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  1. Thread Author  Thread Author    #1  

    Default So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    As a huge camera geek as well as smartphone geek, the amount of misinformation about the "Ultrapixel" sensor is really annoying me. I just wanted to post to clear somethings up.

    Assertion 1: Megapixels don't matter
    This is true to a point. For the vast majority of users, 4 MP is enough for a smartphone. You're probably going to downscale the image to post online anyhow. Even a 1:1 pixel image on a relatively big monitor is 1920x1200. That's about 2MP. Unless you're going to print these on paper at a big size, the MP don't matter much. That is, unless you plan to crop your images a lot. Then you may notice it.

    Assertion 2: Bigger pixels (Ultrapixels) collect more light, hence they have less noise
    While it is true that a bigger pixel will collect more light and have less noise than a similar small pixel, this is noise at the PIXEL-LEVEL. So if you view your images enlarged to a 1:1 ratio on your monitor, the 4 MP of the HTC One camera will look cleaner than the center 4 MP out of the 13 MP of a Sony Experia Z. However, we don't view pictures like this. We view images as a whole. If you have an image sensor the same overall size as the HTC One's with the same everything but split into more pixels, the resulting image should look very close to the HTC One's once you scale the image down to 4MP. It is not a fair comparison to compare at the pixel level without scaling because then you're comparing only the part of the image that fell on a fraction of the higher MP sensor. (Note, higher MP counts DO make a difference when scaled, but not by much. It also depends on how the imaging portion of the sensor scales with non-imaging circuitry.)

    Assertion 3: The image quality of the HTC One will be superior to the current smartphones
    If you don't need images of more than 4MP, this is true. And it's not really because of how big those pixels are. It's all about good Signal to Noise ratio. and the HTC One has many things in its advantage. First, the sensor is overall bigger. It is 1/3" sized instead of 1/3.2" like the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S 3. A bigger sensor means you can collect more light. Secondly, the lens is a F/2.0 lens versus the F/2.4 of the iPhone or F/2.6 of the GS3. That means half a stop more light entering due to a larger aperture. (A one stop increase is equivalent to double the light.) Thirdly, HTC is touting an image processor with low read noise. That means they can turn up the ISO sensitivity with less noise. And finally, the HTC One sports optical image stabilization. That means it should be able to use a longer exposure time while remaining sharp. Of course, that's for relative static subjects. All four of these contribute to a higher S/N ratio, so less noisy pictures.

    In conclusion, I'm very excited about the possibilities with the HTC One camera. But not because of the "ultrapixels." It's because of the sensor size, fast lens, low read noise, and image stabilizer. Actualy, it shares a lot of specs with the Nokia Lumia 920. 1/3" sensor, F/2.0 lens, and Optical Image Stabilization. I'm hoping quality is at least on par with that.
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  2. #2  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Thank you! if image quality is on par to the 920 i'm selling my s3 on craigslist the day it comes out. I may not even consider the s4.
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  3. #3  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Thanks for the intelligent explanation.

    The Lumia 920 isn't that great, even after the portico update. It's disappointing actually. The only thing special it has is the optical stabilization. It's not better than the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3. It's also comparable to the One X. So saying that the new HTC One is hopefully comparable to the Nokia 920 is like saying its no better than its predecessor, the One X. The 808 PureView on the other hand...

    4MP is small no matter how you slice it. There's this magical thing called pinch-to-zoom that lots of people use, on their phone and tablet. If you take a group photo, and you want to zoom in to someone's face, or there's some text on the spine of a book, or a million other reasons for people to zoom into pictures, you'll want those extra pixels. HTC is sacrificing pixel count for supposedly better low light capture. It's a compromise.

    It's really funny how all the HTC reps are talking about how the industry has been lying to people all this time about megapixel count, when they themselves are guilty of the same. I also stumbled over a stream on pocketnow.com where they discuss the HTC One and one of the guys actually gets hysterical about the "lies". And they actually get paid to be clueless and run with whatever they're told! Don't even understand the basics of pixels at all.

    1/3 or 1/3.2. Doesn't matter. It's still pretty small. I'd rather they have an 8MP on a 1" Pureview size sensor with OIS. Or at least on the HTC ONe, considering it isn't exactly the smallest or thinnest thing out there, maybe a 1/2"????
  4. #4  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    The only disagreement I have is on the value of reducing pixel level noise. Let's say your walking down a dark alley at night and see the queen of England break dance fighting with shaq. I know, this is quite the sight and I too would want a photo of the event. Too bad we are in a dark alley with poor lighting! A standard 8-13 mp smartphone camera is going to have large regions of the image where there are lots of noisy pixels, degrading image quality regardless of what scale you view the image at. Now with the ultrapixle size pixels, those regions will be able to get enough light to avoid having the large numbers of noisy pixels, improving picture quality regardless of what scale its viewed at.

