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How Many Megapixels Do You Need in a Digital Camer

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January 3, 2005 3:15:44 PM

One of the most important decisions to make in buying a digital camera is the number of megapixels supported. The number of megapixels determines the quality of your photos. Choose too few for your needs, and your images will suffer. Choose too many, and you might be spending more cash than necessary.

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.

Always try to remember this golden rule: more megapixels isn't always better. If your camera supports more megapixels, then each image will be larger, which in turn means more expensive memory cards and more space used up on your 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:

<b>1 megapixel or less:</b> At this resolution, you won't be able to make a high-quality print of your digital photos. You can, however, email the photos or post them on a personal web site. This number of megapixels is typically found on smaller, inexpensive cameras or cameras in combination with other devices (such as cell phones or PDAs ). I'd say you'd expect to pay $100 or less for the camera alone.

<b>1.1 to 2 megapixels:</b> I'd reckon you need at least a 2 megapixel camera to develop a 4x6 print of decent quality. However, I wouldn't recommend this number of megapixels if you want to take proper family portraits or if you really need a nice-looking print. Expect to pay about $100-150 for cameras in this range.

<b>2.1 to 3 megapixels:</b> Pretty good compromise between picture quality and low price for most casual photographers. With this number of megapixels, you can print lovely 4x6 images, decent 5x7s and, depending on the camera, might even get a good 6x9 print. You will pay around $150 to $250.

<b>3.1 to 4 megapixels:</b> At this resolution, digital images will make practically photo-lab quality 4x6s, and great 5x7s and 6x9s. You can even print 8x10 in some instances. Price range would hover between $250 to $350 for such cameras.

<b>4.1 to 5 megapixels:</b> If you want to capture images for 8x10 printouts, then you need this number of megapixels. Most professional photographers have at least 5 megapixel cameras, usually more. The quality is evident in the photos developed. Cameras in this megapixel range are around $350 to $450.

<b>5 megapixels and up:</b> These days, you can get 7 or even 8 megapixel cameras from the retail store. While they give wonderful image quality, their price tags will set your head spinning. In this megapixel category, expect to pay $450 and above for a camera.

<b>Conclusion</b>
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.


Gary Hendricks
<A HREF="http://www.basic-digital-photography.com" target="_new">www.basic-digital-photography.com&lt;/A>
January 4, 2005 10:43:51 PM

Do you think that digital will make film obsolete?

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January 5, 2005 3:34:33 AM

Considering that a 35mm frame is roughly equal to 6 megapixels and that a 35mm yields resolution greater than most casual snapshooters will ever need......yes. 3 and 4 megapixel cameras now cost only a bit more than a quality film camera, and that's all most people need.
-Brettster
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January 5, 2005 5:17:21 AM

You might want to make this thing a sticky. This is the sort of info that most people are probably going to look at first when considering a camera.

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April 24, 2005 8:43:46 PM

Film will not go away for a long time to come, maybe when my kids are older than I am. Film is not just a quality measure, it is also a classic way of living. It was about 10 year ago when first DVD came out, are there any houses that don't have a VCR today becouse of DVD quality being better? Yes there are, but how many? Can you imagine my wedding to be "filmed" on digy cam and at the end of the day someone spills something on it? With film camera I mould still have everything up to the last film. Well, there are whole bunch of arguments to make, but one thing for sure, both technologies are great and can live together to serve their purposes.

..this is very useful and helpful place for information...
April 24, 2005 8:50:19 PM

High end pro's have already switched to digital. Todays pro level digital camera's exceed the quality of film cameras.
8 megapixel camera can produces better quality than film, but is much more expensive.

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May 1, 2005 6:30:00 PM

I just bought a Canon Powershot S70. It is a little 7.1 megapixel point and shoot (with some manual controls) and it takes ridiculously high quality pictures. WAY higher quality than 35mm film. It has pro level quality with a fairly decent price :) 

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