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How many megapixels do you need?

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HTC says 4 megapixels, Nokia says 41MP and even Apple wasn't worried about boosting the megapixel figure of its new iPhone 5S : who’s right?

Megapixels. How did such a simple concept become so wrapped up in hyperbole, controversy and confusion? Compact camera manufacturers act like everyone needs more of them. Photography pundits generally wish there were less. Smartphone manufacturers are completely unable to agree where they stand on the issue. The current generation of premium smartphones includes a 4MP model from HTC, 8MP from both Apple and Google, 13MP from Samsung and LG, 20.7MP Sony and 41MP from Nokia. Surely they can’t all be right?

So how many megapixels do you really need? It’s a simple question without a simple answer, but let’s start by breaking it down into two parts. If we take the assumption that more detail is generally welcome, at what point is there no practical benefit to the user? Then there’s the issue of technical limitations. How many megapixels can a smartphone deliver before the drawbacks outweigh the benefits? 

Before we tackle these questions, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. A megapixel rating tells you how many pixels there are in a photo. If it measures 4,000 by 3,000 pixels, multiply the two numbers to get 12 million, so it’s a 12-megapixel photo. 

It’s worth noting that a 24MP photo isn’t twice as wide as a 12MP photo. It’ll have twice as many pixels, but that means it’ll only be 41% wider and 41% taller – in this case, that’s 5,656 x 4,242. Similarly, if you halve the width of a 12MP photo, to 2,000 x 1,500, the megapixel rating drops to a quarter, or 3MP. As such, the differences between a 4MP, 8MP, 13MP and 41MP photo perhaps aren’t as big as the numbers might suggest. 

This graphic represents the relative sizes of popular smartphones’ photo resolutions (the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41MP sensor but its photos are 38MP at the standard 4:3 aspect ratio)

How many megapixels are sufficient for the average smartphone user?

These days, most photos are shared on social media services and viewed on computers, TVs, tablets and phones. The resolution of these screens varies from around 1MP for a typical smartphone to just over 3MP for the Retina Display on an iPad. A large number of TVs are Full HD (also known as 1080p), which works out at 2MP. A lot of computer monitors and an increasing number of phones and tablets use this resolution, too. The biggest screens around are 4K TVs, which equate to 8MP. They’re ridiculously expensive at the moment, but they’re bound to become more affordable and commonplace over the next decade. 

On this basis, the most megapixels you’re likely to need to show your photos at their best on today’s electronic displays is 3MP. If you want them to look great for decades to come, you might want to shoot them at 8MP. 

If you print photos out, the demands are similar: 300 pixels per inch (ppi) is widely accepted to be as sharp as the eye can see for photo prints. A 5x7-inch photo at 300 ppi weighs in at 3MP, while for an A4 print it jumps to 9MP. Even an A2 poster print at 300 ppi is only 35MP – still less than the 38MP photos from the Lumia 1020.

The graphic below shows how these sizes stack up – red for displays, blue for print sizes and green for the photo resolutions of the four smartphones that we’re concentrating on in this feature. The figures are included below for reference, too. A 4MP image can contain enough detail to fill an iPad screen or produce sharp 5x7-inch prints. It’s only when you get to A4 enlargements or 4K TVs that higher resolutions become necessary. Even then, 8MP is perfectly sufficient.

Resolutions compared: displays are in red, print sizes in blue, smartphone cameras in green.

Screen resolutions

  • iPhone 5                            1,136 x 640             0.7MP      
  • Full HD                               1,920 x 1,080          2MP
  • iPad Retina Display        2,048 x 1,536          3MP
  • 4K TV                                  3,840 x 2,160           8MP

Print sizes

  • 7x5in print at 300ppi      2,100 x 1,500          3MP
  • A4 print at 300ppi           3,508 x 2,480           9MP
  • A3 print at 300ppi           4,960 x 3,508         18MP
  • A2 print at 300ppi           7,016 x 4,9603       35MP

Smartphone camera resolutions

  • HTC One                            2,688 x 1,520           4MP
  • Apple iPhone 5, 5c, 5s    3,264 x 2,448          8MP
  • Samsung Galaxy S4       4,128 x 3,096          13MP
  • Nokia Lumia 1020          7,136 x 5,360          38MP

Nothing is ever that straightforward, though. For one thing, hardly any smartphone cameras include an optical zoom. Digital zoom has its place, but the best it can ever do is guess what the extra detail should look like. However, if the photo resolution is much higher than you need it to be, you can crop the photo and still have enough megapixels for a detailed image. 

