Carolyn Mathas of Electronics 360 recently penned a blog post exploring the ever-higher resolutions supported by smartphone cameras.
“What [really] drives the need for ever-higher smartphone camera pixel count today—bragging rights or stunning selfies?” she asks. “And when will the number of megapixels be enough?”
As Mathas notes, image resolution equates to image detail.
“If high resolution means more image detail, does it just mean how well you can see that hummingbird extracting nectar from the stunning flower? No, it also has to do with how large you can print, how much you are able to crop, how far you can blow up an image and more,” she continues. “So an easy answer to the question, ‘Do we really need pixel counts in the mid-teens?’ can be answered with ‘Do you do these things, or are you just interested in seeing the hummingbird?’”
According to Mathas, the industry is likely heading towards 100MP.
“Display technology is evolving rapidly and could include a disruptive factor that might help—the same with sensors that will provide for user interaction and image manipulation,” she opines. “In addition, expect that there will be sound-capture technology advances in video. Processor speeds are front and center to smartphone camera developments, especially for video sharing. When considering all of the advances culminating in smartphones, the possibilities are endless.”
Commenting on the above, Jay Endsley, the Sr. Director of Imaging Engineering at Rambus, says he finds the continued integration of new sensing technologies in smartphone cameras to be of particular interest.
“For example, the Nexus 6P and laser autofocus is an attempt to move [this] system to solid state and reduce size. Even though it has been criticized, it’s a step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing improved implementations,” he explains. “Meanwhile, the LG camera that combines two camera images (in software) to implement a wide angle feature is an example of using computational techniques to improve performance. The Light camera is an example of taking this to the extreme. It has many lenses and sensors that are selected and/or combined to unlock new features.”
As Endsley points out, more megapixels, along with other sensor-level innovations, are certainly tools that can help advance smartphone cameras capabilities. Nevertheless, Endsley emphasizes, total system performance is the real end goal.
“[This is why] Rambus developed Binary Pixel technology and is also sponsoring research into Quanta Image Sensors (QIS) to move the state of the art forward for image sensor technology,” he added. “A given camera system will sink or swim based on overall performance and this is a combination of lens, sensor and signal processing. [Remember], usability, size, battery life and other device features are also [quite important] to the consumer.”
Interested in learning more about Rambus Binary Pixel Imagers? You can check out our product page here.