Importance of Megapixels?

Started Apr 30, 2012 | Discussions thread
Teila Day
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,241
Real-World Answer :)
In reply to Greg Nold, Apr 30, 2012

Greg Nold wrote:

Hello Folks!

As a newbie, I don't understand what the imortance is in having more megapixels. My D7000, which some were calling the 'Latest and Greatest Nikon' only a year ago, has been eclipsed by the Nikon D3200... which offers 8 megapixels more for a much smaller price. Yet I'm still pretty certain my D7000 is not obsolete yet and will keep making me happy for years to come (understatement).

I think that your D7000 will give you pleasure for many years to come, however only you can be sure depending on your needs and wants and I'll get to that below.

So what IS the importance of more megapixels and why are they constantly on the rise? Is there a true practical benefit or is it merely a sort of a 'status' thing, or just a way for a camera makers to make their new models more attractive to consumers? I am curious because I doubt anyone could tell from my photos that I only have 16 megapixels to work with.

There is a HUGE usage for megapixels for some people, and absolutely no use for others.

Read this chart first; it is a great rule of thumb

If I want to crop a bit and then make a 20x30 print from my 4 megapixel camera, it doesn't look nearly as good as if I do the same thing with my 21mp camera.

Many people will tell you that "megapixels" don't matter, which is true, only if you don't need that much resolution generally for printing or cropping.

Will a 40x60 look "awesome" from a 16mp camera? Sure, it can (to some people)... but then different people have a personal definition of "good", "awesome", "great", etc.. I like using numbers! If you can print a 40x60 from a 280 ppi file, then you can practically rest assured that you're going to get the ultimate print quality print from the printer.

Printing a 40x60 from a 12mp camera isn't going to look as nice as someone printing the same photographed scene using an 80mp camera. Megapixels can, and DO make a large difference to a lot of photographers, so don't be fooled.

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Pretend that when I shoot with my 4mp camera, the photographs come out the size of a postage stamp if I print them their native size.... which will look like junk if I blow them up to 8x10.

If I shoot with an 80mp camera, imagine the photographs coming out of the camera natively the size of a large greeting card... which doesn't look that bad when blown up to 8x10 size.

See the difference? The difference becomes even more dramatic if you crop the photographs before enlarging them!

( the example isn't to scale , but you get the idea). If you're going to hang a detailed photograph in an Anatomy Lab describing in fine detail the anatomy of the eye... which camera would you use? The postage stamp sized photograph, or the greeting card sized photograph?

Which is more dramatic. An 8x10in macro shot of an insect, or one that's 20x30in?


If I take a photograph using a 4mp camera of a unicorn on a beach 100 meters away, and you take the same photograph using the same lens attached to a 36mp camera... guess which photograph is going to look better when cropped so the unicorn fills the frame of an 8x10? Now, instead of a unicorn, think of a child walking the stage at an outdoor graduation, or a lion in the grass while you're shooting from a truck on a safari... are you starting to understand some of the real-world uses?

The list of practical usage for more resolution goes on and on, and is truly a benefit to anyone that needs the additional resolution.

Storage space is cheap, and processing power on virtually any modern computer is adequate to process files from a large resolution camera.

I HIGHLY encourage you to look at different quality prints from various quality files (150, 200, 300 ppi) and then you can figure out what YOU call high quality, because here in the forums "high quality" can mean almost anything. If you can use a number (ppi) as your personal standard, then you have something to use as mental measurement.... especially if someone says they printed a 20x30 print from a 150ppi file and it looked "great". If "great" starts at 270 or higher for you, then you know that that person's definition of "great" is your definition of "horrible!".

I hope all that at least helped a bit.
Teila K. Day

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