HTC has dropped out of the megapixel arms race—that’s what the headlines read last week—and is instead branching off to focus more on engineering an improved sensor for an ultimately better end result. Rather than introducing a new device overstuffed with needless megapixels (remember, smartphone sensors are only so big), HTC feels its “UltraPixel” camera in the One is a new era for handsets cameras.
As HTC’s Symon Whitehorn explains, what we’ve learned about megapixels up to this point has all been a facade. Discard your preconceived notions, forget what companies have told you.
“The megapixel speaks to the number of pixels a camera’s sensor can capture when it’s exposed to light, so in theory the more megapixels the better,” Whitehorn explains. “However that’s really only half the equation. The other half is the size of the sensor, which determines how much light the camera can bring in.”
So, for example, it’s why there was such a big fuss about PureView and, outside of mobile, why mirrorless cameras (like this one from Sony), grab headlines. And why the ultimate goal, for DSLRs anyway, is to achieve that Full Frame sensor type.
With smartphones always decreasing in size, the dimensions limit the size for a camera lens. And, in turn, the only way to increase megapixels is to decrease pixels themselves, which returns undesirable results. Smaller pixels mean less light is captured, returning pictures that can look washed out and distorted in low-light conditions.
“Our UltraPixel Sensor has the largest individual pixel size available in a smartphone, which enables each pixel to capture up to 300% more light,” Whitehorn said. “This means you can take better pictures in real-world situations, such [sic] taking those foodie shots in your favorite dimly-lit restaurant.”
HTC has a thorough outline of its its UltraPixel camera, and why the “more megapixels in a phone is better” is just a myth. It’s really interesting, and sheds more light (pun intended) on why the company went in the direction it did. Don’t let the 4-megapixel resolution stop you from checking out what is easily one of the stand out phones so far this year.