This can be done manually in editing software, and it’s also how the zoom function on the Nokia Lumia 1020 works. It can shoot 38MP photos, but switch to 5MP and you can zoom by up to 2.7x – there’s still a pixel on the sensor for every pixel in the photo, so no digital interpolation (read guesswork) is necessary. 

It’s worth noting that applying a 2x digital zoom means you’re only using a quarter of the surface area in the center of the sensor – half of its width and half the height. So for an 8MP camera, applying a 2x digital zoom means you’re effectively capturing a 2MP photo. In most cases, this will be raised back up to 8MP using interpolation. 

The Nokia Lumia 1020 uses the central 5MP area of its 41MP sensor to provide a 2.7x zoom function (above). It also saves the full 38MP photo (below), just in case you decide to zoom out again or crop to a different area after taking the photo.
The two files have just as much detail per pixel (although the 5MP version (left) appears to have stronger digital sharpening applied). It’s just that the 38MP version captures a larger wide-angle scene.

We recently looked further into the Lumia 1020's zoom image quality in our 11-page review of the device; see the section on image quality and performance to learn more. 

 Another reason for choosing a resolution beyond 3MP is that digital cameras rarely capture the sharpest possible details per pixel. On a smartphone camera’s sensor, each pixel measures either red, green or blue light. These colors are arranged in a mosaic layout, typically with two green, one red and one blue in a two-by-two grid (read more about this here). The camera’s software must then calculate a full-color value for each pixel, but ultimately there’s always a bit of guesswork involved. If you wanted a genuine full-color measurement for each pixel in your final image, you’d need to drop the resolution to a quarter of the original. 

Detail can also be lost due to anti-alias filtering. This is to avoid artifacts such as moiré and false color, where the details in the scene cause interference with the regular grid of pixels on the sensor (more information here). In a digital camera, anti-alias filtering essentially involves gently blurring the image to hide these artifacts, and then sharpening it up again digitally.

In practice, all this digital processing for creating full-color, artifact-free photos is pretty sophisticated, and the best cameras are perfectly capable of capturing sharp details. However, reducing the resolution using a high-quality resizing algorithm does tend to give crisper details per pixel. As such, shooting at 8MP and dropping the resolution to 4MP will often give crisper fine details than shooting with a 4MP camera.

The image on the left is a 1:1 pixel crop from a photo taken with an Olympus E-PM2. Focus is pixel-sharp, but details aren’t quite as precise as the version on the right. For this shot, we zoomed the lens from 14mm to 42mm (a 3x magnification) and then resized the image in Photoshop to match the sizes. 

We’re now ready to answer the question of how many megapixels are useful in practice. For most sharing destinations, 3MP is fine, while 8MP is enough for A4 prints and 4K TVs. However, to achieve the crispest possible details, you might want to scale these figures up a bit. If you want to crop the photos – especially if your camera lacks an optical zoom – there’s no upper limit to the number of megapixels that might be useful.

How many megapixels can a smartphone realistically deliver?

It’s all very well wanting something, but that doesn’t mean you can have it. There’s a reason why 1,000-megapixel cameras don’t exist, and it’s not because no one wants them (in fact, gigapixel photos are popular – they’re made by stitching hundreds of photos together).

There are three technical limitations to raising the megapixel rating of a camera in an effort to boost quality. One is simply that a higher resolution takes longer to process and consumes more storage space. Cameras' and smartphones’ processors are getting more powerful and memory cards are getting bigger and cheaper, but there still needs to be a balance between resolution and the practicalities of saving the images.

Another limitation is the sharpness of the lens. There’s little point in capturing more pixels if all they’re recording is a blurry image. At the current resolutions offered by smartphones, we’re already seeing lenses that struggle to maintain sharp focus throughout the frame. Details are usually pretty sharp in the center but they tend to fall off slightly towards the edges. That’s not necessarily a disaster, as the main subject is usually somewhere near the center. However, it stands to reason that there would come a point where increasing the resolution would only capture the defects of the lens in increasing detail.

Then there’s the thorny issue of sensor noise. This is caused by inaccuracies in the measurements for each pixel, and it takes the form of a speckled graininess across the image. Digital cameras try to mask it with noise-reduction processing, but it’s hard for a camera to distinguish between unwanted noise and fine details in the scene. As a result, noise reduction also removes some of the fine detail from a photo. In dimly lit scenes, the camera must boost the exposure, and this boosts noise levels too. That’s why low-light photos often look grainy or exhibit smudged, syrupy details – the telltale signs of aggressive noise reduction. 

