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02-16-2013, 01:17 PM   #1
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The Megapixel Dilemma

Will someone PLEASE give me the straight skinny on the megapixel dilemma? First I used a HP 2.1 megapix camera that came free with a computer. While slow, it took good pictures and even at 8x10 they looked okay to me. Then came the myriad of P&S cameras with growing megapixel sensors and thinking they make better/sharper pics I bought them one after another, about six months apart. I have a pro photographer friend who uses a 22 megapixel machine that is the size (and weight) of a cinderblock. He's says it's worth it. Really?

My K100D has a 6 Megapix sensor, my K-01 a 16 and my Canon T1i a 12. I have a handfull of little P&S's that range from 4.2 to 16.

They all seem to take pretty good pictures, if that is, I point one at something interesting.

Does the megapixel sensor rating make that much diff to a guy who takes pics for his own pleasure and occasioinally blows one up to 8x10...or a bit larger?

Are the camera manufacturers just pulling our chains?


Last edited by stepmac; 02-16-2013 at 01:44 PM.
02-16-2013, 01:36 PM   #2
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The only thing that matters is the end result.
02-16-2013, 01:39 PM   #3
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What if you want a 16x20 print at 300 dpi? There, among other things, is your difference. And like many things, a little bit better cost a lot more. But the bottom line is if your happy with your results then don't worry about it. You will know when you need more mega pixels.
02-16-2013, 01:43 PM   #4
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If you never go beyond 8x10 or the computer monitor, you don't need anything over 10MP, and 6MP is probably fine. For big prints, more MP is better, yes. BUT, not all 10MPs are equal -- bigger sensor is better too, in general.

02-16-2013, 01:58 PM   #5
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A higher megapixel count adds cropability but in return you need to spend more $ on higher quality glass. Average lenses will be more revealing mounted on a high-MP body as opposed to a 6MP K100D. My 18-55 (1st version) kit lens seemed awesome on my K100D Super. Then when I switched to the 14MP K20D, issues in sharpness became pretty obvious.

Megapixels aren't really how you measure the quality of a camera anyways. Sensor characteristics, sensitivity, and the LENS are much more important.
02-16-2013, 02:04 PM   #6
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MP probably won't matter to you. You can practically make posters with your 16MP DSLR and they will look fine.
The more important aspects are the lens you are using and the raw processing you do.
02-16-2013, 02:20 PM   #7
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The dimensions of the sensor will impact your IQ as much or more than the number of pixels. Because a small sensor uses a shorter focal length lens for any given angle of view, they will give much more depth of field than a full-frame sensor, so more of your image will be in focus in the image taken with a smaller sensor. As long as you don't blow them up too big, or use a high ISO, a small sensor image will give the impression of greater depth sharpness. You've already proved it to yourself with your various cameras. Now if you want shallow depth of field, you must get a larger sensor camera with a fast lens.

Last edited by Professor Batty; 02-16-2013 at 06:33 PM. Reason: typo
02-16-2013, 02:46 PM   #8
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I upgraded from an 8mp Canon P&S to a 6 MP *istD for better lenses.
I upgraded from that to a 14 MP K20D for Shake Reduction.
I upgraded from that to a 16 MP K-5 for better low light performance.

Most of my output is seen only on computer monitors and even then most is 640 pixels wide or less. MPs only matter to me when cropping.

02-16-2013, 02:59 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stepmac Quote
Does the megapixel sensor rating make that much diff to a guy who takes pics for his own pleasure and occasionally blows one up to 8x10...or a bit larger?
In short, no.

The actual number of megapixels has little to do with the quality of the image. The quality of the sensor, the algorithms used to make the image from the RAW pixels, the quality of the glass in front, and the size of the final print are important but the number of megapixels is not. Provided you do not want to print beyond the needs of the media. For example 300 dpi is a good number for prints, some say 240 dpi is just as good. But at 300 dpi, a 6mp sensor will generate (3008 x 2008 pixels) 10" x 6.69" so no problem at all making 8 x 10's. Stretched up larger and you have to reduce the dpi in order to print, but larger prints are usually viewed at a longer distance which works in your favor so even 6mp can be blown up quite large although a close look will show pixelation.

