What are megapixels and how many megapixels is a good camera?

minutes to read Last edit on 09 April 2024

One of the most frequently used terms in photography is “megapixels”, which refers to the resolution capability of your camera’s sensor to capture the details of your photos. One of the most common questions is to ask from how many megapixels can we talk about a good camera. In general, it can be said that the higher the number of megapixels, the better the image quality. Images with a large number of pixels can then be enlarged or cropped without losing too much detail. The photographer thus obtains a sharper image with high resolution, even after cropping or printing the image.

what are the megapixels
Fujifilm X X100vi Black

What is a megapixel (MP)?

In simple terms, a megapixel is equivalent to one million pixels. Pixels, the smallest units of a photo, form tiny colored squares that collectively create the image you capture. A zoom-out reveals the entirety of the photograph, while a zoom-in exposes a grid of colored squares, each representing a distinct color. This is a fundamental concept for understanding image resolution. The more megapixels a digital camera has, the higher the potential resolution and level of detail of the images it captures are increased. Essentially, megapixels play a crucial role in determining the clarity and sharpness of your photos.

A megapixel is equivalent to one million pixels. The term "megapixel" simplifies communication about image size, as it is more convenient to say that a camera produces images of 25 megapixels rather than 25 million pixels.

How many megapixels (MP) do you need when choosing a camera?

The disparity between 10 and 100 megapixels isn’t noticeable when viewing photos on screens like those of phones or computers. The limits of screen resolution prevent differences from being noticed unless you zoom in on the photo.

Increasing the total number of megapixels results in a greater quantity of detail recorded in your image. With more megapixels, you can crop a photo extensively before pixelation becomes apparent. Although screen viewing doesn’t emphasize the megapixels and high image resolution they generate, having more allows for larger prints and provides greater cropping flexibility.

Regardless of the camera’s megapixel count, sensors function similarly. Focused by a lens, the sensor captures light to form an exposure, converted into an image on the camera screen. A higher number of megapixels on a sensor improves detail capture, as they provide additional data points for color and brightness values across the entire image.

Check out our article on the different types of camera sensors.

How many megapixels (MP) should a good camera have?

The number of megapixels (MP) required for a good camera depends on your photography style and habits, as well as the expected image resolution. For digital viewing, almost all modern cameras with a sufficient number of megapixels are adequate if you don’t print or frequently crop images. For most photographers, a range of 10 to 20 megapixels is sufficient to meet their needs. Currently, most digital SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras available today display at least 15 megapixels. For example, the X-T5 from Fujifilm has 40.2 megapixels, the X-S20 has 26 megapixels, …

However, if you need to crop or print your images, it is advisable to opt for a digital camera with a higher number of megapixels. With continuous advancements in photography technology, many cameras on the market now offer much higher resolutions, ranging from 20 megapixels up to 50 megapixels or more in some cases.

what are the megapixels
what megapixels is needed when printing

How many megapixels (MP) do I need to crop my photo?

A higher number of megapixels (MP) allows for effective cropping and maintains excellent resolution of your digital image even after significant cropping. For example, with a Fujifilm GFX100II (102 megapixels), a 50% crop retains higher resolution than a X-H2S (26.1 megapixels) directly out of the camera. While the difference may not be noticeable on screen, it becomes evident in large prints or when zooming in on a computer screen. If your photos are intended to be edited and cropped, it’s advisable to opt for a camera with a significant number of megapixels.

Cameras

How many megapixels (MP) do I need in a camera to capture photos for printing?

A high number of megapixels allows for larger prints to be made without the need to increase the size of the image. Printers use dots per inch (DPI) to determine print resolution, with higher DPI resulting in more detailed images. The printer’s DPI capacity is directly related to the size achievable based on the camera’s megapixels.
Let’s take an example of a 24-megapixel camera producing images of 6000×4000 pixels. With a printer set at 150 DPI, the maximum print size before resolution loss is approximately 40 x 26.7 inches. Beyond this size, pixelation may become noticeable in the print.

The table below indicates the maximum recommended print size for different DPIs and megapixel counts.
300 DPI
MegapixelsMax Print Size (cm)
4.930.45 x 45.70
9.745.70 x 60.95
19.460.95 x 91.45
30.476.5 x 114.5
54.0101.5 x 152.5
300 DPI
MegapixelsMax Print Size (cm)
19.430.45 x 45.70
38.845.70 x 60.95
77.660.95 x 91.45
121.576.5 x 114.5
216.0101.5 x 152.5
Fujifilm X X H2 Body
Fujifilm Gfx Gfx100ii Body

So, do higher MP mean better quality?

In technical terms, a higher number of megapixels implies a greater resolution. Although a higher number of megapixels may suggest better quality if resolution is equated with quality, a good digital camera encompasses factors beyond just the number of megapixels. Factors such as dynamic range, autofocus capabilities, read and write speed, among others, are equally crucial.

How many megapixels (MP) are considered high resolution?

It’s surprising to note that the terms “high resolution” or “high definition” translate to just one megapixel. Even if a photo was originally taken at a higher resolution, when viewed in HD, it has been reduced to just one megapixel. For example, the resolution of 4K, a step up from HD, equates to around eight megapixels.

In conclusion, how important are megapixels (MP) when choosing a camera?

As mentioned earlier, a high number of megapixels equates to high image resolution, but this should not be the sole consideration when choosing and purchasing a camera. Other factors, such as intended usage, must be taken into account. For instance, if the image is intended for editing, cropping, or printing, then the number of megapixels is important. Conversely, if it’s merely for sharing photos on social media or using them for digital media, a resolution of 12 to 24 megapixels is generally sufficient. Additionally, sometimes, very high-resolution images, and therefore very large files, are not ideal for online use as they take up a lot of space and require significant loading time.

Despite their importance, megapixels should not be the primary consideration when purchasing a new camera. While camera manufacturers often emphasize megapixel technology, other specifications have a greater impact on the final image, such as sensor size, lens quality, low-light performance, image processing, etc.

More article that may interest you

How To Make The Most Of Off Camera Flash

The different types of strobe lighting

Discover the various types of flash and the situations in which to use them, whether for portrait, street or studio photography. Learning how to use different flashes and light modifiers effectively will open up new artistic perspectives, improve the quality of your photos and enable you to express your creativity to the full.

camera setting wheels

What are the different shooting modes of a camera?

While many photographers prefer the manual mode, it’s essential to explore the other shooting modes of your camera. Automatic and semi-automatic modes help save time and focus on creativity rather than constant adjustments. Explore the features of each shooting mode to enhance your photographic experience.

Tips for creative white balance photography

How can white balance be creatively utilized in photography?

Dive into the creative side of White Balance (WB) photography. Learn to play with sliders and Kelvin settings, freeing yourself from the idea of a ‘correct’ white balance. Whether you like warm or cool tones, these tips inspire creativity, urging photographers to challenge norms and follow their artistic vision. Explore the easy and versatile ways to handle WB for a more personalized photographic experience.

Subscribe to our newsletter and get -15€ off
Sign up now
50.8 Shop • All rights reserved, 2024 • Made with 🍟 in Belgium
Terms & Privacy Policy Cookie preferences