What is a Megapixel?
We often hear companies launch new mobile phones with multi-megapixel cameras, in an effort to attract more and more buyers. What is a Megapixel?
Megapixels are a term we use to refer to the resolution of an image. 1MP (megapixel) corresponds to 1,000,000 pixels. So a 50MP camera, like the main camera of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, has the ability to take photos with a resolution of up to 50,000,000 pixels. On mobile phones so far, we have seen cameras up to 108MP. The first 108Mp made its debut on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. Since then we find them on many mobiles, some of which are Samsung flagship phones, such as the Galaxy S20 Ultra and 21 Ultra, as well as many Xiaomi phones, such as the Mi 10, Mi 11 and other phones. In short, the more megapixels a camera has, the higher the resolution of the photos.
How much do megapixels matter in smartphone photography?
It is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that just because the resolution of a photo is high, quality is good. Resolution is just one of many factors that affect how good a photo is. First of all, in addition to the resolution, the quality of a camera is affected by the size of its sensor. Mobile cameras are very small compared to a normal camera and thus “see” less information. So, no matter how many megapixels it has, a photo taken on a mobile phone will never be as beautiful as one taken on a camera with a clearly much larger lens (especially in the hands of a capable photographer and in challenging lighting scenarios).
Also, not all smartphones have cameras of the same size. So in a specsheet, in addition to the megapixels of a camera, we also have to look at its size. The size of the sensor on smartphones is usually listed as one-inch fractions of the sensor diagonal. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a main camera with a diagonal of 1 / 1.12 inches, which is the largest camera ever featured in a smartphone, something that helped it rise to №1 in the dxomark rankings, with 143 points.
The importance of software in mobile phone cameras
In addition, in a smartphone the camera system is controlled by the respective software of each company. Companies use special algorithms and “tricks”, which often use machine learning technology, so that a camera has the desired results, without the need for manual processing of the image by the user. This is the feature that makes taking beautiful photos with a mobile phone look like a toy.
Though, no matter how many megapixels a smartphone’s camera has, if it is not accompanied by a good image processing algorithm, the results will range from mediocre to bad. The main camera of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 12MP, which compared to the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with a 108MP camera, may make some people believe that the iPhone’s camera is garbage. But thanks to the great algorithm used by Apple, the iPhone takes great quality photos, and competes on par with Samsung’s phone, despite the huge difference in megapixels.
How do we know how good a smartphone camera really is?
In conclusion, megapixels alone do not really tell us anything about the capability of a smartphone’s camera. The quality of an image depends, in addition to the resolution, on the size of the camera, on the image processing software used by each manufacturer on their phones, but also on other factors. In addition, more expensive phones, not only do they produce better quality photos, they often have other features that increase their versatility, such as image stabilization and additional cameras. Here, note that one smartphone is not better in the field of photos than another just because it has more cameras, as I’ll explain in a future article.
Reading a list of specifications of a mobile phone, we get a lot of information, but we can not judge the quality of a camera with confidence. The only way to do this is to look at photo samples ourselves, either from a trusted internet source or from our own use. If we are still unsure, we can look at reviews and opinions of experts in the field of photography and smartphones. Thus, we get an idea of the quality of a mobile phone camera, something that will help us in our final decision of whether we think it is worth buying or not.
Thank you for reading my article! I am Filippos, a tech enthusiast and aspiring blogger. My goal is to keep you informed about anything smartphone related, help you decide on future purchases and get the most out of your device. I hope you found this post useful. More from me coming in the near future.