Megapixel Madness Hits Camera Phones

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Megapixel Madness Hits Camera Phones

Remember those grainy 640 x 480 pictures the cameras in cell phones used to take? The latest entires in "premium" cell phone digital cameras put them to shame.

Nokia's recent announcement of a 12 MP camera phone means we'll soon have four 12 MP models to choose from. (Nokia's announcement was preceded by Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG.) But will they be worth the price? I don't think so. Here's why:

The digital cameras built into cell phones use image sensors as small as - or smaller than - those found in ultra-compact digital cameras. A typical 1/2.7" sensor is only about 5.4 mm x 4 mm, which is tiny. How tiny? I'm glad you asked.

A mm is 1/10 of a cm... and there are 2.54 cm in an inch. So - get your rulers out for this - the width of a typical 1/2.7" image sensor is about 1/5 of an inch!

On the other hand, an "APS-C" sensor - the size used in most pro-sumer digital SLR's - is about 17 mm x 25 mm. That's nearly 20 times the surface area. And the typical pro-sumer digital SLR sports - you guessed it - 12 MP.

In other words, the tiny sensors in these camera phones have equally tiny pixels... and that increases noise and lowers picture quality.

The bottom line? If you have a 5 MP digital camera in your phone, you don't have to rush out to "upgrade" to a 12 MP model. Chances are you won't a big boost in picture quality equal to the price.



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Susan Sayour