Bothering about megapixels?

For most people, the first thing which comes to their mind when thinking about a camera is “How much megapixels does it have”? I was among those people too until I discovered that the number of megapixels does not really matter.

I guess that you are not here to learn the definition. Today, I will again share some of my knowledge acquired since the last months while practicing photography as a hobby. You may or may not agree with what I have written below but please do feel free to share any valuable data. btw, this article is intended for photography newbies.

A few years ago, they did weigh a lot before you make your final choice about your future camera or mobile phone. Most of the newer mobiles phones nowadays have a 2MP or + built in camera. And cameras? The simplest point and shoot cameras now have more than 6-8MP while Nikon’s latest entry level cameras like the D3000 and D5000 can shoot at a maximum of 10.2MP and 12.3 MP respectively.

Getting a nice shot

Unfortunately, shooting with a 24MP camera will not get you a nice image… Else everyone would be walking with huge cameras and boasting about being a ‘professional’ photographer.

You probably heard it loads of time, nevertheless I will repeat it again… The higher number of MP a camera has, does not make better images. It is just a lie πŸ˜› and a misunderstanding which I hope will be cleared out after going through this post.

One needs to play with various factors first which are lightning conditions, the subject, depth of field, exposure among others. And above all, the Photographer and his skills!

Needs for shooting with a larger MP?

You probably need to shoot at the highest megapixel settings of your camera when :

  • You will need to get a large print out of the shot for example on bill boards
  • You will display that shot on a HUGE screen
  • You will crop some important portion of the image without losing quality

Feel free to share any additional points here.

The chart

Technically, a picture shot at 2MP should look fine on a 4×6″ paper when printed.

Here’s a small table to give you an idea :

So, the next time you shoot a picture using your 3MP mobile phone, you can have a fairly good print out of 6.82″ x 5.12″ ( 17.32cm x 13cm).

More Megapixels = Bigger file size

Unfortunately, this is the bitter truth if you are always shooting at the maximum MP.  Personally, I rarely shoot using the 12MP that my D5000 can offer.

Let’s keep this section simple.
Below are the approximate size of pictures shot at Normal JPEG quality :

4288×2848 – L  – 3.0MB
3216×2136 – M – 1.7MB
2144×1424 – S   – 0.8MB

Most of us already curse our internet connectivity daily… Uploading a 0.8MB file will be more quicker than a 3MB one, isn’t it? On the top of that, most of us will upload them to Facebook which will in turn compress that picture, hence losing much details.

Months or years later, you will notice your available disk space running low! Why? Because the larger pictures are taking more than 3 times space than the smaller ones! And you will probably never need to print those pictures…

So, the next time you gonna click, think about how you gonna use and store that shot and keep in mind, better images does not necessarily mean bigger images…

Anyone wants to share some words about their experience or camera? Even mobile phone camera owners will do! Feel free!

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28 thoughts on “Bothering about megapixels?

Add yours

  1. Megapixels might be a good thing in some cases… like if you want to print really big pictures.

    But IMHO, it’s better to have a larger sensor (as in DSLRs) rather than a small sensor and tons of pixels.

    I once read that the more megapixels a point and shoot has (with a small sensor), the more chance there is for noise to be a problem. I haven’t confirmed it myself, but I think this statement is correct.

    So in summary, megapixels is just a buzzword for selling cameras. People think more megapixels = better quality, which is not the case. Better find a good bridge camera with decent megapixels than a small, cheap point and shoot with 20MP and 10x digital zoom! πŸ™‚

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  2. @Inf : I read about the sensor size and amount of noise too. Kindda difficult to give you a feedback on this thing lol.

    Leading camera brands are using the megapixels to attract customers, mainly beginners. I have my camera since nearly 6 months, I never printed any picture I took with it lol!
    I don’t know to which extent it is true, but it seems that canon brings newer cameras with higher MP as compared to nikon *entry level cameras*

    Nooooooo! Not digital zoom πŸ˜›

    @Carrot : That’s our favorite quotes lol.

    Thanks for commenting πŸ˜‰

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  3. wepp i totally agree .. the MP only make it larger .. i always use 1080p size pictures on my sony .. they are quite good and are only 0.6-1.5 mb in size and are uploaded easily on facebook πŸ˜€ .. had once used the 8.1 mp and didn’t used it as it was too large and pics were occupying space in my 300gb external hardisk (2.0gb more) .. a 4mpx DLSR would do me just fine πŸ˜‰

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    1. @Le_Voyageur : The largest resolution i use is when I make my own wallpapers out of my shots, i.e. 1280×1024 (I think so)

      @Mishy : Yeah, a high MP on a mobile phone is always tempting but here the available space on the phone comes first… Uploading or transferring pics might become a nightmare and costly…

      @Pramod : You noted a good point here. High level of details…
      Take a 5mp picture and view it on a mobile phone…
      Will it really matter if it is a 5mp or 2mp picture? The level of details will be important depending on the screen resolution or print out. Of course, if you zoom into a 2mp picture, you would see pixels . Different for a 5mp, where zooming in would actually allow you to see more details… Euh, please correct me if am wrong lol.
      Besides the megapixel, there are other factors that I mentioned too.

      @Bhooks : Despite not being a ‘photographer’, you correctly deduced that the MP did not matter at that moment. Getting further from the scene would allow you to capture the whole at a go… Or you should perhaps go wide angle, but this might be out of subject here.

