How many megapixels are enough?

How many megapixels are enough?

We all want bigger, better, more amazing looking photos, right? Some times you need a different camera to take those photos, but do you consider the other side effects of having the biggest and the best? I was thinking about this yesterday, my friend Nathan and I were out on a shoot (I as his glamorous assistant) he shoots with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and when we arrived home after a relatively quick shoot, I had 10gb worth of used memory cards in my pocket. When I was in school back in Australia I remember a mate buying a 1gb external drive for his Amiga 1200, it cost him $1100.00 Aussie dollars, So, if we’d come home with 10gb of photos back then, that would have cost us $11,000!…

I want to share a little bit of a press release for one of my old cameras, it was my very first digital camera and at the time, I thought it was brilliant! Sure, the images were not even close to the quality of the prints from my film camera, an old Nikon EM, but I was suddenly in love with digital!

Here’s a couple of lines from the press release at the time…

Sony MVC-FD83 Mavica 0.8MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom
1216×912 Mega Pixel; MPEG movie mode; 4x high speed floppy disc drive; Audio/Video out; Slide show mode; 2.5″ color LCD (84K pixels); Built in intelligent flash; 3x optical/6x digital zoom; Autofocus; Macro capability.

Using Sony’s interpolated imaging technology the FD83 camera can realize a 17% increase in image size, delivering a 1 million pixel image (1216 x 912). Mavica FD83 provides high quality still images by reading all of the pixels on the imager (CCD) with a single pass. This one-time pass over the imager delivers clean edges and an overall sharper picture quality. The MVC-FD83 allows you to capture up to 60 seconds of video and audio right onto a standard 3.5″ floppy disk. This is one of the fastest, easiest ways to get video and audio into your personal computer, for E-Mail, Web sites, or presentations, etc. MPEG Movie offers 2 settings: Presentation Mode, up to 15 sec. (320 x 240) and Video Mail Mode, up to 60 sec. (160 x 112).

And this is an image from that very camera! Transferred from floppy, just for you.

Sony Mavica fd83 | Technical amazement!!

Once was young

What a power house! The images were invariably magical (!) and available instantly (If you had a computer with a floppy drive handy) I’m sorry, the exif is missing, maybe it didn’t transfer that well from floppy to the various myriad of disks it’s been on over the last ten years and thirteen thousand miles…

I stepped up from the Mavica to my first in a long line of the PowerShot branded digital Canon, The Canon A5 if I remember correctly! What a little ripper. The slogan at the time was…

Canon PowerShot A5
Canon’s “Digital ELPHs” arrive – good things in small packages!”

This is a piece from Imaging Resource on the Canon A5

Canon was one of the first digital camera manufacturers to reach beyond the “VGA” resolution category, with their original PowerShot 600. At the time, the PowerShot 600 broke new ground and established a benchmark for sharpness and image quality. Since then, Canon has lain quiet for a long time, leading to much speculation about their long-term plans relative to digital photography. With the release of the PowerShot A5 (and the forthcoming PowerShot Pro 70) though, Canon has not only conclusively demonstrated its commitment to digital photography, but returned to the cutting edge of digital camera technology as well. In the A5, we find a very appealingly packaged 800K-pixel camera with a commanding set of capabilities (including an effective ISO speed reaching as high as 400)

Slightly better image quality and larger file sizes from the Canon A5 looked to be an indicator to the compact camera market of things to come. After this we saw many manufacturers releasing cameras around this quality level and within a year we’d jumped to double the resolution and pixel count – I remember being amazed at the first image out of my Canon Ixus 300 it was a self portrait with detail I’d not encountered to that point, in digital photography.

Soon after I moved across the pond to England, I wanted something with a bit more ooomph! and promptly filled that position with the then new Canon Powershot Pro1. The Pro1 was manic! by comparison to the various IXUS compacts that I’d previously seen or used! Manic in so many arenas. The storage space I used for my digital photos tripled from the IXUS 300 to the Powershot Pro1, the speed (or lack thereof) of my computer became unyieldingly obvious and my photography, being presented to me with that extra detail made it blatantly obvious that I needed to start paying attention to the technical aspects of photography if I wanted to start taking better photographs.

Yes. This is me… Powershot Pro1 in Morocco
Wild looking...

The Powershot Pro1 produced 3,264 x 2,448 which were a lot larger than the old A5! So, from the Sony to the A5 to the IXUS 300 and now the Powershot Pro1 we’ve had some fairly serious “up hill” in the file size and therefore the space used by your digital images on your computer / drives. Incidentally, my better half somehow managed to scratch the fixed lens whilst we were out in the desert… (Filter, anyone?)

The Canon PowerShot Pro 1 is a lovely camera, well, it was when I owned it! I still wanted something different! I finally understood that it wasn’t all about the megapixel count and that there were other factors that came into the making of a good image. If you take a bad, over exposed photo, it’s still going to be that bad overexposed photo at 4000x3000px and if anything, it’s going to be more obvious.

Along came my first dSLR! The Canon EOS 30D, It’s still sitting on the desk here in front of me, I was out shooting at lunch time with it. It’s biggest image is 3504 x 2336 which you will notice is pretty similar to the Canon PowerShot Pro 1 (But very different too! I won’t start about pixel density) So why did I upgrade? So I could change lenses and accessories. Still, with the EOS 30D I eventually found myself shooting nothing but RAW and could pump out an uncompressed .tiff with a HUGE filesize!

Keeping with the “Photos of me from various cameras” theme…
Afghan Boy
A photo with my Canon EOS 30D which when I was finished working with it in Photoshop CS4 was 47mb.

