At the heart of every digital camera is an image sensor. We can think of the sensor as film that we can use over and over again.
This sensor is made up of millions of light-sensitive points called pixels. The pixels are arranged across the sensor in a grid. To calculate the number of megapixels we need to multiply the number of pixels across the length and the width of the sensor. This number represents the total resolution of the sensor and is measured in millions of pixels, or megapixels.
Like everything in photography, the number of megapixels needed is dependant on what you plan to do with your images. As a general rule for most enthusiast photographers, 24 megapixels is more than enough for high quality printing and display on digital devices.
If you want to see a noticeable increase in the detail of an image, the resolution of your sensor needs to increase by 2–4 times. As megapixels are a measurement of area, a quadrupling of resolution is in fact only a doubling of the number of pixels. If you are currently shooting on a 24 megapixel camera with class-leading lenses, this means you would need to move up to a 50 or 100 megapixel system in order to achieve an noticeable improvement of image quality.
While increasing the sensor resolution seems simple in principle, the problem is that in order to make the most of a camera with this level of resolution, not only do the quality of the lenses need to be near perfect but how you shoot with the camera becomes an important factor in obtaining peak performance.
Let’s consider a modest resolution increase from 24 to 36 megapixels — would that be worthwhile? This would only yield a 12.3% increase in the actual resolution. For the average photographer, this increase in resolution would be difficult to notice.
24 megapixels is the sweet spot for value and can produce a beautiful fine art print at 20 x 30 inches or a huge canvas print 60 inches wide.
For use online, a file over 3 megapixels is rarely required.
So now the fun part — if 24 megapixels is enough, what other great features you would love in your next camera? With the widest range of photographic hardware and accessories in the country, we are always happy to help find the right camera for you.
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