who is the best “drags” 108 megapixels? / Smartphones

who is the best “drags” 108 megapixels? / Smartphones


Mobile cameras are becoming more sophisticated, diverse and technologically advanced. A modern smartphone, not only the flagship one, but even the budget one, can no longer do with one camera, today you need at least two cameras, and ideally three or four. However, with the increase in the number of cameras, the number of megapixels is growing. I have repeatedly said and wrote in reviews and comparative tests that today there is no practical sense in resolving above 12-14 megapixels. But last year a new round of megapixel race began. Cameras appeared on 48, 64 and even 108 megapixels. These are not entirely honest megapixels, since such cameras use the Quad Bayer filter, but at the output we actually get a huge image – up to 12000 × 9000 pixels. At the moment, this is the maximum for smartphone cameras, and today we will compare the two leaders of the megapixel race – Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi Note 10.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (left) and Xiaomi Mi Note 10 (right)

Here we will not compare all the built-in cameras in different modes, but focus on the main cameras with a resolution of 108 megapixels. We already had separate reviews of both the Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi Note 10 – read it if you suddenly missed it. It is worth noting here that both devices use sensors manufactured by Samsung: Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX and ISOCELL Bright HM1. In both cases, this, of course, is a Quad Bayer sensor with subpixels clustered in four. Rather, this is completely true only for the Xiaomi smartphone – it has four (2 × 2) sub-pixels combined, and in standard mode the camera takes 24-megapixel pictures. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra subpixels are combined in nine (3 × 3), so in the default mode we get 12-megapixel images. The size of the sensor in the main camera of smartphones does not differ – 1 / 1.33 “, as the size of each subpixel does not differ – 0.8 microns. So technically the subjects are in equal conditions, and our test should reveal differences in the quality of optics and the ability to processing the resulting image. Since there are only two subjects, there is no point in the rating scale with a lot of points, so the best smartphone in each test gets 1, the worst – 0.

I will add that when shooting at maximum resolution, the night mode does not work, as well as the zoom, so the testing program this time is quite simple: we do a dozen test scenes and evaluate sharpness and detail. Let’s get started.

⇡ # Scene 1

We start with the simplest scene – a city landscape on a sunny day. No difficulties should arise for smartphones: the lighting is more than enough, the scene is quite contrasting plus static – there are no moving objects in the frame.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Pay attention to different colors – the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra tends to be warmer, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 tends to be cooler. At the same time, the color rendition of the latter seems more realistic. But we will not pay attention to this fact – we look exclusively at the sharpness of the picture and detail.

We look at the crop from the central part of the frame – and we see that the right picture is sharper, this is especially noticeable if you look at the stairs on the pipe. Xiaomi’s algorithms do better with small details.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 2

We complicate the task – we take a frame at dusk, when it was almost dark, and the city turned on the illumination. Let me remind you that neither Samsung nor Xiaomi allow you to use the night mode when shooting with maximum resolution. However, there is still enough light to do without it.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

And here we see the opposite picture: Samsung gave a “cooler” picture, Xiaomi – a warmer one. True, the Galaxy S20 Ultra also overshadowed the sky, in reality it was closer to what Xiaomi did.

On crop from the central part of the frame, the effects of noise reduction algorithms are visible. It seems that Samsung first applied the Blur filter, and then – Sharpen. Xiaomi turned out better, plus it has better-designed brightly lit areas of the frame.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 3

Add some bright colors – let’s move on to shooting well-lit objects at close range. Separately, it is worth emphasizing that this is not macro photography, we are not testing this mode today.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra again shows a warmer picture than Xiaomi, and here it conveys better real colors. Although I do not exclude the possibility that some people may like the frame with the Mi Note 10 in terms of color. Let’s enlarge the raspberry in the center and see which camera is better at conveying small details.

In my opinion, both smartphones didn’t do the best, but Samsung’s result is a bit more decent, so he takes the point in this scene.

