Do Megapixels Make A Difference? (Digital Cameras)

image A debate in the world of digital photography that has been around for a while now is the question of whether more megapixels really make a difference or not.

Before answering that, let’s define megapixels first.

A megapixel is 1 million pixels, and no it is not in reference to the number of pixels in an image, but rather the number of image sensor elements.

The simple math: Multiply pixel width by height and you’ve got the megapixel rating.

Example: 3000×2000 = 6,000,000. 6 million pixels = 6 megapixels.

One assumes that the more megapixels you have, the more crisp and clear your photography will be.

Is this true?

The answer is no for the following reason:

Point-and-shoot digital cameras have inferior lenses compared to full-bodied cameras. And as any photographer will tell you, it’s all about the lenses (in reference to quality and choice). So even if you have a point-and-shoot that has 8MP or more, it’s still got a built-in lens you can’t change.

Does this mean a full-bodied digital camera with 6MP takes better shots than a 10MP point-and-shoot?

YES.

For example, if you have a full-bodied Nikon digital camera with a high-quality Nikon 35mm NIKKOR lens attached, you will get better quality photos.

You can have all the megapixels in the world in a point-and-shoot but the blunt honest truth is that it’s still a point-and-shoot, and cannot go beyond what’s built-in.

If the intent is to take digital photos for print use later, the full-bodied with good lens(es) is the only way to go.

The only time more megapixels serves to your benefit is when you’re upgrading from a previous full-bodied digital cam to a better one.

Comments

  1. hitchface says:

    I am so glad you put this up here. Megapixels are SO far from the only thing that makes a camera good, and people are buying cameras based on nothing more than the megapixel rating. Whenever people talk about digital cameras, the 1st (and only, usually) question they ask me is “How many megapixels does your camera have?” I don’t even want to answer them. I’m no pro photographer, but at least ask me about a feature other than the freakin’ megapixels. Ask me the brand or something. Even a simple “How do you like your camera?” would be miles better than the alternative.

  2. Thanks for the insight. I have recently purchased a Nikon D80 DSLR and was blowed away with the quality of the camera. I’ve always been a point and shoot kind of guy and must admit that DSLR’s are a whole new game. I appreciate all the assistance in the Stream yesterday regarding DSLR’s.

    Thanks again,

  3. Reese (author) says:

    While this is true, the lens isn’t the only thing that determines image quality. A smaller lens = a smaller image sensor = worse quality images (in most cases, the exception would be SIGMA’s DP1 – http://sigma-dp1.com/). Also, there is certainly a difference in the sensors other than size. For example, the Canon EOS 1D III has only a slightly larger sensor than the Canon Digital Rebel XT, but–no matter the lens–shoots at ISO 1600 in low-light settings WITH ABSOLUTELY NO NOISE. None. Whereas the Digital Rebel XT gets a lot of noise in low light at ISO 400. Then again, the 1D is also $8,000 vs the Rebel’s $600!

    • Sorry for any confusion, it remembered me as “Reese (author)” from my comment on “Reader Feedback: Why the Iphone Isn’t Worth Buying”

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