The MegaPixel Game

When Sony launched the IMX586, the first 48 MegaPixel camera sensor for smartphones, it was expected the OEMs will start to incorporate more megapixel cameras.

We earlier have higher megapixel sensors but this time in the industry we are waiting for the next big fish to fry. And after the whole display era with the notches etc in focus, the camera is to take the stage.

And in continuity to that Honor View 20 and Redmi Note 7 are there with a ‘48‘ MP camera. Redmi Note 7 Pro and some Realme device are expected to have a ’48’ MP sensor.

Apart from this, a ZTE is working on a 32 MP sensor phone and the Sont itself has the Xperia XZ4 Premium lined up with a 52 MP camera sensor. And I think it is starting and we may have some other devices may be some pro versions to include a higher megapixel count camera, if not specifically 48 MP.

The thing with these higher MP sensors is that they sound great to have in your phone but the thing also matters is the actual pixel size or the aperture. If we talk about the regular daylight shots, the megapixel count will perform great and can have crisper, more ‘resolved‘ photos and can have better¬†digital zooming and zoomed photos.

It doesn’t matter how wide the aperture is, still, the overall sensor size is small, which in turn reduces the pixel size and can adversely affect the low-light photography. To explain all this, take the Sony IMX586.

In its full glory of 48 MP, the sensor size is 0.8 micron, which is good for day-light but not so good for low-light shots. But there is a beautiful thing called pixel-binning which is shown below by the diagram.

Illustration of Pixel Binning of Sony IMX586
Illustration of Pixel Binning of Sony IMX586

As you can see, in the pixel binning, 4 adjacent pixel combines and forms a super-pixel, whose pixel size is 1.6 micron, which is quite large. So the daylight photos will be 48 MP and low-light photos after pixel binning will be 12 MP, as 4 pixels become 1 pixel and 48/4 = 12 MP.

So for the 32 MP, daylight pics will be 32 MP and the low-light ones are 8 MP (32/4 = 8) and for the 52 MP, the daylight ones are 52 MP and the low-light ones are 13 MP (52/4 = 13).

A higher MP camera is only useful if it has the pixel-binning technique with it. Different OEMs will have it under names for marketing. But it is an important thing to have in a higher megapixel camera if it is small like that in a  smartphone.

Conclusion

It is nice to have a camera in your phone that captures sharp and detailed photos, thanks to that higher megapixel count camera. But with the smaller sensor of the camera, it is quite important to have a thing like pixel-binning.

And camera seems to be the next thing in focus and the MP numbers to be in particular.

(Do let me know what you think and if you have something to add.)

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