How Important are Megapixels in a Digital Camera?

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Megapixels in a Digital Camera
Megapixels in a Digital Camera

With the progress of technology of the digital camera comes the increase of megapixels in newer models. Megapixels are the unit used to measure resolution of a digital camera’s sensor. Many beginner photographers who don’t fully comprehend the importance of camera specifications assumes that the larger the megapixel, the better the camera. But that’s not necessarily the case.

There are a few assumption made among photographers about the role megapixels play in a camera:

One assumption is that the bigger the megapixel, the better the output photograph will be. Though this can be considered true in general, it is not absolute. It’s true because high resolutioned cameras are usually equipped with superior technology. And also false, because the quality of a photograph is more determined by the photographer (person behind the camera), and supporting devices such as lenses, precision in lighting, metering, shutter speed, and aperture.

The second general assumption is that the larger the megapixel, the more expensive the camera will inevitably be. Though it is generally true, there’s a misconception within it. It’s true that the sensor chip gets more expensive with higher resolution, but nowadays there are many compact and mobile phone cameras with resolutions as high as 12 megapixels and more. These devices of course is a below-average price of cameras with 12 megapixels. But this doesn’t mean that these sensors are equal in quality.

So what is the truth about megapixels? What must be understood is that the difference of megapixels in cameras merely show the difference in the maximum photo resolution and not the photo quality. So it does not automatically mean a 10 megapixels photo will result in better photographs than 2 megapixels photos.

As an example, pay attention to the two photos below. The first photo was shot using a camera of a smartphone with 3.2 megapixels resolution, while the 2nd photo was shot using a compact canon camera also with 3.2 megapixels resolution. It’s clear that the compact camera produces way better results, even though both are sporting 3.2 megapixels sensors.

Megapixels - phone camera vs compact camera
Megapixels - phone camera vs compact camera

phone camera vs compact camera
phone camera vs compact camera

So don’t overestimate the impact value megapixels on a digital camera device, because megapixels only conveys the maximum size of height times width (resolution) of the image. megapixels does not measure the quality of a sensor.

As an extra note:

Should you buy a high-resolutioned megapixels high-tech camera?

Sure, carrying a high-tech camera with high megapixels will of course look flashy. But if the photos are only for uploading on facebook, flicker, blog, website or to be printed at a size no larger than 20×25 cm, then the high-tech camera doesn’t fulfill its purpose and is really quite a waste. But by all means, if you have the money, go for it. A want knows no boundaries, but your needs will make for rational considerations.

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