Photo courtesy of OmniVision

Eight megapixels seems to be the norm at the top end of the smartphone market (for example in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4S) with the occasional phone using 12MP (Sony Xperia S) and one or two with 16MP (HTC Titan II). But now that could all change as a company called OmniVision Technologies, who make camera sensors for phones, tablets (like the Asus Transformer Prime) and video equipment, has released a new 16MP chip. The OV16825 (don’t you just love part numbers?) is capable of full resolution 16-megapixel burst photography and can record 30 frames per second video at 4608 x 3456. For 3840 x 2160 video the frame rate jumps to 60 FPS, and 1080p HD video is at 60 FPS with extra pixels for electronic image stabilization (EIS) on top!

The actual sensor is fully programmable and handset manufactuers will be able to uses its inbuilt image processing functions, including defective pixel and noise canceling, image scaling, frame rate, exposure and gain. “The OV16825 provides top-tier imaging and video recording capabilities for flagship smartphones,” said Devang Patel, senior product marketing manager at OmniVision in a statement.

The sensor should enter into full production during Q4 this year which might equate to some interesting 16MP phones being available in time before the end of year!

Do you need 16MP?

But the question that begs to be asked is this – do you need a 16MP camera in your phone? Don’t get me wrong, I love smartphones with decent cameras. Many times I’ve wanted to take a picture of the kids or of a lovely view and the only camera I had with me was my phone. Yes to 4MP, yes please to 8MP… But 16MP? Is that too much? Putting it into context, Apple’s new iPad has a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution display at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). Such a screen can show only one quarter of a 16MP picture. To put it simply: the average 16MP image needs to be shrunk down 4 times to fit on the screen. Ok, what about my desktop PC? The average screen resolution will be around 1600 x 900 and even top end monitors are only around 2560 × 1920. HDTV is 1920 × 1080 and so on. The question remains: how am I going to view these 16MP pictures in a non-awkward fashion?

I am sure there are some advantages to using 16MP over say 8MP in terms of quality and I am sure that there is a place for such high definitions in video equipment, but this is a phone we are talking about.

What do you think? Am I wrong? Do you crave a 16MP camera in your phone? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems. He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.
  • Guest123

    I’m so tired of the megapixel number wars. They’re for marketing only. Bigger sensor size = better quality. Not more megapixels.

  • andhavarapu

    I’d rather take a large sensor 8MP along with some battery life :)! I think 8MP-12MP is sufficient. The other issue is once you take an 8MP photo, sharing it is a bit of a mission since data is not cheap! 16MP just makes it worse!

    • miki69

      true! it comes down to simple thing – in order to have better images, you need to have (physically) larger sensor. If small, no matter what high-tech you cram inside, end result will be poor.

      • andhavarapu

        Well the ADC/DSP or whatever is also important so it can mean a large sensor bad DSP might give you worse pics compared to a smaller sensor. But BUT given today’s technology and constraints, sensor size gives us an indication!

  • Guest

    Waste more and more RAM.
    Waste more and more money.
    Waste more and more cell tower upload bandwidth.
    Waste more and more cell tower download bandwidth.

    Just to send simple, random pictures to family?
    No thanks.
    All my 8 MP pictures are extremely high quality already.

  • SatyaChowdary

    Yes thank you….

  • Jack

    The last thing these devices are is a phone.

    • andhavarapu

      I hate it when the Phone app or Messaging apps stop responding. They shouldn’t be apps, they should be something that’s more bread and butter.., like let’s say display or button presses.

  • anon

    Yes, I need this and more so I dont have to choose between convenience and quality anymore.

  • Pdf

    Today whats consider a smartphone may be quite different in the future. I shall await for a day when high-end cameras become a thing of the past and be replaced by mobile devices.

  • Yes. You bet.

  • Dianish

    Its a phone.. Its for texting and calling. Not for anything else. No, dont need the camera nor the wifi :S

    • Mark

      I don’t always have my digital camera or digital video recorder handy, but I always have my phone – I never miss an photo/video op of my 2 year old son with my smartphone. I actually use my phone for more non-phone related tasks than calling/texting :D

  • tat2jr

    Well obviously you’d shrink the photo size before sending it over cell data. More mega pixels doesn’t mean better quality but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an improvement. If the quality is there then it would be great having the extra pixels to work with when editing video from this sensor. I want the best camera possible on both my phones and tablets, period. The best camera is the camera you have with you, and I always have either my phone or tablet with me. I’m tired of companies short changing their tablets with older camera sensors. It’s not ideal but I do take lots of photos and videos with it.

    • andhavarapu

      you see we can all shrink it. but that’s an extra step. otherwise we’ll have 2 keep 2 camera apps with 2 settings so that one is for capturing and one for sharing. becomes more of an issue when you start getting 16MP native sensors.

  • tBs_Battousai

    isn’t better always better?

  • Asd

    How they can sell new phones if they didn’t add new things :)

  • Edamsterdam

    The FullHD-video at 1080p is just about 2 megapixel. Even if you could make a small lens that can resolve 16mp it would still mean each individual pixel on a 16mp sensor will receive less light, which results in a lower signal-strength and higher noise in your picture.

    I agree, 8mp is enough for cameras in phones!

  • Mark

    If they produce a good quality picture instead of white noise, then I’m all for more MP. I like to get my pictures printed (enlarged) as I have been frustrated at times by not being able to enlarge a picture to my desired size. 16MP would mean I wouldn’t have that problem – but they have to have good quality optics to support the 16MP, otherwise you’ll just get white trash!

  • Harold

    I’m all for a larger sensor and the option to shoot RAW stills on my smartphone.

  • Mamoon Noorestani

    I don”t think smartphone camera’s should go beyond a maximum MP of 12.1. For now, they should focus on improving the MP of the front camera’s of smartphones with up to fullHD 3.1 MP.

  • in Nokia PureView they use those more megapixels to build a better picture. Then more megapixels make sense. So take a 12/16Mp sensor to create a super 5Mp pixel image, thats nice, thats something I think is coming 5 september from Nokia.

  • High resolution (yes, stupidly high resolution), if the image sensor is keen enough to begin with, can allow you to use digital zoom without discernible loss of quality. Does anyone else get frustrated at the lack of zooming ability on camera phones? Digital zoom essentially just blows up and crops a photo. It’s great, so long as you enjoy staring at a screen consisting of a couple large, blurry pixels, calling them a “memory.” Seems more like a drunken memory to me. Anyway, if a company does something “pointless” like Nokia has done, giving a smartphone 41 megapixels to work with… well, just give it another thought. There might actually be a point in doing it. Unless of course you’d rather convince the manufacturers to give you optical zoom on your paper-thin smartphone. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that daring move, and it wasn’t even on smartphones, but Samsung “camera phones,” only sold in Korea. I’m all for a zoom that is worth using, personally.

  • astralislux

    Take a look and decide:

    “Many times I’ve wanted to take a picture of the kids or of a lovely view and the only camera I had with me was my phone.”

    “I am sure there are some advantages to using 16MP over say 8MP in terms of quality.”

    “I am sure that there is a place for such high definitions in video equipment, but this is a phone we are talking about.”

    The decision is simple: yes to better quality, please.

    I always carry a real camera with me.