/ Technology

More megapixels don’t make cameraphones better

Man taking photo with cameraphone

It seems like every mobile phone manufacturer wants a slice of the cameraphone pie. But growing megapixel counts won’t make a difference to their myriad of other problems.

Can you recall an important event that wasn’t bombarded by a sea of cameraphones glowing in its general direction? No? Me neither.

For most of us, though, it’s probably a familiar feeling to be let down by the results when you pull your phone back down to eye level.

While I won’t deny that mobile cameraphones have been one of the true technology success stories of the last decade, their trump card really is convenience rather than picture quality.

These aren’t cameras. These are phones with small lenses and even smaller sensors slotted into the back of them.

High megapixels won’t help cameraphones

That’s why I feel unconvinced when I hear that Sony is releasing a 16.4 megapixel sensor for cameraphones. I’ve already mentioned my exhaustion at the unnecessary escalating megapixel count in digital cameras, and I suppose it was inevitable that this trend would trickle down into cameraphones.

Half the problem with cameraphones has nothing to do with resolution, anyway. It all comes down to shutter delay. After you press the shutter button, there’s usually a tedious lag before the phone actually takes a shot. Say hello to yet another blurry image.

Also, cameraphones don’t have proper optical zooms like you’ll find on a real camera. Instead, you get digital zooms, which reduce the picture quality as you zoom in.

Manufacturers need to up their game

Yes, they’re convenient. And being able to send a photo as an MMS moments after you’ve taken it is brilliant, and something you certainly can’t do with a regular camera.

But come on, manufacturers. Don’t fob us off with an extra megapixel or two. Squeeze a decent lens into the back of a phone and sort out that shutter delay! Then we might just end up with the kind of cameraphone we’d be proud to wave above our heads.


I agree with the comments about shutter delay, ideally the phone should react when you press the button and be ready for the next shot without a delay, though I am not sure it should be ready to be a ‘motor drive replacement’. Perhaps two or at most three rapid fire shots would suffice. Most uses of such a device are almost certainly for grab shots, at parties, at the scene of an event, (good or bad) or other such opportunity situations. However, are there any statistics of what most people use their camera phones to achieve? Is there a major use as (I suggested) with a long tail of specialist ‘other uses’? I have seen various views when travelling about in the past few days, but I have always discounted my camera phone as not being worth stopping to use for that type of shot. I realise that I should carry a ‘real camera’ to be able to take real photographs.

Gareth says:
3 November 2010

Rich you are thinking about this the wrong way around! Camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon should invest in telecommunications and enable MMS in their compact and DSLR camera ranges.

Great points in your introduction, Rich. The problem is that prospective purchasers pay more attention to megapixels than to lens quality and shutter delay. Having a camera in a phone is very useful, but I would not expect decent images unless the phone was the size of a camera. One day perhaps.