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  4. Huh … the mobile phone bit relates to me I guess … the last phone that i bought was purely based ( hmmm ok about 75% :P) because of the megapixels. At that time that was the only phone with the highest megapixels – 8.0 Mega is indeed huge for a mobile phone πŸ™‚ ..but then I agree with the bit that the higher the resolution the more space u need and yea I have shot much better picz with lesser mega :p …but i stilll feel good about having an 8.0 Mega cam on my phone … lol :p

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  5. I do agree that more megapixels will just increase the size of the image and the file… But what really makes a fine picture with high level of details and all? πŸ™‚

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  6. Being a poor photographer, I always let others take the pics… Do not really care about megapixels… I got a Canon 6.1MP and its just fine to me. Only time when I found it useless was when I was in front of L’Arc De Triomphe.. No way I could get the whole of L’ARC when at its base. Wished I had a better one at that time. Then again MP did not matter at that moment..

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  7. I am amazed at how a mobile can produce decent enough photos which are not heavy for uploading on internet. Using a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic with 3.15 MP I can get good photos for websites. Not being very artistic, I also use point and shoot Panasonic DMC-FX33 8.1 MP for landscapes or general tourist type photos.

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  8. The only thing I would like to correct is my name πŸ˜›

    Well you are right when it comes to viewing of a picture: When viewed on a small screen it will appear great and when viewed on a bigger screen, it will appear more in pixels. For example, for the picture taken above “Birds White Pink”. Can it be taken with a 2MP camera from a mobile phone or any other 2MP camera?

    If yes then I guess it’s more the features inside a camera that allow a photographer to take good pictures in different conditions, be it at night, broad daylight or in full lighting inside a room…

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    1. @Pramod : oops, milles excuses! I corrected the name πŸ˜‰

      In fact, we are talking about different things here. The ‘effect’ on picture used in the post has been made possible by playing with the aperture, hence giving the ‘blurring’ effect at the back, independent on the number of pixels.

      To reply to your question, YES you can have the same image if the SAME CONDITIONS/SETTINGS are met.
      But we should be realist, mobile phone cameras do not offer you the possibility to control the aperture/shutter etc…

      For example, I could have decided to shoot that picture in the 3 resolutions that my camera offer, the result will still be the same provided I keep my settings (Aperture, exposure, ISO etc) unchanged.

      The differences will only be when you gonna print in on large billboards or output to large screens. And of course, the size of the picture πŸ˜‰
      Hope I replied to your question correctly.

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  9. Yep Yashvin I do agree about the space available bit as well πŸ™‚ ..but i got 16 GB memory card in it so i guess i could scratch that one out .. πŸ˜› beside i hardly ever use that much space as wheneva i take some pics all i do is just cut them altogether and paste them on my external hdd :)…i dont even need tat much of space for any of my music on the phone as they are all on my ipod —>>space issue scratched altogether ..lol touchwood i have not had any prob uploading pics so far ….about transferring the pics as well ..all i have to do is connect my USB πŸ˜› …so no nightmares upto now πŸ˜› …yuuhuuuu … πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  10. @Yashvin

    As you guessed. You are completely out of subject. I tried all angles. If I go further back, I see myself standing on the streets of Champs Elysees. I had to stand something like 200m away to get a pic of the whole L’Arc. Not so obvious to get a nice photo with my Kodak 6.1MP at this distance.

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  11. @ Bhooks : u use Canon or Kodak :S … by the way u could get the whole picture standing near with a wider lense (applicable to DSLR cameras/bridge cameras) πŸ˜€ … here you have a point .. if you had a 10 mpx camera and you would have to stand at the same 200 m but could crop it and it would be the whole arc and would be larger πŸ™‚

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  12. Informative post! I knew the megapixel story since long. But my digital was always in the 8 MP mode, so I’m know going to reduce it to a more suitable one now. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    BTW, shops are to be blamed as well! Each time you see an ad, it will tell you that this camera is 10 megapixel and so on! And people will believe it and later bluff that they bought a 10 megapixel camera! LOL. πŸ˜›

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    1. @Yadhav : Camera manufactures and shops are here to sell their products πŸ˜‰
      I said it in the post, I rarely use my 12mp mainly because of the size.

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  13. Actually, thats, true, nikon has this habit of making less megapixel in their cameras, that why, nikon right now are better cameras at higher iso’s.
    this means, when the sensor is equipped with more megapixel, its so full of pixel that it makes the sensor less sensitive to light, thus bringing out more noise. you can find out a lot of stuffs about this on the net. i wont bother write it here…nice article Yash.

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  14. @ Yashvin : 35mm scanned laa .. c met lor cd saa (fr li vinne Digitale ?) .. do you know where kpav fer sa ? i have a Canon EOS 500N and a Canon EOS 300 at home .. want to play with them mais zot servi 35mm so film ..

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  15. Agreed with your points Yashvin. Most people would only go for megapixels, just as people go with higher gigahertz for PC’s (another mislead).

    Sensor size as some have said is as important as megapixel. Make sure you research and compare sensor size before buying. It is usually specified in the form of 1/10, 1/16, 1/7 inch. The larger, the better, less noise, and also more expensive! Most if not all DSLR have greater sensors than compact digital cameras. Chinese no-brand super cheap 12Mpx cameras have tiny sensors. They’re still 12Mpx but their of much inferior in quality to may be a compact 5Mpx or a DSLR 3Mpx (figures are nominal here).

    The type of sensor used to matter a few years ago. But we don’t here that much these days. I guess most are using the best. I can’t remember whether it was CCD or CMOS… I remember when I first heard about digital cameras, it was 640×480 and that cost Rs 17,000 for a big heavy thing with barely 2MB memory…

    I bought a Casio Exilim EX-Z80 8Mpx photos, smooth videos in widescreen 480p (DVD quality) for less than Rs 4,000 from China (eBay). It’s good enough, but not like the 7Mpx Pentax I bought for a friend. Still, it’s satisfactory for me, until I can afford to spend money on one childhood dream… an SLR!

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