Do Megapixels Really Matter for Good Camera Performance?

Published by
Shloke Sarkar

Smartphone cameras have improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, going from offering a single primary sensor or a dual-camera setup featuring a telephoto sensor to offering at least a quad rear camera setup with multiple uses such as a telephoto sensor, a macro sensor and a wide-angle sensor.

That being said, one trend that has become increasingly common is that of higher megapixel counts, going from a 12MP or a 16MP sensor to 48MP, 64MP, 108MP sensors that become headlining features of certain devices.

This trend has affected most companies, with a handful of them choosing to retain basic hardware, the key of them being Apple. Despite the higher count, though, one can see how Apple offers better camera performance than any other company with megapixel counts, at times being higher by up to nine times.

Before we delve into whether or not megapixel counts really matter or not, one needs to discuss the concept of what a Megapixel is to provide some much-needed context.

What Is A Megapixel?

Prior to discussing whether or not the megapixel count actually matters, we need to discuss what a megapixel is. Pictures taken on a digital screen are made up of tiny specks or dots, which are called pixels, which are stitched together to make an image.

A megapixel is these pixels, but instead of being a single pixel, they are made up of/ consist of a million pixels. When one reads the megapixel count for a sensor, it means that the sensor can shoot pictures that have millions of pixels in them, wherein the size of a picture is denoted by the number of horizontal pictures x vertical pixels.

By this concept, one can easily deduce that the more pixels, the larger the image and more one can see (usually). For example, a 64MP camera is capable of taking 9216*6912 resolution images in comparison to, say, a 12MP sensor that can take 4032*3024 resolution images.

Now, using this data, common sense would dictate that more megapixels are better, right? Since the images are larger with more detail. Well, it’s not that simple.

Higher Megapixels: More Quality Or Larger Size

In reality, a megapixel is the measure of size rather than the measure of quality. The key USP of higher megapixels is the ability to obtain a larger image. So, if you are taking a look at something on a large screen or billboard, a higher megapixel count will make a difference.

Do note that the key features of an image, be it depth, contrast, colour, dynamic range, or detail, depend on parts of the camera, such as the size of the aperture, software processing and the lens or camera in use.

With this statement comes another question, which asks as to whether or not more megapixels have any effect on picture quality. Sometimes it does. When a larger number of pixels are squeezed into a tiny area, something quite common for a phone camera, the size of each pixel is reduced, affecting the overall ability of the sensor to gather light.

What this results in is a downgrade in image quality, with noise or grain being one of the most common cons in this scenario.

You might think that companies talk about offering larger sensors, but certain budget companies offer sensors that are much smaller than those found on point and shoot cameras. This is not the case with certain flagships, such as Xiaomi or Oppo, both of them offering larger sensors leading to much better images.

Are Higher Megapixel Sensors A Gimmick

All of this might make you think that megapixels are useless or just a gimmick. This is not quite apt, as they are important when it comes to taking photographs, especially when pitted against devices with smaller megapixel counts. A 64MP camera will capture a ton of detail in comparison to a 12MP sensor.

This difference will not be apparent on your tiny smartphone display or even your laptop, but when the image is viewed on a television or a 30-inch or above the display, the megapixel count comes into the equation since you can notice the difference in detail.

Another use case of having higher megapixel counts is that of digital zooming, which makes use of the primary sensor’s image and crops it to make the image appear larger. With a larger megapixel count, the detail lost whilst cropping will be reduced in comparison to, say, a sensor with a megapixel count of 12MP or 16MP.

So, to conclude, are megapixel counts important? Of course, they are. But, are they the reason for a good camera? No, there are many aspects that one needs to consider and, if megapixel counts were proportional to overall camera performance, a budget phone with a 48MP or 64MP sensor would be defeating the iPhone.

This post was last modified on May 12, 2021 5:23 pm

Shloke Sarkar

Shloke is your go-to guy when it comes to consumer tech. Specializing in In-Depth pieces, he's also getting to grips with Telecom. His hobbies consist of Formula One and Gaming.

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Published by
Shloke Sarkar

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