When you buy your mobile phone most of you look for two things first- the battery life and the camera and the more megapixel your camera has you assume will get you to snap better pictures. These days most smartphones are powered by two cameras, the front camera and the rear camera. Typically the front selfie camera will have a lower megapixel count than the camera at the rear of the phone because you’re usually holding the camera a lot closer to your face at the front than the subject you’re shooting at the rear. Before you think about which phone camera is best for your shooting projects or daily needs first understand a few things about cameras.
The Megapixels in Cameras
Mega pixel is the extension of the word pixel so to understand what a megapixel is, you need to understand what a pixel is. A pixel is, in visual/IT terms, a single dot in a visual image. An example to understand better is to go back to the days when you had Cathode Ray Tube TVs and when looking at their screen, you could make out the individual little red, blue and green onscreen dots. Each of those was a pixel. Stare closely at your LCD or OLED TV and you probably won’t see the same thing, because today’s TVs tend to pack in millions of pixels into the same space, leading to better images that appear more natural.
Work of pixel in cameras
Each pixel’s job in a digital camera of any type is to capture the image data of whatever you’re pointing the camera at, relative to the reflected light from that object. A megapixel (MP) is a count of the number of pixels in an image, where the mega- prefix denotes a million. So an 8MP smartphone camera contains a sensor with 8 million pixels, a 16MP camera has 16 million pixels on its sensor and so on.
The megapixels that your camera needs
The megapixel that your camera needs depends on your need and what type of photo shoot you are looking forward to. Are you a professional photographer or just simple daily needs snaps to shoot?
It’s feasible to print lower-megapixel prints at larger sizes, but typically a higher megapixel count will allow you to more comfortably print A4 or poster-sized prints simply because you’re expanding on a greater pixel count without making individual pixels more evident.
You can use some simple maths to determine a minimum megapixel count, for example, a full HD TV, has a pixel count that equates to only 2MP, so anything better than that is, in essence, being downscaled. If you’re viewing images on a 4K display, that figure bumps up to 8MP.
According to experts the reality for just about anything that isn’t a pure budget phone is that it’s likely to shoot at 8MP or better anyway right now, and that’s not a trend that’s going to reverse suddenly. If you never print, a higher megapixel count isn’t going to be quite as critical a factor, although there are other areas where it can be surprisingly handy.
How to know Smartphone Camera Quality
Using a higher megapixel rating to create a zoom is one of those areas. The last few years have seen a few camera/smartphone hybrids, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom or Panasonic’s Lumix CM1, but for the most part, true optical zoom isn’t something you get on a smartphone. What you can do however is the digital equivalent of zooming in by cropping a higher megapixel photo down to a lower megapixel equivalent.
But on the other hand, one notable downside to a larger megapixel photo is that you’ve got to store all those pixels somewhere. If you’re always shooting at the maximum capacity of your smartphone, you’ll use up a lot more space than if you shoot at lower resolutions like if you set your phone to automatically upload pictures to a cloud service like iCloud, Google Drive or Dropbox, you’ll also chew through a lot of data.
Most smartphone camera apps allow you to set the megapixel count of each shot, so if you’re using a phone with fixed storage, like an iPhone of any generation or the newer Samsung Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5, turning the resolution down on your shots can be a great way to save storage space.
Which is the best Camera
A smartphone with an 8-megapixel camera might actually take better pictures than one with a 21-megapixel camera, irrespective of camera operator skill. That’s because there’s more to taking images in a variety of situations than just cramming a higher megapixel count into a camera. Take the size of the individual pixels to take into consideration, especially if you’re shooting in low-light situations. Some smartphones, such as HTC’s One line and Apple’s iPhone have cameras with lower megapixel counts, but larger individual pixel sizes within that overall count.
It is because the function of each pixel is to capture the light from whatever you’re pointing the camera at. A larger pixel size, measured in nanometers, allows more light to make its way to the sensor, which means it’s more sensitive to light in most situations. The larger the pixel size, the larger the overall sensor and the better the general capabilities of the smartphone camera. The software can also play an important role as many smartphones offer camera apps finely tuned to the specifics of the onboard camera optics on that phone, making them better or worse than other smartphones even with the same raw megapixel count.
How Camera Features work
Also, different camera apps give you differing levels of control over your smartphone’s functionality, from whether or not it’ll shoot in RAW format to shutter timing and even specific modes for selfie shots to “beautify” your face — although results there can vary quite widely.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that it is perfectly feasible to take very good photographs with lower quality or smaller sensors. There are always issues of composition skill and timing to take into account. Having more tools in your camera toolbox, even with a smartphone camera, gives you more possibilities, but it won’t automatically make you a better photographer.
Some smartphone cameras also feature optical image stabilisation. This packs tiny sensors into the camera lens to detect and correct for the minute vibrations that your hands make when taking photos. The practical end effect of all that technology should be a significant reduction in the amount of blur in your shots, although again the scale of lenses, in this case, means that they can’t apply as much correction as on a “full” lens camera such as a DSLR.
If you’re serious about your smartphone photography, you’re going to largely want to concentrate on the premium end of the sector, because this is where most phone manufacturers combine the majority of their smartphone camera design smarts. You can take great shots with an ordinary smartphone camera, but the cheaper models often have very slow startup times, so you miss shots or slow focus speeds, so you may end up with blurry photos. Therefore, it is not only the megapixel count in a phone camera to assess the overall photographic quality but many other factors are taken into consideration. (Sourced from various websites on phone cameras)