Don’t Fear the Megapixels

The other day my buddy Scott Kelby posted a little infographic about the size of his D800 images in relation to other cameras that he uses/has used. He originally posted it on Google Plus and then again on his blog yesterday. I was looking at some of the comments on Google Plus and I found it interesting that there were some who were really put off by the idea of a large megapixel camera. Actually, it isn’t really the pixels but everything that comes with a large megapixel image, e.g. storage, computer ram and speed, and transfer times.

Courtesy of Scott Kelby

The funny thing is that this isn’t a new issue. When I started shooting with a Kodak DCS100 back in the early 90’s, I had to transfer the 1.4MP images to an external storage unit that connected via SCSI to the camera. Images could then be imported into Photoshop 3 via a TWAIN interface. From there I moved up to the Kodak DCS-200 and then 420, which used PCMCIA Storage drives, which originally cost about $500 for a 170MB drive. Of course I had my trusty $2200 Apple PowerBook 190 with its massive 500MB hard drive and 14MB of RAM. Perfect for moving those 5.8 MB TIFF files.

Unbelievably, that was 17 years ago and over time, the cameras that I have used have not so surprisingly gone up in pixel size. Each time this happens, I have to buy new media and computers to handle the ever increasing megapixels. This is just the reality that we have to deal with, especially since the new trend is more megapixels. Just take the Nikon D3200 for example. This digital SLR is at the bottom of the Nikon lineup and yet it comes packed with a 24.2 MP sensor. That’s a lot of pixels for an entry point camera. And if that’s not enough, Canon is rumored to be close to releasing its megapixel monster, the 46MP 3D (see CanonRumors for more info). So you can see that more megapixels is just the reality that we will be facing in the foreseeable future.

This means that you will, at some time, need to prepare for this eventuality. That’s what I did when I bought my D800. Shortly after I purchased the camera, I upgraded my computer to a new MacBookPro Retina with an SSD drive, i7 processor, and 16MB of RAM. I also purchased a Lexar USB3 SD/CF card reader to quickly move all those big images from card to computer. I also purchased several external USB3 drives for storing my images and back-ups. I know this seems like a lot of prep but in doing so, I can now work with my files without even giving it a second thought. In fact, I am so well equipped that I don’t even notice that I am working with such large files (63.7MB when opened in Photoshop).

The bottom line is that cameras will be packing more pixels in the future and you will need to upgrade your hardware in order to keep pace. That is if keeping pace is what you want. I’m pretty sure you can get a good deal on a Kodak DCS-420 and a PowerBook on ebay.


  1. As file gets larger, the photos gets more cleaner and more sharper. We just have to really adjust our equipments to get that quality photos. By the way what do you suggest when it comes to file storage?

  2. Well it sees like all the industries are connected into something like global economical system in order to stimulate the never ending growth. On the other hand is not bad to update from time to time the only problem is that now days technology develops so fast that most people can not catch up. When I bought my Canon 5D mk II I haven’t think of all this potential issues, but now I’m facing them. My PC, although not bad as configurations, struggles when I’m processing/editing a stitched panorama from several photographs.

  3. globtrotr says:

    The D800 may officially be a 36 megapixel camera, but the raw files coming off my D800 are in the 42 – 47 megabyte range. I had solved the problem of always having full hard drives, until I bought a D800!


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