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  1. #1
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    Article: How Many Megapixels Do You Really Need in a Digital Camera?

    Here is an article I published on my website about the number of megapixels needed in a digital camera. I hope it'll be useful to some of you in this forum.

    How Many Megapixels Do You Really Need in a Digital Camera?
    by Gary Hendricks


    If you're out buying a digital camera, then one of the key deciding factors is the number of megapixels supported. The number of megapixels determines the how good your photos turn out. If you have too few megapixels, then your pictures will turn out crappy. Investing in a camera with too many megapixels, on the other hand, is an unnecessary waste of money.

    Personally, I feel that if you have unlimited funds, then, by all means go for that high end 8 megapixel camera. Otherwise, you certainly don't want to waste money on extra megapixels you don't need.

    A golden rule to bear mind: a camera with more megapixels isn't always better. If your camera supports more megapixels, then each photo you take will be larger. This means that you'll use up more space on your memory cards and computer's hard drive.

    If you have trouble deciding how many megapixels you need (I know I did when I bought my first digital camera), then the guide below will help. Essentially, you need to ascertain what size prints you want to get and what your budget is, before deciding on how many megapixels you want. So here we go:

    1 megapixel or less: Cameras in this range (e.g. web cameras or cell phone cameras) have very low image resolution. Don't expect to be able to print high-quality photos using these cameras. You can, however, email the photos or post them on your web site. The good thing about such cameras, of course, is their low price.

    1 to 2 megapixels: My first digital camera was a Canon PowerShot S110 which only had a 2 megapixel sensor. Cameras in this range are pretty decent though - you can expect to print out great 4x6 prints at this resolution. Of course, if you want larger, blown-up protraits of your birthday party or holiday in Italy, then I would certainly recommend getting more megapixels. Cameras in this range should sell for around $100 currently.

    3 to 4 megapixels: Most new point-and-shoot cameras these days tend to have at least 3 to 4 megapixel image resolution. Bring these images to the lab and they'll be able to develop great looking 4x6, 5x7 and even 6x9 printouts. Expect to pay slightly more though - we're looking at around $250 for a good model.

    5 megapixels and up: The more advanced cameras tend to have image resolutions of 5 to 8 megapixels. Newer point-and-shoot cameras have 5 megapixels, while the newer digital SLRs come with 8 megapixels. The quality of images shot by these cameras is simply stunning. Of course, their price tags are equally stunning . In this megapixel category, expect to pay around $300 for a 5 megapixel camera and up to $1800 for an 8 megapixel SLR.

    Conclusion
    Well, now you know roughly the number of megapixels you should be shooting for depending on your intended usage and budget for the camera. My general advice is, if you're just an amateur photographer, then don't buy cameras above 5 megapixels. When you are really serious about digital photography and want to go professional, then consider buying a super high megapixel camera.
    Last edited by gary_hendricks; 03-18-2005 at 07:47 PM.

  2. #2
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    Sry for my silly post , as I am new to this forum.

    5 megapixels and up: The more advanced cameras tend to have image resolutions of 5 to 8 megapixels. Newer point-and-shoot cameras have 5 megapixels, while the newer digital SLRs come with 8 megapixels. The quality of images shot by these cameras is simply stunning. Of course, their price tags are equally stunning . In this megapixel category, expect to pay around $300 for a 5 megapixel camera and up to $1800 for an 8 megapixel SLR.

    Does the megapixels really play an important role in the picture quality like during a telephoto zoom? I have taken several pictures using my S2 at full optical zoom. However, the quality is worse than a picture taken at lesser zoom length but better than a picture taken at full digital zoom. Does the zoom affect the quality or the megapixels or it has to do the focal lengths???

    Thanks

  3. #3
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    I hope you get some answers to this from more knowledgeable people. I haven't yet decided on a camera (Canon S2, Sony H1, or KM A200?) but I have been asking questions here and there and have been told that as long as the lens on a 8MP camera can pick up the same details that an optical zoom can see by zooming in, it's really the same in the end - just crop the 8MP to 4 MP and you double the zoom. Or you can avoid cropping by framing the subject using 2x digital zoom on an 8MP camera giving 4MP and double the lens zoom. I haven't tried any of this yet.

    I'm not sure what you mean by quality being worse at full optical zoom compared to wide angle. Are you talking about focus, shaking, colour, or what?

  4. #4
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    Make that 1/4 the pixels for doubling the zoom - the picture elements are length x width so halving them means a quarter of the total number. But I've printed many good plain paper pics from my 2 MP Canon snapshooter (775).

  5. #5
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    Aug 2005
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    Thanks a lot for your tip. I am refering picture quality as in focus because I do not seem to get the kind of image most people have taken in comparison with my pictures.

    My main use for my camera is to take pictures of birds which require minute details for identification, so I tried many times with different ISO, Shutter speed, aperture, white balance but still could not get the clear detailed pictures.

