My Thoughts

Making Sense of ULTRAPIXEL and PIXELMASTER

Posted on March 20, 2017 at 10:50 AM

Disclaimer and Prelude

I don't know whether you find this information useful since many of my friends just don't care with Android competitions and say "ah, I will just get the iPhone". But if you are in the Android religion and need some lessons regarding smartphone camera, this will be fun.


I love gadgets and electronics. I get excited for every new innovation out there, such as when we finally see phase detection autofocus being merged with an image sensor, something that finally makes mirrorless cameras stood up to DSLR.


However, for every good innovation out there also comes a pointless, wtf, or simply confusing ones. Pointless, for example, is a camera that forbids you from taking pictures (www.wired.com/2015/09/camera-wont-let-take-photo-everyone-else/). Wtf, for example, is Abyss Watch (http://gizmodo.com/5597069/the-abyss-watch-capitalizes-on-touch-screen-tech-and-minimalism). And confusing, for example, are the nonsense term 'ULTRAPIXEL' and 'PIXELMASTER'


EXPLAINING THE TERMS


The two are marketing terms used by HTC and Asus to boast about their smartphone's photography capabilities. And while the innovation itself is good for mobile photographers, the way they are being represented is not.


When this ULTRAPIXEL first implemented, there's absolutely no mention of the pixel count anywhere. Not in the official website, GSMArena (it still says Ultrapixel), nor any third party website. Only those who follow the phone's news closely would know the true pixel count - 4MP - as mentioned by the company's rep to journalists shortly before the phone launch. After that, there's never been any mention of the actual pixel count.


For non-geek aka majority of the population, the term will be so misleading. Of course, the marketing material explains individual ULTRAPIXEL gathered more light, resulting in better low light performance. Ok, normal people would understand this. But the explanation stops there. It doesn't explain the low pixel count will result in worse color gradation and detail retention in the picture. Someone from Nikon even commented on this ULTRAPIXEL stuffs by saying "it is all about striking a balance (between pixel count and individual pixel size)"


Same thing with another term called PIXELMASTER - an innovation by ASUS smartphones. Again, this PIXELMASTER does awesome stuff too. While it optionally reduces your picture's resolution to only about 4MP, the noise (picture's grain) became much less apparent. The only problem is that this method has been used for long times ago by digital photography practitioner, something we call pixel averaging - a term that explains exactly what it is. 


Again, nothing wrong with those two 'innovations'. Those are good ones, but we shouldn't be impressed or even tempted to purchase those new techs immediately simply because we think they are tomorrow's technology brought to this day just because they have fancy names.


EXITLUDE


I have nothing against Asus and HTC. Zenfone 3 Deluxe from Asus might even be my next phone. Its photography features work spectacularly in all honesty, and HTC did the right stuff through OIS in front camera. For comparison, take a look at Google Pixel, who is crowned as the best camera phone by DXO-Mark (which I don't listen to, either), it doesn't need fancy marketing terms to proof its capabilities. It just simply works.


Let's we all learn to love the specification sheet more than the highlights advertising.



Bonus content:

 

The same critical thinking should also be applied to basically any claim today. For example, take a look at this two sentences:

 

1. The sharpest display in its class

2. The sharpest display today

The salesperson might be telling you simply 'it has the sharpest display' without the disclaimer that it might be the sharpest amongst all other ONLY in its price group

or

The sharpest display as per the release date of the advertising material, which might be different at the very exact time.


That one might be easy to spot because there is no jargon term involved. Try this one.

 

1. The only interchangeable-lens camera with IPX67 water resistant

2. The only rugged camera with capabilities to withstand pressure of 600 psi (pascal per inch)


Even I would need to do a 3-minute research to clarify those terms to fully understand the scope of the claim. What do you think?

Categories: Smartphone, Camera