It’s especially true of smartphones and budget compact cameras because their sensors are physically very small. A small sensor has a small lens sat in front of it, which captures less light than a bigger sensor and lens. Without getting bogged down in the physics, it’s clear that an SLR’s lens gathers much more light than a smartphone’s tiny lens. If both cameras have the same resolution, each pixel on the smartphone’s sensor has a tiny amount of light to measure. It’s harder to measure something accurately when it’s very small, so inaccuracies – and noise levels – are higher. 

If you doubled the number of megapixels on a camera’s sensor, you’d halve the amount of light that each pixel would have to measure, which means even more noise. In fact, it might well be more than double as you’d have to find room for all the extra ancillary components on the sensor too. So while increasing the resolution seems like it should boost the amount of detail captured, there’s a chance that the resulting stronger noise reduction would actually decrease the detail levels. 

However, it is possible to increase the resolution without boosting noise levels if you also increase the physical size of the sensor. This explains why SLRs are able to offer 24MP and higher resolutions but still deliver lower noise than compact cameras with their tiny sensors.

It also explains why the Nokia Lumia 1020 is able to capture 38MP photos that aren’t completely awash with noise. Its high resolution is matched by a 1/1.5 inch sensor – that’s twice the diagonal and four times the surface area of the 1/3 inch sensors that are commonly used in smartphones. It’s a bit like taking four conventional 10MP smartphone sensors and arranging them in a two-by-two grid.

The HTC One takes the opposite approach with its 4MP sensor. It’s a conventional 1/3 inch size, but because each pixel has more light to measure, its noise levels are significantly lower than from sensors with more densely packed pixels. Then again, merging multiple pixels averages out noise levels, so resizing a 12MP sensor’s output down to 4MP also helps to reduce noise.

This is a can of worms that we’ll quickly put the lid back on – debates about pixel density will surely go on forever. It’s the overall physical size of the sensor and lens which play the biggest role in determining the amount of noise for a given print or screen size. 

These crops have been taken from our Low Light Studio Scene. It’s not a direct comparison of the sensors’ performance as these shots are at different exposure settings and sat behind different lenses (the Galaxy S4’s relatively noisy output is largely due to the camera picking a faster 1/30s shutter speed, which has pushed the ISO speed up to a higher value than the others). We’ve resized them so they’re the same size as the HTC One’s 4MP output. The Nokia is the clear winner here, not so much because it has a huge resolution but because its sensor is so much bigger than the others. This reduces noise and minimizes the need for detail-slaying noise reduction. 

The bottom line

So how many megapixels do you need? Here’s the shortest answer we can muster: for most purposes 3MP is plenty, but you might want to shoot at around 8MP for the crispest possible details. 8MP is a sensible minimum for big prints and 4K TVs, and even higher resolutions allow you to crop photos without sacrificing quality too much. However, make sure that very high resolutions are matched by an equivalent increase in sensor size. 

Of course, image quality is also defined by the design of the sensor, the quality of the lens, the intelligence of the metering and automatic exposure system ... the list goes on. It’s a good job, because if you could tell a camera’s quality just by its megapixel rating, we’d be out of a job.

Comments

Total comments: 220
12
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

4MP, 8MP, 20MP, 40MP, which one?

They could all be vastly improved if the camera recorded raw data.

And as others have commented, higher quality lenses sure help with image quality.

howaboutrawbetterlensesandbsisensors?

0 upvotes
blåland
By blåland (7 months ago)

Multiple camera modules per phone is possible. With massive resolution increase as a result. Want to see how? Take a look in the open forum at dpr main site.
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3548643

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

Okay, but has the software to process that into one file/image been perfected and put on a smartphone?

Then resolution isn't really the problem.

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (7 months ago)

How many megapixel articles do we really need to churn out here, at DPREVIEW CONNECT, to get your attention on the NOKIA LUMIA 1020 AT 38 Mega Peek Sells?

.

3 upvotes
LiquidSilver
By LiquidSilver (7 months ago)

I think the Lumia 1020 deserve it, and not because of "megapixels" but because its camera is in a league of its own.

Since I'd like an Android "1020", I hope that all this publicity and interest can nudge Samsung & Co.

3 upvotes
whtchocla7e
By whtchocla7e (7 months ago)

Megapixels do not help if the lens is below par (see Sony RX100 for example).

It's time to stop comparing cameras based on megapixels. The two relevant measurements are the sensor size and the final output (print) size. For a given sensor size and lens combination, there's an upper bound on MP beyond which the extra pixels do not contribute to better output quality.