The one down side is that you have very little room to crop the image and still keep enough pixels to print 8x10's. The other down side is that P&S cameras have crammed so many pixels onto such a small sensor that the image quality is starting to suffer. 16mp on a P&S sensor is not the same as 16mp on APS-C or a FF sensor. As noted above for most uses 10mp is really all you need. Even most stock sites will accept 6mp images and some still accept 4mp images.

Here is an article by Ken Rockwell: The Megapixel Myth Some like Ken some don't but this article has a lot of numbers and facts so decide for yourself.
02-16-2013, 03:16 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by stepmac Quote


Does the megapixel sensor rating make that much diff to a guy who takes pics for his own pleasure and occasionally blows one up to 8x10...or a bit larger?

Are the camera manufacturers just pulling our chains?

IMO, No and yes! But be sure to read the last paragraph.

The average non-pro user is probably printing though Snapfish or the like. They just aren't very many custom labs in most towns. They let you upload any size file you want and then they compress it before it even goes to the automated printing process. While they won't give you any definite information so that you can make an educated choice, I can tell you that if you are uploading more than 300 DPI print size you are just wasting your bandwidth.

I testing this by scanning the same 4 x 6 print at 75dpi, 150dpi and 300dpi and then paying to have them printed. I was warned at upload that the 75dpi file would not result in an acceptable picture and it did not. When I place the 150dpi and the 300dpi side by side I can see no appreciable difference.

This new Epson scanner I purchased says high quality for a reflective scans (photos) is 225dpi. Lets just stay with 300dpi for now.
300 dpi @ 8x10 = 2400 x 3000
300 dpi @ 10 x 12 = 3000 x 3600
300 dpi @ 12 x 14 = 3600 x 4200

My wife just printed a 5x7 crop that was 2592 x 1456 taken with a 5 mp Canon (2592 x 1944) that is entirely acceptable.

One thing more pixels will let you do is crop more more and still have an image you are pleased to print. You might only want the pixels displayed in 1/3 of the initial image for you print and if you have the file size to start with you can crop and still be very pleased with the results. A camera with at least 10mp will allow you to do something approaching a 100% crop with a sharp image and still be pleased with the results when printed.
02-17-2013, 06:15 AM   #11
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If an 8x10 photo held at arm's length looks good, it will look good at any size, provided it is viewed from an appropriate distance. To get an 8x10 that looks good at arm's length you need about 3 mp.

There is no need to print at 300 DPI. I have prints as large as 20x30 from a 5 mp camera, and they look great.

Where mp come in handy is cropping. Sometimes, when looking at an image shot in landscape orientation, I realize it would look better in portrait orientation. With my K-7, I can crop the image to a portrait orientation and still have an image of 6 mp or more, which is generally more than enough for any use I might have for the image.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
02-17-2013, 11:02 AM   #12
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I have currently an exhibition with sportsimages, so for that I made some 150 prints. Sizing from A4 to A3+ (13x19) and that is all possible with images from K-5 and K-01.

I had one image printed at a size A3 (16,5x11,7 inch). The image made with K-5 and DA*300mm (f4.5 1/500th iso5000) from a scenery in a distance. So made a crop that original only is 1745x2467 pixels, so only 4,3 megapixel. Only because the scenery was that important to mee to get it in the exhibition and that made one fine image.

I made the print at home with HP Photoprinter B9180 and the software makes calculations about where what inkt to print.Printed at maximum DPI can make fine images starting from a small image.
02-17-2013, 01:10 PM   #13
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It's really nice to have those extra dots for cropping.

Conversely, I never hesitated to print at 16 x 20" with my 10MP K10D.

But with the 12MP Q, it would really have to be a clean image to print very large.

The quality of the pixels matters more than the quantity.
02-17-2013, 03:37 PM   #14
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As some people have noted its not about the full size image, its about the crops. If you get everything framed correctly and perfectly level every time you are a better photographer than I am (and probably using a zoom lens all the time).

A good deal on a used K20D ($300's body only) would be a worthwhile upgrade for you and allow more photo options (as well as a few other really nice features). More than doubling the MP will make a noticeable difference in any crops.

There are a ton of other advancements and features that you would want more than a MP difference in a newer body. The K100D while a nice camera was in the lower cost line when it came out so it wasn't even fully equipped for its time.
02-17-2013, 04:28 PM   #15
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But keep in mind that if you are shooting jpeg you probably won't do much rotating and cropping anyway, as it will lower overall image quality each time you save.
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