  • Samsung – 1,
  • Xiaomi – 0.

⇡ # Scene 4

In the previous test scenes, we looked at fragments from the central part of the frame, and now we will try to evaluate the sharpness at the edges of the frame. The next scene was shot in a room with rather dim artificial light.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Well, here it is impossible not to note how terribly colors are transmitted in the picture from Xiaomi. Typically, the difference in color rendering is small, but here is another matter – this is a clear marriage, for which you need to lower the score. Pay attention to the sharpness in the upper right corner of the frame.

As before, Xiaomi is more careful about small details, its “noise reduction” works more carefully. Samsung shows itself worse, but it was much better able to “understand” the scene and capture as close to real colors. Despite the fact that, according to our main criterion, Xiaomi is ahead of Xiaomi, I would say that there should be a draw in this scene.

  • Samsung – 1,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 5

Let’s evaluate the elaboration of details on a low-contrast frame section. Here we came across a white bas-relief – excellent material for comparison.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

It seems I’m starting to notice a pattern – Xiaomi aims to make warm artificial lighting cooler. And Samsung in this respect is more honest, although it demonstrates a tendency to exaggerate in the other direction. Be that as it may, both pictures can be considered variations on the theme of normal color rendering: there is no such glaring sloppiness as in the previous scene.

Again, a more accurate attitude to the details of the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 camera should be noted, so the leadership in this test is obvious.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 6

We will test smartphones in the genre of architectural photography, although this unpretentious scene may well pass for the urban landscape. As you can see, the weather is cloudy, but the level of illumination is quite sufficient so that the use of noise canceling is minimal. At least it should be in theory.

We note the warmer color gamut from Samsung and the more realistic color rendering from Xiaomi, and also look at the clock crop from the left tower.

In addition to the fact that one minute passed between the shot with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi Note 10, one can note a higher detail in the picture from the last. Crops from any other part of the frame show about the same result. Apparently, Xiaomi devoted more time to image processing algorithms.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 7

Not the most aesthetically pleasing scene, but with a lot of small details, which means that both 108-megapixel cameras have a chance to prove themselves in all its glory.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Once again, it should be noted that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra gives a warmer picture, and Xiaomi Mi Note 10 – a colder one. The truth in this case was somewhere in between. Here you can peer at the pictures for one hundred percent magnification for a long time and select fragments for comparison, but for the purity of the experiment, let’s pay attention to the central part of the frame.

It is difficult to say straight away who is better, who is worse, but if you look at the threads, as well as at the parts on the green pipe behind the valve, it becomes clear that Xiaomi is again better at dealing with small details. However, in this particular case, Samsung is literally stepping on its heels.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 8

We will continue to look at the small details and make another shot in the genre of urban landscape. It is still the same cloudy weather, there is a lot of gray sky in the frame, it may look inconspicuous, but the level of illumination here is more than sufficient.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

The picture with Xiaomi makes a more pleasant impression, the color saturation was clearly increased here, Samsung tried a little less in this regard. But we must give him his due – on the left side of the frame on the tree branches there are no chromatic aberrations. Xiaomi has it, but one cannot say for sure here whether this is the result of using better optics or whether this defect is fixed by software. Samsung’s karma has one small plus, but what about sharpness and detail?

And here already the result of the whole test becomes predictable. Despite all the efforts of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, his opponent copes with small details better. Although the results are very mixed in some test scenes, the overall superiority of the Chinese smartphone is becoming more and more obvious. The irony is that, we recall, it uses a Samsung sensor.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 9

We will continue to deal with the genre of cityscape and small details. Please note that in the next scene we have the opposite result. Samsung shows a brighter and richer picture in colder tones, Xiaomi shows a dimmer and warmer tones. Lighting on the street at that moment did not change – there was a uniform continuous cloudiness.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

This location already appeared in our comparative tests, then we figured out which budget smartphone has the best camera, but there was a slightly different perspective, and the weather was different. And the dollar exchange rate was different, and the coronavirus did not threaten anyone. Sorry, distracted. Let’s look at one hundred percent crop from a gray bas-relief.