    For e.g. I saw a bird at 50m away. At full zoom, 12x, I took a shot. I could see the outline of the bird and the shape of it which helps when seperating different groups of birds like differentiating eagle from sparrow. However, I was unable to capture the original colors or the streaks and bands and all I got was a pixelated bird. Thus, I am unsure if this has got to do with the megapixels or the focus length.

    By the way, is the focus length the same as the zoom length and how many times zoom does a 300mm lens give ???

  6. #6
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    Jan 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob vdKam
    Make that 1/4 the pixels for doubling the zoom - the picture elements are length x width so halving them means a quarter of the total number. But I've printed many good plain paper pics from my 2 MP Canon snapshooter (775).
    Ok - I can see the logic in that - BUT I recently took 2 near identical shots.
    1) with the C-740 at 3,2mp at 380mm
    2) with the A-200 at 8.0mp at 200mm - with 2xdigital as well

    The upshot is the A-200 pic pixalates noticably LESS than the c-740 pic
    (If you like I could create a couple of comparison pics, ie paste then together)
    I know that the image from the A-200 is slightly closer so tat would contribut a tad.
    Geoff Chandler. UK/England/Surrey
    NIKON D90 / D80. Nikon 16 - 85 VR, Tamron 28-200,
    Sigma 70-300APO, Tokina 100 AT-X Pro D.
    SB600 flash. Panasonic DMC-TZ25

    http://geof777.multiply.com

  7. #7
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    Jul 2005
    Location
    Eastern Ontario, Canada
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    Quote Originally Posted by Within
    Thanks a lot for your tip. I am refering picture quality as in focus because I do not seem to get the kind of image most people have taken in comparison with my pictures.

    My main use for my camera is to take pictures of birds which require minute details for identification, so I tried many times with different ISO, Shutter speed, aperture, white balance but still could not get the clear detailed pictures.

    For e.g. I saw a bird at 50m away. At full zoom, 12x, I took a shot. I could see the outline of the bird and the shape of it which helps when seperating different groups of birds like differentiating eagle from sparrow. However, I was unable to capture the original colors or the streaks and bands and all I got was a pixelated bird. Thus, I am unsure if this has got to do with the megapixels or the focus length.

    By the way, is the focus length the same as the zoom length and how many times zoom does a 300mm lens give ???
    Was the bird pixelated but not the rest of the image? What about objects around the bird? If everything in the image was pixelated, you may have just zoomed into the image too far to try to see the bird after you took the picture. If not, I believe I've read that it is very very difficult to shoot birds with anything except a SLR.

    Yes, focal length is related to zoom, but every camera has a different calculation unless they have the same CCD size. I don't know how it works well enought to explain it but others have done so in these forums. Try a search of zoom or something like that if you want the details.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff Chandler
    Ok - I can see the logic in that - BUT I recently took 2 near identical shots.
    1) with the C-740 at 3,2mp at 380mm
    2) with the A-200 at 8.0mp at 200mm - with 2xdigital as well

    The upshot is the A-200 pic pixalates noticably LESS than the c-740 pic
    (If you like I could create a couple of comparison pics, ie paste then together)
    I know that the image from the A-200 is slightly closer so tat would contribut a tad.
    Interesting. This weekend I took shots of a far away stone wall using the Sony H1 and the A200. The H1 was at 5MP and 12x optical plus 2xdigital. The A200 was at 8MP and 7x optical plus 2x digital. At least I think that's what the settings were. In any case, I found the A200 pixelated more when viewing the images at the same scale. I probably have the numbers wrong though, and I didn't have the two cameras side by side, so let me stress that it's just an impression that the Sony performed very well in this case.

    I assume your results were expected due to the number of pixels. We've finally made up our mind to get the A200 over the Sony due to the viewfinder quality. There are just too many times that we can't see the subject in the H1 viewfinder. Makes the camera a pretty good paperweight in those cases.

  9. #9
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    Can't comment on your comparisons much - would need to know the 35mm equiv focal lengths
    These are two crops from the two cameras C-740 at 380 and KM-A200 at 200 with 2x digital - I think you'll have to magnify them yourself.
    Anyway - I don't think you'll regret choosing the A-200. No you won't get everything perfect and right straight away, it's a good learning camera that's pretty easy to learn your way around.
    Please feel free to ask any questions - either here or via e-mail
    Geoff
    Attached Images Attached Images   
    Last edited by Geoff Chandler; 08-08-2005 at 03:54 PM.
    Geoff Chandler. UK/England/Surrey
    NIKON D90 / D80. Nikon 16 - 85 VR, Tamron 28-200,
    Sigma 70-300APO, Tokina 100 AT-X Pro D.
    SB600 flash. Panasonic DMC-TZ25

    http://geof777.multiply.com

  10. #10
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    Jan 2005
    Location
    Surrey, England
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    The original shots side by side (obviously reduced)
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Geoff Chandler. UK/England/Surrey
    NIKON D90 / D80. Nikon 16 - 85 VR, Tamron 28-200,
    Sigma 70-300APO, Tokina 100 AT-X Pro D.
    SB600 flash. Panasonic DMC-TZ25

    http://geof777.multiply.com

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