At the opening of Museo Camera, India’s first museum for the photographic arts, Carl Zeiss CEO Michael Kaschke said that “40MP is already more than enough” for smartphone cameras.
Kaschke talked about smartphones and said that he’s impressed with the advances in smartphone photography over the last few years. However, he’s not quite optimistic with advances in pixel binning – a technique in which multiple adjacent pixels are combined into one.
“More pixels are not necessarily better. Why? If you stay with the full-frame sensor and divide that sensor into more and more pixels, the pixels become smaller and smaller, and then you get into a noise problem. I think for most of the applications, also serious professional applications, my guess would be that 40MP is already more than enough,” said Kaschke.
“People always say having more is better, but I think there are limits in terms of processing speed limits, in terms of noise, signal to noise ratio. So you always need to consider at what expense do you get more. And I think we are already at the tipping point,” the Zeiss CEO added.
Kaschke also claimed that smartphones may have evolved so much through the years, but “there is a limit to what a phone camera can achieve.” Although there will always be limits to what a smartphone camera can achieve, he said that computational photography will be the game-changer. Nevertheless, Kaschke said that smartphone cameras will never become as good as professional DSLR equipment.
Putting more lenses on smartphone cameras is also one way to improve picture quality. For example, the Huawei P30 Pro has four cameras at the back, while the Nokia 9 PureView has five. Kaschke said that while multiple cameras enhance photos and make them closer to DSLR quality, smartphones have small depth and so cannot increase the sensor size. This means that low light will always be a problem.
The Zeiss CEO claims that smartphone manufacturers are in the race to create the best camera features and sensors because smartphone sales are declining. Even though 40MP is more than enough, that doesn’t stop manufacturers from putting more powerful cameras into their phones to drive more sales.
“I would say the image taking capabilities of a smartphone will once again, as a couple of years ago, have become a differentiator in smartphone technology,” Kaschke said. “Otherwise, you already see a flattening revenue number in smartphones. So I don’t think they will be adding another app or another software feature to drive the volume. What will drive the volume again is the increased performance of photography on the smartphone.”
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