Megapixels are often used as a benchmark to how good a camera is. When the first ever five-megapixel camera phone hit stores, the public was at aghast. Then came the eight-megapixel snapper, and now we've already heard that both Sony Ericsson and LG are planning to launch phones packing 12-megapixels before the end of the year. Yet there's long been a muted argument that megapixels can be misleading.
A collection of electronic dots megapixels when grouped together form a finished photo. The more there are the more detailed and smooth the photo appears when blown up. Yet there lies the key in the argument. With so many photo sharing sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, printing photos out is becoming far less frequent. Unless you're going to blow your pictures up and print them out, there are factors that are of far greater importance to a good camera phone than the number of megapixels a handset has.
For example, a decent flash is of the utmost priority. Xenon flashes are generally considered to be the best, but due to the sheer brightness of the flash, it can often lead to a rabbit in the headlights affect. Many handsets including the Sony Ericsson C902, rather than don a Xenon flash opt for a Power Dual LED flash. Not only is such a flash still capable of achieving some great night time shots, it also avoids the aforementioned 'startled' look and also saves a great deal on battery life as less power is needed.
Other factors that need to be considered include the zooming abilities. So far the UK has only seen one phone that housed an optical zoom; the Samsung G800 which had the ability to physically zoom in on an object. In contrast a digital zoom is affectively an artificial zoom that zooms in on, or even crops a section of the object, that once blown up will appear grainy. However, perhaps due to the sheer bulk an optical zoom brings we're yet to see another device with one built in.
Something that I particularly look for when assessing a camera phone's credentials is how quickly it can take a photograph. Due to the close proximity our phones are to us, they mostly get utilised for the more sporadic shots, whereas a dedicated digital camera will be used on holiday or at weddings when you know you will be capturing those 'special moments'. Therefore the time it takes for a phone's camera to be fired up and then for the photograph to be taken needs to be taken into account.
With the unveiling of another eight-megapixel camera heavyweight from LG, this time in the shape of the LG GD900 Crystal, the megapixel race looks set to continue and that's by no means a bad thing. What we're saying is that when looking for a camera phone, take into consideration other factors highlighted here. While the number of megapixels may take all the headlines, they're certainly not the be all and end all of what makes a good camera phone.