    So.in extreme low light situations, the large pixels could have a tangible effect on end image quality.
  5. Thread Author  Thread Author    #5  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    jdevenberg, you must keep in mind that by pixel binning, or averaging multiple small pixels into one, you are effectively reducing chroma and luminance noise. So if you have four 1x1 micrometer pixels in a square versus one 2x2 micrometer pixel, they will produce effectively the same image if you are downscaling the higher resolution image to the resolution of the lower resolution one.
  6. #6  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Here's the problem. People are dumb and want to simplify a complex problem into a single line. It makes them feel empowered and overly sure of themselves, because black and white is so easy to distinguish and get behind.

    What we really need is an in-depth look at the tradeoffs between bigger pixel sizes versus more resolution. Just because this phone has "ultrapixels" that are twice the size of normal ones, doesn't mean you get twice the benefits. It could be very marginal in fact, and you lose a lot of resolution just for a marginal gain in quality or low light performance. I've seen picture and video samples in the low light HTC event, and I was not impressed by how the HTC One performed. I couldn't even tell that HDR was enabled or that it had any semblence of OIS. The HDR on the Xperia Z is more prominent, and the OIS in the Lumia 920 makes a VERY dramatic difference in smoothness, although it kinda makes me nauseous. The other thing that needs an in-depth study in, is pixel-binning versus one giant pixel. Which is better? Is pixel binning just as good as one giant pixel, but with helluva lot more resolution? Or does that giant pixel absorb so much more light, the picture is dramatically better than a pixel-binned pixel which combines smaller points of light? But these are forums, and fanboys will rage without considering any scientific validity to what they say.
  7. #7  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by devorama View Post
    jdevenberg, you must keep in mind that by pixel binning, or averaging multiple small pixels into one, you are effectively reducing chroma and luminance noise. So if you have four 1x1 micrometer pixels in a square versus one 2x2 micrometer pixel, they will produce effectively the same image if you are downscaling the higher resolution image to the resolution of the lower resolution one.
    Yes and no. In most situations, you are correct, the results of pixel binning will likely be indistiguishable from using a larger pixel. However, in extreme low light situations, where there is not enough light for enough of the smaller pixels to get a noise free image to use pixel binning, one large pixel may be able to do a better job, since one large pixel is going to need less light to turn out than 2-4 smaller pixels. Also, I could probably count on one hand the number of PHONE cameras that actually take advantage of their large number of pixels via pixel binning (the 808 Pureview being the only one I can think of off the top of my head).

    We only have sample images from a situation with very poor lighting conditions for photography. It was not uniformly light or dark at the event, there were very dark areas, then there were areas illuminated by spot lights. Lets wait and see how this tech preforms side by side with phones like a Lumia 920, iPhone 5, etc. before we start writing off the tech OR praising it as the next great thing.

    However, pixel size and sensor size is a big part of why a 6-7 year old, 6 mp dSLR will take much better than a 2013 13mp point and shoot (the other big factor being optics). The same principles will still apply here comparing the One's larger sensor and pixels to phones with smaller sensors and pixels, though to a much lessor degree.
  8. #8  
    doc31's Avatar

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    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    As a photography I think marketing the term "ultrapixels" is just dumb and will do more harm then good. I think the HTC One is have one of the best if not the best cameras on the market simply because it have a larger sensor. The general rule of thumb the larger the senor the more light hitting it the better the photo (this can have damaging effects too however we're no where near that realm).
    Trying to sell the size and behinds of a pixel is a bit of information overload for consumers. Simple sells much pretty then complex. I would just market larger sensor equals better photos and not mention megapixels.
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  9. #9  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by doc31 View Post
    As a photography I think marketing the term "ultrapixels" is just dumb and will do more harm then good. I think the HTC One is have one of the best if not the best cameras on the market simply because it have a larger sensor. The general rule of thumb the larger the senor the more light hitting it the better the photo (this can have damaging effects too however we're no where near that realm).
    Trying to sell the size and behinds of a pixel is a bit of information overload for consumers. Simple sells much pretty then complex. I would just market larger sensor equals better photos and not mention megapixels.
    They're doing just that. HTC doesn't mention the actual resolution of the camera anywhere. The only thing they discuss is the size of the sensor and the amount of light it gathers.

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 2
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  10. Thread Author  Thread Author    #10  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    While I generally hate the marketing hogwash like "ultrapixels," I recognize that the uneducated consumer will look at a 4MP camera and think it's half as good as an 8MP camera. So it's a necessary evil to some extent.