In addition to the Canon EOS 30D I like to have a compact for those times when I can’t take my dSLR to a venue with me, so, initially I had the Canon IXUS 65 (SD630) 6mp and a great little carry around camera with six times the resolution of my first IXUS. The last time I saw this camera was in the mosh of the Foo Fighters performance at V Festival. I can only assume it’s in camera heaven now.

I have a Canon IXUS 960is as my pocket camera now, at 12.1mp with a file size of 4000×3000 it sure pumps out an image that takes up some space!

What does this all equate to in real world terms? Well, I’ve at least doubled the drive space required for my photos every year for the last ten years, I currently have 2tb of G-Tech Drives holding them. Some of this has been due to taking more photos, sure, but photo for photo, I’ve at least doubled my required drive space. I’ve also noticed that I needed a machine with more memory to work on these larger images and more bandwidth to upload them!

So, where to from here? Well, I have my eye on the new 5D MkII
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
at 21mp I’m sure I’ll need to re-think my backup / storage strategy! A friend is toying with the new Nikon D3x 24mp beast.

Where will all this end? Will formats and pixels and cameras continue to develop and the requirements become more and more? Will MegaPixelMadness continue!

What’s your opinion on the way the digital camera market is headed?


Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Sime (aka #gtvone) is the customer support manager for dPS, and lead blogger in our Cameras and Gear Blog. He's a Melbourne based photographer, and please feel free to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Some Older Comments

  • Bozo November 26, 2011 07:02 pm

    Tonight, I feel the need to reply to an almost 2 year old thread ... :-)

    All cameras come with the ability to shoot jpg with a lower setting

    Funnily enough my canon a2200 which is 14 mp (to satisfy marketing) has a 'medium' setting which is 7mp. Funnily enough the IQ of the 7MP is about 99% the 14MP, so you can probably guess which size I use

    My 14MP D3100 is also on medium setting - 8MP. This time again it's about 98% of the IQ. You'd need to print this thing at least A2 and look at to see any difference, so I don't bother and leave it at 8MP

    At 100% the 14 MP shots just don't look great, theres a degree of fuzz with both cameras. Those extra MP are generally not good pixels At 7/8 MP there is no fuzz and they look beautifully sharp at 100%.

    Things like subject, lighting, composition and colour are a about a bajillion times more important to making good images than MP

  • Kort June 30, 2010 04:24 am

    Great article and loved reading through the comments. Sorry to find and comment on it so late.

    Back in 2006 they thought the MP wars would come to an end, but it is still raging with tiny Point&Shoots churning out 14MP files. IMHO, unless you really need to print at a large size have some other specialized need, excess mega pixels just get in the way and sacrifice image quality and ease of file handling. My largest sensor is 10.1 MP and I am very happy shooting with an 8MP C8080wz. Like many others, I wish manufacturers would focus (pun intended) on dynamic range and higher ISO quality. And sooner than later I hope.

  • Sime February 19, 2010 02:28 am

    "How many megapixels are enough for what? The question is incomplete"

    You answered it yourself - When you use the 30D for something that warrants it, it's fine. So, I have that 5DMk2 now and like you, sometimes I still use the 30D.


  • Jerome Paladino February 19, 2010 01:20 am

    How many megapixels are enough for what? The question is incomplete. I have an 8 mp Canon 30D as well as a 12 mp 5D and an 18 mp 7D. I don't hesitate to use the 30D when I know it will do. It's still a fine camera and I have some fairly large prints from it that look fabulous. Camera's are tools and the one you choose should be based on the job at hand. I would say at this point most of us already have more pixels than we really have a need for. Or maybe it would be best to say that more is better as long as image quality doesn't suffer and you can select a variety of sizes to use?
    Technology is great so long as it doesn't get in the way of creativity.

  • DavidN August 8, 2009 02:31 am

    Image file size challenges processing power and disk drive speed.

  • Chetaco August 7, 2009 11:00 pm

    Eventually, cost and time will force a more conservative approach to image size and then the use of skills at the point of capture will far surpass the benifits of bulk. A good photo is a good photo.

  • Don Charles Nebeker July 24, 2009 11:46 am

    I remember when no serious photographer would use 35mm, It was to small and low quality, a toy format. Later SLR's would never become a professional product. Later no professional would ever use a zoom lens for still photography, movies, OK, but quality would never be good enough for stills. Digital was just another disaster, a toy for techie nuts, never to be used by any serious photographer.

    It is time to admit the truth. Until every camera can be hand held or smaller, produce flawless stadium sized holographic pictures that are life realistic, freely manipulable, with quality that the eye, ear touch or other senses are not able to distinguish from the original, there is room for improvement. Even then, man will doubtless find enhancements to that. Any nabob can complain about the state of the art, pronounce it good enough, or unattainable. I would rather have a few dreamers with the vision and ability to take us to the future; the rest can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

  • DavidN July 24, 2009 03:58 am

    A bird-spotter friend crops high-megapixel images in lieu of longer focal-length lenses.

    But from my experience, without specialist need, 6Mp was the turning-point. I have more than adequate 18" by 12" images (definitely better than 'pretty good', Tao).

    Rather, I'd appreciate development in other areas - noise and dynamic range, mainly. It will be a while before we get that - we've got to get beyond the hyperbole of full-frame sensors and fast auto-focus first.

  • Paul Collins July 24, 2009 02:21 am

    hi ,everyone , I'm a pentaxian through and through, I used and still use a pentax film camera,I also have a K100d 6mp and a KM at 10.1 I think, the Km is a very good quality camera, however so is thyhe 6mp K100d, you know the old saying it's not the camera but the person operating it makes the picture, if you only see snap shots and take them with an expensive camera, all you'll have is expensive snapshots.

