The race for mega pixels has started and there is no way to stop it. Every few months cameras with more pixels hit the market. The manufacturers want you to dump your old camera and buy the newest and greatest one after all aren’t 10 mega pixels better than just 8? Apparently the answer is not that simple.
As with many other things when it comes to mega pixels more is not necessarily better. There are many considerations when buying a camera and the number of mega pixels is just one of them.
One of the most important things to consider is usage. More mega pixels are good for people who plan to print photos (especially enlargements) or for people who need to zoom in and grab fine details from a big photo. If the main usage of the photos is watching them on your computer screen and maybe printing a few 4X6 prints than 2 megapixels is more than enough (yes! just 2). Most screen resolutions are 1024 X 768 so even when viewing the photo in full screen mode you can only view 1024 X 768 < 1 mega pixels. A 2 mega pixels 4X6 photo print will have a DPI higher than 300 which is more than enough for a good quality print.
If you plan to use your photos for enlargements then a rule of thumb is to be able to print at least 300DPI (dots per inch) resolution.
The following is a table for different print sizes and the needed megapixels for such print quality:
Another practical consideration is price and budget:
Usually the more megapixels the more expensive the camera is. Unless your budget is infinite when buying a camera you make a compromise between megapixels and other features. For example is it better to spend money on more megapixels or on better lenses? Or maybe instead of getting the latest number of megapixels get an external flash for low light photography? When buying a camera try to predict what and how you will use it. In many cases a lower megapixels sensor with better a lens will result in a much better photo than a high mega pixels with an inferior lens. Shop around and make sure that you get the best package in terms of mega pixels and other features.
To conclude when shopping for a camera it is best not to be a victim of the mega pixels race. Although it is generally a good thing to have a high number of pixels there are many other factors that influence the quality of the photos taken and the choice of the right camera for you. Lenses, battery life, light sensitivity, sensor technology used, external flash and many other features are not less important as the number of megapixels.
When shopping for a camera make sure that you consider the whole package and not use the number of mega pixels as a “quality” indicator for your buy.