Friday, March 9, 2012

41 Megapixel Phone Camera?


Nokia has put a huge amount of effort into the camera for the new Nokia 808 phone.  It packs an incredible 41 megapixels.  Yes, that is 41 Megapixels!

Now, I am a skeptic when it comes to more megapixels and I'm really frustrated that the camera companies have lowered themselves to making the camera market into a race for megapixels.  At some point it really doesn't make any sense.  For most people about 5 megapixels is plenty of resolution and adding more pixels just hurts low light performance.  Your camera's image sensor is actually millions of little light sensor that just count the number of photons that hit it.  If you think about how there are only a certain number of photons that will bounce off a scene into your camera's lens, you can see that the more pixels you spread those photons over, the fewer photons per photosite sensor, which then causes a challenge in low light conditions.  There are just fewer photons to count.  In addition, the more pixels, the more storage space the images take.  It really has gotten out of hand.  In this case, however, Nokia is using a much larger sensor (to avoid the low light problem to some extent), and perhaps a bit of magic pixie dust, to give you the ability to zoom in without the usual artifacts of digital zoom (which is another bad idea that camera manufacturers are promoting... but don't get me started on that or we'll be here all night)
I haven't seen this phone in action, so I don't know what to expect from it, however, the sample images do look pretty nice.  You'll notice that they are all taken under very bright lighting conditions, so we can't really see how the sensor performs when it is starved for photons, but still, they do look better than most any phone camera images I've seen before.

Of course, now that I've told you all about the technology, I'll tell you that more interesting to me is the process by which this technology came about.  This story, is a nice description by one of the team members about how Nokia got to such an unusual product.  Read it an enjoy.

The story is here.
Sample photos can be found here.

Thanks for the pointer Glenn Edens