Hemanth H Iyer
10th Sep 2015
While buying a smartphone, one of the first questions asked by a customer is: How many megapixels is the camera?
Considering that camera has become a basic necessity, this is a valid question. But is it the only question?
Some of the queries that we tend to miss are: Should megapixel alone be considered? Are there any other aspects that play a role in image quality?
Here is an attempt to answer these, so that you are better equipped while buying a smartphone next time.
Pic Credit: Sony Mobiles
First let’s get a few facts straight
Pixels: Pictures are made up of little dots called pixels. Pixel stands for PICture ELement. Put enough of them together and you have a picture. They are arranged horizontally and vertically.
Pixel Count, expressed as Megapixels: Pixel Count is expressed as Megapixels. The Megapixel count is arrived by multiplying the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels. A 3 MP camera has 2,048 (horizontal) x 1,536 (vertical) pixels, or 3,145,728 pixels. We call this simply 3 MP.
Image Resolution: Resolution is how many pixels you have counted horizontally or vertically when used to describe a stored image.
Now to the hype ...
When most people look to pick up a smart phone, one of the things that they get all excited about is the camera. The smartphone camera has almost replaced the point and shoot cameras (and in some cases even tried to take a shot at DSLRs) in most households.
Interestingly, in recent times smartphone manufacturers like Samsung have replaced the more traditional Digital Camera manufacturers like Canon or Nikon as the largest seller of “cameras”.
What you should look for when going through camera specifications
Sensor Size: As smartphones get smaller and slimmer, the sensor size has taken a big hit. As a rule of thumb, cameras with larger sensors normally take better shots. The larger the sensor, the more light that can pass through, and the better your low light pictures will be.
Credit: Sony Mobiles
f Stop Value (Aperture): The f stop value and the sensor size are interrelated. The aperture is the hole that light needs to travel through to reach the sensor. If you’ve got your smartphone set on automatic, then it will choose the best (in the software’s opinion) aperture. This is illustrated using the letter “f” and a number after it. This is one spec where lower the number, the bigger the aperture gets, so lower numbers are better.
Zoom: There are two types of zoom, Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom. Most smartphone cameras these days only have Digital Zoom. Optical Zoom is when the lens of the camera does the actual zooming. Digital Zoom is when the software magnifies the pixels based on an algorithm. Sadly, we are yet to see a smartphone with Optical Zoom.
Image stabilization: Just like zoom, there are two types of image stabilization, Optical and Digital. Unless stated, all smartphones have Digital Image Stabilization. As a result if you’ve ever taken a video with your smartphone in your hand, it will often come out a little shaky, no matter how hard you try to keep them still. Optical Image stabilization uses tiny gyroscopes to physically move the camera lens to counter any sudden movement thereby keeping the image steady.
Finally the Megapixel Count: One of the advantages of having a camera with more megapixels is that you can crop out (cutting out a section) a part of the original image that you would like to emphasize, such as a bird in the background.
When Nokia introduced the massive 41 MP Nokia 1020 they thought they had made the Holy Grail of smartphone cameras, but it did not live up to its hype. Did it?
While it is true that the megapixel count is not the most important feature of a digital camera, with all other things being equal a photographer can get more out of a digital camera with a high number of megapixels.
So, the next time you go out to check out that spec sheet, look for more than just the megapixel count.
How Important Are Megapixels In A Smartphone Camera?
Along with megapixels there are other aspects that should be considered before judging the camera qualilty
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