How Can We Kill The MegaPixel War?

How Can We Kill The MegaPixel War?

Since the dawn of digital cameras, the megapixel has been the one stat that camera manufacturers and uneducated consumers identified with quality. Sure, back in 2003, the difference between 1.3MP and 3MP was astounding, but in recent years, its became much more arbitrary. With phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 sporting a 40+MP sensor, is the war back upon us? If so, how can we kill it?

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has gotten a lot of attention since its announcement. People from both sides have came out of the woodwork to express their opinions on this phone/camera combo. As a result, Sony recently teased the public with their latest phone, the i1 Honami, which is harnessing a 20 MegaPixel camera. All accounts seem to show that a mobile version of the freshly dead megapixel war is upon us, so what can we do to swiftly end it?

First, we must talk about far more important features. Magic Lantern recently enabled 14 stops of dynamic range to the Canon 5d Mark III and Canon 7d, a statistic that is going to improve image quality far more than a pixel density count on the sensor will. Essentially, dynamic range is just a figure to determine how much detail is able to be captured in the shadows and highlights in your images (It’s far more complicated than that, but lets not give a science lesson here).  By in large, dynamic range stops is a statistic far more useful than mega pixels ever will be.

Secondly, memory is going to be a far bigger issue than ever. With phone companies slowly ditching expandable memory, consumers are going to run into a very real problem with these large image producing cameras. The test photo released by Nokia last week, is 13 MBs in size. That is less than 700 images on an EMPTY 16gb card before being completely full. Like most people, I have images on my phone from a year and a half ago. Changes like this will force us to change the entire dynamic we have with our smart phone cameras.

Third, is the pixel density of such a camera. While the sensor is still larger than most any other sensor we've seen for a cell phone, it still lacks the size it needs to accommodate that much pixel density. Canon for example, didn't produce a large mega pixel camera with their release of the Canon 5d Mark III because the tech didn't feel ready for them. If a camera with a three times the sensor size of the Nokia Lumia 1020 doesn't feel ready for the 40+ MP range, what makes you think a camera phone will be able to do it with any success whatsoever? The sample photos for the 1020 had a decidedly "finger-painted" quality to them when zoomed at 100%. This was a direct result of over shooting the capable pixel density for a sensor that size.

Sensor-Size-Comparison-1

Finally, we must address the practicality of it. In 2011, HTC released the first 3d phone. It contained a 3d enabled screen, and 5MP dual lens 3D camera on the back. Everyone was buzzing, claiming this was the future, and the concept inevitably flopped because it simply wasn't practical. So far in fact, that even ESPN has recently ended their 3D enabled networks, claiming that the market simply wasn't there. A 41MP sensor on a phone falls under that same discussion. Instagram is going to take that photo, and shrink it to 500px by 500px. Facebook will surely reduce it to around 1300px long edge. So where is the practical purposes of such a camera?

Phones aren't designed to be your best camera. If I want to take a quality photo to use for my portfolio or otherwise, I will always use my DSLR. If I want to take a photo to show friends and family what I'm doing at this very moment, I'll use my cell phone. This is the common separation that companies such as Nokia haven't seemed to figure out. A cell phone camera needs to have personality, not over compressed image sensor highlighting its latest gimmick. By their very nature, they need to be designed to best show a glimpse into our daily lives, and megapixels don't mean a thing in my day to day life, especially when they end up hindering you. By creating phones with features of this nature, you're creating a comparison to much higher end DSLRs and I think we can all agree that we don't want to travel down that road.

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65 Comments

Jaron Schneider's picture

I think I speak for everyone when I say I don't want to wait 5 minutes for my phone to download a sext message.

Jaron for the win!

Roman France's picture

LTE

Boobs in 41 megapixels or 5 minutes? What is the more important?

The 5 minutes.
41MP boobs on a 4-inch screen: pointless.

Pinch-to-zoom, and:

Nokia 1020 has a 4.5" display, with 1280x768 resolution (332 PPI)

An avarage 24" desktop display has 1920x1080 resolution and 92 PPI... that is a joke!

The Lumia 1020's screen resolution nearly equal to the quality photo print.

BTW sexting is a stupid thing as the alcohol-free beer.

Nah, I'll stick with real life where my "pinch-zoom" feature gets those sexy giggles. And the resolution of the human eye is 576MP.

Higher resolution and true touch-technology. Real life wins.

Well... a couple of points

but an inflation in megapixels is the only thing that can make your member appear ... largish

I can do that with a Fresnel Magnifying Sheet for $0.53.

Roman France's picture

I don't understand the issue here. It's not like the Lumia 1020 is going to make any kind of dent in the market anyway. Neither is the SONY device. They don't set the standards for the mobile phone industry, Apple, Samsung, and to a smaller extent HTC do and neither of those companies are chasing megapixels. With that being said, based on what I've been told from friends that have used the 1020, it has the best image quality of any smartphone so whatever they are doing is working. There are tangible improvements over the competition. This post and a few of the other posts on this topic here at FStoppers reek of insecurity.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Part of what you say makes sense, but don't you think they really want to make a dent in the market? That they want to set standards? They can't possibly be content with existing on the fringe. So they're pushing something that is rooted in a lie (that megapixels matter) in an attempt to wow people into buying product and therefore making themselves relevant. Sure, the camera is really nice, but the concept here is what I think Zach is trying to speak about, not necessarily the quality of this one camera phone:

Megapixels don't matter, and no one is benefitting from the continual moves companies are making that argue otherwise. Let's have a dynamic range war. That sounds more fruitful.