5 upvotes
Dheorl
By Dheorl (7 months ago)

Surely cameras should be compared by max aperture and zoom just as much as by sensor size. What would be the point in someone making a FF compact if it was limited to f/22.

0 upvotes
wansai
By wansai (7 months ago)

that's if you look at it from a traditional photography pov. Look at how Nokia approaches it. They use a ridiculously high pixel count that I highly doubt that custom zeiss optic can realistically resolve properly. But that isn't the point. They took those pixels and DID something with them rather than just have it there for show.

What Nokia is doing with their mobile cameras, I don't think any real camera maker is even doing (use a high pixel count, use software to combine the pixels into a super pixel, then bin/resize). It's pretty ingenious. This is how you push photographic technology forward.

1 upvote
ludwik123
By ludwik123 (7 months ago)

Your iphone 5 resolution is out by a factor of 10. It is 1136 by 640.

0 upvotes
fillkay
By fillkay (7 months ago)

No, it's just a formatting error: the 0 belongs with the .7, along with the A3 '1' belonging with the 8 to make 18Mp and the A2 '3' belonging with the 5 to make 35 Mp. Perhaps someone could reformat?

0 upvotes
aarif
By aarif (7 months ago)

how many people use their phone cameras from prints? these days most people dont print what they shoot with DSLRs

1 upvote
Jcradford
By Jcradford (7 months ago)

MOST people is operative word. Who are they? Me, you? Fact is ... Facts come from research? Fact is, I OBSERVE many users shooting and reviewing on their phone ... re-SHARING. And re-sharing on Social Media. 2mp. No prints. Maybe they apply some filters, HDR, etc. That's a wholly different and MOST of the market segment today, I suspect. No research.

0 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (7 months ago)

DPR got confused at some point. They are answering "So how many megapixels do you need?" instead of "So how many megapixels do you need on a phone?"

If the lens isnt incapable of resolving 8mp or the compression algorithm mushes everything up.. then 8mp isnt needed.

1 upvote
hesbehindyou
By hesbehindyou (7 months ago)

DPR isn't confused. They noted it in the article, but didn't address it:

"Another limitation is the sharpness of the lens. There’s little point in capturing more pixels if all they’re recording is a blurry image. At the current resolutions offered by smartphones, we’re already seeing lenses that struggle to maintain sharp focus throughout the frame. Details are usually pretty sharp in the center but they tend to fall off slightly towards the edges. That’s not necessarily a disaster, as the main subject is usually somewhere near the center. However, it stands to reason that there would come a point where increasing the resolution would only capture the defects of the lens in increasing detail."

0 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (7 months ago)

it asked "what do you need", not "what do you expect technology can provide."

0 upvotes
petr marek
By petr marek (7 months ago)

I need exactly the sensor size and resolution modes of my Nokia 808 Pureview, simply best available IQ from mobile phone.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

Bet the 1040 beats the 808.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (7 months ago)

1/1.2" and the same 34/38Mpixels for 16:9 and 4:3 as the 1929.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (7 months ago)

"Bet the 1040 beats the 808."

A future 1040 you mean? ;) the 1020 only beats the 808 when OIS is actively used.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

Menn--

Okay, but is there a good reason for not using OIS? Battery life? F-stop?

0 upvotes
K_Photo_Teach
By K_Photo_Teach (7 months ago)

People don`t just look at photos anymore like a static printed object. They are viewed on computers and zoomed in and out on a computer. So even though 8mp is enough for a 4K TV it isn`t enough to zoom in and out at things in that photo.

3 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

All the more reason to have the raw data.

However 8MP from a good sensor is fine for 12"X18" print, so the zooming a computer argument begins to lose importance.

0 upvotes
Mark Thornton
By Mark Thornton (7 months ago)

If I put 8 or 16MB images on my tablet, my children will often zoom in on previously unnoticed details. They rather like this feature, but is does require supplying more pixels than the tablet display resolution.

4 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (7 months ago)

Get a D800. Or Leica S2.

1 upvote
Photato
By Photato (7 months ago)

Sensors are just dumb areas where the photodiodes sit. So it has never been about sensor size but photodiode size.
DSLRs capture better images not because the sensor is large, but because the photodiodes are large and contain many of them.
I'd say from 3 to 6MP is a good number for small sensors considering in the poor conditions must shots are taken; low light, camera shake, bad focus, people moving, etc
The question could be rephrased as, how large the photodiodes should be?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 12 minutes after posting
1 upvote
vv50
By vv50 (7 months ago)

it can be relatively smaller for phone cameras, since lenses are fixed at its largest aperture, and can still resolve below the diffraction limit. and contrary to what DSLR gearheads think, a phone lens will always be absolutely sharper than APS-C or 35mm lenses despite being tiny and mostly made of plastic.

