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Do Massive Megapixel Counts Matter With Smartphone Cameras?

Nimish Dubey
The Realme XT has a 64MP camera.

A few days ago, Realme launched the Realme XT, the first smartphone in India to come with a 64-megapixel camera. The launch marked the latest move in what seems to be a full blown megapixel war in phone cameras, with 48MP having become almost a standard even in mid-segment smartphones.

In fact, even as this is being written, Xiaomi is believed to be working on a 100MP camera for one of its forthcoming phones. These huge megapixel numbers are a far cry from the relatively 12MP or 16MP sensors that were seen in most phone cameras at the beginning of the year.

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So, does this mean that the cameras in this new crop of phones are at a whole new level? And if that’s the case, then why is it that some of the phones that reviews say have the best cameras—such as the iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, or the Google Pixel 3—actually use 12MP cameras.

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All of which might make some wonder why then there is so much talk about megapixel counts? And just how much they really matter? 

A measure of image size, rather than quality 

Basics first: what is a megapixel? All pictures on a digital screen are made up of tiny dots called pixels. All these tiny dots put together make an image. Well, a megapixel is a million pixels.

When you read that a camera has a certain number of megapixels in it, it basically means it can take pictures that that many million pixels in them (the measure of the size of a picture is the number of horizontal pixels multiplied by vertical pixels—1024x768 and so on).

The more the pixels, the bigger the image. And of course, the bigger the...

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