Remember the good old days when phones used to come with a single 2MP camera, and some even had VGA or QVGA cameras. Nowadays, it’s all about megapixels and numbers of cameras, but that’s a conversation for some other day. Today, we’re talking about how megapixel count doesn’t matter. We’re not saying this, you are. Recently, 91mobiles had a poll where we asked you whether we need a 200MP camera on a phone. The results were close and it seems a majority of you are looking forward to a 200MP camera phone.
Do you want a 200MP camera phone?
On Twitter, a majority of people felt that megapixels don’t matter and that they don’t really need a 200-megapixel camera phone. A similar poll on Facebook and Instagram, however, gave us a different answer. On the Facebook-owned platforms, the majority of poll takers were interested in a 200-megapixel camera phone.
What is a megapixel?
Let’s first try to understand what’s a megapixel. So, in digital imaging, a pixel is the smallest element of an image, and a million pixels form 1 megapixel. So, if your phone has a 12MP camera, that means it’s capturing 1,20,00,000 pixels, which is enough for any phone and even for a high-end DSLR camera.
You must be thinking, if a DSLR comes with a 12-megapixel or a 16-megapixel sensor, then why are brands pushing megapixel count with every new phone? There’s a 50-megapixel camera, and then there’s Xiaomi’s favourite 108-megapixel camera, and now we might be getting a 194-megapixel camera phone this year. Yes, you heard it right. Motorola is rumoured to be working on a smartphone with a 200-megapixel camera.
But do you get 108-megapixel photos out of a 108-megapixel camera? No, it’s nothing but a marketing strategy because a 108-megapixel camera isn’t going to click a 108-megapixel photo by default, and you’d be getting a 12-megapixel or a 16-megapixel image only.
At the end of the day, a 108-megapixel camera clicks a 12-megapixel image, and that’s because of pixel binning. In simple words, pixel binning can be explained as the technology that merges data from a number of pixels on the sensor to produce a much smaller number of high-quality pixels. That doesn’t mean you are getting a low-resolution picture. A 12-megapixel image is good to be printed on a magazine’s cover, and pixel binning helps in low light conditions and noise reduction as well. But, if you want, you also click images in the camera’s true resolution, but there won’t be much difference between that and a 12-megapixel image. Also, you won’t get the best image in the low light scenarios, and either way, it will be compressed when you share it on social media.
But yes, sometimes these higher megapixel cameras click really good pictures; even DXOMark suggests that. But it’s not the higher megapixel count helping the quality; it’s the sensor size. The larger the sensor is, the better is the image. You would have heard about Sony’s 1-inch sensor or Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s 1/1.12-inch sensor. What’s common between them? Both of them are really large sensors, and they’re well below the 100 megapixels count, and they click some amazing pictures.
Samsung has another sensor – the 108MP HM2 sensor with a 1/1.52-inch optical frame – and it sits way below these two sensors in the DXOMark rankings despite having a much higher megapixel count. For instance, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is ranked second, whereas Xiaomi’s own Mi 11 with 108MP HM2 sensor isn’t even in the top 10. Even iPhone 13 with a 12-megapixel sensor has proven to be a better shooter compared to phones with 50-megapixel or 108-megapixel cameras because of its image processing prowess.
It’s not about megapixels every time. What you need for a good picture from a phone is a good sensor with extraordinary image processing. But if you can’t deliver exceptional image processing, you can opt for a high megapixel camera to do the job. That’s what some brands have been doing. Apple and Google, on the other hand, have proved time and again that they can deliver stellar photography results on their devices by offering good hardware-software implementation.