How Many Megapixels Should I Get?
The answer depends on what you’re going to do with your pictures. Let me explain what I mean by that.
The first thing to understand is that a megapixel simply refers to a million pixels.
That naturally leads to the question — “What is a pixel?”
Pixels are very small dots of color that make up the images in your digital photographs. They’re the most basic (and smallest) elements of digital pictures.
“Pixel” stands for “picture element.” Using the
abbreviation Pix for picture and El for element, the two are put together like this:
Pix + Element = Pixel.
It takes a lot of pixels to make a picture. Remember, it takes a million pixels to make one megapixel.
Pixels also make up what is called the resolution. The more pixels in the image, the higher the resolution.
That simply means more information can be captured in a larger data file. It’s kind of like a big, fat file folder stuffed full of papers and documents vs. a skinny little file with only a few papers. Obviously the fat file contains more information and details.
It’s the same with resolution. You get more information and details in a higher resolution image than a lower resolution–and it results in better colors, more definition, clarity and smoother color gradations. That’s why higher resolution usually means a better-looking picture. Of course, the quality of the lens and sensor also influence the image quite a bit.
But generally, when you have more megapixels, not only can you get more details, but you can also print bigger pictures or make enlargements.
- 6 megapixels and up will look great from a thumbnail all the way up to a 16×20 poster.
- 5 megapixels will look great from a thumbnail all the way up to 11×17 inches.
- 4 megapixels will print up nicely as an 8×10 and will still look pretty good up to 11×17 inches.
- 2 megapixels will just barely print an 8×10 – but will do a better job with smaller pictures like 5×7′s or 4×6′s.
- 1 megapixel – Don’t even try printing an 8×10 with 1 megapixel. Stick with a 4X6 or smaller or email the picture.
Putting up a picture online or sending it by email doesn’t require a lot of megapixels. In fact, you’re better off with less. If you have too many, you might crash your email or have a webpage that takes forever to load.
So, you see, the way you plan to use your pictures determines how many megapixels you should get.
If all you want to do is email your pictures to friends and family, one MG (or even less) is enough. But that’s NOT enough if you want to print out 5×7 or 8×10 prints.
However… storing pictures with higher megapixels takes a lot more space. You have to have lots of storage in your hard drive and lots of RAM. Or you’ll need to put your pictures onto some sort of permanent storage like CDs to make sure you don’t use up all of your computer’s hard drive.
For most people (and most families) 3.2 megapixels is perfect. It gives you nice detail without taking too much space on your computer. And you can print out nice looking 5x7s and 8x10s.
Next: In a couple of days, we’ll talk about how easy it is to use a digital camera, the types of digital cameras there are and how much they cost.
See you then!
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