Why You Shouldn't Care About Camera Megapixels

Whenever you see smartphone specs–even here on Prepaid Reviews–one of the things that the manufacturers always advertise is the numbers of megapixels. This phone has 5 MP but that one has 8, so clearly it’s better, right? That seems to follow basic logic, as more in the tech world is usually a better thing. But there’s a lot more to a good camera than how many megapixels the camera has, so if you’ve been comparing those numbers stop it. Stop it right now.

More does not mean better. Period.

As any photographer will tell you, there are a lot of things that go into a making a good camera. From the size of the sensor and the amount of light that the camera can capture, cameras are complicated things. At the end of the day, the number of megapixels (MP) that a camera has doesn’t really mean anything at all. What is important is the way that the camera’s sensor handles the MP that the camera has well. This means that a 5 MP camera can take perfectly good photos if the sensor is good enough. Likewise, a 12 MP camera with a shoddy sensor might actually have grainier and worse photos than its counterpart. It’s a ratio thing, at the end of the day. If you want to learn more of the technicalities of how MP and sensors work, this is a great reference if not a little technical.

So, how do I tell if a smartphone has a good camera?

If really all you want is a good camera but don’t want to really delve deeply into all of the technical aspects of photography, then really the first thing you need to do is ignore all of those numbers. There’s a lot that goes into a camera and it’s not something that’s easy to dip your toes into. You’re more likely to misunderstand and end up with a worse camera than anything. Here’s what I recommend:
  1. Look at real photos from that phone–hop on the web and see if you can find any comparisons or examples taken with that phone to see if you like the things that can be done with it.
  2. Test it out yourself, if possible–go to a store and see if they’ll let you snap a couple photos.
  3. Look at the settings available–generally (but not always) better cameras will give photographers more control over things like white balance and ISO.
  4. Avoid fixed focus–this means that the camera is set at a fixed range and you won’t be able to change the focus which means say goodbye to close or faraway shots. Autofocus is 50/50, depending on your skill and what you shoot. If you’re into photography then look for something that allows tap-to-focus.
  5. Avoid VGA–that’s a fancy way for saying that the photo is going to be very low resolution–which means small in size and therefore likely grainy.
At the end of the day, it’s really going to depend on what you use your smartphone camera for and how much you really intend to use it. For most people, the basic cameras found on most budget phones will be more than good enough. If you’re still finding that you get less-than-stellar photos, then check out this post for our top ten tips for taking great smartphone photos.]]>

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