Smartphone Cameras: Not just about Megapixels
Smartphone cameras, they’re not all about megapixels. Too often I see consumers taken in by the megapixel count of a smartphone’s camera. They believe that one camera is superior to another just by virtue of the number of megapixels advertised on the spec list.
Well it’s really not true. There are plenty of cameras on smartphones out there that produce better images than those with higher megapixel counts. For a simple example of what I’m saying, numerous tech reviewers have pitted the HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 against each other. They’ve compared their cameras and the HTC One M9 invariably fails to deliver the best photographs. This is despite the fact that it has a camera with 20 megapixels, compared with the Galaxy S6’s 16 megapixels and the iPhone 6’s 8 megapixels. The M9 tends to produce images with more noise and duller photos in low lighting when compared to the other two devices.
The First key ingredient to a great smartphone camera is the Sensor: It’s the most important element to the optical system because it captures the light of the image. Light enters the camera lens and then passes through to the camera sensor, where the information is translated into an electronic signal. After that, the image processor creates the image and optimises it, correcting for flaws such as noise.
The bigger the image sensor, the bigger the pixels and the more light that will be collected. The more light that enters and is processed by the sensor, the better the photograph. The next important factor is the imaging processor. High-end smartphones boast CPUs with built-in GPUs, which are capable of rendering images quickly. The hardware and camera software work in tandem to ensure there’s no shutter lag and provide the most accurate depiction of colour and sharpness possible in the final image.
Backside illuminated sensors are becoming the norm also because they are far better in low lighting, although they tend to produce over exposed shots if your shooting in a well lit area. Cameras with optical image stabilisation and advanced high dynamic range capabilities will always be far better than those without.
Megapixels are extremely important, but they aren’t the only defining factor in how good a smartphone camera is. The reason people have often believed they are is because historically from a marketing standpoint, computer tech specifications have invariably been about the ethos of “more is better” or “The higher the number, the better or faster the product”. It’s only partly true when it comes to digital cameras.
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