  • Tao July 22, 2009 09:36 pm

    It is really depending on what you shoot for, for the print in 6x4 or 7x5. 6mp can give you pretty good output. But because of some bad skills, a lot people can only use part of that shot as final. In this case, no matter how much mp you have, it wont be enough. So just improve the skills, not rely on mp.

    For mid print, like 30x20 inch, 12 mp can give fairly good result, but quite soft. 24.5mp is more prefered if I can afford Nikon D3X

  • Matt March 28, 2009 01:22 am

    Oh! I forgot to actually ANSWER the question as posed by the title of the post. I think for that average point and shoot consumer, 6mp is more than enough to take great pictures of friends and family, even vacations and have enough headroom to make that occasional 8x10 print.

    For DSLR shooters, who tend to take more artistic photos'....10mp and the ablility to shoot RAW should satisfy most.

    Just my opinion though! Definately the best pictures are made with creativity from a great photographer, I dont care if he's using a cell phone camera. If you understand your equipment you can come up with a great image. Just like a great musician can make songs with sticks and rocks......

  • Matt March 28, 2009 01:17 am

    I love this topic because I feel that it is something that WAY to many beginners (and some NOT so beginners) get hung up on. The truth is as many have said here already, that megapixels DO matter, but more is not always better! It's all about print size for most people (sure there is the density issue for the peepers) and size of print is generally dependent on the subject of the photos!

    I have a short tip aimed at beginners on my blog , that advises to crank DOWN the megapixels for shots that are just going to land on just makes the whole process faster and easier. You gotta think about your end use of the photo..... If you want to make huge prints then sure, you need the megapixels....but I would not advise printing an 11x17 of that shot of you doing beer bongs at frat parties... ;)

  • David Davis February 21, 2009 05:40 pm

    Thanks for the information, was needed!

  • Paul February 17, 2009 07:49 pm

    smatt talks about great glass, then buys a Nikon... ;o))

    BTW, I dragged my new 5D2 through all the shit, snow and rain we've had here in the last couple of weeks and it has worked without fail. Are you picking up on the story of the four 5D2's that failed in Antarctica? Please note the location - ANTARCTICA - not exactly the normal shooting conditions one might expect to find, is it...

    And you NEVER post process and ALWAYS have the right lens available ALL the time and manage to frame every shot perfectly.

    Blimey, you must be the greatest photographer of all time. Well done.

  • smatt February 17, 2009 04:51 pm

    Picked up a nikon D700 and it was a super touch choice when I had the Canon 5dMKII for about the same price.
    I don't really need more than 12MP and the metal housing and fully sealed body sold me. The Nikon can take a beating compared to the canon, I have friends that have shot in the rain with no issues, would not dare with the canon. Oh, I have read and know of one local return due to the 5d mkII sensor overheating when back to back video is taken which results in a blown sensor. There is a cool down period for video.

    So I chose the D700 for it's 51 point autofocus, super fast 8 frames per second with the grip, abundance of old glass that still works great and it's down right tough body. Oh and super high ISO....

    And I shoot 95% in jpg so I don't need to post process, that takes lots of time with big files, even with my quad core mac. As far as the cropping, I just frame it, I do still crop sometimes but not some tiny part of a image, I grab the right lens first.


  • Michael Sims February 17, 2009 03:28 am

    On screen? My screen has a max resolution of 1680x1050. This equals around 2mp - multiply one number by the other.

    On a (for instance) Canon SX10 this is a medium 3

    The sizes are 3,648 x 2,736 (Large 10mp), 2,816 x 2,112 (Medium 1 6mp), 2,272 x 1,704 (Medium 2 4mp), 1,600 x 1,200 (Medium 3 2mp), 640 x 480 (Small .25mp),

    For most purposes - even printing up to A3 (16"x12") medium 1 6mp would work very well, of course extra pixels do allow cropping.

  • WBC February 17, 2009 02:30 am

    In my humble opinion, if you’re just viewing it digitally, i.e., on screen and such, anything within the range of 10mp to 15mp would deliver outstanding images.

    If you want to view it on the screen only... you can get away with a LOT less than 10mp to 15mp...

  • Art February 16, 2009 01:57 pm

    In my humble opinion, if you're just viewing it digitally, i.e., on screen and such, anything within the range of 10mp to 15mp would deliver outstanding images. However, if u wanna print it out.. maybe the higher the mp is, the better the results will be. I've got with me an 8mp panasonic lumix and a dslr and found that both cameras serves me well coz the largest i'll ever print my images is at 8R.

  • majortom1981 February 14, 2009 07:03 am

    My opinion might not matter much because i just got my first dslr 3 months agao. Itys a nikkon d40. I have a panasonic 8 megapixel 10x point and shoot also and a 5megapixel kodak.

    I feel my dslr at 6mp is perfect. With these pics id rather figure out how to get better quality pics with my dslr then worrying about more megapixels.

    I have seen some gorgeous photos using 3mp so in my opinion 6 is good enough.

  • Paul February 12, 2009 08:52 am

    - Glass
    - Interface
    - Processor
    - Sensor

    So very, very wrong. Just think about the process of image capture. There was a time when photographers really used to know what was important.

    The correct order is:

    - Glass
    - Sensor
    - Processor
    - Interface

  • FFred February 12, 2009 05:05 am

    While the size of the sensor (and therefore, indirectly, of the pixels) has an impact on the image quality, it's not as clear cut as one would believe.
    IMO, important stuff is (from more to less) :
    - Glass
    - Interface
    - Processor
    - Sensor

    Note, however that you can get good glass for any DLSR, so the first item really only applies to compacts (including bridges). Interface is terribly subjective, so each user has to make up his own mind about that (for example I didn't like Nikon which felt to *me* like chemical photo with digital slapped on as an afterthought).
    The processor and sensor quality could "theoretically" be objectively compared. But apart from speed and noise (or sensitivity), few things are really all that objective. So there again people have to make up their own mind.