Roman France's picture

They can want all they want, but this is a Windows Phone 8 device and it's a distant third in the mobile OS world and will stay that way. Nokia has been doing these crazy camera phones for a while now. No one has flocked because ultimately people don't care that much, because they know their images will either live on the phone, facebook or instagram. I like the idea of having a super dope, manual control camera/app in my phone. Puts me off of buying smaller point and shoot or Coolpix A style bodies for trips when I don't want to lug my D800 around.

The idea that megapixels don't matter is a bit bizarre. Have you seen daylight shots from the HTC One in comparison to higher megapixel phone cameras? It's a no contest. The images lack sharpness and clarity. It's a trade off. If you want to talk about the road of diminishing returns in terms of megapixel count okay. But disregarding them as a whole is silly. This camera is also actually a 38MP camera not a 41, but that's a minor point.

EDIT: I only brought up the HTC One because of its 4MP camera that HTC pitched as ultrapixel. They tried the whole "hey it's better in low light, you don't need all them megapixels!" and it didn't quite work out that well for them. Again, doesn't mean that people want 38MP either.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Right. Law of diminishing returns is a great way to describe it. I'm saying that in the "Reasons to buy our phone" category, Nokia is flaunting one thing above all: 41 megapixels. As you say, it's just one part of a larger puzzle. And I agree. And I'm saying it's perpetuating misinformation.

Well. With all the respect but I would first wait for the production samples, make a test myself and compare the results with other phone cameras.

Without trying the camera myself I wouldn't make any conclusions or even write posts about that. It's to early and we are talking about something that we don't know exactly what we are talking about.

I agree that the quality of their camera photos may be better if they would improve the dynamic range instead of increasing the megapixels. But we don't know the technology behind. Maybe they did something with this camera that blows away anything else on the market.

I currently have a Nokia Lumia 920 phone and comparing its night shots with Apple iPhone 5 it simply blows away the iPhone even when iPhone uses HDR. So why not increasing the pixel count when still maintaining the better quality comparing to the competition?

But regarding Windows Phone 8 being a distant third. Well. I would take a look from the other side.

Apple Mac computers only have about 14% of the world market. Does that mean Macs are bad and useless devices because they only have 14%?

And iOS which currently only have 16-17% of the world market share and this share is still falling. It is expected the market share will fall under 10% in 2014. This is not that far away from the market share that Windows Phone 8 currently have.

Jaron Schneider's picture

We have plenty of samples. In fact, we have several that Nokia has provided, which means you know they are the best images they could produce in certain circumstances. So I feel like we can cast at least a little judgement since we know what it can do at its best. At its worst is yet to be seen.

Also, this was never about Android vs iOS.

Look up comparisons made with the Nokia pureview 808. There are in depth reviews around of it's camera. That's the same tech used in the 1020, except the 1020 is slightly more advanced now and has Optical image stabilization like the 920 which means darker lit images will be better now compared to the 808.

Roman France's picture

I don't know what you're talking about. iOS has 39.2 percent market share behind Android's 52%. Windows Phone has 3%. Facts are right here. I would also prefer for you to not assume things. I never said it was useless or a bad device because it ran Windows Phone 8... I just implied no one would buy it.

http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/6/comScore_Reports_...

Your link is just about the US market share and the US market is just a fraction of the worlds market.

http://www.iphoneincanada.ca/news/idc-ios-global-market-share-drops-to-1...

In Russia for example, which is a huge market, all the major three mobile providers dropped support for iPhone and the iOS market share is already at 8.3% while Windows Phone market share is at 8.2%.
http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/07/16/apples-iphone-dumped-by-big-th...

Roman France's picture

I stand corrected! Thanks for educating me Peter!

Joao Barcelos's picture

Thats something rare to see. Congrats on giving the reason to the other side of the argument! :)

It's also worth noting here that in Russia last week all the major carriers announced they will be dropping Apple iPhones citing something along the lines of "Apple is too hard to do business with and the Nokia devices have a deep rooted love with the Russian people".

I know that this has nothing to do with the above story but within context of the thread regarding market share it will in the next quarter statistics.

I ditched my longtime using/upgrading iPhone over the Lumia 920 for those very same reasons Peter. And I won't be coming back anytime soon.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Strongly agree, I want a camera with a killer dynamic range!!

Spy Black's picture

You delude yourself into believing that only Apple, Samsung, and HTC are the only ones that can be trendsetters. You also delude yourself that these companies won't chase megapixels.

I think the article is unnecessarily pessimistic. Sure, megapixels are not important (not alone) but the improvements in technology in cell phones are pushing the improvements in compact cameras (lenses of 1.4, sensors bigger to one inch, raw support, etcetera), and the improvements in compact cameras are pushing improvements in bigger players so now there are mirrorless cameras, zoom cameras with better optics, more full frame options.
I could say to the writer to "DSLRs aren't designed to be ur best camera. If I want to take a quality photo to use for my portfolio or otherwise, I will always use my MEDIUM FORMAT digital camera" lol.

Said that I am not a pro, so if I going to have a cell phone I expect it has the better quality possibly. A DSLR is a machine to the study, not to the pockets, imho.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Let me get this straight Zach, you are saying megapixels are EVERYTHING in photography and thats all that matters to get a good picture?

Zach Sutton's picture

Yup...you're absolutely right :-p

Oh good grief. Not another...-_- megapixels are just a nice additional...to an image...

Jason Vinson's picture

yup! time to stop the megapixel war and start the cheap sensor size was! lets get the cost of medium format down some!!

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