Debunking the megapixel myth

6 05 2011

It’s something that camera buyers see all the time and it’s something where it’s higher the better. It’s megapixels. Those little numbers that are next to every digital camera out there. For many people it’s believed that the more megapixels the better the camera.

The better the image quality and the larger you can print photos. It’s also something that amateur photographers tend to take into consideration more than other camera aspects. Does a 6 megapixel camera produce an image that is inferior to a 12 megapixel camera? Is it really worth it to buy the bigger expensive camera based on the megapixel count and what do they even do?

As I discussed earlier, digital cameras have sensors instead of film. Sensors come in either Charged Coupled Device (CCD) or Complimentary Metal Oxide (CMOS). Irregardless of the kind, they both have pixels on the surface that take the image and convert it into a digital format. The term “megapixels” refers to how many pixels the sensor has and they are measured in millions. So a 12 megapixel camera has 12,000,000 pixels on it’s sensor.

“The first DSLR to hit the marked was the Nikon D1 and it had 2.1 megapixels and it shot eight frames per second,” said Jeff Beach, lead sales associate at Kohne Photo in Perrysburg and professional photographer. Although the resolution capabilites are atrocious by today’s standards, the main appeal was the eight frames per second that the D1 had making it an ideal choice for photojournalists working for newspapers, according to Beach.

“Customers shouldn’t be concerned with the number of megapixels,” said Beach.

“For me, I would choose a camera with higher megapixels. Because as an artist you want those big files,” said Dan Moosman, an art education major. The allure of higher megapixels would allow Moosman to capture more detail in his images. Details such as, tone, gradiation, and all the minor details. Using a camera with lower megapixels would be counterproductive for Moosman too because he would not be able to get all the details and tones.

“I would keep a camera with lower megapixels as a travel camera, because if I lost it or it broke I wouldn’t be too upset about it,” said Moosman.

However, it’s not the megapixel count that consumers are looking for now in their cameras. According to Beach, customers are now looking for cameras with better low light capabilities and having a camera with high megapixels can lower the low light capabilities and make images more grainy when shot at high ISO.

“The number of megapixels a camera has is not a determining factor for me,” said Kyle Lenderman, a physical therapy major. Instead Lenderman shops for cameras based on price, features and what people are saying about them. Lenderman shops for cameras by looking up reviews on photography websites, and by looking at sample images on the web.

“I feel that cameras have reached the optimal amount (of megapixels) that it doesn’t matter,” said Lenderman.

“In the end, the lens quality and the exposure are going to affect the image quality,” said Beach “If you have a poorly exposed image, or one that has flaws when you blow it up those flaws are going to magnified.”