Microsoft dives into the camera tech on the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4

Best Windows Laptop
Best Windows Laptop

We've already talked at length about the great camera technology included in the new Lumia 950 and 950 XL, and now Microsoft has taken a deeper look at the effort that went into the camera tech in the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. To start off, Microsoft notes the bump in specs for the rear camera, including a step up to 8MP from the 5MP shooter that appeared on the Surface Pro 3, along with the addition of autofocus. Additionally, the front-facing camera has a wider field of view, bumping up to 80 degrees from the Surface Pro 3's 70-degree field of view.

The real focus of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book camera prowess, however, is on the image processing. Microsoft says that the Surface team made thousands of tweaks to the image-signal processor to make images look like they were taken with an SLR camera. According to Microsoft, this process is part science and part art:

"The science deals with factors such as sensor, lens, and camera module evaluation, selection, design and manufacturing. That lays the foundation to create high-fidelity images.The art builds upon the foundation by tuning the image-signal processor and automatic-camera controls such as white balance, exposure, and focus, among other tools, to help create fantastic images. Basically, all this fine-tuning takes a less than optimal raw image and improves it so colors are rich and true and images are razor-sharp."

All of this comes together to produce some great imaging prowess that Microsoft says is as good at capturing photos of detailed receipts as it is snapping some great outdoor shots. We've included some of Microsoft's sample images below, but be sure to check out the full blog post at the source link below for more.

Surface Camera Test Flower

Surface Camera Test Bamboo

Source: Microsoft

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

24 Comments
  • I guess I'd better try the camera on my SP4 at least once to show my appreciation for their effort. The only time I ever used the back camera on my SP3 was when I accidentally dragged in the wrong direction when logging in.
  • Yeah I've never understood the need of taking photos with a tablet, front and rear camera for Skype is great but people just look so ridiculous holding up a tablet trying to take photos. Still since people will do it at least they will get better quality shots now.
  • how about documents? if you can see taking pictures out of the office, why not try looking in from the outside.
  • Nice work.
  • They need to dive in to the crappy battery life in the SURFACE PRO 4. Damn a camera!
  • Lol! Not laughing at your frustration. I just read in a manner that made me laugh! Lolol
  • the camera on the sp3 is crap. they spec'ed a non autofocus 5mp camera, so if you used it take pictures of documents, they were consistently blurry, leading to non-ocr recognition. that said, the new onenote app doesn't have the same capability as the old MX version, so it's kind of a moot point. I suppose there are other apps that can do the office lens thing now, but the integration the onenote mx app had was great. the only thing they really needed to do for sp4 was spec autofocus, and they would have been fine. maybe work on the focal length and f stop for taking pictures of a document in a room. taking outside pictures doesn't really do anything, because who wants to be the person taking a picture outside with a tablet?
  • Pretty much every iPad owner in the world wants to be that person lol
  • interesting that they did a deep dive article on the cameras for these... have they done this before on previous surface(s)? or is it surfacae? :) nice article though...
  • I would hope that the new cameras would be better than what is on my Surface pro 3, because it sucks. I was so disappointed with it. As a college student trying to take pics of docs and overhead lectures, what a waste of time with the SP3, they are so bad. Have to end up taking pics with my 920, but would rather do it right into the places and docs that I want instead of having to down load and save, cut and paste, etc. Should have put in one of the high end Lumia cameras into these very expensive machines.
  • At least there's decent office apps in Windows 10 Mobile now, so you can take advantage of the phones superior camera and put them straight into the document
  • Who is going to use a tablet to take a picture? That's just rude when people block the view at events to hold up tablets to take pictures. Why not take your smartphone out of your pocket instead? Most smartphones have better cameras than tablets. Posted from my Moto X Pure Edition via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I currently use my phone for taking pictures of documents and the rear view camera on Surface Pro devices would really help in online meetings
  • Believe it or not, I've seen people walking around tourist spots taking photos with their iPad. It looks ridiculous, and you wonder how they can afford an iPad (and risk getting it damaged or stolen) but can't afford a $100 camera. I can understand if it's the only device you have at the time (on the way to work or whatever), but these people are on holiday, have paid a lot of money for tickets/hotels, travelled halfway around the world, just to take photos on a tablet... and then wonder why it runs out of space or the battery dies on them.
  • I guess they think that since the picture is bigger on the iPad's screen, it is also better than on their iPhone. Anyway, it looks as idiotic as it is..
  • Pretty good for a tablet/laptop, but still not as good as the device most people already carry around in their pocket. I'm not unappreciative of the camera improvements, they're great, but their use is also extremely limited.
  • A good camera is worth a lot in a business environment. We are planning to use SP4s for our secretaries and they work with paper documents a lot. Together with OneNote and the pen they can collaborate a lot easier. Another reason they care about the camera on the surface has to do with marketing. When somebody uses a high end Microsoft device they shall know that the camera is very capable. They want to form the brand in a positive way.
  • I'll check out the full pictures on a PC at some point but to be considered good the camera needs to be a million times better than the one of the SP3. Not that a poor camera is a big deal on a tablet / laptop, but I don't think they ever made a big deal of the SP3 camera
  • One cool thing they did since the SurfaceRT though was the way the camera was installed so that when the kickstand was out the angle of the camera was spot on, that sort of attention to detail is what's awesome about these devices since the beginning
  • Yeah I always appreciated that angle too.
  • I wonder how the S3's cameras compare to the SP4's?
  • I don't know why rear cameras on tablets are a thing, even cheap tablets have them, and the money would be better spent elsewhere...
  • I think SB/SP4 camera will make a good document scanner if you build a document stand at the right angle and line them up on a table.
  • So they fucked it all up with some one-trick pony tweaks that only work under certain lighting conditions? Neat. How about just snapping RAW images and let me handle the artistic stuff?
    Current flagship model's camera was my last hope of staying in Windows, apparently no dice there because I am not buying the hype without some actual facts of the camera.
    The camera's sensor size is like a complete secret to people. Anybody know of this? EDIT: Scratch that all, I thought they were tslking about the 950 camera instead.