What Are Megapixels?



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Megapixels are the things that camera manufacturers loves to plaster all over their advertising. You've likely heard of them. They're what makes or breaks a camera. "I've got 20 megapixels, you know." "What? That's it? I've got 24. Sucker." While there's a lot of talk around megapixels and everyone loves to have more, I sometimes wonder if anyone actually knows what these things are. In today's post, I'll offer up a quick definition and then I'll discuss whether they're important to your photography career or not.

Here are two definition for megapixels. The first one comes from Lifewire and the second one comes from Phonescoop.

A megapixel, often shortened to MP, is equal to 1 million pixels. A pixel is an individual element of a digital image. ... A higher resolution is certainly desirable in a digital photograph, as it means the camera uses more pixels to create the image, which should allow for greater accuracy.

Megapixel. This term refers to the size of an image, usually in reference to a photo from a digital camera or camera phone. A megapixel means one million pixels. The resolution of digital cameras and camera phones is often measured in megapixels.

From these definitions, it's certainly acceptable to want a camera that offers more megapixels. After all, more of them means a better photo. Right?

Not so fast. While more is better when it comes to megapixels, don't just go out and grab any high MP camera you can find. Just as important is sensor size. Here's a quote from Blurbiness:

Do more megapixels mean better photo quality?
More Megapixels does not mean more quality. The quality of a camera is decisively influenced by the sensor quality, not only by its Megapixel resolution. ... Basically, if you use a worse camera and worse lenses with more Megapixels, you will have more worse quality pixels.

Here's another quote. This one is from Tutsplus:

...But beware; an important feature is also the sensor size of the camera. For example, a 6 megapixel full frame SLR would most likely still take better photos than an 8 megapixel phone which would have a tiny sensor.

So as you can see, while megapixels are a good thing, you also need to focus on sensor size, camera quality, and lens quality. All of these factors influence overall image quality.
What Are Megapixels? was posted on 02-11-2020 by JGaulard in the General Photography Talk forum. Click to visit our most recent posts or return to the photography forum homepage.