The 108Megapixel Smartphone Camera

The xiaomi me note 10 that I’ve been using for about a week for exactly one reason it has a 108 megapixel camera on the back so that is a wild number a hundred and eight megapixels but I should mention we have seen this megapixel push in smartphone cameras before I remember there’s a little streak back when I was in college like we had a bunch of 4 and 8 megapixel cameras than a bunch of 12 and then a bunch of 20-somethings and then we got that 41 megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020 which for a while was basically the king of smartphones and it was pretty good but it seemed like every time we got a new higher megapixel number then that became the smart phone camera King even though megapixels didn’t mean everything like just because something has a 16 megapixel camera doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better than the 12 megapixel camera, in fact, a lot of times it’s the other way around so anyway now I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’ve sort of settled around pretty much everyone having 12 megapixel cameras but a hundred and eight megapixels like that’s gotta mean something it’s gotta be something there right well let’s start with what that actually means the resolution of one photo from a typical 12 megapixel camera like the iPhone is around 4000 by 3000 so that totals around 12 million pixels 12 megapixels
 The same scene from this new Xiaomi camera comes in at twelve thousand by nine thousand which is multiplied to get you a hundred and eight million pixels or a hundred and eight megapixels so you’re getting about three times the vertical and horizontal resolution to make these numbers and the file size for me has ranged from about 20 to 30 megabytes per photo so it’s pretty big and you’ve probably really noticed there are actually five total cameras on the back of this phone the 100 an 8 megapixel main camera then there’s a 12 megapixel 2x telephoto a 20 megapixel ultra wide a 5 megapixel super telephoto at 5x and a 2 megapixel macro camera and there’s also 2 flashes two pairs of flash like it is a lot of hardware clearly so much in fact that it sticks out from back of the phone and you end up like with it rocking on a table and everything but that’s the sacrifice you make if you want all these pixels and all this camera quality so the question is how good do the photos actually look and the answer is really good sometimes so I said before there are a lot of things that contribute to the quality of a smartphone photo color accuracy exposure dynamic range contrast etc but the main thing you’re gonna notice of course with such a high resolution here is sharpness and detail the photos in the 108 megapixel mode are significantly sharper more detailed than any other smartphone I’ve ever used especially you give it a lot of light so in the daytime under bright lights basically but I will modify it to say this it’s mostly Center sharpness see the center of these frames are super crisp and sharp but when you move out to near the outer edges and corners of the frame it’s rarely anywhere near as sharp this is a perfect example in the center here you can see the details.
The middle of a frame and you want that tack sharp focus and don’t really care about the edges then that’s fine but in a landscape or something wider you really notice the edge distortion I think a great way to show this is to give context so iPhone 11 Pro we all know great set of cameras I could use any other pixel for or a high-end smartphone system but I took the same photo on iPhone 11 Pro and me to note 10 back-to-back 12 megapixels a hundred and eight megapixels so here’s an alleyway very similar of course with each photo different color temperatures slightly different exposures a little bit but again pretty similar but the advantage of so many pixels is you can zoom in and keep clarity and there’s you’re actually kind of able to read this tiny security sign over here on the chamois where it’s literally just blurred lines on the iPhone here this shot of the river is pretty similar where your zoom doubt you’ll notice the Xiaomi is a little more contrast II while the iPhone is a bit more flat that’s typical keeps more shadow exposure detail but as soon as you zoom in again you start to see the difference in levels of detail especially in the trees and really anything that’s near the middle of the frame like the links in the chain link fence with a hundred and eight megapixels versus twelve is super obvious and the theme keeps going kind of no matter what your subject is as long as it’s in the middle of the frame long you’re zoomed all the way out there pretty similar with their images just the iPhone usually being a bit flatter and then zooming in gets you this immense amount of detail and sharpness and this stayed true in well-lit shots it definitely falls apart pretty dramatically though in low-light the iPhone has significantly less noise so it does way less noise reduction in low-light and has not so much smoothing to do because of it while the Xiaomi software is struggling and smoothing over everything
The point where a hundred and eight megapixels with all this noise reduction is less detailed than 12 megapixels with excellent image processing so we’ve sort of known it already but software is clearly a big part of a cameras experience and I can’t talk about this camera without actually talking about the photo taking experience, not just the image quality but using it for starters there’s a separate mode for taking 108 megapixel photos typically when you just open the camera in photo mode you’re gonna take scaled roughly 27 megapixel photos still high-end that’s still a lot of pixels but that’s where it performs well you can zoom in and out and with the extra lenses you can get – 2 X – 5 X and then even further with hybrid zoom macro shots are cool there’s the ultra wide if you’ll spare ly solid but then you switch over to the 108 megapixel mode and things slow down quite a bit now there’s a noticeable shutter lag of over a second as it captures the entire 12,000 lines of resolution and processes the whole frame writes them to the not so fast storage and then you can’t view the photo you’ve taken until after another few seconds of that processing and writing the photo and then you can see it sort of spinning for a bit and once it’s done you can view it and once you view the huge photo it doesn’t actually load the whole image right away it loads a smaller proxy until you actually zoom in in which case it decides up okay you’re looking for that extra resolution and then it loads up the full-size preview and you can see it sharpen up and so it’s doing all this mainly to avoid having you deal with that not so great experience all the time it’s smart but this is not the highest end phone
The world I’d call it upper mid-range specs are you know a Snapdragon 730 G chip and you’re looking at six years of RAM and 128 gigs of storage as the only spec and so in general it’s not gonna be the best equipped for spitting out 20 megabyte image files and manipulating them in real time the rest of the phone I’d say is actually pretty well considered if you ask me it’s really solidly built you’ve got a five thousand two hundred sixty milliamp hour battery and there’s a 30 watt fast charger in the box and around the front I don’t like the curved screen I’ve talked about that before but generally the display itself is nice it’s a 1080p AMOLED with just that small notch at the top there’s an in display fingerprint reader there is even a headphone jack and an IR blaster and you can see it’s running shammies UI new UI 11 on top of android which has plenty of its own quirks and features definitely an improvement over the previous version from what I’ve used but clearly still skinned so overall my take is it’s pretty sweet that we have a legitimate like an actual hundred and eight megapixel sensor that can fit in a smartphone today like just for the number on paper that’s really cool it’s not some faked composition adding up detail from three different cameras it’s real is it good yes sometimes it’s it’s legitimately really useful to take like landscapes and be able to use that center of frame which is super detailed and crop it and do whatever you want with that but the sensor is so new and so big that the image processing pipeline makes not so great photos of close-up subjects and low-light scenes so it’s clearly not flawless I really became most interested in the camera in this phone because of the rumor that some camera phones next year specifically galaxy s .

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