Pic­ture per­fect

Imag­ing tech­nol­ogy be­hind the ASUS ZenFone 4 se­ries’ cam­eras.

HWM (Malaysia) - - APERTURE - By Ian Chee

With a tagline like ‘We Love Photo’ ac­com­pa­ny­ing the launch of its phones, there’s lit­tle won­der as to which part of the phones ASUS has in­vested the most in. Prior to the re­gional launch of the ZenFone 4 se­ries, we were in­vited by ASUS to join a tech­ni­cal sem­i­nar to un­der­stand what the cam­eras and imag­ing tech­nol­ogy that went into the new phones have to of­fer.


The imag­ing tech­nol­ogy be­hind ASUS smart­phones has al­ways used the PixelMaster name. “So what’s new with ver­sion 4.0?” you may ask. To put it sim­ply, it’s a col­lec­tion of im­prove­ments to help you take bet­ter pic­tures with the ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro. The im­prove­ments that make up PixelMaster 4.0 are not rev­o­lu­tion­ary on their own, but they all come to­gether in help­ing you to cap­ture bet­ter pho­tos.


The first two el­e­ments are pretty self-ex­plana­tory. A larger aper­ture means more light go­ing to the sen­sors and Op­ti­cal Im­age Sta­bi­liza­tion (OIS) com­pen­sates for any shak­ing go­ing on while the shut­ter is open. All these help you take bet­ter pho­tos when in chal­leng­ing light­ing con­di­tions, which is a com­mon weak­ness of smart­phone pho­tog­ra­phy.


If you’ve no­ticed, many other smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers are be­gin­ning to use sen­sors with lower pixel count, while still claim­ing bet­ter de­tail re­ten­tion. This is be­cause the pix­els here are larger than be­fore. In the case of the PixelMaster 4.0, the ZenFone 4 se­ries of phones are pre­dom­i­nantly us­ing the Sony IMX362 sen­sor, boast­ing 1.4 m pix­els in­stead of the usual 1.0 m pix­els. This slight in­crease means a 96-per­cent in­crease in light in­take.


ASUS says that, back in the day, the duty of aut­o­fo­cus has only been rel­e­gated to a very lim­ited num­ber of pix­els, some­times as lit­tle as five per­cent of the to­tal pixel count. Dual Pixel Phase De­tec­tion Aut­o­fo­cus (PDAF) here gets all the pix­els in­volved in the process, which re­sults in achiev­ing fo­cus in as lit­tle as 0.03 sec­onds.


SelfieMaster 4.0 for the front-fac­ing cam­eras builds on the tech of PixelMaster 4.0, but with a few ex­tras for the selfie crowd. And we start with the front-fac­ing cam­era of the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro.


While it uses the same Sony IMX 362 sen­sor as the rear cam­eras of the ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro, it is touted to have 24 mil­lion pix­els in­stead of the usual 12 mil­lion. To ex­plain this, we go back to the IMX362 sen­sor it­self, and Dual Pixel PDAF tech­nol­ogy. As we men­tioned, the IMX362 sen­sor uses 1.4 m pix­els that take in up to 96 per­cent more light per pixel than the usual 1.0 m pix­els of the stan­dard sen­sor. This trans­lates to hav­ing twice the num­ber of light-cap­tur­ing pho­to­di­odes per mi­crolens com­pared to con­ven­tional sen­sors, which is used in Dual Pixel PDAF.

ASUS tweaks this so that the IMX362 sen­sor on the front-fac­ing cam­era sac­ri­fices Dual Pixel PDAF to split the in­di­vid­ual pix­els into two. This cre­ates a 24MP photo that cap­tures more de­tail, at the ex­pense of the ad­van­tages af­forded by the larger pix­els and Dual Pixel PDAF. That said, it still works bet­ter than the usual in­ter­po­la­tion, which stitches four 13MP im­ages to­gether to form an ar­ti­fi­cial 52MP im­age that doesn’t quite stand up to scru­tiny.

In ad­di­tion to the smart tweak­ing of a 12MP cam­era into pro­duc­ing 24MP im­ages, SelfieMaster 4.0 also means that the front-fac­ing cam­era of the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro can record videos in 4K res­o­lu­tion.


Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion ef­fects are now com­mon­place on front-fac­ing cam­eras. But while it is in­deed com­mon in beau­ti­fy­ing still im­ages, you have al­ways been able to pre­view your de­sired level of beau­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore you ac­tu­ally take the shot. ASUS takes this a step fur­ther by al­low­ing your videos – both livestream and record­ing – to be beau­ti­fied as well.

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