Choosing A Smartphone Camera: Why Megapixels Is Not Everything

February 05, 2018 ranosys oneplus google

In this day and age, smartphones are a popular choice for photography due to their light compact sizes and good photo taking abilities. As such, camera quality has become a very vital criterion people consider before making a phone purchase. Smartphones manufacturers are always out-competing one another with camera performance of their products. People rave about some mobile phone because its camera has a sensor of an unprecedented number of megapixels. A larger megapixel number is more often than not associated with better pictures. Therein lies the fallacy of megapixels.

Megapixel number alone is a poor way to predict photographic performance and one should not judge a phone’s camera performance based on that alone.

Taking photo with smartphone

The importance of the light sensor

First and foremost the camera’s light sensor is the most critical component; it captures the light from the subjects of the picture. Size is of the essence, the larger the sensor is the larger the pixels are on it. The larger pixels are more capable in collecting light and catching more light generally means less noise and greater dynamic range on photos; better image quality. For easier comprehension, you can imagine the pixels as buckets sitting on a blacktop (sensor). Light goes into these buckets to hit the photosensitive part of the sensor. Hence if the buckets are small, light has a harder time getting to that part of the sensor and the increased resolution is of little significance; noise is increased.

A DSLR camera can easily outperform a smartphone camera with more megapixels due to its larger sensor. With the same number of pixels, the pixels on the DSLR sensor are larger and allow more light to enter. Hence, besides the megapixels number we should also be aware about the size of light sensor of the camera phone (this information is harder to obtain though).

What else should you look out for when selecting a good camera smartphone?

There are several specifications people take into consideration when selecting a camera phone. Essential factors such as maximum camera aperture size, image stabilization, user interface etc. come into play.

  1. Aperture  The lower the aperture, the faster the shutter speed you can use to shoot under dim conditions. This will help a lot in taking sharp photos in low light conditions.

  2. Image stabilization – Image stabilization helps you to capture sharper images especially at slower shutter speeds. There are two main types of image stabilization:
    • Optical image stabilization – is the most effective form of image stabilization. It has a moving element inside the lens; gyro-sensors inside the lens quickly shift pieces of the lens glass to the off-set motion before the image is converted to a digital form
    • Electronic image stabilization – also known as digital image stabilization. Unlike OIS, it uses a software technology instead to reduce the effect of shaky hands. How the software does this is by post-processing the image; it determines the impact of your body movement and adjust the necessary pixels on the image sensor to create a sharper images 
    1. Battery life – Nobody wants their phone battery to die on them in the midst of their traveling and photo –taking activities. A longer battery life would certainly bring you a much appreciated mileage
    1. Image processing – Many smartphones have dedicated graphics processors in their chip. These can increase the rendering speed for photos and videos without taxing the main processor.