Smartphone camera under the display: how does it actually work?

Smartphone camera under the display: how does it actually work?

With the first smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, the front camera is installed under the display. But how is that technically possible at all and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

Front cameras on smartphones have become more and more inconspicuous over the years. While devices used to have clear edges above and below the display to accommodate the camera, today there is often only a small circular recess for the camera, which is embedded in the display, or a notch.

But the so-called hole punch camera could also soon be a thing of the past. After all, the first manufacturers are already selling smartphones in which the front camera is installed almost invisibly under the display. The most popular example of this is probably the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. However, the technical implementation of the whole is not that easy.


On the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the front camera is hidden under the display. Image: © Samsung 2021

How does the camera work under the display

For a camera to work well, the lens actually needs a clear view of the object it is supposed to be photographing. In addition, it must be ensured that sufficient light reaches the lens. Both are basically difficult at first when the camera lens is under the display, because then the display is between the lens and the outside world as well as the light source.

The solution from smartphone manufacturers to this problem is that the display has a separate small display in the place behind which the front camera is located, which is seamlessly connected to the main display. This small "display within the display" is transparent. This ensures that sufficient light can reach the sensor through the panel and that the sensor has a clear view of the outside world at the same time.

The camera under the display is still visible

The construction described above also ensures that the front camera remains visible even when it is under the display. Because a transparent panel is not able to display as rich colors as a conventional OLED panel and because a special glass is used for this mini display above the front camera, you can still see where the front camera is if you look more closely . The effect decreases, however, the brighter the display is overall and the brighter the colors are displayed on it.


If you look closely, the camera is still visible under the display. Image:

There are still disadvantages in terms of photo quality

Even if the display area above the front camera is transparent, it still represents an additional layer that lies between the camera lens and the subject that is to be photographed. This ensures that the images often look a little more blurred and washed out compared to conventional front cameras.

Manufacturers try to counteract this by training their image processing algorithms to compensate for the corresponding distortions. In the future, this should also ensure that front cameras under the display record better quality photos and videos.


  1. The first manufacturers have started to hide the front cameras of their smartphones under the display.
  2. In order for a camera to work under the display, the display panel must be transparent in the appropriate place. To achieve this, a small transparent display is inserted into the larger display at this point, which is seamlessly connected to it.
  3. The area with the transparent display is particularly noticeable when it comes to the presentation.
  4. Since the camera lens is behind a layer of glass and a transparent display panel, photos are more blurred and blurred than with conventional front cameras.

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