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What is the first smartphone with 200 megapixel sensor worth? We took it in hand

During the press presentation of the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra, we had the opportunity to take some shots with its new Samsung HP1 sensor. Here is the result.

Motorola has just introduced three new smartphones to complete its Edge range. On paper, the most interesting of the three is called Edge 30 Ultra, for the simple and good reason that it is the first phone with a 200 megapixel sensor. We were able to try it for a handful of hours.

Motorola edge 30 ultra (10)

This is a phone with a completely standard design for its price range, with attention paid to design in the choice of materials, the satin coating on the back or the curvature of its edges. But what interests us today are the photo qualities of its main sensor.

Isocell HP sensor season 1

Before going any further, let’s finish the presentations. This is a Samsung S5KHP1 sensor, often referred to as Isocell HP1. This is the first generation of sensors with this definition to be developed by the Korean giant.

With a size of 1/1.22 inch, it integrates photosites with a size of 0.64 µm and can combine 16 of them at a time to create 12 megapixel photos, with pixels of a size of 2 .56 µm. On the Motorola edge 30 ultra, it is accompanied by a lens with an aperture of f / 1.9, a field of view of 82.3 degrees, optical stabilization and autofocus starting from 14 cm.

Our first shots

First observation that immediately jumps to the eye: the 200 megapixels in no way revolutionizes smartphone photography. We expected it, we can now confirm it.

Motorola edge 30 ultra successful photo
Photo taken using Motorola edge 30 ultra

Let’s be clear on one point: the Motorola edge 30 ultra takes quite decent photos. But we have difficulty in detecting the contribution of the 200 megapixels during our first grip.

We can never be reminded enough that today, photography on smartphones is less about hardware than about the quality of the algorithms that support it. This new Moto may be equipped with a brand new sensor, we find the defects of the photos that we already knew on the other phones of the brand: small problems of colorimetry, in particular on the blues, the reds or skin tones.

If we compare it to a competitor, the Oppo Find X5 Pro, which, let’s remember, is also much more expensive, we see that the sharpness and HDR management are still worse.

Here the HDR and the details in the background or on the car.

Here in portrait, look at my hair or the sun on the right of my face.

The interest of such a sensor on paper, in theory, is to obtain night shots with less noise. Never mind, here is what it gives in very reduced brightness.

The result is honestly very well controlled, even if we find some corners of the photo a little too exposed and a little lack of sharpness here and there, the picture taken as a whole is rather aesthetic. Motorola may have a hand in this.

And the cropping?

One of the promises of sensors with many pixels is that you can use an ultra-definition mode, which does not merge the pixels together and which therefore allows, in theory, a higher level of detail. This allows in particular tocropperin the image, i.e. crop inside the image as desired.

Two concerns come to prevent this use: the first is that the gain in terms of sharpness, in other words the fineness of the details in a photo, is not really obvious, particularly on the sides of the image.

Motorola edge 30 Ultra mode 200 megapixel –  Copy

Then the high definition mode seems to lose some of the algorithms of the normal shooting mode. Here is an example below, where we can clearly see that the HDR is collapsing.

Despite these few flaws, being able to crop more easily in photos is always a good thing and the presentation of the iPhone 14 Pro with its 48 Megapixel sensor will certainly push manufacturers to improve their algorithms to take better advantage of it.

Note that the phone on which we took the pictures above does not have the software version that will be present on the Motorolas once marketed. Clearly, we can expect improvements from here to the release.

The number of pixels does not make the photophone

Overall therefore, the 200 megapixel sensor as used here by Motorola really does not add much to the photo experience on a flagship. The colorimetry, the sharpness, the management of the dynamics, everything seems a little behind the competition. Even the fact of cropping in the image by taking shots in maximum definition leaves us a little pensive, given that this mode leads to a drop in general quality and an uncontrolled HDR. The level of detail that we are supposed to recover does not justify the addition of such technology.

Ultimately, this new sensor confirms an immutable rule in smartphone photography: the number of pixels does not determine the quality. Remember that the iPhone, until the recent iPhone 14 Pro, monopolized the rankings of the best photophones with a 12 megapixel sensor.

This article was written as part of a press trip organized by Motorola.