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Last month, the Samsung W2018 smartphone hit the Chinese market, being the latest Samsung flip phone to launch.
Aside from being a flip phone, the device also packs a rather unique feature, in the form of a variable aperture camera. The aperture is capable of automatically switching from f/1.5 to f/2.4 and back again, seemingly a sort of middle ground between fixed apertures seen in smartphones and variable apertures seen in many SLR cameras.
And if a recent image hasn’t been faked, then the Galaxy S9 is expected to pack the same technology, down to the same aperture sizes.
So why would you want a phone with variable aperture? Well, Samsung says the W2018 will switch to the wider f/1.5 aperture at night, letting more light in for a brighter photo. Shoot a scene during the day and the phone will automatically switch to the smaller f/2.4 aperture.
Samsung’s W2018 has a variable aperture, hinting at a future feature for the Galaxy S9
But there’s more to aperture than the amount of light let in…
A wider aperture (expressed as a lower number) can generally result in a more pronounced depth of field effect. Meanwhile, a smaller aperture (expressed as a higher number) can result in a less pronounced depth of field effect, usually showing everything in focus.
This could potentially form the basis for another way to handle some depth-of-field and portrait effects, currently seen with dual-camera smartphones.
In fact, Samsung’s product page for the W2018 hints at this, saying that “far and near details can be clearly and sharply presented”. Well, at least that’s what Google Translate tells us.
Even if it turns out that the variable aperture isn’t as useful as dual-camera technology, the wider aperture would still be the widest found on a mainstream phone, beating Huawei’s Mate 10 and LG’s V30 (pegged at f/1.6). And if all other factors are considered equal to the Galaxy S8 (sensor size etc), then you should expect better low-light performance nevertheless.