The megapixel wars have returned. There are a handful of smartphones on the market with cameras capable of capturing images up to 48MP. But soon the first phones with 64MP cameras will be available.

Chinese phone makers Xiaomi and Oppo are racing to announce the first smartphones with 64 megapixel cameras, with Xiaomi introducing the camera technology for an upcoming Redmi-branded phone today and Oppo’s sub-brand Realme set to announce a new phone tomorrow.

Xiaomi didn’t stop there though — the company is also promising that an upcoming smartphone will ship with a 108MP camera.

Xiaomi says its Redmi smartphone will use a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1 image sensor that can capture images at resolutions up to 9,248 x 6,936 pixels.

The camera features a 1/1.7″ CMOS image sensor with a pixel size of 0.8μm. There’s also support for hardware-enabled HDR photography.

One down side to a 64MP camera? Individual pictures could take up as much as 19MB of disk space, so hopefully Xiaomi’s smartphone will have plenty of built-in storage and/or a microSD card reader.

As for the upcoming 108MP phone, it’s expected to be the Xiaomi Mi Mix 4, the latest addition to the company’s line of slim-bezeled, big-screen smartphones. It will be able to capture images with resolutions as high as 12,032 x 9,024.

Whether you need that kind of high-resolution image sensor in a smartphone camera is unclear. In the early days of digital photography, megapixel count was often thrown about as a stand-in for quality. But in recent years it’s become clear that there are other factors that matter a lot more when it comes to capturing stunning images with a digital camera.

That said, while you can shoot some pretty amazing photos with a 12MP camera, they might not look as good if you were to blow them up to poster size. In that sense, I suppose higher pixel counts can’t hurt.

And another advantage to high-resolution cameras is that you can effectively “zoom” by cropping a section of the picture, with no telephoto lens required. That’s an approach Nokia took with its Lumia 1020 smartphone way back in 2013.

Still, I can’t help but think that now that smartphone cameras have gotten to the point where they support features like optical zoom, low-light image capture, slow-motion video, and HDR photography, phone makers are just looking for another impressive-sounding spec to help their devices stand out rather than focusing on features that folks will actually take advantage of regularly — how often do you actually need to blow up a photo to the size of a 10.5″ x 8″ poster?

Update: Realme says its quad-camera phone will use the same 64MP primary camera as the Redmi. The as-yet-unnamed phone will be available “before Diwali,” which is October 27th.

In addition to snapping 64MP high-resolution images, the camera can combine data from four pixels into one to offer 16MP images with 1.6μm pixel sizes and better low-light imagery.

You can check out some samples below:

via xda-developers (1) (2)



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4 Comments

  1. Let me guess, they will achieve 108 MP camera by using:
    …a 64MP camera + 24MP ultrawide + 12MP telephoto + 8MP depth-sensor?

    Yeah, nah. I prefer a single 64MP, and use software to emulate the rest like the Pixel.
    Then use that extra space to put in the headphone jack, microSD, front-firing stereo loudspeakers. If I wanted multi-cameras, then I would have 3D cameras in the back and the front, that way it will have practical uses and even do 360′ live-streaming.

  2. With pixels so small that noise becomes an even bigger problem than it is now. They then try to fix the noise problem with software and photos end up looking over processed. You need to take an ultra sharp photo? Use a good DSLR. The cameras in phones are already better than they need to be on the high end phone models. They are just adding expense. I remember not that many years ago a friend showing me what could be done with a 1 megapixel camera. Large pixels captured more light with less noise. The user had to do their part of course.

    1. I don’t think the images are going to be as over processed as you think. It won’t require guess-work processing like we normally see. They could lower the resolution down to 25% of the pixel count, and then have 4x more pixel data to use for processing.

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