Smartphone cameras: the big megapixel lie

Some smartphone manufacturers are particularly proud of the resolution in which their cell phone cameras can take photos. For a while, you focused on the number of megapixels in your cameras and neglected other facts and figures. But be careful: the number of megapixels does not necessarily go hand in hand with the actual image quality. 

No matter how high the resolution of the images, if the aperture and the camera software on the smartphone do not do a good job, the result will not be good images.

Ultimately, the number of megapixels only tells you how many pixels the sensor can record: the higher the number of megapixels, the more details the camera can capture in ideal lighting conditions. The megapixel number does not provide any information about aspects such as noise behavior, color intensity, dynamic range and so on.

In addition, it is often the case that the image quality of particularly high-resolution handycams suffers in poor light because the pixels are so small that they receive too little light. This is why manufacturers often add four pixels to one pixel together to improve the picture quality. This is called “pixel binning”.

HDR (Plus): The software decides

In addition to the built-in camera hardware, the software also plays a crucial role in taking great pictures. The best proof of this: The current model series of the Google Pixel a-series. Google only installs a single camera lens in these smartphones. So it is not surprising that the specs do not seem to be in line with the current top smartphones from other manufacturers. Nevertheless, Google manages to take some of the best pictures in the smartphone segment. 

The reason for this is the camera software optimized by Google.

Almost all current smartphones under iOS and Android have a so-called high dynamic range mode (HDR mode). With the help of this software feature, image results should be closer to the perception of the human eye. The camera software makes use of a trick: When taking a photo, the camera shoots several pictures one after the other with different exposure levels. In what is known as “post processing”, the software then analyzes all images and compiles the best details and image information from all individual images to form a final image. Thanks to the excellent development of this software on the part of Google, it is sufficient for many scenarios to only have a camera lens on board and still take excellent pictures.

You can take great photos with just one camera lens: the magic word is “HDR”

Optical and digital image stabilization: these are the differences

Image stabilization plays an important role in taking photos and especially video. With the help of stabilization, the camera tries to compensate for the movements of our body when we hold the smartphone freely in the air. 

A digital image stabilizer first zooms into the image so that the software can correct wobble by slightly shifting the image section. The disadvantage of the method: resolution is lost. For example, it is often the case that the Full HD video recording is stabilized, but the recording in UHD is not. In addition, a digital stabilizer can sometimes not compensate for jerks as well.

An optical image stabilizer can do more: the camera lens is not fixed in one position, but has a little bit of leeway in which it can move. Small jerks can thus be compensated for in an analogous way. Some top smartphones even use a combination of digital and optical image stabilization. When buying the next smartphone, you should make sure that at least the main camera is optically stabilized.

Important to note: With an optical image stabilizer, photos and videos can be displayed much more smoothly

Replacement for a full DSLR camera? Cell phone cameras are that good now

Smartphone cameras show massive improvements in terms of photo and video quality from year to year. The question often arises as to whether it is still worth buying a full-fledged camera in addition to a smartphone. We got to the bottom of the question and let the Huawei P30 Pro (camera rating: very good) compete against a full-frame camera from Fujifilm worth around 11,000 euros.


The result: The cell phone camera does an excellent job in the possible framework of a smartphone. But it cannot compete with a professional camera: A much better sharpness when zooming, more realistic portrait effects and significantly more camera settings give the professional cam the victory. But one thing is for sure: if you do not depend on absolutely perfect image quality, a modern flagship smartphone can really be an alternative.