Last month, Samsung announced its new 200MP camera sensor for smartphones, the ISOCELL HP3 which supports 8K 30fps and 4K 120fps. This is actually not the company’s first 200MP camera, in fact, the new Motorola Frontier has Samsung’s 200MP ISOCELL HP1 sensor. The sensor can output 12.5MP or 50MP stills via pixel binning and its deep learning-based demosaicing algorithm.
Smartphone manufacturers have in the last decade made smartphones all about cameras, fighting to see who can slap the largest megapixel on the back of their devices. But just how many megapixels do you really need on your smartphone? Should you spend top dollar for that 108MP Camera?
I’ll try to make this simple so, let’s do some math. In this article, we will look at how many megapixels you need to shoot 4K. 4K is about 4000×2000 pixels (8,000,000 pixels), which means you require just 8 megapixels to shoot. The most used commercial version of 4K is UltraHD-4K at 3840×2160 pixels and DCI-4K at 4096×2160 pixels, 8.29 megapixels, and 8.85 megapixels, respectively. Yes, in order to shoot 4K videos, you just need 8MP.
4K refers roughly to the horizontal resolution of an image. Theoretically, it’s an image with 4096 pixels in the horizontal direction. But a 4K HDTV image has a 16:9 aspect ratio, hence the zoomed in horizontal 3840 pixels
More pixels mean more data for your phone to process, in terms of pictures, taking a 108MP picture results in an image that looks cleaner, with less noise or grain, and typically shows a finer distinction between highlights and shadows. However, this results in slower processing times and shorter battery life. The image is usually large in size and takes longer to capture and process, actually as a default, these smartphones don’t shoot at 108MP on default.
Before we dive into complex video stuff, let’s just get this out of the way, the very hard truth for megapixel obsessives is most of them will never even view the high-resolution images that they snap. Most devices have a 1080p display and let’s say you have an Ultra HD display, that’s only an ~8.3MP canvas.
Ps. When you shoot a still, your device can take some time to process the image. With video, it needs to be processed constantly, and continue shooting. Devices in the midrange sector don’t have a powerful enough graphics chip to shoot 4K or 8K video even with these 64 and 108MP sensors that are plenty capable.
In order to shoot 4K at 24/30 fps, your device should be able to take 24 or 30 8 million pixel images per second (Video is a stream of images), most of the devices in the midrange sector that have the sensors just can’t handle this, mainly due to the GPUs.
So here is the deal, the processors on midrange and budget smartphones can handle the huge amount of data taken by the sensors but can not output it, in which case each 108MP frame is scaled down to the standard low pixel that the device can handle. For instance, the new realme 9 has a 108MP Camera but only shoots video at 1080p, which is as equivalent to scaling the pixels to about 2MP.
High-megapixel cameras are better with high-end chipsets. However, they are not in the mid-range and budget phones, they are actually awful. Find a good balance between the chipsets in a device and the lenses they have before making your purchase.