Why we don’t need the camera 100 MP in smartphone

Last year the 40-megapixel smartphone is back on the market, and it was already five years after was presented Nokia Lumia 1020 with camera 41 MP. Since then it has increased not only the quality of the sensors themselves, but even a little older the number of megapixels, as companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi and many others have released their smart phones with cameras at 48 MP.

But last month, in an interview with MySmartPrice head of Qualcomm said that in the very near future there will be smartphones with sensors at 64 MP and 100 MP. In fact, the CEO reported that their new processors have acquired support for the sensors on a 64 MP and 100 MP, and then it’s up to mobile manufacturers, who, by the end of 2019 to release the first smartphones with cameras such a huge resolution. However, we believe that smartphones with camera 100 MP is a bad idea.

Why more resolution has become a priority?

Nowadays, the camera module of the smartphone to be very thin and small to fit in the case of modern smartphones. This reduced size means that the pixels of the sensor used to capture light must also be reduced in size. Small pixels are simply not able to capture as much light as larger, which negatively affects the quality of photos in low light. Manufacturers of sensors are always at a crossroads between using a large number of small pixels (higher resolution with poor quality night photos) or fewer larger pixels (lower resolution, but the ability to capture images at night).

However, in recent years sensors of smartphones have begun to use technology enterprises of pixels (called pixel binning) to combine the data from four pixels into one “superpixel”. This comes at the cost of decreased resolution, which outlet is normally a quarter of the maximum. IMX586 Sony sensor with a resolution of 48 MP is an excellent example of this technology, because its pixels are pretty tiny (0.8 micron), but the use of pixel binning technology allows you to take photos equivalent to camera at 12 MP with a size of one pixel, a 1.6 micron.

Why smartphones with a camera 100 MP is not needed?

This technology works well for a 48-megapixel cameras, as seen on the example of Honor View 20 and Redmi Note Pro 7, but a 100-megapixel smartphone is a serious problem even before the technology is pixel binning.

The biggest problem is just to put all these pixels on the sensor of the smartphone. One solution is to increase the sensor size to accommodate all those pixels while maintaining the size of the pixel, which will increase the size of the camera module that will be hard to stick out from the body. Another option is to a substantial reduction in the size of each pixel, relying on the technology of combining pixels for shooting in low light.

100-megapixel camera smartphone is likely to have pixels that are small enough that even the technology of combining pixels does not play a big role.

As it became known today, the camera 100 MP will not be able to demonstrate outstanding results even with the use of pixel binning, since the pixels in this case will be too small. 100-megapixel camera sensor with 0.3 or 0.4-micron pixels, in essence, will give results equivalent to a 25 megapixel camera with pixel size of 0.6 or 0.8 micron. With these values of the pictures in low light will be very mediocre, especially when compared with those on smartphones such as Galaxy S10 and Pixel Plus 3. Both of these devices are equipped with the basic 12-megapixel with 1.4-micron camera. Even the same OnePlus 6T and its 16-megapixel of 1.22 micron camera seems to give better results than the camera 100 MP.

Even if smartphones will install a 100-megapixel sensor is much larger, slightly reduce the pixel size (0.5 or 0.6 micron), you will still get results, which is actually equivalent to 25-megapixel sensor with pixels of 1 or 1.2 micron, which is still no better camera on the 48 MP. Only here the difference is that with the sensor at 100 MP you get more and huge, protruding from the housing of the mobile module. But, at least you will have super-high resolution and a lot of detail in daylight shots, right?

Say goodbye to memory on your smartphone

Another important factor for a 100-megapixel cameras in smartphones is the size of the output file. The size of a typical snapshot taken on a 48 MP in any flagship Huawei, can range from 7 MB to 15 MB. This means that the weight of the image with a 100-megapixel camera will definitely exceed 30 MB. Now remember that some smartphones have learned to shoot in RAW: RAW photo in Galaxy S8 has a size of less than 24 MB, and the weight of the DNG image Mate 20 Pro greater than 80 MB. Weight RAW photo, obtained in 100-megapixel camera will no doubt be exponentially larger.

It is also worth noting that modern smartphones with sensors 48 and 40 MP MP default is removed with the use of integration technology of pixels, so we expect the same from a 100-megapixel sensors. There are also compression without loss of quality, such as HEIF. It is clear that any smartphone with a camera 100 MP without such a technology would almost certainly require a ton of memory, which will need to protect these massive pictures.

We also have to take into account the image processing. Great picture on your smartphone is more than just photographing beautiful scenes, as the multi-frame processing, machine learning, image segmentation and other methods are the heart of modern mobile cameras. Cameras of today’s smartphones with ultra-high resolution can actually give snapshots with the already perfect full treatment. However, to date only a few chips offer support processed images taken on camera with a resolution of 48 Megapixels, not to mention processed photos with even higher resolution.

Speaking of processors, you need to remember that the speed of processing photos with 100-megapixel camera depends on their performance. Qualcomm has already announced that their chipsets will get support for a 192-megapixel images (i.e. images without additional processing), but the ability to process these images is another question. Shooting in RAW Mate 20 Pro is already leading to a slight delay and the notification is “saved”. Still, let’s remember the Nokia PureView 9 to achieve high-resolution handles multiple images, although with different cameras, and this process takes perhaps way too much time.

All this does not mean that install in smartphones 100-megapixel camera does not make sense. Just the main advantage of this camera is that you can get a day of photography with a large number of workers. But is there such a need when today’s smartphones already have such a variety of options, such as telephoto lenses, wide-angle lenses, and even sensors on the periscope? If the camera manufacturers invented a completely new way how to create a 100 megapixel camera so that the sensor is very compact and also coped well with a photo in the dark, now the implementation of it seems a bad idea.

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