The rumored S20 Ultra wouldn’t be the first with a 108MP camera. But are more megapixels better?


The Xiaomi Mi Note 10.

Daniel Van Boom / CNET

Next week, Samsung is expected to announce a new suite of Galaxy S phones at its Unboxed event in New York. Rumors and leaks point to three phones: the S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra. This S20 Ultra, the whispers say, will have a main camera with a massive 108-megapixel sensor. It would certainly make the S20 Ultra a big title – but not a world first.

That title would go to the Mi Note 10, which Xiaomi released last year. This 6.47-inch phone beats Samsung by at least two months with its five-camera setup that includes a 108-megapixel lens. It comes with a 2-megapixel macro camera for very close-up shots, a 20-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens and two telephoto lenses, one 12-megapixel and the other 5-megapixel.

Yes, that’s a lot of cameras. And yes it is many megapixels. But if more megapixels automatically meant better photos, the Mi Note 10’s 108-megapixel camera would be almost 10 times better than the iPhone 11 Pro 12 megapixel shooter. But this is often not the case.

A quick overview: Megapixels refer to the number of pixels that a camera captures. The iPhone 11’s main camera takes photos at a resolution of 4,032 x 3,024 pixels, which is just over 12,000 pixels. So 12 megapixels. The Mi Note 10’s camera takes photos with a resolution of 12,032 x 9,024. On paper, you’d think that meant more detail. But for more megapixels to make sense, you need a bigger sensor. Otherwise, the same amount of light will be distributed among multiple pixels, resulting in noise and color inaccuracy.

The Mi Note 10 demonstrates both the disadvantages and the advantages of more megapixels. Photos with lots of light are impressive and retain great detail even when zoomed in closely. But photos in suboptimal lighting are sometimes just average – and often excessively blurry.

See the comparison below, which compares a “normal” photo with a 108-megapixel “Ultra HD” photo. (There is a separate mode for taking 108-megapixel photos in the camera. The standard default is set to 27-megapixel resolution.) The first thing you’ll notice is how more vivid the colors are in the camera. the laksa. The center of the image is also sharper. But both photos are plagued by severe motion blur.

That flowerbed, meanwhile, was slightly sharper in the Ultra HD shot, but not enough to notice it in anything other than a side-by-side comparison.

When not bothered by this blur, the Mi Note 10 takes respectable and vivid photos. Sometimes they can look over-processed, like in the high contrast photo of Sydney Central Station below. In the image below you will see that the zoomed photos look great. I photographed the statue with a 2x zoom and the phone did a great job of handling the water flowing from the fountain in the background. (Note, these two photos are taken with a resolution of 27 megapixels.)

A little overprocessed, but a pleasant shot nonetheless.

Daniel Van Boom / CNET

This photo was taken with a 2x zoom.

Daniel Van Boom / CNET


Here’s the 20-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera in action. Below is an example of the Mi Note 10’s night mode.

Daniel Van Boom / CNET

Despite the lavish camera specs, the Mi Note 10 isn’t a very expensive phone. It officially sells in Australia for AU $ 888, which converts to just under $ 600 or £ 455. (The phone isn’t officially available in the US, but a quick search on Amazon shows it can be found for under $ 500.) You’ve got plenty for that, including the 6’s vibrant screen, 47 inches, a beautiful design and 6 GB of RAM. The processor, a mid-range Snapdragon 730G, still delivers enough power for most people’s needs.

It runs Android 9.0 Pie, now a generation after Android 10 was released last year, with Xiaomi’s own MIUI 11 user interface overlaid. MIUI is certainly not as clean as pure Android, but it looks and performs better than Huawei’s EMUI and Oppo’s ColorOS user interfaces.


The phone officially sells in Australia for AU $ 888, but can be found on Amazon in the US for under $ 500.

Ian Knighton / CNET

Key specifications of the Xiaomi Mi Note 10

  • 6.47-inch AMOLED display, 2340 x 1080 pixels
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor
  • 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage
  • Five-camera configuration: 108-megapixel standard, 12-megapixel telephoto, 5-megapixel telephoto, 20-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, and 2-megapixel macro lens
  • 32 megapixel front camera
  • Headphone socket
  • Android 9.0 Pie with MIUI 11 user interface
  • 5,260 mAh battery
  • Fast charge

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