Monday, March 9, 2009

Olympus declares an end to megapixels race

Ever since camera has become a common feature in mobile phones, we are used to see how fast the mobile manufacturers increase the number of megapixels in camera.

I still remember clearly my first mobile phone with camera; the Nokia 7650. The 640x480 pixels (VGA) camera in it was considered the 'wow' factor, and back then it was the best. Well, not for long. The pixels number rapidly grows into megapixels, and now we've reached to 8 megapixels in a mobile phone.

But that's not just for mobile phones, camera manufacturers also do this. The reason is pretty simple, like what Stephen Shankland from ZDNet has pointed out in his blog: it's a simple concept for people to understand as an easy selling point.

The bigger megapixels number in a camera means you can have crisper and detailed images, yet at the same time it also comes with drawbacks. The most notable drawback for mobile camera with high megapixels is space storage, the bigger the number needs larger space in memory card or in the hard drive. A powerful processor to process the high quality images is also needed.

With these in mind, Olympus has changed their view on bringing higher megapixels number in their camera line-ups, this news come from Akira Watanabe, manager of Olympus Imaging's SLR planning department, in an interview at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA):

Akita watanabe "Twelve megapixels is, I think, enough for covering most applications most customers need. We don't think 20 megapixels is necessary for everybody. If a customer wants more than 12 megapixels, he should go to the full-frame models," Watanabe said.

Olympus is mostly focusing their market for mainstream photographers. Studio and commercial photographers taking pictures for magazines certainly have a need for more megapixels, Watanabe said. And right now Olympus believes 12 megapixels is enough:

"We interviewed many professional photographers, people in studios, about how many they needed in the future. Before we started, the system, we had a rough idea we'd be at a plateau at 12 megapixels. We gradually increased the pixel count," Watanabe said.

So in the future; Olympus will focus on other characteristics such as dynamic range, color reproduction, and a better ISO range for low-light shooting. Watanabe had another bold projection: autofocus will change dramatically in SLRs.

Watanabe got a good point there, and it's also a good question for us mobile users: do we really need 12 megapixels camera in our smartphones? Bigger megapixels number in camera means the mobile manufacturers can charge higher price tag for the whole package, will it someday reach an end too?

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