What Is A ToF Camera? What Does It Do? Which Phones Have It? [Explained]

ToF Camera

Smartphone innovation is one of the fastest growing sectors. Every other OEMs want to secure a sweet spot providing a better design or the features offered. Well, in pursuits of superiority features like multiple/triple rear and front camera, notch, hole-punch, and foldable phones popped up.

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Along with the above-mentioned design and features, something called ToF i.e Time-of-flight came into limelight. We have seen companies like Huawei using it (ToF Camera) in their latest Huawei P30 Pro, and if we magnify, there was a bit of hardware used in Honor View 20 and OPPO RX17 Pro. Well, what does ToF camera do?

What Is A ToF Camera?

A ToF camera is like a light version of Sonar, meaning? the ToF Camera uses infrared light (lasers invisible to human eyes) to determine depth information. So, the camera shoots out infrared rays, which then bounce off objects, and return to the hardware.

ToF Camera

Much like bats, the time this light takes to exit the camera and get back to it is measured, apparently allows depth-mapping to be created. The accuracy of the depth is hight and has a huge advantage over other such technologies, as it can measure the distance of the complete scene with a single laser pulse.ToF Camera

How Is ToF Camera Better Than Other Technologies?

The ToF camera technology is not new, companies like Microsoft have been using them in hardware like Microsoft Kinect2 for Xbox One. However, time-of-flight cameras appearing on smartphones is new.

ToF Camera

In comparison to other available technologies like structured light camera/projector system or any other, the ToF camera is relatively cheap and easy to implement. Moreover, the sensors have the ability to reach up to 160fps, which is great for real-time background blur in video or photo. The best part is that these use a small amount of processing power.

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What A Time-Of-Flight Camera Do?

A ToF camera sensor, as mentioned above, can be used to measure distance and volume. So, on a phone, it has two main functions: enhancing photography and augmented reality (AR).

Speaking of photography; let’s say you’re taking a pic of a friend in front of a mass of people. The ToF camera will be able to recognize that one specific individual you want to click and will differentiate others from the one, apparently making it easier to put a brilliant-looking bokeh effect on the background of the image theoretically.

ToF Camera

Why theoretically? because ToF cameras can be used to better the background blur in Portrait mode, but it still needs software and color science to bring out the best. So, it’s basically up to the company how it applies the software magic to the data provided by the ToF camera.

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Coming to AR; The ToF camera gives phone’s software more understanding of the surrounding and surfaces, also includes measuring distances, heights, and widths, which obviously useful for augmented reality.

Which Phones Have Time-Of-Flight Camera?

Here are the phones that Time-Of-Flight camera;

Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei P30 Pro

Image Credits: CNET

The quad camera setup on P30 Pro is made in collaboration with Leica. This smartphone not only implemented the first ever 5x optical zoom periscope optic (10x with hybrid zoom) but also included a standard and wide-angle lens alongside a ToF camera unit.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

ToF Camera

Image Credits: CNET

The announced but not released forthcoming Galaxy S10 5G is a 6.7-inch extra massive Galaxy S10. As the name suggests, it will support next-gen connectivity and also the only S10 model which is said to feature a ToF camera.

LG G8 ThinQ

ToF Camera

The LG G8 ThinQ packs in a quad camera setup. At the front, it has an 8-megapixel standard lens and a Z camera which is a ToF camera.

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ToF Camera

The OPPO RX17 Pro sports a 25-megapixel f/2.0 on the notch at the front, while the back features a triple camera set up with a ToF sensor.

Honor View 20

ToF Camera

The Huawei sub-brand Honor launched an amazingly designed smartphone- Honor View 20, it featured a Hole-punch selfie camera also houses dual-camera setup packing 48-megapixel unit with a “3D ToF sensor” and LED flash.

Who Makes Time-Of-Flight Camera?

Sony pledged to make a next-generation 3D sensor with ToF technology after looking at the high market demand. Other ToF camera sensor manufacturers include AdaFruit, ASC TigerCub, AMS/Heptagon, Lucid/Helios, Riegl, and TeraRanger One.

So, that’s a brief overview of ToF cameras. Hope you find it useful and if you did, share and let the people know about it.


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