The bokeh effect: pro photographers’ take on dual-lens cameras

The word “bokeh” stems from the Japanese word meaning blur. In photography, it can be simply understood as background blur.

In the past, only DSLR cameras and delicate cameras could produce this effect. However, some say, a phone’s dual-lens camera is the future of mobile technology.

There are two mainstream dual-camera setups. One is RGB and monochrome. In this setup, one lens takes color photos with true and vivid color, and the other captures in black and white with rich detail and sharpness.

We have chosen another dual-camera setup on our Mi 6 and Mi 5X — a wide angle camera and a telephoto camera. Working simultaneously with a deep learning algorithm, the dual cameras can blur the background and make the main object appear clearer. With our camera, we have chosen a 52mm portrait lens on Mi 6 and a 50mm portrait lens on Mi 5X.

Take a look at some photos shot on the Mi 6 and Mi 5X dual cameras.

It’s still an open question whether dual-camera setups can produce the same “bokeh” as DSLR cameras, but at least one thing is certain, mobile phones are much more convenient to carry and much easier to use than DSLR cameras, and their photos are good enough for non-professionals to record everyday life and share to social media platforms.

We had a chat with some famous photographers about dual-lens cameras and whether their “bokeh” effects can parallel with DSLR cameras. The following are excerpts from our chats:

Song Xiaogang, chief photographer at South China Morning Post

“I think dual cameras’ bokeh is different from that of DSLR cameras, and the latter can more accurately blur backgrounds. However, mobile phones are compact and portable, and dual-lens cameras’ bokeh effects are enough for non-professional people to share on social media platforms.

Shot in the East 44th Hutong, Beijing, 16 July, 2017.  Shot on a smartphone. Photo by Song Xiaogang.

Wang Jing, chief photographer at China Daily, IPA (International Photography Awards) Deeper Perspective Photographer of 2014

“Dual cameras mark a new era of mobile photography. The bokeh effect on a dual-camera setup can parallel that of a DSLR camera if properly used.”

Military officers and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) gather at the Kim Il-sung Gymnasium in Pyongyang, on April 14, 2012, before a meeting to mark the centenary of the birth of the country’s former leader Kim Il-sung. Photo by Wang Jing

Jason Lee, senior photographer at Reuters since 2005  

“To me, mobile cameras still have a big gap from DSLR cameras. The resolution is okay on a smartphone screen, but not on a computer screen. For professional photographers, DSLR cameras are still very important.”

A firefighter is taking a short break by the highway on the second morning of the powerful explosions in the Chinese port of Tianjin, 13 August, 2015. This is an original photo taken on a smartphone. It went viral and was re-shared over 10,000 times. Photo by Jason Lee

Aaron Ma, chief photographer at Sohu.com

“When the natural light is sufficient, the dual-camera’s bokeh is very good. When the light is poor, the image quality is compromised. In terms of pixels, mobile phones are hard to compare with DSLR cameras. Even so, I think mobile phones are enough for everyday use if you just want to take a record of memorable moments and share to social media platforms.

Gao Yuanyuan, a famous Chinese actress. Photo by Aaron Ma 

Jia Dai Teng Fei, chief photographer at Oriental Morning Post, member of WPP (World Press Photo) Master Class in 2012

“A mobile phone’s digital technologies can simulate traditional aperture and focal length and calculate which place on a photo should be blurred and where to be clear. I feel that dual-camera setup’s bokeh is enough for non-professionals, but as a professional photographer, I still rely on a DSLR camera. But the technology is developing very fast, so it’s likely that mobile technology will be good enough to replace DSLR cameras one day.”

Cao Xiuhu, 85, an aidman during the Korean War. Photo by Jia Dai Teng Fei