27 January 2020
The smartphone industry is set to witness the launch of 64-megapixel camera devices. Representational image: Bloomberg
The smartphone industry is set to witness the launch of 64-megapixel camera devices. Representational image: Bloomberg

Do we need a 64-megapixel phone camera?

As competition intensifies in the marketplace, smartphone firms are going the extra mile to make their products stand apart from offerings of their rivals. Amid the battle for one-upmanship, camera resolution has become an important element.

Phone makers have devoting a lot of resources to enhance the image quality and picture-taking capabilities of the devices, deeming the moves as crucial for marketing pitches to consumers. Asus Zenfone 6, for instance, boasts a flip camera that allows users to take full-resolution selfie pictures. Elsewhere, Apple is tipped to introduce a triple camera system in its upcoming flagship.

Now, some Chinese smartphone makers are preparing to open a new chapter in the camera wars by taking the image resolution to even greater heights. Plans are underway for launch of 64-megapixel camera devices in the market soon, and there is even talk — from Xiaomi — of a device bearing a 100-megapixel image sensor.

Among the entities playing such game is the Realme, the emerging brand that operates out of Shenzhen. The company, which was founded just over a year ago, has just unveiled plans for a 64-megapixel camera phone, signaling its aim to take on Xiaomi and others in the image resolution sweepstakes. 

The Realme XT handset, touted as ’64 MP Quad Camera Xpert’, is expected to bear Samsung’s new ISOCELL Bright GW1 sensor. According to market chatter, the upcoming handset will be equipped with a wide-angle lens, a macro camera, and a depth sensor.

Earlier this month, Xiaomi said its Redmi Note 8 Pro will be the company’s first smartphone with a 64-megapixel camera and a quad-camera system. While details are awaited, it is likely that the phone will adopt a new design with a camera system is at the center on the back of the device.

Xiaomi will take the lid off its new handset on Thursday, and the phones could hit the street next month.

Interestingly, while the emerging Chinese brands are pursuing the megapixel game in relation to the camera specification, global giants Samsung and Apple have opted not join the number game, at least for now, and have opted to keep their camera resolution below 20 megapixels.

Apple’s new iPhone is said to have a triple camera system with three 12 megapixel cameras. Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ comes with 16-megapixel camera. The tech giants apparently have different ideas about camera performance and image quality and seem to believe that stretching the megapixel number may not make much sense.

But from the perspective of Chinese phone makers, high-resolution cameras could serve as tools to fight off foreign brands, given the fact that Chinese phone users tend to pay greater attention to the camera quality over other features.

Chinese manufacturers appear convinced that the higher the megapixel number, the better will be the photo quality. Theoretically, a 64-megapixel sensor is much larger than the 48-megapixel sensor, so the camera can absorb more light for higher quality photos. The size of each photograph can reach a staggering 19MB, which will effectively enable users to print posters. Photos and video taken by phone camera can be viewed on a big screen such as high-definition television and can be put to use for professional purposes.

Until recently, Sony’s IMX586 CMOS sensor was considered the world’s best smartphone camera sensor. The 48-megapixel sensor has outstanding performance and has been used by many manufacturers. But now a new Samsung offering is expected to rock the market.

People could be attracted by a 64-megapixel camera over the 48-megapixel camera. But the fact is that the number does not necessarily mean better photo quality. Apple’s iPhone camera delivers superb photo quality even though the resolution is only 12-megapixels. The reason is that Apple uses its software to fine-tune the photo into delivering the best quality with a dedicated chip.

Another example is the Google Pixel smartphone. The Pixel series has been praised for its outstanding night shots even though the phone only has a single lens 12-megapixel camera.

A smartphone with high megapixel needs a high-powered processor to handle such large pixel images. Let’s take a look at the Nokia 9 Pureview to illustrate the potential issues arising from advanced imaging system.  

The Nokia device comes with a five-camera system to shoot ultra-clear photos, but it does not come with a matching processor in terms of speed. Hence, it takes a minute or more to handle each photo after pressing the shutter. The user experience on the device is poor even though the photo quality is outstanding, observers have noted.

After unveiling plans for a 64-megapixel camera sensor, Xiaomi last month also teased a 100-megapixel sensor. While the picture quality could be outstanding, the camera would need more storage base as well as sufficient computing power to support the huge image file processing.

Given this, it will be interesting to watch if Xiaomi will announce anything else along with the 100-megapixel camera phone.

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EJ Insight writer