Today, HTC announced the release of their latest HTC One model, the M8. Full of spec updates across the board, one aspect in particular sticks out, especially for us, who are a bit more image-savvy than most consumers: it features a camera setup with two lenses where most phones have only one.
This unique setup initially caused some head-tilts and confusion, as it wasn’t anticipated to be a 3D camera, but the details have since been made clear.
The two lenses are for two separate cameras, one being the main camera, and the other being a secondary camera with a unique, specific function. The main camera utilizes their standard 4MP “UltraPixel” camera. Just above the main camera is a smaller, secondary camera, 2MP in resolution. However, the secondary camera doesn’t actually capture an image. It’s there to capture depth within an image, much as our own two eyes allow us to do with our vision.
Why is this significant? Well, for a few reasons.
The first is the increase in autofocus speed. Since the camera can actually measure depth, it doesn’t need to rely purely on the contrast method oft used in mobile devices. This allows for a boost in autofocus speeds, clocking in at around 300ms. A quick speed for any camera, let alone a phone.
Another reason the depth perception camera is of significance is it’s ability to offer unique editing features. With the dual-camera setup, it’s possible to draw even more bokeh out of an image, something not always possible with such small sensors. Beyond that is the potential for the HTC One to produce Lytro-like images, allowing focus to be selected after capturing a scene.
Most excitingly, though, is the announcement that there will be an SDK available to developers that will allow them to make use of the depth map. Stored in the metadata within the resulting JPEGs, this information and SDK will allow for even more creative uses of this new type of information.
If you’d like to read up more on the other specs on the phone, see some hands-on photos of it, and even see a few example images from the camera, you can do so over at Engadget.