Megapixels and Myths

The optimum megapixel size for photography using either a mirrorless or a DSLR camera falls in the range of approximately 16 megapixels to 35 megapixels.

Did you read that? The optimum megapixel size for photography using either a mirrorless or a DSLR camera falls in the range of approximately 16 megapixels to 35 megapixels. Most cameras that shoot in this range and are of semiprofessional to professional quality will satisfy virtually any photographic assignment.

There is nothing wrong with using higher megapixel cameras so long as you understand that you will need to deal with noise and motion. The larger the number of megapixels that are packed into the same sensor size then the more noise is introduced into the image and as you deal with the noise you tend to negate the extra detail that you captured unless you are shooting at a very low ISO setting.

At times the higher megapixel detail is lost as the noise reduction clicks in thereby negating the benefit of having a higher megapixel camera.

Further the higher the megapixel used then the more you need to be aware of photographic technique and keeping your camera stable. Higher megapixel cameras do really reveal poor photographic technique and really must be paired with very good inbuilt camera or lens image stabilization.

Even 10 megapixels is fine when the pixels are clean

Just a little bit more information about megapixels. Some years ago I was looking for a professional camera for some professional activity and in those days a leading Nikon camera had a sensor at four megapixel. It was competing with cameras producing six megapixels and even eight megapixels. In those days I read lots and I got the idea that more megapixels was actually better. After I had purchased a six megapixel camera I got the opportunity to look at some prints that have been taken with the four megapixel Nikon. The prints were produced life-size and showed the face of a man who had posed in good lighting. The four megapixel image was remarkable in detail and accuracy. The print was then increased in size to twice life-size and printed again. There was no noticeable degradation in quality when viewed at a normal viewing distance.

Megapixels – How Many Do I Need?

Today we see lots of cameras above 24 megapixels. People are talking in 40s and 50s and 60s and even 100 megapixels. We have printed posters 2 m long taking a crop from a 16 megapixel image and therefore using approximately 10 megapixels worth of information. The posters have sold and have been praised for their remarkable detail and quality. When you buy into larger megapixels you are buying a lot of real estate that you will crop into in many instances. Most photographers will crop their images to suit the application. So extra megapixels just gives you a larger image so that you can crop out of that in post-processing if needs be.

8mp crop
The original Image Was 46 Megapixels and this is an 8 megapixel crop scaled down

Large images and large megapixels cannot be discounted for some purposes but the average photographer who doesn’t want to print above a A1 poster size will find that 20 to 24 megapixels is huge. We currently have in our stable 2 46 megapixel cameras and they produce very large files indeed. The focusing on one of them is so accurate that we are able to track birds easily in flight and get super sharp images. The bird occupies approximately 1/10 of the final image and is cropped out of that so that we are shooting at 46 megapixel but keeping around four megapixel for the final image. When I shoot landscapes with a large megapixel camera and compare the image from the large camera to the smaller camera at 20 megapixels we can find no difference except if we zoom into pixel size on the screen which is way beyond any realistic viewing of any image.

For a wedding, shooting between 16-35 megapixels will give you both speed and plenty of quality for everything from large framed photos to albums and more.

If you shoot a wedding with cameras rated at between 16 and 35 megapixels you will find that you have plenty of information to produce the perfect wedding album. But then it’s all about technique and not about megapixels. Far better to have really good lenses and good flash synchronization in order to make the best of the various situations that you face as a photographer than to have a larger megapixel camera.