HTC One: the company’s flagship mobile phone, with a new version announced. And they’re bragging about having fewer megapixels in their camera?
Well, they should brag.
For years, marketers have pushed more megapixels as better. In the early days of digital photography, this was true. A 1 or 2 megapixel sensor didn’t have enough dots to make a clear picture, even with the best lens. So more megapixels definitely meant better.
But now that we live in the world of 8,12, 20+ megapixels, adding even more megapixels is actually bad.
Yes, you read that right: More Megapixels is Bad.
Especially in mobile phone cameras.
So why are few pixels better in your mobile phone?
Because each pixel is a square tube. Those tubes are packed on a sensor, shaped like rectangle. The sensor sits behind your lens and catches the light from the lens. The skinnier each tube, the more tubes fit on a given sensor.
So to get more megapixels on a given sensor, manufacturers made tubes (pixels) skinnier. And as we know, customers have been sold the idea that more pixels are always better.
But here’s the problem with a skinny tube: less light reaches the bottom of that tube! Think about how much light hits your eye looking through a paper towel tube, compared to the same scene with no tube in the way.
Punchline: if you have enough pixels to make a good picture, than you want the biggest, widest tubes for your pixels.
Because more light will make it to your picture.
And that’s good, because so many mobile phone shots are taken in dark situations, like parties & dinners.
The HTC One sports 4 megapixels, plenty for Facebook, HDTV, normal photobooks and even photo prints up to 8×10″.
By the way, the new HTC One will have an aperture of f/2.0. That means the tube formed by the lens-to-sensor assembly is relatively wider compared to its length. This makes even more light available to make the best photo.
Now if you want to make murals out of your photos, 4 megapixels may not cut it. If big prints are your goal, shoot with a better camera, not your phone.
But even with top pro cameras, bigger pixels offered by Nikon make their cameras better in low-light situations. Canon has more pixels on comparable models, which makes them better for brightly lit scenes.
But the pros shooting Nikon know don’t need more pixels at this point: they need better pixels.