    In the end, remember that there currently are very few bad cameras. And that among the few bad ones, none of them fail because their resolution is too small.

    Like I said above, unless you are in advertising, or unless you shoot some very high speed events (or really can't frame your shots) and have to heavily reframe in post, anything beyond 4 or 6 Mpx is just fine.

  • Paul February 12, 2009 02:56 am

    I forgot to mention the HD Video capabilites of the 5D2 as well. Great for those who shoot documentary and editorial.

    If you have any doubts as to the quality or think it is just a gimmick, check out these two vids.

  • Paul February 12, 2009 02:48 am

    David said "Overall - I’m very happy with my choice and realize that I could have had the older 5D for much less and most likely been just as happy with that as a step up. If you are considering the 5D2 and want to save some money, try the 5D and see if it meets your needs."

    But the 5D2 has the new Digic IV processor. That alone is worth the extra £'s for improved dynamic range, speed and reduced noise, without considering the MPs.

    I picked up mine last week and currently have it coupled to a 24-70 f2.8L and the results are truly stunning. I shoot a lot for macro stock and print to A2 a lot, so the bigger the files, the better, in my opinion. A colleague who shoots 1Ds II's, and I, did a comparison shoot in the studio this afternoon. The 5D2 beats it in image quality for sure. The 1Ds is without doubt more rugged, but is it really work more than £3K extra than 5D2 - in short, nope.

  • Gordon G February 10, 2009 05:41 am

    I have upgraded to the Nikon D300, from a Canon D.
    The unfortunate part of all of this, is that the technology changes constantly, and there will always be a newer better, bigger Megapixel camera around the corner.
    But the underliying importance is the size of the actual pixels. The digital SLR's have larger pixels than the so called "point and shoot" cameras, thus capturing more light, and image.
    Based on this, a large format, say 12 Megapixel SLR will have sharper results than a 12 Megapixel "point and shoot" camera.
    But, the quality of the megapixels in the last few years has also improved immensly. So, if you are mainly interested in a compact camera that produces high quality photos up to a max of 11x14", this is the way to go. If you are interested in having multitudes of control over your results and shooting, and also lens selection and want to be able to blow up to poster sixe with great resolution, then I would recommend a digital SLR.
    The results and usage should be your guide.
    You can produce high quality results, and even win photo contests with a compact "point and shoot" ( I hate this term).

  • Anner February 10, 2009 01:44 am

    I read an article that said that 6 mpx are enough, unless you use to print very large pictures.

  • David February 7, 2009 10:50 am

    I note a lot of people dreaming of the 5DmkII. You really have to ask if you need that much or just want it.

    Me - I wanted to upgrade to a better camera from my 10D and I didn't want a 1.6 crop factor any longer. That made it the 5D, 5DmkII or one of the 1Ds series. Since I didn't want an older camera and could not afford the 1Ds series, the 5DmkII was the answer.

    Since I've had it I've noticed that the ability to crop a better photo from a larger shot has been a major win. While I don't see the 25MB images as a great thing, I can use sRAW and sRAW2 to reduce the image size when the full raw doesn't matter.

    Overall - I'm very happy with my choice and realize that I could have had the older 5D for much less and most likely been just as happy with that as a step up. If you are considering the 5D2 and want to save some money, try the 5D and see if it meets your needs.

  • Michael Sims February 7, 2009 09:40 am

    I have been thinking about this crazy mp chase for a while now. I guess I went through something similar when I was in my 20's & 30's with Hi Fi gear. Always chasing the latest spec. amplifier and biggest speakers etc. Then one day I listened to some music played through a really old valve amplifier and an old pair of tiny BBC reference speakers - WOW - I could hear the MUSIC not the gear!

    Well I have to say that I am not a great photographer, but I do enjoy photograpy and all that goes on around it. My "best" camera was a 8mp (ish) Canon 350d plus some decent lenses, especially a big white 400mm monster. It was just great except a) I feared someone would grab it and run off with it and b) I developed a problem with my wrist - from carrying the camera!

    So my latest camera (stolen in Spain recently) was a Panasonic FZ18 with 8mp also. I print at A4 max, why would I need more mp? That number of mp should be good for A3 or even A2 so long as you don't put your nose to the print - and few normal people would do that.

    I will likely buy a 10mp Panasonic FZ28 next. I would be happier with 6 to 8 mp and better low light performance.

  • theicebunny February 6, 2009 11:15 am

    I had the Amiga 2000 with deul drives and 500mb it was the best and it still works :)

  • theicebunny February 6, 2009 11:11 am

    I have a powershot S1 3.2mp and it works well as I'm very new to the game but If you want less then 24mp when shooting with these big cameras why can't you just chose to use less?

    i can with the S1 I can use small medium and large is this feature not on the newer cameras?

