Why Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP Camera Takes 12MP Photos

It’s not uncommon to see phone cameras that count in the hundreds these days. Ultra HD cameras are even making their way to mid-range devices: Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy A73 packs a 108MP camera. By default, though, this phone will definitely take 12MP photos, just like the ultrawide Galaxy S22 Ultra. Why is this, though? What’s the point of all those megapixels if cameras are still capturing mediocre photos?

Digital camera sensors are covered with thousands upon thousands of tiny light sensors or pixels. Higher resolution means there are more pixels on the sensor – the more pixels the sensor packs in the same physical area, the smaller the pixels should be. Because smaller pixels have less surface area, they are not able to collect as much light as larger pixels, and this means poor low-light performance. High-resolution phone cameras usually use a technique called pixel binning to get around this.


It’s technical, but in short, pixel binning, er, Boxes Groups of individual pixels into larger pixels artificially, which enhances the amount of light data the sensor can collect when the shutter button is pressed. In the case of the Galaxy S22 Ultra (and presumably the upcoming A73), groups of nine pixels are grouped together, which translates 108MP to 12 (108 ÷ 9 = 12). Unlike Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which have 50MP primary camera sensors always Outputting 12.5MP photos, the S22 Ultra gives you the option to take full-resolution photos without restrictions directly from the camera app. lets take alook.

In each of these sets of images, a . file appears The first picture Taking without pixel binning and the Secondly Photo Taking With pixel binning. (The unblocked image samples have also been resized from 108 to 12 megapixels.)

The shot above was taken outdoors just before sunrise – the lighting was a bit dim, but already too bright for pixel binning to have any appreciable effect on image quality. The photo turned out almost the same no matter how it was taken.

Here, we’re starting to see some image quality improvements in the second image, which was captured using pixel binning. There’s not much difference in terms of noise, but if you look closely, you’ll find the lines are more defined in the second image – the edges in the first unblocked shot look a bit jagged if you crop, especially in the shadows towards the lower right corner.

Want to take full resolution photos on your S22? The setting is already tucked into the aspect ratio selector of the Camera app.

Note that access to secondary cameras is restricted when Full Resolution shooting is enabled, although you can still zoom in/out (using software) by pressing in the viewfinder.

Not satisfied with the differences in performance in medium light, I also took some samples in really bad lighting – conditions where I wouldn’t expect most people to try to take pictures at all. In this set, the (first) unblocked shot is clearly darker and noisier than the downed (second) shot, even without cropping. Does not seem to goodbut it was too dark here.

Night Mode Unreserved / Quarantined /

Same story here: the first picture is very different from the second. The first photo, taken at 108MP (which, again, has been scaled down to 12MP here), is road Noisier than the ones I picked up after just seconds with the S22 Ultra’s default settings.

These photos, taken in a very dark room against a darkened wall, show the most dramatic difference I’ve seen in testing. The first photo, taken without pixel binning and at 108MP (downsized to 12) is much noisier than the second, taken with the S22 Ultra’s default settings. Ironically, some detail is also lost at 108MP: the text near the bottom right of the label (which says “NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE”) is completely illegible in the first image.

Pixel binning is important to the tiny, high-resolution camera sensors that ship in many Android phones these days because it helps them understand particularly dark scenes. It’s a trade-off: the resolution is cut significantly, but the light sensitivity is increased. The huge megapixel counts also give you the flexibility to zoom with software when shooting 8K video – although this is not a use case that ordinary people will benefit from for many years. And of course, it’s also part of marketing. The 108MP camera looks more impressive on the spec sheet than the 12MP one – even if it’s the same most of the time.

Based on my experience here, it seems like it takes truly The dark setting for binning is very important, at least on the S22 Ultra in particular – in every example where I saw a huge difference, the scene was so dark that I never thought about taking a picture in the first place (if not for the sake of needing low-light samples). , In any case). On the other hand, shooting at 108MP doesn’t yield more usable details of the scene anyway, even in good lighting. Leaving the phone on 12MP will result in a better experience most of the time, no matter the lighting.

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