2 upvotes
KariIceland
By KariIceland (7 months ago)

So your "logic" is "sensor size doesnt matter the size of the photodiodes does and they are bigger on a bigger sensor"

I think you completely failed here. You say first the sensor size does not matter and then you rightfully point out why the sensor size matters, well played in trolling yourself.

2 upvotes
vv50
By vv50 (7 months ago)

people really should bury the idea that huge sensors and huge lenses, by virtue of being huge, will get more detail than small sensors with small lenses.

0 upvotes
Dennis
By Dennis (7 months ago)

"DSLRs capture better images not because the sensor is large, but because the photodiodes are large and contain many of them."

If one sensor has more and larger photodiodes than another, wouldn't the sensor be larger by definition ?

3 upvotes
Emacs23
By Emacs23 (7 months ago)

Downsampling images leads to boost of SNR. In practice this boost compensates lower per pixel SNR of higher density sensor once same generation technology was used. And there is another fact: modern NR algorithms are trying to restore noised areas based on another picture fragments, prelearning, etc. So higher Mp sensor may even have advantage here.

2 upvotes
AndreaV
By AndreaV (7 months ago)

I think you misunderstood a bit what Photato said.
Bigger pixel size = better image quality (of course within the same technology). This is because signal to noise ratio is better and so dynamic range. So, if the number of pixel is the same a bigger sensor will provide a better IQ.

vv50: "a phone lens will always be absolutely sharper than APS-C or 35mm lenses despite being tiny and mostly made of plastic"... seriously? from which strange law of physics are you deducing this? I can tell you that any of the lenses I use on my DLSR are much sharper than my iphone. And, btw, the diffraction limit depends on the physical aperture of the lens, not on the f number, that's one of the reasons why on P&S cameras you have a minimum f value that is smaller than in DSLR lenses. And again, sharpness of a lens is not only limited by diffraction.

2 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (7 months ago)

By your logic, the D800 produces no better images than the D7000 in terms of noise etc, because what matters, the pixels, are of the same size and it's not about sensor size.

Disregarding the fact that despite that they are based on the same technology, the D800 is well over a stop cleaner at equal output size,....because the sensor is larger.

By your logic, the HTC just about hit the sweet spot in terms of pixel size for a small sensor, disregarding that blind tests done with hundreds of people prove it's no better in low light than say an S4 with much smaller pixels and much worse in medium to good light.

In practise there is no correlation worth mentioning between pixel size and noise for a given sensor area or output size.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
AndreaV
By AndreaV (7 months ago)

First, mine is not "logic". It's knowledge. It comes from studies in electronics and physics in university, a master thesis on radiation sensors, a few postgrad courses on imaging sensors and 6 years of experience as electronic designer of analog front end readout circuits for sensors.

Second, D7000 was released in 2010 and D800 in 2012 and you think their sensors are done in the same technology? Don't you think that maybe they optimized the process and the design of their sensors in two years?

About HTC and S4 again. You're comparing 2 different technologies of sensors, with two different readouts, with different algorithm for postprocessing the image.

About your last statement, study some solid state electronics and physics and you will discover that the correlation can be quite high.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (7 months ago)

@ AndreaV:
First, I was obviously addressing the post I directly replied to from Photato,

Second, practise disagrees with all your theories. Simply because sensors with smaller pixels use technologies in practise (microlenses, blacklit technologies, stacking, etc.) to make up for efficiency losses due to wiring etc. Practise tells us that sensors using 1 micron pixels have a similar quantum effiency compared to sensors using 7 micron pixels, huge difference.

Third, the D7000 architecture at the pixel level is the same as the D800, irrespective of year of release. Supported by the fact that per given area, every measurement per given area gives equal results too.

Fourth, yes, processing can make a larger difference. But fact is that you don't have any practical examples to support your point, at the contrary.

So despite all your talk about studies, practise simply proves you wrong. And if you want to talk about studies, talk to mr. Fossum and see if he agrees. I know the answer.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
vv50
By vv50 (7 months ago)

"I can tell you that any of the lenses I use on my DLSR are much sharper than my iphone." and i can tell you that any of the lenses you use on your DSLR, designed for a APS-C or larger sensor, will never be able to resolve 5mp worth of detail in its center when put in front of a 1/3" sensor, which a phone lens will happily do.