  • Simon February 6, 2009 07:01 am

    Hi there,
    I recently bought a Canon powershot G10 as my carry everywhere point and shoot and I can promise you that the amount of megapixels it had was my last consideration. I chose it for its DSLR features and that it can record in raw. I started (in digital) with a Fuji A204 (2 MP) which is still in use as I passed it on to a niece. When I had my first photobook made there were shots from that camera, a Fuji S7000 and S9500, a Casio Ex -Z70 and Canon ixus 950IS as well as my current DSLRs (Eos 350d and 400d). The shots from the A204 were, to my mind, as good as from the 400d. The point I wanted to make is that, if you're happy with the end result, it matters not one jot as to its source, I can understand those who make their living from photography wanting as much "room to manoeuvere" as possible but, to me, it's just not that important. I think a big part of the "more is better" problem is the way in which shots are viewed on screen. I 've often caught myself zooming right into a shot during post-processing to remove a distraction that wouldn't be seen by another unless it was printed at A1. Completely unneccessary. When you visit a gallery, you don't stand two feet away from a painting and then complain that you can see the brush strokes, you find the optimum viewing distance for the image to resolve itself. The same principle should apply to photography. So, in answer to your question, I don't believe there is a minimum MP as long as the results are pleasing to you. As far as the future is concerned, I can see the pixel count increasing in DSLRs and compacts, but this being less of a selling point when compared to dynamic range and noise reduction improvements. Cheers!

    Ps. By the way, I also owned an Amiga 1200 and had a 250mb hard drive, I honestly thought at the time that I would never fill it. Current storage 2.8TB and rising.

  • Wade February 6, 2009 05:26 am

    My upgrade path was 1MP Olympus -> 2MP Olympus -> 3MP Nikon -> 8MP Digital Rebel XT -> 15MB 50D. Managing photos is becoming more and more difficult. The larger files and faster speeds of the 50D allow me to take over 1 DVD of pictures in a weekend at cheer competitions (large format JPEG; I wouldn't even be able to do it if taken using RAW.). This also translates to longer times to process, upload, distribute pics, etc. It translates into more hardware requirements as well (now on a quad-core system with 3G Linux/Vista). Long-term storage is becoming critical as well (500G disk is filling up).

    Ability to crop is the prime motivator for having larger MP in my primary problem space. If I shoot wider, I end up with more usable action shots than I would with a smaller MP count.

    Also, 2nd advantage of the 50D is the ability to go to higher ISO values and still get OK shots. This is the start of what some posted about better dynamic range and expanded ISO -- yes, the 50D really helps here!

  • Fred Albrecht February 5, 2009 10:59 pm

    While 4Mx is a bit tight when you want to crop, it definitely isn't inadequate as far as image quality is concerned.
    For example see (from the G3) :
    Resting giraffe
    Or wallpapers I use in 1920x1200 :
    Palm and Moon
    Resting Bird

    I also have a 7Mpx bridge (Canon S3, the only one of the lot that sees some use, although with non Canon firmware), a 7Mpx Nikon D70 (but I don't like the Nikon interface) and a 7Mpx waterproof Xacti (a toy, currently only used for video -after I've seen its photos- although I'm still trying to figure out how to process it). I don't see much difference in image quality between 7 and 4Mpx (except wit the Xacti because it has such crappy lenses). But in the end my Pentax is the only camera that sees some real daily use. And that's because it's the most comfortable by far (which is why I bought it in the first place).

  • Sime February 5, 2009 10:33 pm

    I'm glad you checked it out. Have you tried one yourself?

    My opinion wasn't the point, what matters to me, on this post, is your opinion... what is your opinion?

  • Kostas February 5, 2009 10:32 pm

    Hi Fred, 4mp is indeed a bit tight. My first decent camera was a 3mp canon, which was great for sending the newborn's pictures to the family. Now my smallest one is an a95 5mp which I consider the minimum (I don't like cropping - I think you can always tell the difference afterwards but it's probably in my head) but indeed, different people different needs/prints.

  • Kostas February 5, 2009 10:26 pm

    Thanks for your reply.
    "you should see my threesixtyfive " - I did. I liked some of the images and the variance of mood. The difference is that that set at least yells 'narcissistic' so one knows what to expect. The title of this article though should be 'pictures of me in my old cameras' :-/
    Who says you're not allowed to post your opinion in your article??? That's what provokes the discussion; the question is already there in photographers' minds.

  • Fred Albrecht February 5, 2009 09:29 pm

    There used to be an article making the rounds a while ago where people taken off the streets couldn't tell the difference between A3 (or was it A2 ?) prints of X and 2×X megapixel cameras... X was quite low if I remember correctly. This just to point out that with a decent process, the pixel count is more relevant to the marketing people than it is to the photographers (or at least it should be)

    Anyway my first camera was 1.3 Mpx and that was a bit tight (but I had lots of fun with it, mostly getting rid of that nasty chemical crap). 4Mpx was adequate (although still sometimes a bit tight for cropping) and the camera was actually quite good (a Canon G3 which I still use even though it's kind of circling the drain) and the further ones up to my current 10Mpx or so Pentax K10d are fine for my uses, including cropping and large prints (although an advertising 4×3 m might be stretching it a bit but I pretty much only do nature/animal shots so it's not an issue in my line of work).

    As a poster above mentioned, more Mpx mostly (for casual users) means more latitude for cropping (and for some pros can mean larger prints). Some think that the shot should be fully done "in the camera" but every photographer has always cropped in the lab (not to mention changed the exposition and a number of other things). Post processing remains an integral part of photography now as it always was (and of course now we can do it ourselves, yay !).

    So as far as image quality is concerned, I find that 4Mpx is the lower limit with a decent camera.

  • Sime February 5, 2009 09:01 pm

    "I found this article slightly narcissistic" reckon this is narcissistic! you should see my threesixtyfive set :-) go on, dare you

    It doesn't answer the question because if it did - that would be my opinion... I was posing a question to readers - and, if you read the comments above, we're getting some great feedback.

    I will mention what I'd like to mention, and I did. We all know that the best camera for the job is the camera you're holding when you need to take a photo - it wasn't my point to answer the globally asked question of "how many megapixels are enough" it was my intent to stimulate some conversation based on my question... which I've done.

