Do Higher Megapixels Count?

by Arnold M. Polino, Jr., JANUARY 2020

In 2018, smartphone manufacturers battled for the best phone design. Last year, the competition shifted to which has the most number of rear cameras.

Since the launch of iPhone X’s notch display in 2017 and the release of the world’s first penta-lens camera smartphone – the Nokia 9 PureView (image below) in February 2019 – smartphone manufacturers have continuously tried to raise the megapixel bar.

Entry-level Realme 3 vs Flagship Huawei Mate 20 Pro, both released in 2018.

Last year, the world’s first penta-lens camera smartphone was released by Nokia, a well-known and undisputed mobile player for fourteen consecutive years. In 2012, the company released the first smartphone equipped with optical image stabilization (OIS) that helps capture blur-free images and steady videos: the Nokia Lumia 1020. For a couple of years, nothing matched its supremacy. But more recently, smartphone makers and OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) began mounting a serious challenge.

In 2018, the megapixel war broke out. The flagship Huawei 20 Pro with 40-megapixel primary camera sensor was released. Within the year, the 48-megapixel midrange devices from Honor, a sub-brand of Huawei, and Redmi from Xiaomi followed suit. Others joined the race in 2019, including the Korean mobile giant Samsung, and the megapixel rivalry intensified.

A whopping 108-megapixel camera smartphone is currently making the headlines with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. However, the big question begs to be asked: do higher megapixels count? 

Samsung Galaxy A50 with 25MP primary camera vs. OPPO F11 Pro with 48MP primary camera, both released in 2019.

To a photography enthusiast, a lot of important things need to be to considered when taking breath-taking and Instagrammable images. Here are some factors that you, too, should consider:

Composition — this is something that comes naturally to people with a knack for photography. It is that unique take on every shot from any given perspective.

Light and color — A golden rule in photography is that the more light you have, the better images you can take. Color also gives you eye-catching images that make your photos stand out.

In technical terms, the aperture value determines the ability of your camera sensor to capture more light. A smartphone with a bigger aperture senses more light which means better lowlight shooting. For comparison, a smartphone with an f/1.8 aperture captures better lowlight images than a smartphone with an f/2.2.

Detail— it is important that for every image you capture, there should be vivid details to create powerful shots out of your camera.

Technically speaking, the pixel size is responsible for controlling noise and grain. Meaning, if you shoot more during nighttime, you need a smartphone with bigger pixel size. Symbolized in microns (µm), pixel size typically ranges between 0.8µm to 2µm. A higher pixel size means less noise and grain.

Story – it is also important that you have a meaningful story behind the images. You may have a deeper or complex approach to communicate with the viewers’ mind and still make you a good photo storyteller. 

Editing — a good contrast, white balance, sharpness and saturation draw viewers’ attention to every image to look professional. Being a photographer also means being a good photo editor to make adjustments to make the images become as lively and expressive as possible.

Some photography enthusiasts also consider the camera sensor and the lenses used when taking their shots. SONY has a reputable name in camera sensors manufacturing. Only a few OEMs are equipped with SONY camera sensors. Lenses used in a smartphone also have a vital role in smartphone photography as it enhances clarity in every shot.

Upper-midrange Nokia 7 plus with ZEISS optics vs. Flagship Huawei Mate 20 Pro with Leica lenses, both released in 2018. Nokia 7 plus uses a 12-megapixel SONY camera sensor while Huawei Mate 20 Pro has   48-megapixel camera sensor.

Most flagship smartphones today still stick with 12-megapixel primary camera sensors like the Samsung Note 10 series and the iPhone 11 series but still manage to capture excellent photos. Google Pixel phones, for example, are considered the best camera smartphones. Thanks to their software algorithms and processing, Pixel phones have produced stunning images even with the lowest light available.

Higher megapixels catch a lot of details, but the quality of your images still depends on your skills. People can be blindsided by high megapixel counts, but keep in mind that there are other factors to consider for your photos stand out.

Higher megapixels? Not really. After all, smartphones are not just a camera.

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About the writer:

Arnold M. Polino Jr. A twenty-one-year old mobile technology geek and a reformist. Interests include music and World Almanac. Mobile photography calls it a day.

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