I am a megapixel addict. When I review or research a camera, how many a camera has is important to me. Consumers make the request most of the time when searching for a camera, which one has the best image quality. If they are like me, the first thing they look at is the number of megapixels. The belief goes the more you have, the better and sharper the image.
Unfortunately, I have been wrong in my assessment. Marketers, camera manufacturers and sellers of those little devices all know that the more megapixels a camera has doesn’t mean the pictures are going to be any better than one that has less.
A megapixel (resolution) is a rating of the total number of pixels used by the camera’s image sensor to capture a photograph. The more megapixels, the higher the resolution of the photo. In other words, the more detail and sharpness of the photo because of the number of pixels captured. With this in mind, the belief is that someone looking at a 10MP photo will see less detail than in a 18MP. This is not true. The camera’s lens, sensor, lighting, composition and features are more in line with how consumers should measure image quality and not solely by the number of megapixels. However, keep in mind the larger the sensors and the better the lens, the more the camera will cost you.
Normally, models with a large number of megapixels will cost more. Besides, the photos will fill up your memory card and hard drive faster because of the higher resolution. More megapixels does not provide a higher quality photo or mean the camera is any better than than the next one.
David Pogue, the personal technology columnist for Yahoo Tech performed a test where he took photos of one subject using various picture resolutions (5,8 and 13 MP). He asked 291 Digital, a New York graphic imaging company to print the photo poster size at 16 by 24 inches. The three prints were mounted in Union Square in Manhattan. With cameras rolling, passersby were asked if they could see a difference in the prints. Several dozen people took the test and only one person was able to identify which were the low, medium and high resolution prints.
If a photo was taken with a 10 megapixel camera and a 18 megapixel camera and both were printed as a 5 x 7. Which picture do you a 10MP think will look sharper? In all honesty, they will both look identical. Consumers will not be able to tell the difference. At th3 5 x7 inch size, it is too small for the number of pixels to make a difference to the naked eye.
If both photos were enlarged to 11 x 14 inches, the 18MP photo would look noticeably sharper than the 10MP photo which would take on an appearance of looking grainy. This is because the larger the printed image, the more the individual pixels will show. If you take the photo with a 18MP camera as compared to a 10MP, the photo can be enlarged more until the pixels began to show. The lower 10MP photo wouldn’t be able to tolerate the enlargement without degrading the photo.
It’s important to understand that the more megapixels a camera has just allows the user to make larger prints. At smaller sizes, the difference in megapixels is insignificant to the naked eye. So, if you trying to decide on purchasing a camera based on megapixels, you may need to seriously consider what you are going to do with the photos. If you are not planning to make super large photos, save your money. You can still make quality images with a camera with less than 18MP and continue to share them with family and friends and also through social media. Save your money especially if you have no plans of printing large prints of your photos.
Photography experts are surprised at how many people use the number of megapixels to place value and performance on their camera. They believe the more megapixels they have, the better the camera. There are a few reasons why you may need the extra megapixels, one would be when cropping. You can crop out unwanted background and still have enough for a decent print. The other reason would if you produce large size prints for wall-size retail displays, for example. However, for showing photos on today’s electronic devices, the lowest could be 3MP or anywhere from 5 to 8MP. The third reason for having a large resolution above 3MP is that digital cameras rarely capture the sharpest possible details per pixel.
No matter the pixels or image sensor size, point and shoot pocket cameras won’t be able to compete with the larger, professional cameras because of lens quality. In digital cameras or point and shoot, the highest megapixel I’ve seen has been 18MP. For most purposes, a lower megapixel camera is plenty, it contains enough detail to fill an iPad screen or produce sharp 5×7 inch prints. You can shoot with 10 or 12MP camera and not have a problem with printing large photos.
You can have the best of both worlds, printing large photos, being able to crop without losing a lot of the photograph real estate and also being able to capture photographs with sharper detail. Since we’ve taken megapixels out of the mix, some of the other ways to choose a camera with great image quality is:
- Take advice from your friends: Talk to friends about the cameras they are using. Checkout the features and ask them to provide you with a review of the camera that will assist you in your purchasing decision.
- Take sample shots to evaluate: You can take photos inside the store or if a friend has the same camera you can borrow their camera and take the shots you want in all types of conditions and environments. You won’t be limited by the inside of a building.
- Read and consider reviews at authority sites: Technology and/or camera websites, such as cnet.com, dpreview.com and steves-digicams.com are good sites to review the features of older and newer model cameras. These sites cover the information in depth and some provide samples of video and photos of cameras reviewed on these sites.
Now that you have been educated about megapixels, you can no longer only just consider this one feature of a digital camera. If you are still torn between two camera models, you now know that you don’t have to use the megapixel rating as a factor in your purchase. If you do choose to consider a high resolution camera, make sure the sensor is the same size or larger.
Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) a founder and managing editor for SLR Lounge and made a video asking the question, “Just how important are megapixels?” Some say it’s the most important criteria for image quality. Some may argue that 10 is more than enough. So who’s more correct? Well, it depends . . .
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