Why the Monochrome Sensor in the Essential PH-1 is Groundbreaking
Before there was color film, there was of course, black and white film. The physical structure of black and white is less complex than color film, and as such produces photographs with greater detail. Digital cameras, (and this includes all smartphones), use an analog sensors that are actually black and white, but have transparent color filters over them to register light waves of specific frequencies. We typically describe the smallest picture element of a digital photo as a pixel, however, each pixel is really made up of smaller sub-pixels which describe the various light waves. So each sub-pixel in your camera has either a red, blue, or green colored filter over it. When the total light measured in these three sub-pixels is summed, we get the average color of that specific pixel. You can think as each colored filter a little bit like a tiny sunglass lens, which is effectively, reducing the total amount of light that each sub-pixel receives by about 66%.
What if you skip the color filters completely? Then you have a high resolution filter that is much more sensitive to available light, and because there is no weird math going on, you get images with cleaner smoother edges. So just as black and white film can produce more detail with cleaner images than color film, so too can black and white sensors versus color sensors.
But black and white or monochrome cameras are rare, and typically expensive. One of the less expensive models on the market is the “M Monochrom” from Leica.
which starts at over $7500 for a camera body with no lens. Or you could get the excellent Phase One camera with no lens, which starts at almost $50k, then purchase the black and white back for another $50k; so nearly one-hundred-thousand dollars for a black and white camera system without a lens. https://www.phaseone.com/en/Products/Camera-Systems/XF100MP
The Essential Phone has both color and monochrome cameras on the back. The color camera is great, but the monochrome camera is groundbreaking. No need to do color to black and white conversions in Photoshop; you instantly get really sharp black and white images with perfect contrast and incredible detail. The Essential Phone is looking more and more like the steal of the century.
While I make no claims that the photos below will be photographically interesting, they do show the level of contrast and detail from that this phone provides:
(100% crop from the photo below to show the incredible amount of detail from this camera).
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