    To those the question the bigger pixel approach, I'd like to point out that the Nikon D3s still has the best rated high ISO performance of any full frame camera. () It was announced in 2009. It has a 12MP sensor. No sensor since it with a higher MP count has beat it at high ISO quality.
  11. #11  
    redstar427's Avatar

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    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by devorama View Post
    However, we don't view pictures like this. We view images as a whole.
    I don't know who "we" is, but it's not true in my case. Perhaps you mean the average person with a Smartphone.
    However, I do appreciate high resolution pictures, especially if they are very clear at 1:1. If the picture looks great in "whole" view, then I will want to see all the details in 1:1.
    I often look at 39 Mp pictures taken by professional photographers, and the detail you can see is greater than most see even in person.
    While I can understand that most pictures taken to post online don't need such great detail, every year I read posts about the "megapixels don't matter", and every year I read posts by people that want higher resolution and greater clarity, even from Smartphones.
    Darth Spock likes this.
  12. #12  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by devorama View Post
    jdevenberg, you must keep in mind that by pixel binning, or averaging multiple small pixels into one, you are effectively reducing chroma and luminance noise. So if you have four 1x1 micrometer pixels in a square versus one 2x2 micrometer pixel, they will produce effectively the same image if you are downscaling the higher resolution image to the resolution of the lower resolution one.
    Well, no Android phones actually do pixel binning, which is different than just scaling. So, you could say that this sensor would have the same performance as the iPhone 5 in low light (which does do binning), but larger pixels _should_ perform better than multiple binned pixels just because of the losses between the pixels. And that's assuming that your binning algorithm is perfect in reproducing what the image would look like if there were fewer, larger pixels.

    I agree that pixel binning is a nice solution, but I think that people need that many pixels so infrequently that it's probably better to bin all the time and just have larger pixels. I guess in bright light having more pixels, not binned, would be like having a negative ISO, but I'll take even a little bit of efficiency gained in low light instead. That's really where a camera's performance is defined.
  13. #13  
    n8ter#AC's Avatar

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    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by katamari201 View Post
    Thanks for the intelligent explanation.

    The Lumia 920 isn't that great, even after the portico update. It's disappointing actually. The only thing special it has is the optical stabilization. It's not better than the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3. It's also comparable to the One X. So saying that the new HTC One is hopefully comparable to the Nokia 920 is like saying its no better than its predecessor, the One X. The 808 PureView on the other hand...

    4MP is small no matter how you slice it. There's this magical thing called pinch-to-zoom that lots of people use, on their phone and tablet. If you take a group photo, and you want to zoom in to someone's face, or there's some text on the spine of a book, or a million other reasons for people to zoom into pictures, you'll want those extra pixels. HTC is sacrificing pixel count for supposedly better low light capture. It's a compromise.

    It's really funny how all the HTC reps are talking about how the industry has been lying to people all this time about megapixel count, when they themselves are guilty of the same. I also stumbled over a stream on pocketnow.com where they discuss the HTC One and one of the guys actually gets hysterical about the "lies". And they actually get paid to be clueless and run with whatever they're told! Don't even understand the basics of pixels at all.

    1/3 or 1/3.2. Doesn't matter. It's still pretty small. I'd rather they have an 8MP on a 1" Pureview size sensor with OIS. Or at least on the HTC ONe, considering it isn't exactly the smallest or thinnest thing out there, maybe a 1/2"????
    The 920 is easily better than the GS3/Note 2 and in low light or video recording it blows it away. Samsung smartphones take pathetic low light photos. You get better really using an HTC Vivid or Rezound never mind a 920 One X/DNA, i5,or One.

    I'm baffles why people rave about Samsung camera phones. They aren't all that great and all they are reliable for delivering washed out or muted images during day and noise infested images in low light.

    Sent from my AT&T Skyrocket using Tapatalk 2.
  14. #14  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    I think it's safe to say that all the little details in the original post are exactly the kinds of things Android manufacturers are trying to move away from, in favor of 1-2 word, easily digestible and understandable MARKETING oriented terms.

    You could argue that 'ultrapixel' is a poor choice since their whole intent was to move away from the megapixel comparisons, but it's better than expecting some AT&T store clerk fresh out of high school (if you're lucky) to explain sensor size etc. to the average consumer.
  15. #15  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    Quote Originally Posted by n8ter#AC View Post

    I'm baffles why people rave about Samsung camera phones. They aren't all that great and all they are reliable for delivering washed out or muted images during day and noise infested images in low light.

    .
    It isn't the noise, it is the awful noise reduction they apply to the jpgs that totally mush out details. It would be nice to have have the option for non NR'd photos (or RAW but I know that isn't going to happen with a camera phone). I can do a much better job at NR then any jpg engine can.
  16. #16  

    Default Re: So much misinformation about Ultrapixels!

    I'm not a camera guy, but I was able to follow along.

    This is one the of most informative posts I've read in a long time. Interesting about some specs matching up with the Lumia 920....

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