In color, I like the shot from the flagship Samsung, but if we talk about sharpness and detail, here we have a draw – each smartphone gets a point.

  • Samsung – 1,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Scene 10

Need more small details, otherwise what’s the point of 108 megapixels? Let’s go into the bookstore and take a shot in bright artificial light – and let this be our last test scene.

On the left is a frame with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the right is a frame with Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Notice how large the discrepancy in color is. Here, the situation is almost the same as in the fourth scene, but without extremes. The picture with the Galaxy S20 Ultra is clearly more attractive, richer and more contrast, but, in principle, the picture from Xiaomi has the right to life.

A very interesting feature pops up when comparing enlarged fragments. If you look at books in the foreground, then the sharpness will be slightly higher for a Samsung smartphone – probably, artificial intelligence understands that it is dealing with text, and applies the appropriate filter. But in the background (where the presence of text may not be obvious to artificial intelligence) Xiaomi has a much better result. Look, for example, on the inscription “Sunset of Europe” on the cover and on the roots of books – it is much better read. So here I would give Xiaomi victory. This may be a controversial decision, but it practically does not affect the overall test result.

  • Samsung – 0,
  • Xiaomi – 1.

⇡ # Bonus track

By the way, initially I had the idea to add other smartphones with a high resolution of matrices to the comparison, namely the Realme X2 Pro with a 64 megapixel sensor and the Huawei Mate 30 Pro with a 40 megapixel matrix in the main camera. However, the difference in the size of the final image was too large to be able to correctly compare. But so that the test pictures do not disappear in vain, let’s look again at the first and fifth test scenes. Well, just in case, I note that this subsection of the article will in no way participate in the final scoring.

From left to right: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi Note 10, Realme X2 Pro, Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Please note that Realme X2 Pro copes more or less well, but if we talk about small details, then Xiaomi is a cut above all, at least in this scene. Huawei smartphone is in the outsiders.

However, in the fifth scene, he is not so bad, at least I can not call him a clear outsider, but the detail is not as good as it could be.

From left to right: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi Note 10, Realme X2 Pro, Huawei Mate 30 Pro

This may sound a little out of place in the material where we compare the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi Note 10, but I would really advise you to take a closer look at Realme X2 Pro. This is one of the best smartphones in terms of price and performance. And from the moment we first met him, he even managed to get a little cheaper.

⇡ # Conclusions

Perhaps now is the time to remember that the first owners of Galaxy S20 smartphones complained about problems with the camera, namely, problems with autofocus and incorrect display of skin tones. Even Samsung itself recognized the problem – and began to work on fixing it. Naturally, I was aware of this before the start of testing, so I initially ruled out dynamic scenes, as well as close-up shots of people. Perhaps the tendency to warmer shades is also a consequence of the problem, but be that as it may, the sharpness of the picture and detail were the determining factors in this test. And in this regard, the Xiaomi smartphone turned out to be better. The final table with the results is as follows, the score is 9: 3 in favor of the Chinese model.

Scene 1 Scene 2 Scene 3 Scene 4 Scene 5 Scene 6 Scene 7 Scene 8 Scene 9 Scene 10 Amount
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 3
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 nine

The price difference between the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Mi Note 10 is now more than double. Yes, I understand that the S20 family also has more affordable models with the same 108-megapixel camera and that this smartphone is newer and trickier, but in terms of the quality of shooting at maximum resolution, the Mi Note 10 turned out to be better. And here I would like to remind you that all smartphones with multi-megapixel cameras take pictures in lower resolution by default, and if so, then the resolution of 108 megapixels in many respects remains more of a marketing ploy than a real necessity. Rather, it is more needed to simulate digital zoom without loss of quality, but this is a topic for a separate material. Perhaps next time we’ll deal with finding out whose monstrous zoom is better.

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