Shedding Light on the Megapixel Myth

Most camera manufacturers and camera stores blatantly imply that the higher the megapixel of a camera, the better its image quality. This is simply untrue. They do nothing to dispel the misconception, however, so that uninformed consumers will want to keep 'upgrading' their perfectly good camera for another with higher megapixels with the impression that more megapixels equal better pictures.

Let's define some of the terms:

Megapixel(MP) – one million tiny dots in a photograph.

Image sharpness – the clarity of details. Sharpness is defined by two main aspects: acutance and resolution.

Acutance – describes the image's edge contrast. The higher the acutance, the more defined the edges or borders get. It is dependent on your lens' quality and also post-processing.

Pixel resolution – also called pixel count. It is the total number of pixels in an image and can be computed by multiplying the pixel columns (width) to the pixel rows (height). Resolution is restricted to your digital sensor.

You might assume that if your camera has a higher number of megapixels, it will produce sharper and clearer images. However, that is not the case. You may have a high megapixel camera but it can still take blurry images with poor image quality. The clarity and sharpness of your image has very little to do with the number of megapixels of your camera.

Simply put, a camera with a higher number of megapixels can produce larger images for printing. A 5MP or 6MP camera is more than enough for most photographers. A 6MP image means you can print up to 30 inches wide without quality loss. Hardly anyone prints that big so unless you want to print extra large pictures, there's not much point in buying a new camera just for the sake of having higher megapixels.

One good thing about having a high megapixel count is when you are cropping a shot. You can crop it much smaller and still get a decent print out of it. However, I want to stress again that it does not change the quality of your shot. Image clarity depends on how you made the shot, from adequate lighting to the quality of your lens. A great shot from a cheap 3MP camera is better than a blurry shot from an expensive 10MP camera.

Next time you want to upgrade or buy a camera, do not base your decision on its number of megapixels. Instead, look at its other features such as its lens quality, how well it fits your hand, and so on. Do not buy into the megapixel myth.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 at 4:25 pm and is filed under Articles, Photography Basics, Photography Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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