered layout.
With all of the designs, what do you prefer the most as a user? Do you have a strong preference towards any particular layout? Do you enjoy the practicality of a vertical and offset setup, or the symmetry of a horizontal and centered setup? Or do you prefer something crazy and functional, like a grid or scatter layout? Let us know in the comments below!
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