What Are Dual Camera Phones?

Dual-camera smartphones support DLSR-level creative effects

A dual-camera phone is a smartphone featuring two separate rear cameras. These phones use two camera lenses, seated next to each other on the back of the phone.

Dual-camera phones were first introduced by Samsung in 2007, but they didn't gain much attention until around 2016—when LG released the LG G5—that dual cameras began to take hold and dual cameras became almost standard on most smartphones.

In general, dual-camera phones give you access to features that were previously relegated to high-end DSLR cameras. With them, you can achieve bokeh, wide-lens shots, and even 3D photos from your phone.

Most dual-camera phones only have two cameras on the back of your phone. However, a few models do include a second lens on the front of your phone, for taking wide-angle selfies. Those with a single camera on the front and a single camera on the back are considered two-camera phones, rather than dual-camera phones.

An illustration of dual camera lenses pulled apart is displayed
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How Do Dual-Camera Phones Work?

Dual-camera phones use two cameras at the same time to deliver a different sort of photo. There is a primary and secondary camera. The primary camera does the brunt of the image capturing work; it takes pictures much as you would expect.

It's the secondary camera that adds specific features. It increases to the clarity of photos taken using monochrome (black and white) features, offers additional zoom capabilities or helps to capture wide-angle photos, or in some cases, one camera is used to take the photo while the other is focused on capturing the depth of field.

Different Kinds of Dual-Camera Phones

Dual-camera phones aren't interchangeable because these cameras are built to execute different but specific tasks.

  • Camera with a depth sensor: The depth sensor is what allows you to take high-quality bokeh (softly blurred background) or portrait-mode photos. The sensor detects the depth of a photo and then blurs what it considers to be the background around the subject in your pictures.
  • Camera with a monochrome sensor: This camera takes better black and white photos and allows more light and better contrast in the photos it takes.
  • Camera with a wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens camera snaps photos that are much wider than usual. You may have seen wide-angle landscape shots that a normal smartphone camera could never take. A dual-camera phone can increase the angle of focus to get much more of the scenery around you.
  • Camera with a telephoto lens: A camera with a telephoto lens has two big benefits. First, it allows for better quality zoom (or close-up) functions, often with a 2x optical zoom, which means close-up photos look crisp and clean. A telephoto lens also gives you depth of field which, like a depth sensor, allows you to achieve a nice bokeh effect with your photos like you might see from a DSLR camera.

Do I Need a Dual Camera Phone?

Someone holds 4 Samsung Galaxy S10 phones in their hand
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Dual-camera phones can level-up the photos that you take and share with family, and they offer plenty of benefits. Even if you aren't a pro, you can benefit from the different features a dual camera phone delivers. However, as phones like Google's Pixel line have shown, you don't need two cameras in order to take and share excellent photos.