More Than Megapixels: How To Pick The Best Mobile Shooter
There’s more to a mobile cam than just the megapixels it boasts of; it’s time you dig deeper to get the most out of your mobile shooter
Point-and-shoot cams started this, and now mobile shooters have taken it to another level. Most of us have fallen for the smartphone megapixel trap at some point. There’s more to a mobile cam than just the megapixels it boasts of; it’s time you dig deeper to get the most out of your mobile shooter. To put it simply, more megapixels do not mean better pictures.
Mobile shooters capture images in pixel elements or pixels as they are known commonly. A megapixel is the equivalent of a million pixels or a million dots in your photo. So logically, more pixels translate into higher image resolution. There’s a catch, though. Image quality in this case refers to a printed image and technically you don’t need more than 2 megapixels for a high-quality postcard (4×6 inches) photograph. For most of us print quality is not a key consideration given that just a fraction of all selfies ever get printed if at all. The megapixel count also refers to the details captured in an image when it is viewed at 100 percent on a computer screen. If it was all just megapixels, you could have millions of dots and yet have a terrible image because the rest of the camera’s hardware doesn’t deliver. Clearly, there’s more at play here to get that hi-res image.
Converts light into electrical signals that your smartphone’s hardware processes to produce digital images. In effect, the size of the sensor determines how much light it uses to craft an image. Image sensors comprise of millions of light-sensitive spots – ‘photosites’, that record information seen through the lens. Mobile cameras can’t compete with the large size sensors on a professional DSLR camera but try slipping your DSLR into the back pocket of your skinny jeans. Most mobile shooters have made rapid progress in shrinking sensors into compact builds while working on sensors that don’t heat up the device. For instance, the 1.9µm pixel pitch of the 13 Pro Max 1/1.65″-type main camera sensor allows it to achieve a 44mm2 surface area, that gathers 25% more light than the 1/1.9″-type sensor in last year’s 12 Pro Max
ISO is another term that camera geeks love to talk about. It is an acronym for International Standards Organisation—the body that keeps tabs on ratings for camera sensors. ISO setting refers to the setting that adjusts your camera’s sensitivity to light. You can switch to Expert mode or pro mode on flagship cameras like the OnePlus 10 Pro or the Xiaomi 12 Pro and tweak ISO settings manually. Typically, a lower ISO setting results in less noisy images but there are some scenarios when shooting with a higher ISO setting helps. The only way to find out is go out there and click some images on Expert Mode. It’s not just ISO settings, you can also experiment with white balance and exposure compensation.
In simple terms this refers to the size of the lens opening that allows light to fall on the sensor. Look for the f-number in the spec sheet of the mobile shooter you fancy. This f-number refers to the width of the opening that the light uses to travel to the sensor. The lower the f-number, the better the camera. A lower number corresponds to a wider aperture and therefore more light – in effect better quality images in lowlight. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, that fares well in lowlight features a f/1.8 reading.
While the megapixels do matter, it’s not the only attribute that can make or break the quality of your mobile camera.