Smartphones with 16MP cameras? Do you need it?

May 23, 2012
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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 √ó 1920. HDTV is 1920 √ó 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!

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