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (7 months ago)

I have printed picture with resolution of 1024x768 in 8"x10". The result is actually surprisingly good. It is because the picture was taken with a good camera.

The burning question is can we do the same downsizing with our cheap cameras. Can we do the same pixel binding with Nokia 1020 with regular images. Can my 16MP picture from NEX be downsized to 4MP with reduced noise to make ISO 12800 appear as ISO 3200. If so, how?

1 upvote
chj
By chj (7 months ago)

export it at 1024 resolution

0 upvotes
AndreaV
By AndreaV (7 months ago)

well, not so easily. You would reduce the noise but you will never get the same quality.

1 upvote
zodiacfml
By zodiacfml (7 months ago)

Entertaining read even for a longtime DPR reader here. I agree on all statements, except one which is unfortunately is the most important, the answer to the question.

In my opinion, the answer would depend on the quality and size of the lens. It would be pointless to ask for even more resolution if the lens installed is limiting what the camera's electronics can do. The Pureview 808 does it magic with a high quality lens and not on only pure megapixel count.

Comment edited 51 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Petrogel
By Petrogel (7 months ago)

"Focus is pixel-sharp, but details aren’t quite as precise as the version on the right."

The (on the globe crop picture ) cross purple stripping, of the American mainland, is not visible on the supposable more "detailed" right version !!

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (7 months ago)

That's because it's an artifact, and isn't there in the first place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moir%C3%A9_pattern

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist%E2%80%93Shannon_sampling_theorem

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Petrogel
By Petrogel (7 months ago)

No it is not, it's a cross striping to define a different country on the globe, and that is why it's not visible on other shades of purple
Olympus has almost 4 times bigger sensor (compared to the "huge" lumia's 1020 sensor) and a proper lens to gain more detail than any phone

0 upvotes
JD4x4
By JD4x4 (7 months ago)

The striping is still there. Enlarge the image and you'll see it, although overall the image is a bit darker and the stripes appear thinner you can see them as well as read "Mississippi" in the downsampled version. Both were taken with the same Olympus according to the caption, btw.

I got the point.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Günther Banholzer
By Günther Banholzer (7 months ago)

If it was cross striping the stripes would be straight and not showing a circle. I think this is clearly an artifact on the left picture.

0 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (7 months ago)

Sorry Petro, but that is indeed Moiré you're looking at, created by the very fine pattern in the purple.

1 upvote
Petrogel
By Petrogel (7 months ago)

Sorry Jesper !! my display shows that this pattern has nothing to do with moire artifacts (if you'll enlarge it you'll see it) , is just a cross stripping indicating a different country.

@JD4X4
I did not noticed that both were taken with Olympus, got it now,

0 upvotes
Ben Pitt
By Ben Pitt (7 months ago)

I hate to kill the debate, but this is indeed moiré. No stripy patterns on the globe sitting in my house. Just a screen print texture that has created moiré in the left image.

1 upvote
Petrogel
By Petrogel (7 months ago)

Too pity for my display then, moire it is !!!

0 upvotes
cknapp61
By cknapp61 (7 months ago)

To continue,

I have made acceptable 16x20 inch prints from early 2000 P&S cameras with only 2.1 megapixels. Of course a print like that is made to be viewed when hanging on a wall at a "normal" viewing distance, not 3 inches from your face for pixel peeping.

Ansel Adams, when asked about where to hang large prints is supposed to have said something to the effect..."over the piano, so they can not get too close to it".

Most people over-buy when they get a digital camera as they never make any prints, they just want "cool gear".

0 upvotes
hesbehindyou
By hesbehindyou (7 months ago)

I don't have a piano, so I had to "over-buy". Please don't hate me.

0 upvotes
cknapp61
By cknapp61 (7 months ago)

You have to read about 50 percent of this article before sensor size is even mentioned.

When someone asks me about Digital Cameras and megapixels, I immediately ask them how they intend to use the camera, and what output do they want. I want to know what they intend to photograph, kids playing sports, scenery, low light photography; viewed on a computer screen or printed (what size prints and how often), etc.

I immediately begin talking about the relationship of sensor size and megapixels (you would be surprised to learn how many people have no idea how sensor size effects images) as this relationship is tantamount to decision making. Trade offs include camera size, low light capability, etc. Since I am still shooting and developing film up to 4x5 inches and making B&W prints up to 16x20 inches, I use the film size/grain analogy....if I get blank stares I start drawing relative sizes of film, then digital sensors....they get it after this education.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
1 upvote
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (7 months ago)

So to keep it simple, iPhone with its sensor smaller than a pin head should be using 2MP max for a 4x6 print max. And that should be enough for snapshots for FB or insta-crap uploads but not for decent photography.