    I apreciate your comment, but please - think about the article and take it for what it is.


  • Kostas February 5, 2009 08:55 pm

    I found this article slightly narcissistic and more importantly, not answering the question it poses.
    Since most of us are technology freaks, the writer should either mention that (as it's commonly believed) it doesn't matter having the most megapixels but to just go out and there and shoot, OR, to present some arguments as to why one just *needs* to have 300mp to produce a good image. I didn't see either.

  • Fred February 5, 2009 06:29 pm

    As megapixels increase, storage capacity requirements increase, as noted. The same principle applies to computer hardware versus software and vice versa. Technological advances entail investment in more and more technology, ad nauseum. That's the Murphy's Law axiom of technology. Whether this is a natural occurrence or a capitalist conspiracy is debatable. At any rate, I'm afraid there is no end to "megapixelmania" in site.

  • Bobby K February 5, 2009 12:17 pm

    I totally agree that more engineering should now be focused on the sensor's Dynamic Range, more than anything else. At the very least, someone should come up with one that can go as high as 6400 ISO and have noise characteristics of ISO 100.

    I normally shoot birds in the wild, and the extremes between light and shadow in some circumstances are just too much for my 40D. Imagine trying to do a bracketed shot of a wild bird for HDR just so I can capture the range - nearly impossible.

    Just my 2 cents on the matter. :-)

  • Pat Snyder February 5, 2009 10:26 am

    Depends on what you are doing. If you had one shot at an Ivory Billed Woodpecker, it sure would be nice to back off the zoom, allowing a better aperture and more depth of field, plus ensuring it would be in frame then crop later. I guess I'm a fan of megapixels for action shots, but if you had more time to compose, dynamic range would be king.

  • Paul February 5, 2009 10:15 am

    I agree that more pixels just for the sake of more resolution is hitting a brick wall, for a variety of reasons. Without any further improvement in the sensors, either their sensitivity or dynamic range, there are other ways to use the extra pixels. Specifically, like what Fuji is doing with their latest offering, the FinePix F200EXR and its "Super CCD EXR image sensor." They are combining pixels to eliminate noise, providing higher ISO ratings and taking multiple simultaneous shots at different exposures to increase dynamic range (ala HDR techniques). I think these are great uses for extra pixels!!

  • Denis Murphy February 5, 2009 09:50 am

    I would invite you to see what this gentleman has to say about the megapixel myth.

  • WBC February 5, 2009 09:48 am

    The amount of megapixels is really the bulk consumer hot-button... meaning it is what the vast number of general population consumers will make purchasing decisions on... probably that and brand loyalty. So as long as brand x keeps up apace with brands y and z, they will maintain a market share.

    A few years ago I took an amazing family shot of my aunts, daughter and grandmother with a 4mp canon point and shoot. I had it professionally printed as an 8x10 and I was amazed at how crisp it came out. So figuring in some cropping and ability to keep that, maybe an 8mp is what the average person would need.

    People more into photography really need that crop-ability that a hi-res affords you. I almost now always shoot slightly more area than I would have with film - and ensure I can crop in some. So the higher the better as far as I am concerned. I shoot with a 12mp and so far I've been lucky.

    Technology being my real profession, I have to put forth that increasing the amount of MP may not be very intensive on the development for these companies... They get a better sensor from the company that makes them, stick em in the new model, bam - lots of marketing potential for little cost. The guys that make the sensor are probably rolling out new ones all the time and dropping old ones (now all this is conjecture on my part). So they may not be sacrificing other development as suggested in the posts above.

    All I know is that even if I could afford that 50 megapixel Hasselblad, I am not sure I need a wall sized print :)

  • Paul Saulnier February 5, 2009 09:14 am

    well ..all i know is that i have 2 canon rebels ...xti ...the 10 meg...i know some people that asked me ...why didnt you get more mega pix when you got the nw camera ..its easy for me ...i like my rebel...easy to use ...good enough for me ...i did start doing photography about 2 years ago ...and have also started making a bit of money at it ...the thing is ..i see people with 15 mp...or even 21 ...and still they cant get a good picture im no pro ...far from it but ..i know a great picture when i see one ...ive seen 3 mp shots that look far better than some from a 10 or 15 mp i believe it has to do with the photographer ...not as much the camera can have the best camera in the world ...but if you suck at photography aint gonna do s.h.^%$^t..thats my opinion ...i could be wrong ...but its what i think

  • Sarah February 5, 2009 09:08 am

    There's something to be said for the increase in quality from one image to the next, above.

  • Mark Wheeler February 4, 2009 03:26 pm

    How many megapixels are enough? Not nearly as many as manufacturers would want us to believe.

    Of a picture of a bride taken with a film camera fitted with a 35mm focal length lens I saw a crop taken from the scanned image. The crop was of a very small part of her bridal veil and even though In the original she was off to one side and visible from head to foot in the crop you could clearly see the individual cells of the lace.

    A megapixel monster allows a photographer to crop his work and still retain an acceptable level of detail, but a good photographer who composes his photographs correctly doesn't need to crop. Most certainly not to capture the detail of bridal lace! A properly composed image taken with a ten megapixel camera is indistinguishable from the same image taken with a twenty-four megapixel camera. Only when cropping is necessary does the higher megapixel camera shine.

  • Bruce Lim February 4, 2009 01:51 pm

    I recently found an old Canon IXUS V digital camera at my work. It has a 2.1 megapixel camera and the compact flash card was 8 megabytes!!!

    That wouldn't hold a single RAW file from my beloved Canon 40D...

    Awesome to see how quickly technology has progressed (my Nokia cellphone has a 2 megapixel camera...), but I think we can all agree that the megapixel race is one that should be laid to rest while additional developments are worked on and passed on to consumers.

