Camera Quality – Is Megapixel Everything?


Here comes the Redmi with 48 Megapixel camera. Wait, what? Realme offering 64 Megapixel camera? Is the camera quality that good?

Not limited to 64 Megapixel but we even have a 100 MP camera which is coming very soon. Though we don’t know which phone will be the one to implement it first. But you get the point.

But why is this megapixel race? Are there no other important components when it comes to camera quality?

Camera Quality – Factors That Decide

  1. Megapixel
  2. Sensor
  3. Aperture
  4. Optical Image Stabilization
  5. Focus
  6. Flash
  7. Image Processing

1] Megapixel

Megapixel is nothing but how large an image is! Resolution of a camera is measured in megapixels. For instance, a 16 MP camera is able to produce 16 million pixels on your screen. Likewise, an 8 MP camera can produce 8 million pixels on your screen.

Do you know the practical usage of this megapixel game? It just means that if you stretch or zoom your picture then a higher megapixel photo will not get blurred easily.

Megapixel Importance
Image: PhotographyLife

So, is your intention of clicking pictures to print on billboards and hoardings? If no, then it makes no sense of having a camera with 100 MP.

2] Sensor

An image sensor is responsible to convert a clicked image into digital form in your camera. Hence, if your camera sensor is poor then no matter how better hardware or software is, the images are going to remain poor.

I have written a detailed blog post on Sensors. Here is the link: What is a Camera Sensor? Phone & DSLR Difference

There are two types of sensors –

  • Charged coupled device (CCD)
  • Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)

Although we don’t use CCD sensors anymore but sub-types of CMOS is used on a large scale now.

Camera Sensor Image
Image: Gadgetstouse

Back Side Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor is currently the best sensor that a phone camera can have!

BSI CMOS Sensor works better in low-light conditions as compared to CMOS sensors.

Also, sensor size matters a lot in phone cameras because the size of the camera is already smaller on a mobile phone.

For the sensor, bigger is better. You will get some sizes like 1/2.3″ or 1/3″ and so on.

Mathematically, smaller the denominator of a fraction, bigger the number becomes.

Hence, 1.23″ will larger and better than 1/3″ sensor.

3] Aperture

Aperture plays the biggest role when it comes to photography for a low-light environment. If you are clicking images at night then your aperture should always be larger.

Having said that, an aperture is a hole through which the light passes. So, larger hole makes it possible to capture more light in some places where the light is dim.

What is Aperture? Camera Quality
Image: PhotographyLife

Aperture is measured like f/1.8, f/2, f/4, etc. Please note that we need a higher aperture. Hence by the rule of mathematics: Smaller the denominator in a fraction, larger the number.

So, if you have to find a better aperture between f/1.8 and f/2.2 then the answer is: f/1.8 is better than f/2.2.

4] Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)

As the name suggests, OIS helps in stabilizing the video. It even stabilizes a photograph when you click a long-shuttered image at night. OIS automatically adjusts the tilts and shakes that take place while clicking a photograph.

Nowadays, Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) are present in some of the premium smartphones. They basically stabilize for rotation along with the shakes and tilts. EIS is superior to OIS but not all of the phones come with EIS for now.

OIS helps in stabilization while capturing a night shot and also during videography.

5] Auto Focus

Let’s admit that majority of the users use their camera in automatic mode instead of manual mode. So, what is the most important thing while using a camera in auto mode?

The priority is auto-focus.

Most common autofocusing systems are:

  • Phase detection Auto Focus (PDAF)
  • Contrast detection Auto Focus (CDAF)
  • Laser Auto Focus (LAF)
  • Hybrid Auto Focus (HAF)
  • Dual Pixel Auto Focus

I’ll try to write a dedicated blog post explaining these types because this article will be unnecessarily long and not everyone is interested in knowing the mechanism.

Talking about the best Auto Focus systems, here is the ranking starting from the best:

  • Dual Pixel Auto Focus
  • LAF + CDAF (a combination of two)
  • PDAF/CDAF (work individually)

6] Flash

There are primarily 3 types of Flashlights here. I’ll cover one by one.

  • Single Tone LED Flash – In Single Tone LED flash, there is a single white/yellow LED which works when you capture an image.
  • Dual LED Flash – Dual LED can emit twice the amount of light that Single Tone LED emits.
  • Dual Tone LED Flash – There is a combination of yellowish light and bluish light which gets adjusted as per the environment. If we need a warm image then yellow tint will be added. Similarly, bluish shade works for cool image type.
Types of LED Flash - Single Tone LED Flash, Dual LED Flash, Dual Tone LED Flash
Types of LED Flash

Without any doubt, Dual Tone LED flash will be always better than any other flash type because of the feature it gives.

7] Image Processing

Do you know how Google Pixel phones remain the king in mobile photography and that too with a single rear camera? Why can’t other phones beat Google Pixel even after having dual cameras?

Google Pixel 3 XL vs Apple iPhone XS Max - Night Sight Vision
Google Pixel 3 XL vs Apple iPhone XS Max – Night Sight Vision

The answer lies in the image processing done by software which is strongly implemented by Google. Similarly, Apple has control over its own hardware and software integration. Hence, iPhone images are dope.

I have covered an article on Apple’s ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign. You might like it.

However, brands like Sony provide their camera to the majority of the brands but their own software integration is relatively poor. As a result, images from Sony do not really match the expectations.

You can’t really decide camera quality merely by looking at the megapixel count.

Why do smartphone companies highlight only megapixel number for Camera Quality?

Because megapixels are easy to highlight. They just need to tell that their phone has a 48 MP camera and it automatically seems better than a 12 MP camera.

How will they convince you for sensors or OIS? It’s not feasible for them. Neither do they have so strong Software integration to boast anything.

But now you know what exactly determines the camera quality. Thanks for reading it fully. It requires patience 😀


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