Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The MegaPixel Myth
Despite the interesting drama it creates, this over marketing about resolution smells worse than my son's overly filled diaper. A visitor to my blog asked me what is the advantage to having a camera with large pixel resolution. I began thinking about it, and decided that there are some advantages, but not as many as they'd like for you to think.
The advertising wants us to believe that more resolution is better than a camera with slightly less. The first analogy that came to mind is with cars and horsepower. Guys with cool cars always want more horsepower. The new 2013 Corvette ZR1 advertises 638 horsepower that will take you whizzing along the highway at over 200 mph. Not many people have a need to go 200 mph. The guys who buy this car will probably not drive 200 mph very often... but it's just cool knowing that is what you have.
When it comes to cameras, the pixel resolution is important when we want to print an image, and we want it to look realistic. The image is made up of little dots... millions of them. Just like your television screen, the more resolution, the smoother the picture, and higher quality. The bigger the finished picture is going to be, the higher resolution you'll need.
So how many pixels do you need to make really good looking prints? I recently made a print at 12" x 18" and it looked beautiful. You'd need a magnifying glass to determine if it was from film or digital. I didn't use my good Nikon cameras... I used my Android smartphone with a 3megapixel camera. David Pogue, a writer with the NY Times made prints with low resolution cameras and put them side by side with high resolution cameras and challenged people in Times Square to try to tell a difference. They couldn't do it.
So you don't need high resolution 15 megapixel cameras to make beautiful poster size prints. So what's the advantage? Cropping. If you want to crop a small portion of an image, you can do it without worrying about the resulting print being pixelated (where you can see the dots).
For example, here's a behind-the-scenes picture from a photo shoot I had. We were setting up lights, and I took the picture when the model made an interesting pose.
The moral of the story is that the higher resolution is just a marketing ploy to make you think that you need it to make better pictures, and so that Nikon and Canon can get more money from you. If you already have a camera with 10 megapixels or more, you've got plenty of horsepower. Just keep shooting.