Do you Need More MegaPixels? – Camera Myth

Mega-Pixels, ‘The universal standard for camera quality‘, as cited by some people. We go to extreme lengths to get the phone/camera with the highest Mega-Pixel count. Pay a bigger amount, compromise on other features or even criticize genuine brands for not giving more Mega-Pixels in their Cameras.

But have we ever tried to even find out these Mega-Pixels that we are ready to die for the effect the quality of an image? Have we ever questioned their importance? or Even what they are? Let’s have a look at all such questions one by one.

What are Mega-Pixels?

Mega means Million, and Mega-Pixel means a million pixels. It is the total amount of pixels that you will have in your image.

So an 8 Mega-Pixel camera will have 8 million pixels in photos captured by it. A 13 Mega-Pixel will have 13 million and so on.

What Do More Mega-Pixels do?

More Mega-Pixels means that you will get pictures in higher resolution. The photos that we click have resolutions in pixels, this resolution is in the format of width X height or sometimes height X width. For example, an HD image will have a resolution of 1280 X 720 which means it will have 1280 horizontal and 720 vertical pixels. In total it will have 9,21,600 pixels which are almost close to 1 million. So an HD image has 1 Mega-Pixels.

Yes, You heard it right. 1 Mega-Pixel Camera is enough to capture an HD image.

Then What about picture quality?

Picture quality depends on the sensor, the aperture, and the image processing chipset used in the device. The better their combination, the more crispy photos you will get. The sensor will define how much definition each pixel has. i.e how much light enters each Pixel. The Aperture will define the focus of the images it will position objects at 3d distances. Finally, the image processing chipset will convert the raw captured light by the camera into a portable image format.

Here is a practical Explanation

You buy the latest Phone with a 21 Mega Pixel Camera and that is its only selling point. It has an average sensor, a below average chipset and the generic 2.0 aperture that we usually get on every phone.

Will it have a better quality? Or at least average quality?.

Answer -> NO. It will have relatively bad quality than other phones with the same features and less Mega-Pixel. Shocked! Aren’t you?

Well, Here is the reason

4mp vs. 13mp

Since we are comparing 2 phones with the same features and different Mega-Pixels here, It is important to note that since they have the same sensor and one has more pixels and the other one has less, the device with more pixels will have to distribute the incoming light among more pixels which will reduce definition per pixel. This will decrease image quality.

Whereas in the case of our other device with lesser Mega-Pixels, the incoming light will be distributed over comparatively fewer pixels and this will improve your per pixel definition. This is the reason Apple had stuck to 8 Mega-Pixel Cameras up until recently. They just kept working on their sensors.

Have a look at these 2 photos captured on the same device with different Mega-Pixels.

The Left one was clicked with 4 MP and the right one with 13. The difference in clarity may not be significantly visible, but it is definitely there.

Is More Mega-Pixels Bad then?

Not Everytime. More Mega-Pixels means that the image will support bigger screens. So it is useful when you have to print or view on bigger screens.

Conclusion

The only job Mega-Pixels do is that they increase the photo’s resolution. They have nothing to do with picture quality. More Mega-Pixels can be helpful in capturing images for the large screen. But if we see this practically, none of the images we click are going to be viewed on such big screens. We view our captured images on our phones, computers, or TV.  So a camera with 5 Mega-Pixels is fairly sufficient for most of us. Some May feel the need for 8 or 13 Mega-Pixels but only when you have a good sensor. Otherwise, it’s a total waste.

I hope all your doubts are cleared by now. If you have any doubt, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

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4 Comments
  1. Nonya says

    The size and quality of the camera lens also has a lot to do with picture quality. That is why pictures taken with a phone (which has a tiny and often low quality plastic lens) will never be as good as pictures taken wit a camera with a larger, high quality glass lens. Sorry, but I am very picky about picture quality, and pictures taken with phones just don’t cut it for me. iPhones take some of the worst quality pictures!

    1. Rishabh Kandari says

      HI Nonya. You are absolutely correct. Smartphone cameras are just the tip of the iceberg called photography.
      Its not even Worth talking about lenses used in smartphones with the exception of a few, none of them are even in the game. But its a phone. serving 10 purposes. So what more can we expect,

  2. Thomas says

    Thank you very much for this fine article. You point out that “Picture quality depends on the sensor, the aperture and the image processing chipset used in the device.” Can you tell me please what are significant data values to see whether it is a good combination for a given amount of megapixels?
    Another aspect for an advantage of a higher resolution is the ability to zoom into the picture when it’s shown on the screen.

    1. Rishabh Kandari says

      Hi Thomas, You are completely correct about being able to zoom in more. Answering you question an average smartphone camera sensor is roughly between 1/3 to 1/2.5 inches in size. So the larger your sensor the more light is captured this helps your pixel definitions and especially in low light cases where you need every particle of light.
      As a rule of thumb for smartphones the aperture should be less it is usually 2.0 for rear and 2.2 for front camreas. And finally about chipsets , most Snapdragon quad core or above chipsets manufactured in the last 12 months or so will process your images well.
      I hope this helped.

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