As most people are starting to become more tech enlightened these days, you hear them make use of the words “megapixels”. They do this to try to rate different camera abilities on different smartphones.
Smartphonemakers encourage this too. They tout the amount of megapixels present in their camera sensors and turn a blind eye to other camera specifications. This might lead one to believe (more often than not) that megapixel counts are the “alpha and omega” when it comes to rating camera abilities. These days however, there is another school of thought that believes that camera prowess and ability should be evaluated by the size of the sensor as well as that of the pixels too.
For those who may not know, a pixel is a light collecting bucket on a camera sensor. A megapixel simply means that there are a million pixels on the sensor. A camera with 12 megapixels (12MP) has 12 million pixels arranged on the camera sensor to help catch light (I have explained the process in detail here).
A camera sensor is a photographic plate at the rear end of the camera. It holds the pixels that are used to catch light as well as the electronic circuitry to convert the light into electric signals and send them to the phone’s Image Signal Processor (ISP) for post processing (a more detailed explanation can be found here).
The pixels that catch light also come in different sizes measured in micrometers (µm). The bigger the pixel size, the more light it can catch.
THE MEGAPIXEL ARGUMENT
The number of megapixels used in a camera is very important. A high number of megapixels boosts the resolution of an image. The image retains a lot of details from the scene, especially when zoomed in. It also provides a very quick and easy way to rate cameras. This is very true when you look at 1MP cameras against 5MP cameras or 8MP cameras against 12MP cameras. As soon as you go over 12MP cameras and start heading towards 48MP and 64MP, things start to get a little mixed up. The problem is compounded when pixel binning is thrown into the mix.
THE PIXEL/SENSOR SIZE ARGUMENT
The size of the pixels and sensor used in building cameras is rarely talked about. In fact, a lot of people barely even know that they exist but they are very vital to determine camera performance. The size of the sensor affects the type (size) of pixels used. It also determines the number of pixels that a manufacturer can pack into the sensor. A big sensor means that they can pack bigger pixels into the sensor. Even if they choose not to use bigger pixels, they can pack a lot more smaller pixels into the much bigger sensor. Small pixels (0.8µm) do okay in bright daylight but perform horribly at lowlight conditions. Bigger pixels work excellently in daylight and they do very well in the dark as they can collect a lot more light and render a better image than small pixels.
THE HEAD TO HEAD
Megapixels counts are only good for image resolution and for packing a lot of details. The size of the sensor on which they are packed on is much more important. A camera with a high megapixel count (48MP) made up of small 0.8µm pixels can be totally destroyed by a 12MP camera with 1.4µm (or even 2.4µm) sized pixels.
The sensor on the left has 12 boxes. Each box is representing a thousand pixels so it is a 12MP camera. The one on the right has 48 boxes representing 48MP. The 12MP camera on the right has the bigger pixels and sensor. It will take better photos both day and night, completely outperforming the smaller 48MP. The smaller 48MP sensor would combine 4pixels (or boxes) together so as to get a wider surface area. This will boost its performance, but that would effectively reduce it’s resolution back down to 12MP.
Today, there are so many companies touting cameras with a high number of megapixels all over the place. So it is important to note that all 48MP cameras are not equal. Some 48MP cameras with very small sensors and even smaller pixels would give you terrible shots. Some 12MP cameras will give you flagship grade performance. Both Apple and Google use 12MP cameras. Their cameras give out better shots than most 48MP cameras in the market today.
WHAT MAKES UP A GOOD CAMERA?
Well a good camera should have good hardware (well sized image sensor and pixels as well as a good megapixel count). It should also have a good software to process those photos. Software in photography has started to take a more pivotal role these days.
If a company fails to post their hardware specs or release them to reviewers beyond the usual megapixel count, then they are practising false advertising and you probably should not buy from them.
This brings me to the end of this post,if you have any contributions, questions or enquiries leave a comment. Thank you.