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Minute Photography

What Are Megapixels and Do They Matter? | Minute Photography

By Pye Jirsa on August 4th 2017

Welcome to our Minute Photography series, where we explain photography and lighting tips & tricks, myths, and techniques. For more education and detail about this concept, be sure to check out our Photography 101 Workshop.

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In just 90 seconds, we unravel the mystery behind megapixels to help you determine whether or not you need more of them.

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What are Mexapixels?

Megapixels (MP), which translates to “one million pixels,” dictate how much detail your camera’s sensor can capture.  The higher the megapixel number, the more potential detail can be captured within an image.

When doES SIZE matter?

When sent to print, a 20 MP file can yield an 18″ wide print without any upscaling in Photoshop. Yet, how often do you print 12″x18″ photographs? Unfortunately, for most consumers, the answer is “not often.”

Most images end up online, usually on social media; however, online and social media usage rarely exceeds 2MP. That means the other 18 MP you paid for never really get seen. Even a 4K display can only present 8 MP worth of your photograph.

[REWIND: 10x More Expensive Doesn’t Mean 10x Better]

WHO NEEDS MORE MEGAPIXELS?

Do we all need $50k cameras that produce 100 MP images? Not exactly. 20 MP is pretty much the standard these days, and yet most photographers don’t really even use their camera to its potential. A camera with a 20 MP sensor will only yield 20 MP worth of detail when it is used by a proficient photographer who understands how to maximize detail and resolution using lighting and other means.

In other words, highly proficient photographers that are seeking cameras that can print directly to large format with incredible detail reproduction or provide extreme cropping capabilities can utilize cameras with 30, 50, or even 100 MP.

For the rest of us, purchasing a 50 MP camera just for the sake of having it is much like buying a 600-horsepower car that you intend to drive 30 miles per hour.

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Terms: #Megapixel
About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mircea Blanaru

    Really beautiful images and another pure truth spoken clearly. And I can add that even with an old 35mm film camera you can achieve great prints. In the artistic photography world, the vintage granulation of the film is something cool, of course not for everybody, but exist a lot of adepts of this idea. You can double check this affirmation just looking in the Film Effects from various Plug-In filters which add classic film granulation to your photo in different flavors. I can add that I also own an used Sigma DP3 Merrill camera which renders nice images as big as 59 Mega Pixels (interpolated, of course) but the most popular are the ones taken with compact cameras from the streets of my city, no joke. So the Mega Pixels war is a nonsense, at least me…. And something else, not all very large prints are suitable for every wall. Personally, I prefer on my walls from my room five or so 16X24 inches canvas prints made with my  “stupid” Olympus and some kit or vintage lens…

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Thanks for the comment Mircea Blanaru! Agree that there is a tool for every ob, and that for most of us, it’s not a marketing point that should be given as much attention as it is. 

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