How Many Pixels?

I was reading an interesting article yesterday in the latest version of Digital Photo Pro magazine called Will the Megapixel Wars End? It’s a great read and discusses the way that the megapixel count has been used since the onset of digital cameras as the measuring stick for how good a camera is.  This was especially true when there was a lot of comparisons being done between film and digital cameras.  That era has now passed, with the digital camera market now outselling the film camera market by leaps and bounds.  But are the number of megapixels still as critical today as it was when we were dealing with 2 and 3 MP cameras?  Nowadays I shoot with 10 and 12 MP cameras and my emphasis is not necessarily on the pixels but on how well they gather light and reduce noise, which is one of the points of the article.

I think back now to a trip I made to Cambodia a few years back and my camera of choice was a Nikon D70s with a whopping 6.1 megapixels, which seems quite paltry by today’s standards.  The funny thing is that I have 13×19 prints hanging on my walls that look every bit as good as similar sized prints that come from cameras with twice the resolution.  So the question arises, How many megapixels do you need?  There is no wrong answer and I think it has to do with what you want to do with those pixels down the road.  So today’s poll asks that very question.  I look forward to seeing your answers.


  1. I feel the same way about megapixels that I do about processors in computers. At some point I stopped caring about the GHz and started caring more about what I could do with them.

  2. Kay Gaensler says:

    The bare Megapixel alone is not an important value. You have to add the Sensor size to make a statement. On a full frame Sensor 13-16 MP are enough and on a standard point and shoot 8-10 MP in my opinion. If you add more pixel they have to shrink their size and that leads to misinterpretation and cause noise.

  3. mike meyer says:

    When they reach 100 megapixels and 128 bit images I’ll be happy. That should be equivalent to a 8×10 piece of Kodachrome 25. Actually I guess it depends on what you do with your images. Unless you are printing full frame 40x60s or crop heavily, 12 megapixels is fine for printing. I do like the low noise, low light capability so a camera like the D3 is really nice. It will be that way soon.

    mike meyer

  4. I’m currently pretty happy with the 12MP I get from my Nikon D90. That said, the 12MP images I get from my Canon G9 are definitely noisy and generally inferior (as you would expect given the sensor size) and I’m glad to see Canon has pulled back to 10MP for the G11. The issue for me is not so much the number of pixels but the amount of noise in the image. I would rather have a really clean 6MP image than a 12MP image that I have to filter the heck out of to reduce noise.

  5. My only reason for wanting more MP than 10 is that I often crop.

  6. David Price says:

    I’ll be happy when my digital camera can give me the same macro-area detail (pixels and noise levels) that I get from my 4 x 5 film. Today’s models are not there yet…

  7. An interesting survey might be to ask the question above AND how many we currently have, link the answers so you can plot “have” vs “need”. Ideally it should plot as a straight line at 45 degrees (same units on both axes) with a scattering of data below that line.

  8. 12 MP’s have been more than enough for me. What i’m looking for is better noise performance. I’m still using a 5D and when the Mark 2 came out, I didn’t even care what the resolution was as long as it did well with low light. Even with the 20D (8mp) I managed to print really good 20×30 using AlienSkin BlowUp ‘cos i had to crop a lot for that size.

    I’m thinking unless I start shooting for billboards, i don’t really need more than 12mp. 21mp is just way overkill for what i do with my photos and just takes up too much hard drive space.


  1. Jeff Revell says:

    Do you covet megapixels? Check out today's poll and let me know what your magic number is.

  2. […] 1 votes vote How Many Pixels? I was reading an interesting article yesterday in the latest version of Digital Photo […]

  3. Alltop says:

    How Many Pixels? Photography.alltop

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