Xiaomi 12T Pro Camera 200MP

Why Do Phones No Longer Have Good Cameras? Higher Resolution & Multi Camera Madness

With the release of 200MP camera smartphones (Xiaomi 12T Pro and Motorola Edge 30 Ultra), apart from the multiple camera madness we now have higher resolution madness coming from 48MP > 64MP > 108MP, and finally 200MP. Even with a gimmick that the consumers will not buy into it, phone manufacturers will come up with a much worse gimmick. Because of such gimmicks, we have lost phones with a great photo and video-capturing capabilities. Apart from this, why do phones no longer have good cameras? Let’s find out.

Note: This article might be a bit controversial and conflict with some readers’ ideas.

When Did I Notice The Bad Camera Performance of the Latest Phones

So, I had a Xiaomi Mi 6. I upgraded to Mi 8 and finally, I have a Mi 10T. I was scrolling through the pictures I have taken from all three cameras. I did realize how my old phones including Xiaomi Mi 6 and Mi 8 had better contrast, lighting, and color accuracy than my new Xiaomi Mi 10T, especially the low-light photos which had a huge difference.

So, I looked for people experiencing the same thing and I saw this subreddit. The guy compared his Xiaomi Mi 10T with the two-year-old Mi 8 and got the same results. I know that I’m comparing a flagship camera phone (Mi 8) of that time to an upper mid-range camera phone (Mi 10T), but come on, it should have been improved and beat a flagship phone 2 years older than it and of the same phone manufacturer.

Multiple Cameras But Not A Single One Fully Optimized

Having Penta rear cameras like in Nokia Pureview 10 or a quad camera on Xiaomi Mi 10T might sound really good on paper, after all, you are getting a macro, an ultra-wide, telephoto, 3D ToF, and more. But in a real situation, are they good?

Nokia 9.3 PureView 5G Render
A phone with Penta cameras on the rear but none optimized

Apart from the main camera, all of these cameras are just for showoff. My Xiaomi Mi 10T macro camera can’t take a macro shot closer than 6 cm, the ultrawide camera has super distortion and blurriness around the edges, and all cameras including the main camera get blind at night even with night mode turned on.

Though there are some limited flagships that have managed to optimize all cameras such as the recent Honor Magic4 Ultimate, those are super rare. Almost 90% of the smartphones in the market right now have bad multiple-camera optimization especially when they are only 2MP or 5MP with low aperture.

The Higher Resolution Race But At A Cost

It’s true that with higher resolution comes great details and zooming-in capabilities. However, there’s a cost and that is the sacrifice of light capturing during the night or low light. It is found that higher resolution camera phones appear to perform badly in night / low light. So, tell me do we really need such high-resolution photos filling up our phone’s storage? Don’t we want cameras to capture images with better lighting, especially at low light?

Remember I said, manufacturers come up with new gimmicks which are just a renamed version of the old one. Well, the same goes for high-resolution camera phones. Back in 2015 and 2016, we had the term ‘interpolated’. This means that an original 8MP camera was upscaled to 16MP through image scaling. In 2022, they are back, but with a better-sounding technology called ‘pixel binding’. This allows a lower megapixel camera to generate a higher resolution image by binding small pixels to generate a large pixel hence a larger resolution.

200MP camera working
The new pixel-binding technology fools users by masking a 12MP camera to 48MP, 50MP, 64MP, 108MP, and 200MP camera, even if it’s just a software

For example, a 12MP Samsung GM2 camera sensor with a 1-9 (3×3) pixel binding technology can generate a 108MP image by default. Thus, on hardware, this camera is actually 12MP but on phones such as Xiaomi 11 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, it is advertised as a 108MP camera sensor.

The Good Old Days Of A Single Camera Finely Tuned For Almost Everything

Single-camera phones and even dual-camera phones were one of the best phones. I remember back in 2016, I tested Meizu Pro 6 and I was surprised by how good that single 21MP rear camera did in all scenarios and that laser AF was the icing on the cake. There was no pixel binding sh@t. I bet that this phone will still beat 2022’s low and mid-end phones.

Will such well-optimized single-camera phones return to the market or are they just a relic of the glorious past? We don’t know for sure. Though we have noted that manufacturers have started to reduce multiple rear camera configurations from quad to triple cameras in some latest flagships. Only time will tell if they will reduce to single camera configuration.