In perhaps the most important race in today’s mobile world – camera phones, the dominant giants can split into two halves, going in opposite directions. The first half are those who bet on the physical factors of the camera, or more specifically, racing for the number of “dots” and sensor size: Samsung, Sony and Chinese manufacturers. In the year 2020, all these manufacturers have significantly increased the size of the sensors (or “light buckets”) on camera phones. Samsung and Xiaomi currently use the same ISOCELL sensor (manufactured by Samsung) with a size of 1 / 1.33 inch, OPPO uses the same sensor but is provided by Sony, and Huawei is always the “king” of magnitude with 1 / 1.28 inch sensor.
The next half, though in a minority, has greater influence: Apple and Google. Unlike Asian rivals, the two big US giants use AI to overcome the limits of hardware. This year, both Apple and Google are still using 1 / 1,255-inch sensors on most smartphones sold. In other words, Apple and Google are challenging Samsung and Huawei with very, very small footprints.
Instead of increasing the size of the light sensor, Apple (and Google) chose to combine multiple moments into one.
For many years, this direction of the boss of the premium segment and the boss of Google has always yielded good results. Pixels are regularly praised for their photographic quality and are still widely regarded as the “gold standard” in mobile photography today. The iPhones also regularly achieve high rankings on DxOMark rankings, which have long been the “home ground” of Huawei and Xiaomi.
For example, the recent iPhone 12 Pro achieved a score of 128, on par with the Mi 10 Pro and slightly ahead of the Vivo X50 Pro + or OPPO Find X2 Pro. Although the gap with the Mi 10 Ultra or the Mate 40 Pro is still quite far, it should be remembered that the iPhone 12 Pro is the only smartphone in the top 10 DxOMark currently using a 1 / 2.55 inch “tiny” sensor. Vivo X50 Pro + and OPPO Find X2 Pro are both using sensors that are about 1/3 inch in size, which is four times larger than their Apple competitors.
In the world of traditional photography, a sensor as small as 1/4 will immediately evoke many weaknesses: capture less detail, more susceptible to aberrations and especially poor image quality in conditions. lack of light. The fact that the iPhone can produce the same image quality as an Android phone using a sensor 4 times larger can be considered a miracle of computer photography. Instead of using a large light bucket, Apple used a small bucket to catch the light many times and then put it together into a detailed picture. On the iPhone, sensors are at a disadvantage, and algorithms have an advantage.
This year, Apple shows off the iPhone 12 Pro Max with a 47% larger sensor, 87% better low-light performance …
But the real difference is difficult to discern.
But ironically, the achievements of AI in the past few years have created a difficult situation when Apple decided to reduce the disadvantages in terms of hardware. When launching the new iPhone quartet in October last, the Apple family announced a special change for the iPhone 12 Pro Max: to take advantage of the “big space” inside this phone, Apple will increase Sensor size up to 47% compared to other iPhone models. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the light bulb will not be as small as the iPhone 11 Pro Max or iPhone XS Max.
47% is large enough for Apple fans to expect a Pro Max to take excellent photos when compared with other brothers. However, the actual results are not necessarily so. When the iPhone 12 Pro Max hit the shelves last week, many tech news sites and tech bloggers spoke out together: the photo of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is almost no different from the rest of the iPhone.
Wired magazine compared the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro, saying “you need to be eagle-eyed” to discover areas of improvement on a large iPhone. Two famous YouTubers, Marques Brownlee and Dave Lee, even argued that the difference between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12… Mini is almost non-existent.
And DxOMark, in his detailed review, also gave the iPhone 12 Pro Max a score of 130, which is 2 points more than the iPhone 12 Pro (128 points).
The image processing algorithm is so good that users have less of a reason to buy the most expensive iPhone …
Obviously, when Apple increases the sensor by 47%, users have the right to expect even greater differences between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the other iPhones. The comments “not much different” as well as the difference of only 2 points DxOMark shows that Apple’s algorithm is so good that the sensor is nearly half as large as it is almost meaningless. Those who take pictures and zoom in for a comparison will definitely still see the 12 Pro Max bigger, but is that the real situation for millions of iFan globally?
For those who can’t afford the iPhone 12 Pro Max, this could be a good boon: the “regular” iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 are good enough that they don’t have to freak out when compared to the $ 1,000 iPhone. But for Apple, this is clearly an undesirable scenario. iPhone 12 Pro Max is the most expensive iPhone with the highest profit margin. When it developed the algorithm so well, Apple gave iFan one less reason to buy the iPhone 12 Pro Max. They could buy the Pro Max for the screen, for the performance, for their taste, but definitely not for the significantly better camera!