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HTC has branded the sensor in its new phone (the HTC One) to be "Ultra pixels". For the same sensor size it only gives you 4MP where today's standard for top of the line smartphones is 8MP and up. Of course this may have benefits in low light conditions, but I am wondering whether the exact same effect could not be replicated by setting the 8MP camera to take a 4MP photo ?

Is the term "Ultra Pixels" just masking the fact, that I do not have the option to take higher resolution photos in well lit conditions ?

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It's all about tradeoffs. To quote DPReview: "in low light and at higher sensitivities the HTC delivers cleaner images than the higher-resolution iPhone 4s. However, this is as much due to the optical image stabilization and fast F2 lens as the sensor." By stepping down to a (presumably cheaper) 4 MP sensor, HTC has the budget to put in image stabilization and the fast lens. To some extent, it's up to the consumer whether they want the possibility of higher resolution images, or whether they want better image quality at lower resolution.

  • So are you saying there is an actual benefit over the kind of picture I can take in low light conditions with a higher resolution sensor set to take lower resolution pictures just via settings ? I understand fewer pixels will give you less noise in low light, but so far it s not clear to me where the benefit over a higher resolution sensor is which can easily take lower resolution pictures in such conditions too. – Beltrame Apr 16 '13 at 12:32
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    What I'm really saying is that you need to consider the whole package, not just the sensor. – Philip Kendall Apr 16 '13 at 13:07
  • sure, but that s something I am aware of anyways. My question is purely concerning whether the sensor can do something that a 8mp sensor cannot do simply by taking lower then max resolution pictures ... – Beltrame Apr 16 '13 at 20:43
  • Well, generally, if you downsample the image (8 -> 4mp) you will get rid of noise. But you will loose details too of course. Every new pixel becomes an avarage of old two (or more). Averaging means smoothing. So downsample behaves as low-pass filter. You can test it just by viewing the photo at different zooms on PC (but the viewer must use some interpolation other than "nearest neighbour"). – Petr Újezdský Apr 17 '13 at 0:35
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    @Beltrame: Also, downsampling the image can remove noise from the image. But it can't un-blur an image or make an image that is completely dark into a bright image. Binning the pixels doesn't increase the sensitivity of the individual pixels. – Billy ONeal Apr 17 '13 at 7:25
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I don't have the phone, but reading reviews and seeing the images posted the quality is horrible. There is an overall lack of detail, which you might not notice in the phone screen but you will in the computer.

Maybe if the use at least 8 Mpx my perception will change.

  • your perception is correct independent of the sensor's pixel count as it is caused mostly if not completely by the size of the sensor, the instability of the platform as compared to real cameras, the horrible skill level of your average dumbphone "photographer", and the terrible optics employed in phones. – jwenting Apr 18 '13 at 13:36

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