Why no 100s of MP in cameras now days?

Way back in 2013, Nokia came out with a Windows Phone OS Lumia smartphone. The camera which came with the phone has whopping ~42MP. Because of that, the phone is still in high demand,

I do wonder if someone has hacked it to do 4K images.

Then go look at any site which sells camera and they are all the same; only 16 and 32MP. They are also commanding a premium price, especially the 32MP cameras.

Look at this craziness:

$1299 for only 26.2MPs


One would figure cameras would have hundreds of megapixel imaging units in them by now.

What 's going on with that?

From my limited camera experience…

Given most users don’t care about image size above 4k the big hurdle is how much light (information) you can get onto the sensor within a given time which is really tricky for phones, that and the sensor’s sensitivity to light.

I’d be interested in what the quality of those Nokia images are like though that MP value is pretty insane.

I am not referring to phones now, but actual cameras. If a camera had a 42MP CCD way back in 2013, but high end cameras are basically stuck at 32MPs years later. I just don’t get it.

Even according to Ray Kurzweil, everything should be advancing exponentially. With that, Nokia should have a 500MP camera phone now.

Here is a sample image

Really very good quality. Now why is Best Buy not selling 500MP cameras for about $1000?

Is this some kind of Moore’s Law of cameras?

It’s an observation made by him in humans gaining knowledge and technology advancement.

Number of MP doesn’t necessarily convert into quality, but when phones started getting cameras, it quickly became the number people looked at when making a choice. This resulted in manufacturers raising resolution of pictures but not necessarily quality.

My Nexus 5 is the same. I lowered resolution on pictures taken as only difference on maximum is noise being bigger.

My guess to why there aren’t professional cameras with more MP is simply that there isn’t much gain that would justify it. Also professional photographers often keep photos they make, as clients sometimes want some additional access to them due to loss or original file or only having physical copies. So storing large number of unnecessarily big photos would quickly become a problem.


So, it kinda is.

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I had the same thinking until I saw the Nokia ad for the phone. “What good is more pixels if the eyes cannot differentiate beyond a certain level?”

The ad does a good job at showing the benefit of having much more pixels.

Because 6mp already gives a decent 4x6. If you cram too many pixels on a sensor, you lose quality.

But the ~42MP on the Lumia 1020 shows us otherwise.

These cameras start around 50MP and go up to 100MP or more.

A picture from those cameras can fill the wall of a stadium and still look sharp.

Generally people don’t need that many MPs to make great looking photos and I think a lot of it comes down to sensor size as well.


The points I mentioned are more of a trend than hard rules. Good quality camera can benefit from high resolutions.

There are limits of course, at 500MP on photo of a 10cm high object, that object would be about 22 360 pixels high. This means, that on a 137ppi monitor 1cm viewed in 1:1 would take almost half of meter. For this image to be clear, such camera would need to have zooming capability of a small microscope.


This image is 3072x1728, which is about 5MP (3072*1728/1024/1024 = 5.0625). It’s not that much.

As I mentioned, just a sample.

Here is some information about it I did find:

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41.3-megapixel BSI CMOS image sensor, 1/1.5-inch (2/3-inch) image sensor format with a total of 7712 × 5360 pixels. Maximum image size at a 4:3 aspect ratio is 7136 × 5360 pixels (38.2 MP); maximum image size at a 16:9 aspect ratio is 7712 × 4352 pixels (33.6 MP). Pixel size is 1.12 µm. Sensor size is 8.80×6.60 mm. Crop factor 3.93×.35 mm equivalent focal length: 25 mm for 16:9, 27 mm for 4:3. f/2.2

I have seen some online for less than $100. Makes me want to get one.

I think it could possible be useful with those newer telescopes designed to hold a cell phone on them for image taking.

The more pixels you cram on a sensor the less light each individual sensor gets, resulting in less light sensitivity and more prone to noise. Also the MP value has less importance than the lens selection. As peeps already stated above, you aren’t blowing up to fill billboard most of the time, and 100MP medium format cameras are expensive. You’d probably hire for that project and bill the client as a line item if you’re doing that sort of work.

So there’s another reason: price. That expensive bit of kit isn’t worth it if it sits around unneeded most of the time.

Also as already stated: storage. I have half a TB of raw files and I’ve only been sporadically shooting weekend sport/motorsport events for 18 months, on a 16MP camera. Most are shared on social media so MP doesn’t matter one bit, the main gain I can get now is a better lens which is what actually gives you the sharp image (as I said above); if you lens can’t resolve fine details then your 50MP sensor will still produce mud images. Which is why on phones it doesn’t matter so much.

Phone sensor is also tiny, which is terrible for noise and pushing ISO. I should know, I shoot Micro-Four-Thirds which is rubbish for introducing noise compared to full-frame. Smaller sensor = smaller pixels = less light gathering = more noise. If what you’re doing is well lit then it’ll be fine though, phone makers seem to know their shit. but unless the lens on the phone is perfect condition and you have decent available light or stablisation… then MP doesn’t matter.


I n\ever said more can’t look better. I said 6 does a decent 6x4 (8x10 is passable) and when the sensor is too small and the overlap, quality doesn’t really improve


Other factors to consider:

  • Resolving power of the lens - more MP means lenses have improve as well. Price out medium format digital lenses to see what I am talking about.
  • 'Ye canna change the laws of physics" - Increasing pixel density (pixels per square mm) has physical limits. Pixel wells can only get so small before they get starved for photons. This is why current high MP sensors are medium format or larger. A gigapixel sensor in a smartphone could only take photos of the sun - directly. Tangentially related to Moore’s Law: once circuits shrink past a certain size, you’re going to start pissing the electrons off and they will do clever things like phase through the circuit wall. At that point you better be looking at photon powered quantum computers.
  • Money - Camera sensors are chips just like CPUs and GPUs. It takes a long time to cram more stuff in the same space and get profitable yield levels. AMD was clever and (with a nod to Monty Python) made it a selling point:

Chip Engineer: “Bad news. We just borked a ton of quad-core wafers.”
Marketer: “How so?”
CE: “One of the cores doesn’t work.”
M: “Do the rest work?”
CE: “Sure, but why would anyone want…”
M: “AMD Phenom X3 Triple Core CPU! 33% more compute power than dual core and only 85% the cost of a quad core!”
CE: “What?”
M: “Want more power but can’t afford a pricey quad-core? Phenom X3! What to show your mates that you can hang with the big boys? Phenom X3!”
CE: “But it’s got a dead core!”
M: “Increased energy efficiency! Our engineers are so good that we had leftover space on the die!”

(It helps if you can imagine Eric Idle as the Chip Engineer and John Cleese as the Marketer.)
But I digress…


I can’t see ordinary camera usage requiring the level of detail that hundreds of MP would produce without even considering the other technical issues. Certainly there are special use cases but that isn’t needed in consumer grade electronics or even professional grade when for consumer market.

When getting marriage photos do you really want to see every speck of dirt on the bride’s dress or pore on her face? Probably not.

High MP cameras support the burgeoning skin retouching industry. I get offers once a month from “companies” that provide this service. Guess they are going after HCB wannabes.

[Deep Photography Reference]
HCB = Henri Cartier-Bresson - the father of street photography. Notorious for saying that he is a “hunter not a chef” with regards to his photography. He only takes the photos, somebody else develops them.
[/Deep Photography Reference]

I recently saw a science show where they displayed a telescope with 100 million pixels. Wish I could remember the show.