Cell Phone Basics explained

How to know phone camera is good, best MP phone camera

When it comes to the camera specs of a cell phone, most people assume that the cell phone camera with the higher MP (Megapixel) resolution is the better phone camera. This is not true at all, we explain why

Pixels clearly cisible as small squares
Pixels clearly visible as small squares

MP stands for ‘Mega-Pixel’ and it means one million pixels. A pixel is the smallest element in an image which makes up the whole picture – see the small squares which make up the image shown here. A pixel can be compared to small square bits in a jigsaw puzzle. A picture in a jigsaw puzzle is made of many small pieces. The more the number of jigsaw pieces needed to make the picture, the picture will become clearer – in phone camera language ‘a picture with a higher resolution’.

When the horizontal and vertical number of pixels are multiplied with each other, it gives the total number of pixels in the picture, and when that is divided by a million gives the MP or megapixels. For example an image with 2000 horizontal pixels and 1000 vertical pixels give 2000×1000=2,000,000 or 2 million pixels which is 2 MP or megapixels.

Phone camera sensor size explained

Sometimes just 8MP can be a good MP for a phone camera and take better pictures than a camera with 20MP with the same sensor size. This is because the 8MP camera has bigger pixels built into a sensor of the same size or area.

A camera takes a picture when light enters a camera through its lens and strikes the camera sensor for a brief millisecond – for example from 1/25th to 1/1000th of a second depending on the shutter speed. So the Camera sensor has to capture the light it got in that very short millisecond and convert it into an electronic digital signal to get a digital picture. Hence you can see that the pixels of the sensor in a camera is doing all the hard work and it needs to be really good to give good pictures.

It is possible to cram the camera sensor with digital pixels, each of which converts light into a digital signal. The more pixels you add to a sensor of same size, the smaller the pixels get. Remember that each pixel has to be engineered to produce a digital signal from the light it receives. The smaller the pixels gets, the more difficult it becomes to produce a good pixel and hence a good sensor for the phone camera.

Are more MP or megapixels better in a camera

Just by having more MP does not mean a better phone camera. Phone camera pictures are normally viewed on TVs, computer monitors, Tablets like iPads or on mobile phones themselves. These devices do not have such high resolutions as the mobile phone cameras of today.

For example, take the case of the best TVs available today, the Ultra HD 4K TV. A 4K TV has a resolution of 3840 × 2160=8,294,200 pixels or 8.3 MP. So if you have a phone camera picture taken with a 20MP camera, the camera picture is adjusted to fit the 8.3MP pixels available in the 4K TV. This process of adjusting the image size also results in image quality loss on the 4K TV.

So in the case of the 20MP camera, there is loss of image quality with having 20MP or 20 million Pixels being crammed into a small camera sensor plus the loss of quality in fitting a 20MP picture on a 8MP screen of the Ultra HD 4K TV. It would have been better if the camera sensor was of a smaller resolution with bigger and better pixel elements built in.

So when comparing phone cameras, also look at the size of the phone camera sensor. The size of the sensor of a phone camera is very important for a phone camera’s picture taking ability.

When is a higher MP camera better

One advantage of having high MP phone camera is that you can zoom the mobile cell images without much loss of quality and this could be very useful when taking group photos, etc. We are not saying that high MP cameras are not good, but an 8 MP camera can also give good pictures to view on normal viewing devices like HD TV or 4K ultra HD TV and computer monitors

Where also cell phone camera with more MP or megapixels helps is when you want to take prints of the phone photo images. With the higher MP resolutions you are able to make higher resolution prints in larger print sizes. For example setting the inkjet printer at a resolution of 600 DPI (Dots Per Inch – printers print with dots so have DPI, while monitors have pixels or PPI = pixels per inch) you can get a 7.5×5.5 inch size print from a 15MP camera (dividing the pixels of camera’s horizontal and vertical pixels 4492 x 3328 by the 600 DPI of printer). If the printer is set at its normal 300 DPI setting, you will be able to get good print of size 15 inch x 11 inch. The print size of an 8MP camera (3,456 X 2,304=7,962,624 pixels) on an inkjet or laser printer with normal setting of 300 DPI would be 11.5×7.5 inches or an A4 size approximately.

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