Real difference quality between a drone with a 12MP or 48MP camera?

I have a server with WEBODM and I want to buy a drone to make orthophotos

For WEBODM is there a big difference in quality between a drone with a 12MP or 48MP camera?


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A number of different factors play into image quality aside from just megapixel count.

Can you link to the cameras you’re talking about?




So, between the two sensors, the Mavic Air 2 is slightly larger:

What does a larger sensor get us? Typically, and this is assuming a number of things to be equal or almost-equal, a larger sensor will always* get you better Image Quality than a smaller sensor with the same megapixel count. Why? Larger photosites give you better dynamic range, better color reproduction, lower noise, and sharper fine detail. Believe it or not, the more “megapixels” you pack onto a tiny sensor, the less light each can gather effectively and the more electronics you have to have. This increases noise, cross-talk/bleed, etc. Not great.

That being said, I imagine the optics are also quite different between the two, and I know the price and features are also quite different.

I guess I think the most important questions I’d have at this juncture would be:
How much are you willing to spend?
Do both do what you need?
And how high are you planning to survey from?

Now, what difference will there be? Likely not terribly much aside from file-size, image dimensions, and perhaps a small amount of fine-detail resolution when zoomed 1:1 on the 48MP vs the 12MP.

This article is pretty good at showing the real difference in the Quad Bayer sensors:

*Pretty much always

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Something additional to consider beyond camera resolution if you are considering these two drones for mapping is that the Mini 2 doesnt support waypoint missions. This may be possible in the future with third party applications (Litchi, dronelink etc) if and when DJI release the SDK for the mini 2.

Whilst this doesn’t absolutely prevent mapping with the mini 2 (I do it) it is an added complication and may impact results.

You can see the results I get with a Mini 2 flying ad-hoc missions at: OpenAerialMap Browser


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I maybe should have been more explicit, but this is what I was getting at here. Waiting on the if and whens of DJI releasing the SDK and other people implementing it is perhaps not the most viable thing for everyone.

Back to that camera question: I would guess that the 48MP images are synthetic: in other words composed of multiple 12MP images stitched together. It’s cool if you want a 48MP still. It doesn’t offer anything extra for photogrammetry.

Yeah, it is a Quad Bayer, so pixel-binned photosites for 12MP, or 48MP without binning. As the article shows with the images, there really isn’t much more detail resolved (if any) at the “full” 48MP simply because of the size of the photosites on these class sensors.

Serves me right for not reading… . Yeah: a different reason for it not mattering.

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Do you think the binning/real-time HDR on the Air 2 in 12MP will beat out the slightly larger photosites on the Air 2 for dynamic range?

Everything feels pretty theoretical without testing, and we are getting to places with sensors that we haven’t seen before. My go-to test is JPEG size for the same image – compression size is a pretty generic information density test.

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I’m suffering from the 12 MP camera and went as far as buying a Mavic Air with the “48 MP” camera which after I read up on it is really just a quad filtered 12MP camera (as the article mentioned). I returned it and am now looking for a used Phantom 4 pro with a true 20MP sensor as well as a global shutter which is pretty important for photogrammetry. I’m wondering what dji is putting out later this week? April 15th they are releasing something and it would be nice if it was a mapping drone but I’m not holding my breath.

I also read that they are coming out with the Mavic Air 2S with a 20MP camera

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I have a Mavic Air 2 and use Dronelink to fly mapping missions. Dronelink takes pictures during mapping missions by activating interval shooting mode (e.g. every 2 seconds). Interval shooting mode on the Mavic Air 2 is always 12 MP; (“Interval shooting” and “High resolution” (48 MP) are mutually exclusive mode choices for the camera.)

Maybe other flight software does it differently, but as of right now I don’t know a way to get 48 MP images from a Dronelink automated mapping mission.

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