A picture of the M8, the alleged successor to the flagship HTC One, was leaked earlier this morning. And it has us scratching our chins, because it’s the first clear shot of the back of the phone that shows two camera lenses. We first saw the dual-camera modules make appearances in smartphones a few years ago, but they were used for gimmicky low-resolution 3D pictures. We hope HTC isn’t thinking of going back down that road, and we doubt it will. So why two lenses?
We dug around a bit, and it turns out Toshiba actually launched a new dual-camera module back during the Consumer Electronics Show last month, which The Verge reminded us of today. The Toshiba TCM9518MD is the “first dual camera module to simultaneously output recorded images and depth data for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices,” Toshiba said when it first announced the tech. The idea is relatively simple, and it isn’t new. Basically the camera sensor is capable of snapping a photo that, thanks to the depth data, allows you to tweak the focus after you’ve snapped a picture. That means you might not always have to wait for a focus – just take a picture and worry about adjusting the focus later.
We’ve already seen this tech in the Lytro camera, and Nokia has a software-based option called Nokia Refocus. Neither have really gained a lot of traction. The Lytro is too limited, and Nokia Refocus requires you to use the app, which is slow, in order to take advantage of its capabilities. Technically, it just takes a bunch of images with different depths and then lets you choose the best one. Toshiba’s tech, and perhaps what HTC has in the M8, might allow for this to happen much quicker, and without the need for several photos.
The sensor only offers a 5-megapixel image, though HTC has already moved away from focusing on the megapixel count, instead preferring the size of the pixels. The HTC One has a 4-Ultrapixel camera, so perhaps HTC will market this as a 5-Ultrapixel camera (assuming this is the module it chose, and we don’t know that).
It might be too early for Toshiba’s module to land in the HTC M8. After all, samples only started shipping back in January. Our best guess is that this is the sort of technology HTC has in the M8, however, and why we’re seeing two lenses. We might be wrong, maybe HTC wants to take another stab at 3D, or maybe it has something else entirely up its sleeve.