Smartphones Will Soon Outperform DSLR Quality, Qualcomm VP Says


Today’s smartphones have become the biggest competitor for DSLR cameras. And Qualcomm’s VP believes that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will help smartphones to surpass DSLR cameras completely within the next three to five years.

In an interview with Android Authority on Monday, Qualcomm’s VP of product management for cameras, Judd Heape said that thanks to innovations in AI technology, smartphone will overtake DSLR cameras and effectively render them obsolete in the coming years.

“We’re three to five years away from reaching the holy grail of AI photography,” explains the Qualcomm engineer.

In the interview, Heape explains that AI in photography can be divided into four stages. The first stage is a “basic” one in which AI is used to understand a specific thing in an image or scene.

The second stage sees AI control the so-called 3A features, namely auto-focus, auto-white balance, and auto-exposure adjustments.

According to Android Authority, Heape estimates that the industry is currently at the third stage of the AI photography game, where AI is used to understand the different segments or elements of the scene. For example, smartphones today can recognize a person’s face and make sure it is properly exposed.

Heape says that the industry is roughly three to five years away from the fourth stage, which will see AI processing the entire image.

“Going forward in the future, we see a lot more AI capability to understand the scene, to understand the difference between skin and hair, and fabric and background and that sort of thing,” he explains. “And all those pixels being handled differently in real-time, not just post-processing a couple of seconds after the snapshot is taken but in real-time during like a camcorder video shoot.”

Heape adds “Imagine a world from the future where you’d say ‘I want the picture to look like this National Geographic scene,’ and the AI engine would say ‘okay, I’m going to adjust the colors and the texture and the white balance and everything to look like and feel like this image you just showed me’.”

He claims that the processing power available inside smartphones is a significant advantage over DSLR cameras. Heape argues that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors in smartphones are what makes its cameras so capable, despite the devices having smaller sensors and that this will play a huge part towards smartphones overtaking DSLRs.

“In terms of getting towards the image quality of a DSLR, yes. I think the image sensor is there. I think the amount of innovation that’s going into mobile image sensors is probably faster and more advanced than what’s happening in the rest of the industry.”

“The processing in Snapdragon [in a smartphone] is 10 times better than what you can find on the biggest and baddest Nikon and Canon cameras. And that’s why we’re able to really push the barrier on image quality,” explains Heape. “Because even though we have a small lens and small image sensor, we’re doing many, many times more processing than what’s even capable in a DSLR.”

In May, the CEO of Sony’s Semiconductor division also claimed that smartphone cameras would exceed the quality of single-lens reflex cameras within the next few years, specifically by 2024.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.