As Samsung prepares to launch a new flagship with a 108-megapixel camera next month, all attention has now shifted to the megapixel wars, where every conversation will be centered around the megapixel count of the sensor. Marketing the camera with million-dollar ad campaigns has become a trend in the smartphone industry. But do we really need a camera with a high megapixel count on smartphones?
In an interview with Indianexpress.com, Kedar Kondap, vice president of product management at Qualcomm, said not all consumers want a camera with a massive megapixel count.
“Yes, there are [camera] sensors out there that can support up to 192-megapixel or 200 plus megapixel, and we have the platform that supports it. But do all consumers want a 192-megapixel camera sensor on their phones…the answer is no. The file size is big and storage on the phone also matters,” he said.
While Kondap may say user experience matters more than the specs of a camera, the truth is that Qualcomm’s own partners including smartphone makers and camera sensor providers have reignited the camera megapixel war.
In the past year alone there were more smartphones launched with 48-megapixel camera sensors than with 12-megapixel or 16-megapixel sensors. In fact, the 48-megapixel camera has become a standard across all mid-range smartphones. At the same time, we also saw a flurry of smartphones boasting a 64-megapixel camera.
Industry experts say the next wave of premium mid-range smartphones will feature a 108-megapixel camera. That means the sensor can take pictures with a resolution of 12032×9024 pixels. Xiaomi and Realme both are planning to launch smartphones with a 108-megapixel camera in India in the coming days.
Truth be told, the megapixel count on your camera doesn’t matter much in real terms. A megapixel is 1 million pixels, which means the number of pixels a camera’s sensor can capture when it’s exposed to the light. Logically, higher megapixels translate to better images, right? No. It’s a marketing ploy to convince users that a 64-megapixel camera phone is better than a 12-megapixel camera smartphone. The average users get influenced by the higher megapixel count, especially when comparing with other models online, and make a purchase decision on the basis of that.
No one tells users that not all pixels are created equally. The reality is that more megapixels don’t produce better images. Due to the size restrictions, smartphones have smaller size camera sensors. This drastically impacts the quality of the images. Yes, the images may have a large size but that doesn’t mean the quality will be comparable to photographs clicked with a DSLR, with a much lesser pixel count.
Another way to see the megapixel wars is through the lens of customer segmentation and target audience. Brands like Xiaomi and Realme – which are more focused on the mid-range segment – have been frequently launching camera phones with higher megapixel counts. But premium smartphone players like Apple and Google have so far stayed away from the megapixel wars. Even Samsung, which otherwise offers mid-range smartphones with the 48-megapixel camera, has no flagship smartphone in its portfolio with such massive camera sensors. Though that might change once the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G gets launched on February 11, which will reportedly pack a 108-megapixel camera.
Instead of talking about camera megapixels, these companies have been putting emphasis on software and artificial intelligence to improve the overall quality of images. Apple, in fact, spent a lot of time on the ‘Deep Fusion’ computational photography tech during the iPhone 11 keynote event in September last year. Neither the iPhone 11 Pro nor the Pixel 4 XL uses large megapixel cameras.
“It all varies on volume strategies. Sometimes, I guess some consumers relate to a single snapshot pictures… they just want to take still pictures. And in that use case… yes a single high-resolution camera is what they want. There are OEMs who choose a single camera, but there are OEMs that have recently gone with a triple camera setup. It’s very much focused on what consumer you are targeting,” Kondap explains.
Kondap admits there is a need to focus on “user experience” and “educate the consumer” on what is important rather than focusing on the camera specifications.
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