3 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (7 months ago)

Even the iPhone 3GS has a sensor that is larger than 3mm x 2mm. That's much larger than a pin head.

1 upvote
yabokkie
By yabokkie (7 months ago)

the more the better but 8K should be the standard and 16K may be called high resolution for mobiles.

never mind print. 8K and 16K displays the size of a door or wall will be everywhere in 2020s (8K = 33.2MP, 16K = 132.7MP).

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (7 months ago)

I'd like to see an article on the fallacy of 300DPI requirement for prints

2 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (7 months ago)

I often print at 150dpi for 10 foot event banners on Epson 9800 series, suitable for 10 feet viewing distance, (and most every vendor involved with pull up and fabric banners will specifically ask to reduce 300dpi to 150 dpi).

Realistically, a properly exposed, sharp 10MP is capable of produce a decent 30" print suitable for framing, especially with regards to Canvas and textured papers or Museum etch.

A good Fractal plugin, such as onOne perfect resize has done some amazing justice for even 5MP shots.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Ben Horne
By Ben Horne (7 months ago)

It depends on how close you view your prints. The lab I use can run their machines at 300ppi or 200ppi, and I can see the difference like night and day.

1 upvote
wansai
By wansai (7 months ago)

it isn't a fallacy. There is a clear difference. For a magazine, If I don't give my printers a 300 dpi file, it prints out all jaggy and crappy like I blew up a web thumbnail from 200px to 3000px.

It really depends. On my recent Epson home printer, I can print an A4 picture from the inkjet without it being 300 dpi. Or take it for laser printing. Doesn't need to be 300 dpi but you'll see the difference.

1 upvote
Ferling
By Ferling (7 months ago)

It's not only distance. It's also the medium upon which it's printed. 300 dpi works for glossy prints at 12". However, the extra resolution get's lost on cloth and textured surfaces used in banners and large screens that are placed several feet away.

Another issue is time. Such as busy folks driving by a billboard, or strolling past a poster in an airport, or wherever little time/focus is spent to fully absorb any finer details, etc.

Still another issue is one of cost relevant to usage. Where it makes sense to use even a 10MP image at 150dpi for a banner that will get used for a day or two, etc.

Finally, some folks are switching to digital displays on cheap rental HDTV's for a host of reasons. Such as: incorporating motion graphics. Dumping print costs. Using stock at the cheaper price point. It also means avoiding deadlines needed for printing and shipping, (not to mention the ability to make last minute changes and corrections).

The monopoly of the MF is fading fast.

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
GURL
By GURL (7 months ago)

So that the next question is: how good a phone camera lens should be?

0 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (7 months ago)

a camera should be as good as our eyes which is about 23mm f/2.8 (converted to glass-air lens) with an angular resolution of 1 arcminute (at the center only but a camera should do it near the border).

then we will need 23MP for a normal 45 degrees induced field or 113MP for a wide 100 degrees supplementary field (all circular fields).

we will need 64MP for a "standard" 28mm equiv. mobile lens of 75 degrees (less for a rectangular sensor). this is what we need for a lens-sensor system as in DxOMark's lens tests.

note: should multiply the numbers by about 1.4 or 1.5 for Bayer sensors, but then it's for sharp eyes of the kids and many of us with poor visions may only need a fraction of it.

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 15 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
KariIceland
By KariIceland (7 months ago)

The eye is actually 43.3mm's

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (7 months ago)

You are thinking of sensor diagonal, not the human eye.

Regardless, remember that with human vision, we have two cameras and two lenses scanning on a motorized tripod and the images being stitched into a panoramic video by a super computer in real time filling in any gaps with prediction. It's hard to correlate a single focal length with human vision

0 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (7 months ago)

tkbslc, people don't usually appreciate how much of their vision is thanks to that supercomputer you mentioned. Our eyes are amazing but they require some serious processing power and amazing mechanical tricks to make them really useful.

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
1 upvote
vv50
By vv50 (7 months ago)

anytime someone starts asking about megapixels can now be directed to this article.

0 upvotes
Bruce McL
By Bruce McL (7 months ago)

"For most purposed, 3MP is plenty."

People using their camera phones "for most purposes" won't bother reading this website.

You didn't mention anything about how editing and saving JPEG files repeatedly can degrade the quality of the image.

