What Is a Megapixel in a Digital Camera?

Piper O'Shanassy11 Mar 2022

A megapixel is one million pixels, and it is widely used to describe the resolution capabilities of digital cameras. A pixel is a small square on a digital display that looks like a dot. The display screen is made up of a continuous matrix of these dots which could be seen using a magnifying glass. The higher the number of pixels or dots that comprise the display screen, the higher the resolution or visual clarity. Additional dots or pixels offer further image refining, resulting in better, more accurate image replication.

People usually judge the quality of a camera by its megapixel count, believing that a camera with more megapixels is inevitably better than one with less. This isn't always the case and you might not need as many megapixels as you thought you do.

Megapixels and Pixel Size

One megapixel equals one million pixels. Megapixels are a unit of measurement that has nothing to do with quality. Essentially, based on how you intend to use or share your photographs, you'll need a particular amount of megapixels. The quality of your camera is determined by numerous elements, including camera sensor design, optics, engineering, firmware, and pixels. The camera sensor at the center of your camera is comprised of an array of pixels. The pixels basically work like a container that catches the light.

The image sensor can be of various sizes, and the bigger the image sensor, the bigger the pixels. Larger image sensors may catch more light as well. Hence more light they catch, the cleaner and crisper the shot will be, with less noise.

The diameter of the lens might give you an estimate of the size of the camera's sensor. A smartphone's eight-megapixel camera, for example, crams eight million pixels onto a small sensor roughly the size of a small aspirin. A bigger sensor camera with the same number of pixels, on the other hand, means that each pixel is physically bigger. This lets pixels capture and keeps more light without it blurring into neighboring pixels and causing noise. 

Several phone cameras are growing their megapixel count these days. Some phones, for instance, now include a 100+ MP camera, which has a greater resolution compared to most full-sized cameras.  However, because those 108 MP must fit in a sensor size considerably smaller than that of a full-size camera, the size of each pixel is greatly reduced.

Sensors on mirrorless cameras, sophisticated compacts, and professional or semiprofessional DSLRs are substantially bigger than those in phones. The most often used sensor sizes are APS-C which is about 22mm x 15mm and full-frame which is about 36mm x 24mm. It's reasonable to claim that if all are the same except for the sensor size, then an 8-megapixel DSLR will provide a better image than an 8-megapixel compact camera. Similarly, the small camera will provide higher-quality photographs than the camera of a smartphone.

Megapixels and Maximum Print Size

A million pixels equals a megapixel. If you need a specific level of detail (PPI), there's a maximum print size that you can obtain for a specific number of megapixels.

A 2MP camera can't create a conventional 4x6 inch print at 300 PPI, but a 16x10 inch shot demands a massive 16MP. It might be disheartening, but don't give up.  Many people would be satisfied with the clarity supplied by 200 PPI, however, if the view distance is long, a lower PPI might do. Most wall posters, for instance, are usually printed at less than 200 PPI because it is anticipated that you will not scrutinize them from 6 inches away.

The print size estimates assume that the camera's aspect ratio, or length to width ratio, is the usual 3:2 used for 35mm cameras. In reality, most small cameras, monitors, and television displays have a 4:3 aspect ratio, but most digital SLR cameras have a 3:2 aspect ratio. However, there are several different types. Some high-end film equipment even uses a 1:1 square picture, while DVD movies use an extended 16:9 ratio.

This implies that if your camera has a 4:3 aspect ratio and you require a 4 x 6-inch print, part of your megapixels would be squandered. This needs to be taken into account if your camera has a different aspect ratio than the required print proportions.  Pixels can have their very own aspect ratio as well, although that is less prevalent. Specific video standards, as well as older Nikon cameras, feature pixels with distorted proportions. 

What Is Good Megapixel for Digital Camera?

For most professional photographers, the megapixel argument is mostly a promotional battle amongst manufacturers. Throughout most circumstances, a camera having 10-20 megapixels will be more than enough to satisfy your demands. You'd be significantly better if you saved money on your camera and invested in better lenses. High-megapixel cameras can be extremely valuable to many, though not all, professional photographers. Those that want to trim their pictures considerably will find the number of megapixels to be a handy tool. Technically, it becomes that after a given amount of megapixels. A tool that is pointless to some but necessary to others.

What Is the Maximum Megapixel in a Digital Camera?

The highest megapixels in a digital camera is 50.6MP. Canon's EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras provide the greatest resolution image with a full-frame 50.6 Megapixel CMOS sensor. It shoots 8712 × 5813 efficient pixels, resulting in photos with a broad dynamic range and an astounding degree of realism ideal for large-scale printing, fine art, major cropping, and a variety of other high-end applications.

The image sensor of a digital camera captures the image. This microchip monitors the quantity of light that passes through the lens and hits the chip. The image sensors comprise small receptors known as pixels. Each of these sensors can calculate the light that hits the chip and report its intensity. Millions of these receptors are found in an image sensor, and the number of pixels defines the number of megapixels that the camera could record.

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper grew up with a love of animals, which quickly turned into a love of photographing them. She shares her tips and tricks on photography, and hopes she can help you shortcut your expansion of a passion.

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