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11/27/2004
06:59 PM
Mike Elgan
Mike Elgan
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Somebody Stop The Megapixel Madness!

All around the world, including Europe, China, Japan and the rest of Asia, handset makers are scrambling to maximize the pixel density of CCDs in their camera phone offerings. But what about optics?

A vicious camera phone war is raging in South Korea and, to a lesser extent -- a much lesser extent -- here in the U.S. In fact, all around the world, including Europe, China, Japan and the rest of Asia, handset makers are scrambling to maximize the pixel density of CCDs in their camera phone offerings.

The Korean press reported this week that LG Electronics plans to use Canon's camera phone module for the world's first 6-megapixel -- and possibly even 7-megapixel -- camera phone. Soon, no doubt, other Korean manufactures will try to top LG and announce 8- or 9-megapixel camera phones.

Somebody stop the madness!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for improving the generally low quality of camera phone pictures. But higher pixel density is just one metric of digital photograph quality. What camera phones really need is better optics. For some reason, the film-camera obsession with lenses didn't survive the transition to consumer digital cameras, including the tiny digital cameras inside camera phones.

Also, more pixels equals bigger file sizes. Does anybody really want your phone taking 2-megabyte pictures?

No thanks. Camera phones should max out at 2 or 3 megapixels. Handset makers should instead spend their money on superior lenses and electronics, a higher quality LCD for viewing the pictures and some easy and quick way to get those pictures off the phone and onto my PC.

A camera phone is only as good as its weakest link. And in the current market, that weak link is lenses, not pixel density.

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