Snapchat’s New Dual Camera Feature Also Works With AR Lenses: Hands-On

Snapchat’s newest update is a feature that seems like the company’s answer to the popular BeReal app: You can use the front and rear camera at the same time. But whereas BeReal emphasizes using unfiltered photos, Snapchat’s dual-camera feature works with tons of filters and augmented reality effects, with more likely to come. The feature, launching Monday, is something I played around with over the weekend. It’s surprisingly useful.

Simultaneous dual camera apps are something whose promise has been in the works for years. Filmic Pro added dual camera support in 2020, and Apple’s ARKit supported AR blending front and rear cameras back in 2019.

The feature appears as an icon in the main camera menu that looks like two cameras on top of each other. Tap it, and there are several modes to shoot in: split-screen horizontal, vertical, a picture-in-picture with the selfie in a little circle, and a cutout that layers the selfie shot into the rear shot. The Cutout mode is my favorite and gives a TikTok-like style in real time.

Instagram also introduced a dual camera mode earlier this year, but Snapchat’s dual camera works with all its AR lenses. At the moment, current AR lenses can be added post-capture, but Snapchat’s adding pre-capture dual-camera lenses soon, and building out support for creator AR lenses that do this. A few examples a Snapchat representative showed me over a video chat — two AR-costumed people having a conversation or projecting your own AR-filtered face on a sofa in your room — look totally fun and bizarre.

According to Snapchat, the dual camera feature was originally intended for Snap’s Creator Cam in Director Mode, but the feature’s expanded to the main Snapchat app… most likely to compete with the growing field of rapidly transforming video social apps, TikTok and otherwise.

The AR elements of Snapchat’s dual camera feature look the most intriguing and transformative. While this dual-camera mode isn’t currently designed for AR glasses in mind, it’s conceivable that this mode combined with Snap’s future AR glasses could end up allowing for simultaneous capture of AR and reaction shots, or even more unusual effects.

At the moment, the dual camera mode runs on iOS, needing an iPhone XS or later to work. Android support is expected in the next few months.