It can be easy to get caught up in thinking that the megapixel rating on a camera relates to how high the quality is in the pictures you take. However, this isn’t true, and it can lead you to spend more money on a camera than you need to. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what the megapixels on a camera actually represent and how you can get the perfect amount for your picture needs. That way, you’ll be well armed to get what suits your needs and situation without having to struggle with trying to compare camera models.

What are megapixels?

The megapixel rating essentially refers to the number of pixels in the images you take. For example, if you have a camera that claims a 20-megapixel resolution then each image will be made up of 20 megapixels or 20 million pixels. Having a good megapixel rating can ensure that you get pictures with plenty of detail, but it is important to remember that each image may differ slightly in the actual megapixel count. While more pixels might sound like more detail, it actually has more to do with the size of the captured image.

Is there such a thing as too many?

Megapixels are known to measure the amount, but not necessarily the quality of pixels. Because of this, it is important to get enough megapixels to be able to ensure quality, but too many can actually make the image worse. This is largely because there is a limit on what image sizes certain devices can handle. Your images will then be resized automatically, which can result in the deletion of pixels and cause the image to lose quality. The most important aspect to keep in mind here is that the more megapixels, the larger the picture will be. A lot of people get caught up in thinking more megapixels means higher quality, but for this situation more doesn’t automatically equal better.

So how many do I need…

If I only take pictures casually?

For casual purposes, including storing the pictures on your computer, sharing them online and printing them in standard 4 x 6 formats, you don’t need a lot of megapixels. Three or four will do the trick, but if you want to go a little higher and can afford it, then go for it. Do keep in mind that you may not want to go too high in the megapixel count because it will make the print size of your pictures larger. This is really a great thing to know because high megapixel cameras can be very expensive, so it’s better to save your money and only get what you need.

If I have a serious photography hobby?

It can be expected that those who are more serious about their photography will want to share it in larger formats. If you’re looking to be able to print about an 8 x10 format, then you should look for a camera with a megapixel rating of at least 7.2, but you can go higher if you want larger pictures. It will also be important to make sure you get a good memory card, as larger megapixel pictures can take up more memory. Investing in a good memory card can keep you from having to delete important images when the space is filled up more quickly than you expected.

If I’m a professional photographer?

A professional is likely going to need to print much larger sizes, depending on what the client needs. Because of that, you’re going to need a digital camera with an absolute minimum of 13.9 megapixels, but something in the 20s may be more suitable. To help you with making that decision, it may help to know that you can get print sizes of 11×14 using a 13.9 megapixel camera. Some professionals may also keep multiple cameras to use so that there is always something available to suit the needs of the client.

For social media?

Social media pictures tend to be very small, most of which end up at a size smaller than 1 megapixel so if your main purpose for taking pictures is to share them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or something similar then you won’t need a highly rated camera. That’s great because it means you won’t have to spend a lot of money on a camera to get the ideal selfies. In many cases, you may even find that the camera on your phone is perfectly suitable for social media pictures.

For printed pictures?

Printed photos may take a little more, depending on the size you’re looking for. If you want typical 4×6 inch pictures then a 3 or 4-megapixel camera will work just fine. For 8×10 you’ll want something with at least 7.2-megapixels. Overall, it’s going to be important to take into consideration the size of pictures you want, as that will directly determine the megapixels you need to look for. For most people, there isn’t a requirement for a lot of megapixels, which can help you to avoid buying an expensive camera that you don’t need. For those who are looking to print pictures, it can also help to make sure you have a good printer and quality photo-quality paper so that you won’t have to run out to the store every time you need to print pictures.


What many people don’t realize is that a megapixel rating represents the size of the image more than it represents the actual quality. Because of that, it’s a good idea to know what you plan on using the camera for before you start shopping. That way, you’ll only end up paying for the number of megapixels you actually need rather than wasting money on pixels you won’t need. Depending on your needs, you may find that your phone works perfectly well or that you need to do some saving for the best of the best digital camera. It all depends on your unique situation.



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