People who care about their final results should use at least 8MP. If you start with 8MP then you will be able to edit and crop and still have something that looks good at the "deliverable" size of 3MP.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (7 months ago)

Yep, sometimes struggling with my 6MP camera, especially when I find out that I'd rather crop in a bit, or give a different cut to the same composition.
My bad in the first place, I know, but it'd be good to have some leeway.

1 upvote
KariIceland
By KariIceland (7 months ago)

But if you know how to photograph you wont need to crop.
Also i have gotten photos with a 3 megapixel compact camera that delivers far better image quality than any cellphone to date including the nokia 808 and 1020 and that fact makes me sad.

1 upvote
wansai
By wansai (7 months ago)

@kariliceland,

the need to crop has little to nothing to do with knowing how to photograph. there are various reasons one would crop.

recomposing in post. lense correction requires cropping. removing unwanted stray onjects or people.

on a still shot or studio, you could argue crop isn't necessary but even pros shoot those and often crop. i personally shoot with about 15% headroom for cropping.

1 upvote
Bruce McL
By Bruce McL (7 months ago)

KariIceland said:

"… if you know how to photograph you wont need to crop."

I guess Ansel Adams didn't know how to photograph then.

3 upvotes
Dennis
By Dennis (7 months ago)

"But if you know how to photograph you wont need to crop."
That would imply that all anyone needs is a 28mm lens if they know how to photograph.

1 upvote
wansai
By wansai (7 months ago)

also just to add to my point above. Say for a particular shot I prefer the distortion of a wide angle shot vertically (portrait). I'll shoot from below 45 degree to get that angle and distortion but I have to get the whole body because I don't want the kind of distortion that comes from a wide angle close up. So what do I do? I'll take the body shot then crop it much, much closer.

Crop is a very useful tool and one which is an essential part of photography.

I sometimes shoot at 24mm and crop about 30% out from the borders and recompose because I like the look of that particular focal length for that scene. I could put on a 35mm but that changes the perspective in the photo and is not always the look I want.

1 upvote
CyberAngel
By CyberAngel (7 months ago)

cudos for wansai.
I also like the Nokia's approach to the casual photographers re-framing.
You'll never know what you find in a quick snapshot afterwards.

0 upvotes
Arai
By Arai (7 months ago)

So all you need is a large sensor with 6 Mp and a fast lens....... Hmm where is my old Nikon D40 with my 35 mm 1.8 laying these days.... You can,t make call,s with it but the pictures are stil unbeaten

0 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (7 months ago)

Maybe I don't know how to photograph, but kariliceland sure can't edit! :D

0 upvotes
MDuerr
By MDuerr (7 months ago)

I'm using the Nokia 808 and the Lumia 1020. In most cases it's not only the sharpness that is better than pictures taken with the iPhone, I have the ability to crop!

Cheers

Martin

1 upvote
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (7 months ago)

And don't forget OIS (with the 1020) / stereo audio for video (in both) / microSD card (in the 808) / much wider-angle lens, particularly in video mode (in both) / Xenon (in both) / manual modes (manual everything in the 1020 / manual WB & EC & ISO in the 808) etc. All iPhones lack all of these - even the 5s.

The iPhone 5 is not really a match for these Nokias, both IQ- and feature-wise. Not even the brand new 5s is, according to the direct 5s vs. 1020 comparisons in, say, Engadget's own 5s review at http://www.engadget.com/2013/09/17/iphone-5s-review/

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
brian57
By brian57 (7 months ago)

I agree with the writer. 8 MP is plenty for a phone. If I'm serious about keeping memories of an event then I'm bringing my Canon 5D3 or at least my Fuji 100S. The phone is for unexpected moments.

2 upvotes
stavrosst4
By stavrosst4 (7 months ago)

Same opinion with brian57. I think that almost all are counting figures that are not so crucial for a phone and forget the size of memory of it. For example, my wife likes to carry an amount of photos in the phone to see them and to show to others. She is using it like a photobook. That needs space. Bigger MP needs more memory, more memory uses more current and then is needed bigger battery or shorter time to recharge.
Mostly for these reasons, I prefer my iPhone to be packed with apps (that they help me too much) and my Canon 5D3 to be packed with photos. And as we speak for photos I need my camera to be fast (it is too much the 6sec needed the 800D to save a picture in live view) and especially to have the ability to see the subject which I catch in picture even in bright light (known problem of phone units and cheaper cameras). Fast movement of subject also cannot be followed by a non dslr camera. No need for big MP phone for me. A matter of perspective...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 220
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