Is A 12MP Smartphone Camera Better Than A 8MP One?

When looking at the camera specs of a smartphone with multiple cameras, you will notice that the cameras don’t always have the same number of megapixels. The primary rear camera almost always has the largest number of megapixels while the secondary and front cameras have fewer pixels.

For example, the Honor V30 Pro has a 40MP primary camera. However, the ultra-wide camera has 12MP, while the telephoto camera only has 8MP. But upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the primary 40MP camera outputs images at 10MP, thanks to pixel binning.

For those unfamiliar with smartphone cameras and the truth about mobile camera megapixels, this begs the question: which is better? 12MP, 10MP, or 8MP?

Is 12MP better than 8MP?

A 12MP smartphone camera will take higher resolution photos than one that has 8MP. However, this does not necessarily mean that the picture quality of the 12MP mobile camera will be better than that of the 8MP camera. Several other factors such as the size of the sensor and the size of the pixels also play a part.

Let’s unpack what that means. First, we’ll look at how megapixels affect picture quality, then later we’ll look at how they affect picture resolution.

Picture quality

Picture quality is a term that’s used to judge how good an image looks. This is subjective because different people have different ideas of what constitutes good picture quality. However, it can be agreed that a photo with good picture quality has, amongst other things, vivid colours and contrast, very little digital noise, and sharp focus.

How well a smartphone camera can reproduce images depends on the mobile camera sensor and the pixels on it. The bigger the sensor, the better. That’s because the larger the sensor, the larger the pixels on it can be.

The pixels on the sensor (known more accurately as photosites) are responsible for capturing the light that enters the camera to create an image. Large pixels can capture more light, which means the camera can produce bright images with vivid colours, good contrast, and little digital noise.

If you were to take sensors of the same size and put 12MP on one and 8MP on the other, the 8MP sensor is more likely to produce better quality pictures. That’s because, despite having a fewer number of megapixels, the 8MP sensor has larger pixels. That makes it much likelier to take better pictures, especially in low-light conditions.

So, when it comes to picture quality, it is possible for an 8MP mobile camera to take better pictures than a 12MP smartphone camera. However, there is a trade-off that also contributes to picture quality-- resolution.


The resolution of an image refers to the number of pixels the image has, which usually corresponds with the number of pixels on the sensor. This determines how much detail the image has. The more pixels a mobile camera has, the higher the resolution the photos it produces will be. This, in turn, means a sharper and more detailed image.


Resolution can also be identified by the width and height of the image in pixels. For example:

    • The resolution of a 12MP mobile photo can also be expressed as 2800(h) X 4290(w)
    • The resolution of an 8MP mobile photo can also be expressed as 2448(w) X 3264(h)


The (h) and (w) give you an indication of how many pixels a smartphone photo has in each dimension. Multiplying the number of pixels in each dimension will give you a pixel count in the millions. A million pixels is commonly known as one megapixel.

In other words, a 12MP mobile photo has twelve million pixels, whereas an 8MP smartphone photo has around eight million pixels. And because pixels are the building blocks of every digital image, a photo with a lot of megapixels will have sharper detail than one that doesn’t.

So, while a 12MP camera might not outperform an 8MP camera in low lighting, it will definitely capture larger and more detailed photos in ideal conditions.

When is 12MP better than 8MP?

As already pointed out, having a camera with a lot of megapixels does not always mean that it’s the best. However, there are instances where more megapixels can be beneficial.

For example, if you intend on printing large prints of your mobile photos on canvas, a high-resolution image will work better than a low-resolution image. That’s because even though you can digitally stretch and resize your smartphone photos to any size you want, the number of megapixels of a photo determines how big you can print it without losing picture quality due to pixelation.

Example of a pixelated photo

Example of a pixelated photo

To give you an idea of the size difference between a 12MP mobile photo print and an 8MP print, have a look at the illustration below. At the highest print quality (300dpi), a 12MP camera will give you a slightly larger print size than an 8MP camera.


If you’re looking to print your mobile photos from home, check out this article to get an idea of how big you can print the photos according to their resolution.

When is 8MP better than 12MP?

It might be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around this because of how much smartphone manufacturers have drilled the idea that more megapixels are better. But in reality, an 8MP camera can take better pictures than a 12MP camera, provided it has a larger sensor and bigger pixels.

A big sensor with large pixels can capture more light to create a digital image. And because smartphone cameras are so small, every extra bit of light that can be captured makes a considerable difference in the quality of the mobile photo.

This is a big plus, especially when the lighting is poor. Mobile photos tend to suffer from digital noise when the lighting conditions are not ideal because of the small pixels. The bigger the pixels, the less this becomes a concern.

The downside, obviously, is that the 8MP image will have lower resolution than a 12MP photo, although the difference is barely noticeable unless you’re printing large photos from your phone.


A smartphone with a lot of megapixels is not necessarily better than one that has fewer megapixels. There are a number of other factors that affect the picture quality of the images that a smartphone camera produces. However, if the size of the mobile photos matters, then more megapixels are ideal.

But the reality is that a smartphone camera does not take good pictures on its own, no matter how good the camera is. At the end of the day, it’s the photographer that takes pictures that look good or bad.

If you’re new to smartphone photography and would like to improve the quality of your mobile photos, download this free ebook that will teach you five ways in which you can do so. It is very informative yet simple and easy to understand. What’s more, it’s absolutely free, so you have nothing to lose.

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