Here's why your camera's megapixel count is less important than you think

If there's one myth that we'll never tire of debunking over and over again, it's the one concerning the "More is Always Better" mindset when it comes to smartphone cameras. "A 21-megapixel camera? Woah, quality must be crazy good!", right? No. At least not necessarily...
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95 Comments

34. skimshaddy unregistered

The author is trying to help the next iphone? Lol.

37. vladone885

Posts: 9; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

I think PA is trying to convice us into buying iphones:)) my lumia 930 has a 20mpx camera and supersamples at 16 and 5 mpx (and raw) so you can choose to make pics for facebook or for croping,zooming,high res monitors etc. i really like to have that option and not to be fixed on 8 mpx from 1000$ phone :P

39. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I don't pretend to know much about photography or how it works. I do know one thing though. An HP Photosmart 1.3MP camera I bought back in 2000 has shot some of the most perfect pictures I've ever taken. It's the only camera I've had that accurately got my wife's green eyes and my daughter's blue eyes. That picture has resided as my desktop background for 15 years now on a 21" 1080p monitor.

43. pixelated

Posts: 108; Member since: May 03, 2015

Megapixels=Megamyth

45. darkkjedii

Posts: 31101; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

All I know is the s6 edges camera is amazing. I'm sooo thinking of reinstating my second line, and getting one. How's the battery life guys?

76. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Not to bad, not the finest but honestly it will last you a day

51. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

if megapixels don't matter than I have a $1000 challenge for anyone. You go and get any camera you want that is 1.2 or less and compare it to a photo taken with the 16MP shooter on the back of ANY phone and lets do a blind phot test and see which one wins. Megapixels matter for a varied amount of reasons. However, for the high megapixels to offer a full benefit, the other optics must also be on par. Having a large sensor that can have a large MP count means nothing if the Aperture, shutter speed, auto-focus and other things arent on the same level. Megapixels are equal to an engine in a car. just because you could drop a V-12 into a small car, doesn't mean it can beat a car design around a V-12.Other things like tire size and type, foot torgue and more add to overall config. But no matter what the car is, a V-12 is still powerful; but it wont mean anything if the car wasnt designed to use that power properly. The issue with some phones having great sensors and still taking crappy pictures is simple. Most of those OEM's had terrible photo processing software in the phone. The power of the hardware is not relevant if the hasn't been design to take advantage. For the losers who criticize me about specs. Here is a fact. Hardware is designed to a specification, which is where spec come from. When hardware carries a certain spec, then you will know that certain specs are suppose to provide a certain level of performance. PERIOD. Now, once it is mated to software, if the specs of the hardware aren't fully used, then saying specs dont matter is pure BS. Some OEM's don't have experience with making good software period...so if they buy the best hardware it wont even matter. Apple surely comes to mine, so does Sony and so does LG. IMO, the iPhone had the worse cameras than any phone available at its introduction and didn't get good until the iPhone 4. All the iPad and iPod Touch camera suck and still suck, especially since Apple didnt even equip them with a flash bulb. LG? I have NEVER seen a good camera from them. I tried the LG G3's camera, and it sicked. Sony? Sony had better cameras on their laptops than their phones IMO. Sony should be much better at it because they make great sensors. Cellphone cameras are not going to be better than a dedicated camera. if you could shove the "SPECS" of a dedicated camera into a smartphone, it would make a world of difference and that phone would cost $3000 too. Megapixel by themselves dont matter, I know this dispite what Gaming64 think he knows about me. But I do know a 16MP camera will do better than a 4/8MP once in the most common situations even from a crappy phone.

54. StanleyG88

Posts: 240; Member since: Mar 15, 2012

What he doesn't say is that a 24MP image might not be any better than an 8MP image. But, the potential to have a really great image is far greater with the 24MP image than it is with an 8MP image. It is the execution that determines how great an image is. A 24MP image with great execution will result in a much better image than an 8MP image with great execution. All other things being equal, I would much prefer the 24MP image to the 8MP image.

55. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

A misleading article on so many levels. It completely skips the benefits of cropping or digital zoom which is the only savior for far objects when stuck with a wide angle prime. Megapixels help a lot here, all else being equal. Larger pixels are seldomly preferable. In practice there is little to no correlation between pixel size and noise at an image (!) level, not to be confused with pixel level noise. Artifacts at an image level usually decrease with more pixels, as good processing allows for less aliasing, less sharpening artifacts, less NR artifacts and more color information (Bayer remember...). With the introduction of RAW on more and more higher end phones, this will all become more apparent too, since the factor processing can be equalized. A good example why a phone blog should stick to talking about subjects they understand and leave this to others (DXOmark measurements, Dr. Eric Fossum, etc.)

56. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Ironically, it's basically defending tge HTC ultra pixel marketing blurbs, word for word. Practice told us that their largest handicap was lack of resolution (while 4MP still exceeds most display resolutions, by far) and at the same time, it wasn't the benchmark in low light either.

58. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

99% of the planet have no idea how or wants to edit or crop photos, at best add a filter. If you are into photography and you know what crop is, how to edit exposure or what so ever then you are in a tiny minority. With that in mind anything over 5-6mp is more than pointless for the majority of people who will post the photo on facebook which will make the most amazing photo look good at best cause of compression. STOP talking like everyone knows and wants to edit their photos to a level you photography knowledgeable people do.

67. razraptre

Posts: 168; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

While most people don't care about exposure, contrast or vibrance and such, I'm pretty sure that more than a 'minority' know how to crop. And the 5MP thing depends, really. The sensors from Nokia's high-end Lumias like the 930 and 1020 downsample 20MP or 40MP photos into 5MP pictures - those 5MP pictures rival most other 'traditional' 5MP and even 8MP images. A lot of people will not know or care about photography terms like noise control, exposure or dynamic range, as you said, but they WILL care about a good picture - and in the end, those higher MP sensors do enable the user to take a good photo. Usually :P

72. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Actually when you take a photo with the Lumia 1020 for example, it takes 2 photos....1 with 5mp and 1 with 38mp (RAW photography).

82. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Here's an idea, start reading before replying with nonsense. I specifically mentioned digital zoom, which is available on practically every phone camera and used by almost everyone who has ever tried shooting getting a subject "closer". That does not require any editing or extra knowledge on the subject at hand to see the clear benefits of say 16MP or more over 5 to 8 MP, ceteris paribus. The same holds true for more visible color information and less artifacts, at full screen display size and especially when using digital zoom.

59. jessyi

Posts: 327; Member since: Jan 08, 2015

Im still getting the LG G4 with 16mp camera...

62. material

Posts: 80; Member since: Jan 08, 2015

Summary : Iphone has 8MP and its enough.

73. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

It just has good camera algorithms, just like Nokia/Microsoft do.......

63. jojon

Posts: 433; Member since: Feb 11, 2014

i think it is more about the software actually, having said that though, my L1020 will still blow anything else out of the water. Also interesting to note they never use the 1020 as an illustrative example in essays like this..wonder why!!

64. xfire99

Posts: 1205; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

Megapixels counts, depends on it usages. http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/define-megapixels.html

65. HighOnAndroidFTW

Posts: 185; Member since: Apr 26, 2015

PhoneArena just getting blue in the face defending the iPhone once again

70. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Megapixel does matter because it can be used not only for just point blank shoot! It can we used for oversampling and loss less zoom like in the Nokia Lumia 1020! The Nokia Lumia 1020 with 41MP is still one of the best camera phones, hell even my old N8 from 2010 with 12MP beats most current phones! It's a combination of MP, Sensor, Hardware and Software! You can have great hardware but if the software is not optimized the quality will be crap!

77. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

A little misleading. More megapixels should amount to a better image. Keep in mind that an author often tries to justify their point by cherry picking the samples. It is clear that is what happened here, because over and over the 16mp G4 by LG has out performed the iPhone's 8mp, despite the advanced rendering that the iPhone can do. So, why not use samples from all the major manufacturers? If you zoom into the sample provided, you'll see the HTC photo is blurry. So, I'm not sure that comparing a high res. blurry photo to a lower res clear one constitutes a good pixel comparison. So sorry, I am not buying the argument of this article. I want to see a more unbiased evaluation.

96. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

That's just rich. I mean, who's cherry picking now? You're completely ignoring the arguments of the article, and are instead twisting them to fit your agenda. At no point have I said that the LG G4 will resolve less detail than the iPhone 6. Or any other phone for that matter. The point is completely lost on you, for it's about how megapixels -sometimes- can be misleading, and the example provided was just... an example of that. A valid one. Oh, and sorry to the Android fanboys for daring to include a sample from the phone-that-should-not-be-named. Besides, even if you were right (which, sorry to be blunt, you're absolutely not), the rest of the raised concerns still very much count for the general populace, which is relentlessly (forcibly) drawn into the megapixel race. That is, just because you can notice the superiority of detail at 300% zoom, it really means squat when you're looking at nothing more than 2MP previews on a 720p/1080p monitor.

79. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

So, crisp image quality doesn't matter 'cause of the people who mostly use their image on facecrook? That's ignoramus thinking, MP isn't only to make a picture bigger...unless of course you have no clue of the advantage of more MP. Here's some insight; the more MP the phone has, the further it can digitally zoom without loss in quality. So technically, that means better quality of further away subjects. Don't even give me the nonsense "professionals avoid digital zoom" excuse. You only avoid it, 'cause it'll result in loss of quality. That is what the more MP prevents. In case you have no idea of what zoom can be used for ('cause Apple never mentioned it to you); when you take a 41MP picture of say a clock tower from it's base, you could easily zoom in and crop out a statue on that clock tower as if that's what you were taking an up-close picture of, without any loss of quality. TLDR: MPs work both for printing posters and as an alternative to Optical Zoom.

86. gallison1983

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 19, 2012

If megapixels replace optical zoom, then why do photographers love prime lenses? I have yet to see a logical, or for that matter, a practical reason why megapixels matter to a smartphone user. And yes, a 41 MP picture might be able to allow you to zoom for a great distance. So can a telephoto lens. At the same time, though, a telephoto lens gives you a chance to frame the shot whereas the 41 MP and fixed optical is a luck of the draw on what you get to zoom in on. Better yet, the telephoto does not have to suffer quality degradation like a digital zoom. I would guarantee that the Nokia would lose in an overall shootout to a decent piece of telephoto glass attached to a DSLR when zoomed on the same subject. Not knocking the quality out of Nokia though. They were smart and actually went with a good company to help produce the optics in front of the sensor. The post processing to generate the image left more to be desired when shooting wildlife depends on speed.

88. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

"If megapixels replace optical zoom, then why do photographers love prime lenses" Is that a trick question? Prime lenses don't offer zooming, they're a fixed focal length, so what have they got to do with optical zooming? "I have yet to see a logical, or for that matter, a practical reason why megapixels matter to a smartphone user." Don't expect you to until Apple advertises it. "And yes, a 41 MP picture might be able to allow you to zoom for a great distance. So can a telephoto lens." Except a telephoto lens is 99.99% of the time sold separately, so if you're that desperate to throw money away, go for it. I'd rather have a decent amount of lossless zooming built into my SmartPhone than worry about another accessory to be carrying around and maintaining. "At the same time, though, a telephoto lens gives you a chance to frame the shot whereas the 41 MP and fixed optical is a luck of the draw on what you get to zoom in on." Uhm, mind elaborating on what exactly you mean by that... "Better yet, the telephoto does not have to suffer quality degradation like a digital zoom." Digital zoom only suffers quality degradation if you have such low amount of MP (such that zooming would quickly 'cause degraded photos), like on the iPhone, or you go beyond it's lossless zoom limit. Want to zoom further, add more MP. The telephoto lens itself is limited to how far it can optically zoom , you don't have unlimited zooming (like with digital zoom), so that "no quality degradation" is pointless; you're just being limited by the system. "I would guarantee that the Nokia would lose in an overall shootout to a decent piece of telephoto glass attached to a DSLR when zoomed on the same subject." Totally depends on the quality of the lens and DSLR you use. The Note 4 has proven that old DSLRs can be beaten by today's SmartPhones (bit.ly/1AVbmJm), so, just using any DSLR and telephoto lens won't necessarily prove you right. As technology improves, so does the camera in SmartPhones, so eventually whichever Telephoto lens and DSLR you use will be outperformed by a future SmartPhone, and that's an endless cycle.

89. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

This all falls flat with the premise that you can build in a long focal length lens. Thickness of phones greatly limits the focal length and maximum aperture (key factor too for small sensors). Even using prisms and L shaped setups such as found in some Sony compact cameras. Thus for phoned, megapixels are basically the only way to get "closer". This article uses a bad jpeg engine in an attempt to negate that point: fail.

80. gallison1983

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 19, 2012

Megapixels don't matter. Why? Because a 6 MP DSLR can outshoot a smartphone. Smartphones are at the good enough state for photography. To that extent, many pros and hobbyists, like myself, carry one with regular camera gear. At the same time, you get a fixed aperture, fixed opticals, and software that is usually smart enough to get a decent ISO. On that same note, I can take my apertures to great lengths based on my shots for a DSLR. I can drop it down very low for wider shots or crank it up for bokeh. Add to that, I can manually dial in my ISO speeds to take the same shot; with the same lighting, and have two totally different compositions. The other major factor no one is mentioning is the RAW format. Shooting with smartphones in most cases leads to a jpeg. Which is in the good enough category so long as the processing software is up to snuff. Example? iPhone 6 outshoots a Moto X despite a 5 MP difference simply because Motorola does not have a great track record with jpeg processing. Similarly, the 5 MP on the first-gen Galaxy phones were superb because of the post processing. None of that matters to RAW format. RAW essentially leaves you with the unprocessed shot and allows you to create the jpeg yourself. And lest we forget the reason why Nokia got such good marks on their camera phones. They are using Carl Zeiss optics. Yes, it's a brand but it is a pretty good one. Sony is good, too. But Zeiss is on a different level. My time with the Lumia Icon resulted in some of the most optically sharp images I have ever shot with. My gripe was the 5 MP leftover image primed for social media. That double processing annoyed me to no end since I was left waiting an eternity to get the next shot ready. TLDR version; Megapixels matter not, all of the other stuff around that MP sensor does. In summary, smartphones are (and will be) just good enough. Unless someone comes along with actual servo based hardware.

83. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Typical fallacy. A Note 4 can easily out resolve an old DSLR with 6 MP. Furthermore, that DSLR is likely not stuck with a wide angle prime for the rest of its technical life. That's why extra megapixels (crop or digital zoom) benefit that phone camera more too. Following your silly fallacy, I have one in return for you. A manual focus Medium Format camera offers better quality at over 50 MP and 1 fps than a pretty much any DSLR. See, DSLR's don't need autofocus, more than 1 fps burst and do need more than 40 mp. Proving theories was never easier.... This wasn't about all the other factors, this was about resolution. Denying it as one of they factors, is living in a fantasy world.

84. gallison1983

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 19, 2012

How often are you taking your shots and making posters or billboards? Or for that matter, how often are you taking your pics and developing 8 x 10's? The magic number for the everyday professional photographer doing portraits or a landscape spread is roughly 6 MP. Once you go beyond that, the only benefits you have come from how much larger you can print the picture. Also, you are asking for a comparison between a $5000 piece of hardware and a DSLR which typically retails around $600-$1000 for mainstream market. That's like saying a Galaxy Note 4 can out resolve a Casio G'zOne basic flip phone, if you are comparing oranges to oranges. To further my point, 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160. a 14 MP camera's resolution is 4288 x 3216. If you were to keep the same ratios, a 14 MP camera would produce an image that would require scrolling on a 4K monitor. With the Galaxy S6 sporting more than 14 MP, please explain to me how that small of a sensor will produce a better picture than an entry level DSLR with a 1 inch sensor at any resolution. Better yet, I will wait until you show me a 7 blade soft bokeh from interchangeable glass. Or show me where 40 MP will benefit me when a 4K display will not properly show 14 MP without cropping. I will not deny that megapixels count. They just stop counting for the everyday person after 6 MP from a practicality standpoint.

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