Pixel Wars: Unleashing the Megapixel Revolution in Smartphones - Part 1

By Ashiqur R.
24 June, 2023
11 months ago
10 Mins Read

Smartphones are one of the most attractive and powerful inventions. Previously, people can use cellular devices only for texting and calling purposes. Later on, mobile manufacturing companies added multimedia features, internet, GPS and whatnot. A smartphone of today’s time is no less powered than a regular computer. This tiny handled device named smartphone’s application is not only limited to enterprise, official or corporate uses. But also, artists use smartphones for precision photography. To fulfill the artist demands mobile phone companies are dedicatedly working on the development of the tiny digital camera installed on the back side of the smartphone device. I still can remember the Motorola SLVR L7 having a 0.3MP (VGA) camera as the main shooter

motorola slvr l7 phtoo in 12 mp vs 48 mp camera photo comparison

while if we mentioned today’s generation having the latest technology on the smartphone then there are so many such as Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, Xiaomi 13 Ultra, Google Pixel 7 Pro so on having different image sensors of multiple resolutions like 12MP, 23MP, 48MP, 64MP, 200MP and others. And the mighty Auto-focus with PDAF (Phase Detection Auto-Focus) and Sensor-Shift technology. Lately, smartphone manufacturers are becoming aggressive in increasing the camera resolution every day. But can we genuinely rely on megapixel count as a reliable measure of image quality? Prepare to be enlightened as we explore the relationship between megapixels and image quality. This article explores the world of sample photos, providing significant insights that oppose popular thinking while revealing the confusing truth.

What is Megapixel?

  • First, let’s get to know what megapixels actually mean. Well, it’s nothing but a unit of measurement. Like, we measure the surface area of a table using (Wide x Length) in units such as feet, meters, inches, centimeters and so on. i.e.: If a table's surface length is 10 feet and width is 4 feet, then the Area = Length x Width = 10 x 4 = 40 feet.

But we can’t measure an intangible digital image file with these measuring units as computer screens or any other LCD or LED screen are consisting of pixels and pixels only. But we can convert the unit into some other equivalent unit and we will call it megapixel. In a digital image file the resolution measuring unit is called Pixel, if we multiply this with (x1000) then it becomes a kilo-Pixel, if we again multiply it with one more (x1000) then it becomes Mega-Pixel which is technically similar to 1,000,000 pixels. So, what do we get?

By definition, it can be said that a Megapixel is a unit, measuring the size of a digital image file. Now there are a lot of types of cameras with numerous megapixel ratings can be found in the market such as 2MP, 3.2MP, 5MP, 8 MP, 12MP, 16MP, 18MP, 24MP, 48MP, 64MP, 108MP and so on. Even these days you can find a 200MP supported camera installed in a smartphone device. For different types of applications, we use different kinds of resolutions. But does it mean a higher megapixel means higher picture quality? In addition to that, another question would be, can we also measure the picture quality with this Megapixel rating in a digital camera?

The answer is NO, in one word.

Because there are tons of other things to be brought under consideration when dealing with the word “Picture Quality”. Nowadays, it also became a great marketing strategy for many brands to advertise their product. But in reality, the presentation of the megapixel doesn’t play well. Because the Picture Quality does not depend on only the resolution of the picture but also on the device’s internal image processing engine and algorithm which we are using to view or process the file. But also, we can’t just throw megapixel out of the conversation. Because a higher megapixel also means greater sharpness or details in a picture.

Good to know that when a picture is shot, a bunch of things need to be done. The graphic unit of the CPU renders the image pixel by pixel and renders a final result. So, image processing engines or algorithm plays the major things when we are talking about picture quality. Because it’ll depend on the image processing that how much effort the graphics processor (GPU) is giving to render the final version of the image in a very very short period of time. Also, other factors are responsible for sure that are lens element, sensor size, filters, lighting condition, color reproduction, light balance and so on.

We have compared two (2) digital smartphone cameras side by side with different megapixel ratings such as 12MP and 48MP and this is the result we got:

***No brands are devalued in the comparisons***

12mp vs 48mp camera photo comparison

(Both photos are scaled down to 1000 x 750 keeping the aspect ratio unchanged)

From the above pictures, we can see very slight difference that can not be noticed if not looked closely. In the Left picture we can notice the color reproduction is better than the Right one, as the photos was taken at the afternoon around 04.30 PM (in southern-hemisphere). So, according to the time and summer the white balance should be Warm enough due to warm sun rays but in the Right picture it can be seen the white balance profile is Cool or a slight Fluorescenteffect can be observed as well. Also, if you look closely you can even differentiate the background high-lighting. In the Right image it barely balances the background high-lighting but the left one tried to make it up along with the proper color correction. Also, the picture on the left is a bit more vivid than the Left one. Both camera tried their best to capture quality pictures in good lighting condition. I'll personally rate the Left = 7.5, Right = 7.0 (out of 10)

sunset dawn photo 12 mp vs 48 mp photos comparison

(Both photos are scaled down to 1000 x 750 keeping the aspect ratio unchanged)

Again, the following picture above are taken during the sunset. So, both of these images can be considered as low-light photos. Now, if you look closer then you’ll notice the Left picture looks way realistic than the right one. As we were present on the set, so from the real-time perspective we have noticed the sky color was kind of similar to the Left shown image, it was kind of Dark Grey while in the Left one you’ll notice it made the picture Blue-ish. Also, the detail and sharpness of the Left image might be better than the Left one but not that much noticeable also, it depends on the screen that you’re watching. The overall sky color of the left image looked more warm and that’s what it supposed to be while the Right one failed a bit. Another thing is the exposure. The Left one looks a bit darker than the right one, as the right one had good aperture than the Left one, but it isn’t that bad, is it? I'll personally rate the Left = 8.5, Right = 7.0 (out of 10)

Part-1 Conclusion: So, from the comparison upper above it can be said undoubtedly that a higher megapixel doesn’t mean higher picture quality in real-life scenarios. That means if both of the images are scaled down in a constant resolution then obviously higher resolution will look much sharper as it captured more pixels than the lower one. But if it is viewed in standard image resolution then obviously it might affect the picture quality. And that’s all for today, but we are not done yet with our extreme lab tests and real-life comparison and very soon we will publish the Part-2. Let us know your feedback and tips about the article. Email us directly: support@specdecoder.com