Xiaomi confirms it will launch phone with 48-megapixel camera in January
It looks like the megapixel race is set to start again. For a long time almost all flagship Android phones, as well as the iPhone, have used 12-megapixel image sensor with relatively large pixel size in their primary cameras. Now, higher resolution cameras are coming in the smartphones. Xiaomi has confirmed that it will launch a new phone, probably a flagship phone, with 48-megapixel camera.
For now, we have seen Huawei phones using sensors with lots and lots of pixels. Both the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei P20 Pro use 40-megapixel image sensor in their primary camera.
Xiaomi has started teasing its upcoming smartphone with 48-megapixel camera on social media, but hasn't revealed any other details. The company's senior executives have posted a cryptic image on social media showing at least one lens and flash of the camera. But it is expected that this 48-megapixel sensor is likely to be Sony's IMX586 that was announced in July.
The IMX586 is a 48-megapixel sensor, but given the large number of pixels on it, the size of the each pixel is relatively small at 0.8um. This is not good from the point of view of HDR in photos, or for low-light photography. But as Huawei has shown with its 4-megapixel sensors in the Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro, the problems can be solved by using a technology called pixel binning.
It is expected that the Xiaomi's upcoming phone with the 48-megapixel sensor will also use pixel binning for some kind of photography. In good light, it is possible that the phone will click 48-megapixel images. But in low light, it may combine 4 pixels together to form superpixels and click 12-megapixel images that will have more light, more detail and more contrast in them.
If Xiaomi can implement the IMX586 in a viable way, it is sure to re-start a megapixel race again. It is possible that OnePlus, Nokia, Oppo, Vivo and Huawei all will follow and start putting 48-megapixel sensors in this phone.
Apart from the new sensor, the upcoming Xiaomi phone may also come with the newly-announced Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor.
Xiaomi is currently the biggest phone brand in India. However, it is not clear if its new phone with 48-megapixel camera will come to India or not. Traditionally, the company has kept its top end products away from India, and has instead relied on Redmi phones, which with their good combination of hardware and low prices offer great value for money.