    Waiting for the Canon 60D!!!

  • Tim Collier February 4, 2009 08:40 am

    My feelings are much the same as Rosh and Emil - For most folk 6MP is all they will ever need and this race for more and more pixels simply reflects the consumerist society we exist within and in this world pixels are seen as everything. It also has a spill over into more processing power, higher storage capacity and so more consumption. There is a time when the photographic industry, along with society as a whole, will need to embrace the concept of zero growth - If we continue to consume at current rates we all know the consequenses, yet we go blindly on and on. You can find parallels to the pixels in most of the entertainment and leisure consumables we buy.

  • Emil February 4, 2009 06:08 am

    Hello everyone.

    Yeah, I'm kind of sick about this megapixel race also, and I hope the Manufacturers see this!

    For most hobby use 6Mp is enough. I vote for 6MP. I almost never print, and if I do, a 6MP resolution is enough! I will never do huuuge prints.

    I want:
    - higher dynamic range ( Go, go Fuji !! )
    - better noise (they're working on this, but imagine a sensor with today's technology on a 6MP sensor...)

    I know it's good marketing to put a lot of MP in there, but we should be able to choose.
    I would like a D90 with a 6MP sensor.

    Shure there is the D40, but the D90 is better. Better control and everything..
    In order to get a better camera you have to also get more megapixels. So, not only buy camera, but Storage also..

  • new media photographer February 4, 2009 02:00 am

    6MP is enough in my book. that is a 8x10 300dpi. We've made beautiful billboards out to 6mp images. Today it's all about the quality of the pixel.


  • Phil February 3, 2009 10:09 pm

    Thanks a lot! I had the same Mavica, the floppy drive made it soo Polaroid :)

    Now with Megapixels, it depends on the Chip-Size. But cramping a 14.something MP into the Canon G10 was the biggest mistake Canon made.

    That Camera with a decent 6MP Chip and the Digic4 would rock!

  • Pat February 3, 2009 08:36 pm

    A great article and comments that are spot on.

    IIRC from an article on Luminous Landscape I read a few years ago a 6MP is approximately equal to 35mm film - resolution wise. My now humble 1Ds Mk1 is on par with medium format film at just under 12MP, which I have produced prints up to 30x30" that look stunning and can stand up to close-up scrutinising.

    Even at 12MP the lens becomes far more important than pixel count alone. However 21MP on the latest DSLRs cameras will capture even finer detail and stand up to heavy cropping. But only with the best quality lenses fitted!

    To me I think what makes these cameras even more remarkable is their ability to shoot at incredibly high ISOs with remarkably low noise/grain. It can be surprising how an image that looks noisy on screen can stand up well to being printed with very little visible grain.

    Although the dynamic range has not increased the Canon's have a feature to protect the highlights. I don't know how it works but as it works in a limited ISO range I wonder if it takes two exposures or some kind of composite to effectively create a virtually larger dynamic range?

    PatB Photography

  • KG February 3, 2009 02:50 pm

    I think that people forget that another advantage of high megapixels counts is the ability to crop. Of course it is best to crop the image in the camera when shooting, but if you can't a high number of pixels will allow you to crop without a significant increase in noise and still get great prints.

  • Glenn February 3, 2009 02:46 pm

    I work as the Marketing Manager for a manufacturer here in Australia, I've never had an issue shooting any of our advertising images with a 40D, most of the time images that get used are edited and manipulated in CS4 to the max. One of our graphic designers actually bitched at me the other day because the .RAW file I gave him was 'two big' and was a pain to edit and email - but had i given him a shot of the product from my old 2megapicel sony cybershot I'm guessing he wouldn't have been too impressed.

  • Digital Photography Tips February 3, 2009 02:42 pm

    I personally think MP is more about selling cameras and ironically it's the least important factor I take into consideration when making a purchase .. eventually they will just run it into the ground .. but will they keep making new models that offer bigger better file sizes? Of course they will .. and then we will all be complaining that our 64TB media cards don't have enough room on them.

  • Mas Gaptek February 3, 2009 12:22 pm

    I remember my first camera : Kodak DC3200, the press release said : "it's a megapixels camera", in fact it has 1.0 MP resolution which actually half the resolution of today cellphone camera's.

    I was so glad that time. Now I'm still glad with my 6 MP D40.

  • Fird February 3, 2009 11:41 am

    To me, the megapixels depends on what you want to use it for. Most people want a snapshot of their family, vacation, etc which hardly exceeds the 8R print size.

    For those who shoots for advertising, and professional cause will require a higher megapixels


  • Fletch February 3, 2009 10:48 am

    Sime - The evolution of the camera from that Sony to todays DSLRs is fantastic.

    Unfortunately the same can't be said of email software. I notice that you are using Lotus Notes in the Sony shot. In the time it has taken cameras to move from saving to floppy to images that wouldn't fit on 10 floppys Lotus Notes has gone from crap program to even crapper program. Man I hate Lotus Notes

  • twig February 3, 2009 10:20 am

    I agree that film isn't dead and I don;t believe it ever will be. Now a camera like the 5D MKII would make a nice little toy,but my canon 40D is a long way from retirement, and it has all the MP I need,especially for the price difference. The bottom line is,it's not the MP,camera or the film that make a great shot, it's the person behind the viewfinder.

  • tyler February 3, 2009 08:27 am

    I drool over the 5d mkII, hell, I would take an old 5d. I have a couple of 20d bodies and a set of lenses I use for freelance stuff like weddings and documentation. 8 megapixels is fine for many many things. Not many things get enlarged over 11x17. When things need to be big, I work with film. Mostly because A: I don't have three grand to upgrade my camera body, and B: View cameras are fun to use. With an 80 dollar camera, an old kodak ektar lens and 50 bucks worth of film and processing, I can come up with 10 120 megapixel images from 4x5 film. I know this site is about digital, but film ain't dead.

  • Sime February 3, 2009 05:03 am

    Mark, Time? What's that... heh

    I sold my A5 to buy my IXUS300 (I bought it from DigitalRev in the early days I think, from memory) I work in television and have been trying to convince one of the producers that they should step up and be the first to use a 5D MkII to actually film a part of their show and broadcast it... *watch this space*


  • Mark Kenny February 3, 2009 04:58 am

    My route through digital was similar, Sony Mavica shooting to a floppy, PowerShot A50, PowerShot S30, EOS300D, PowerShot S80 with waterproof case and now the 450D. I've taken some great pictures on them all, but my eye is on the 5D MkII right now. Full frame sensor = less noise. But my my business perspective, I think HD cameras that do stills might seriously change our business. (I'm in advertising). When you have a shoot and you only have 3 hours with a celebrity, trying to get every image needed is a nightmare. If I could take 25fps full dynamic range, my chances of getting the image I need is much higher.

    Perhaps it's nostaglia, but I remember my A5 having an almost noiseless image. We also had time then. Aaah, the good old days ;-)

  • donna February 3, 2009 04:48 am

    I don't know, but feel free to send me your old cameras!

    I would be more than happy with a good used digital, and don't need the latest and greatest.

  • Paul February 3, 2009 04:14 am

    My 5D will do me now, for higher quality I can still rely on my Mamiya RB and my 5x4.

    The Hasselblad is too expensive for me, I will never outspend the high end scans from film.

  • Ramón February 3, 2009 04:09 am

    I agree with the previous comments; it's time for manufacturers to look at improving other aspects of their product.
    That said, I'm currently losing sleep about the prospect of taking the plunge and buying a Canon 1Ds Mark III. I've taken some great shots with my 5D, but maybe I really AM a mega-pixel whore!
    I recently visited a high-end furniture store, here in San Francisco, and I was shocked to see a five thousand dollar price-tag on a poster-size macro shot of a jumble of weeds! I could even notice that the flash had been shoe mounted; nothing exotic about it other than the dimensions.

  • Ian Pack February 3, 2009 04:08 am

    An interesting debate. I've been shooting digital since the days of the Canon D30 with its' 3 point whatever megapixels. Very early on I shot direct comparison tests digital vs film and digital will win hands down everytime because of the inherent ability to record more information. Film grain when scanned generates noise (useless data) from the space between the grains, whereas digital will give more picture information as there are no gaps between the pixels. Scanning film you will reach a point where the image quality doesn't improve, just the file sizes getting bigger.

    With a good RIP I've done superb quality 1500mm (and bigger) enlargements from a Canon EOS 1ds Mk I.

  • Shane Hudson February 3, 2009 03:49 am

    This is very interesting indeed. My current camera is the Canon 20D which I find amazing. But I just got back from shooting landscapes with my uncle who has a Canon 5D Mark 2.. I just love the size of the screen! It just show that if you want to stay up to date in the industry, you need thousands to spend often. As a 15 year old kid, I do not have thousands to spend!!

  • David February 3, 2009 03:47 am

    I've read that at about 35MP you get to 35mm film quality images in terms of detail. Fine, I've got the 5Dmk2 and I'm not able to tell the difference between it and any film I can scan.

    I agree with Chris - more dynamic range - Film still outstrips digital, and the human eye is better yet! When the number of pixels doesn't matter, and I think we are reaching that stage, it is only the dynamic range and ISO quality that matters.

    For me, the 5D2 is as good as I can tell for any image I'll take for a long time. And getting older means that my eyesight will fail long before I need to upgrade again. :-)

  • George Atiyeh February 3, 2009 03:33 am

    Chris, I couldn't agree with you more. I actually had a 1Ds II and gave that up simply because the RAW files were so big, that any PP done on them as jpgs were just overkill.

  • Jeremy Davis February 3, 2009 03:29 am

    The Megapixel Madness reminds me something similar that happened in computers with the CPU speed. Like megapixels, the CPU speed was what was marketed to consumers as the only number that mattered when determining the worth of the device.

    Fortunately that seems to have subsided a bit with multi-core processors being developed and a general understanding that a 2.2ghz multi-core processor is better than a 3.0ghz single-core one.

    Hopefully the camera industry with do something similar with consumers realizing the value of other features such as high ISO with low noise over cramming in more megapixels.

    I guess it really is up to whether the makers will change their marketing or if the consumers become more educated.

  • Amandalynn February 3, 2009 03:19 am

    Chris beat me to my comment!

    I was going to say that it seems to me like maybe camera manufacturers should start working on the other aspects of the cameras such as lenses and sensors, so that they're on the same level(or closer to) as the MP count before it goes any higher, otherwise, what exactly is the point? (Apart from the sales pitch)

  • Tanya Plonka February 3, 2009 03:04 am

    There is nothing wrong with being able to put family snapshots on billboards ;)

    I remember using a camera with a floppy disc. It could fit 14 images on it. I'm very glad I can take more than that at a time now!

  • Chris Brightwell February 3, 2009 02:58 am

    Personally, I'd like to see development made in the dynamic range of the current sensors rather than pushing the pixel-density boundaries.

    For all practical purposes, we've achieved resolution on our sensors that outclasses most of the lenses on the market. Adding more pixels seems to be overkill, but also increases ambient noise problems. Let's focus our engineering on wider dynamic ranges!