Minimum Camera Features

How many megapixels?

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

One of the most frequently asked questions when buying a digital camera is “How many megapixels do I need?” We help you sort through the megapixel madness.

MegapixelsBuying a digital camera with features you want can be just as important as how many megapixels it has. Yes, it’s true!

Don’t get caught up in advertising hype that leads many to believe that more megapixels is always better, particularly when buying a compact digital camera with a small sensor.

Megapixels, printing and cropping

Two factors come into play when deciding about megapixels: print size and the amount of cropping you do.

The more megapixels, the larger size prints can be made without images becoming pixelated or jagged looking. More megapixels also allows larger areas of images to be cropped and still retail detail in prints.

Megapixels and print size

Many digital camera owners print 4×6,” the most frequently used print size, and occasionally up to 8×10.” If they crop, it is rarely more than a small percentage of an image. If you fit into this category, a camera with a resolution between six to eight megapixels should serve you well, though many digital cameras today have 10 megapixels or more.

Slightly larger prints may show signs of pixelation but only when viewed close up. If you primarily send photos by email, or use them for online auctions, a five or six megapixel camera should more than suffice.

Other factors

Remember that image quality is based on several factors, not only the number of megapixels. They include:

  • sensor size
  • image processor
  • quality of the camera lens
  • proper exposure and lighting of a subject
  • accurate focus of a subject
  • lack of blur due to camera shake
  • adequate shutter speed for the subject


  • Unless you buy an older camera, it’s very difficult today to get one with less than 10 megapixels. The number of megapixels also relates to sensor size and noise in images when shooting at higher ISO in low light. With a digital single lens reflex camera, you don’t really have to worry about the number of megapixels. DSLRs have large sensors and do very well at high ISO numbers. However, the story is different for most compact cameras that have small sensors.

    If I was buying a compact today, I’d look for one with 10 megapixels or below. There are exceptions though. Some recent smaller cameras have larger sensors, such as the Canon s90. It does exceptionally well in low light at higher ISO numbers, though not as well as a DSLR or Micro Four-Thirds camera. As to sharpness, a lot depends on the quality of the lens. Most digital images are “soft” and need to be sharpened when editing. Some digital cameras let you adjust the level of sharpness. As pointed out in the article, get a camera with the features you need most.

  • Hello, I am contemplating buy a digital camera and I have always thought of this idea of high MP much better camera until I read ur article that the higher the MP, the little the difference it adds between close figures. Ok . A 12 MP camera gets me some 102 X 76cm prints. If I use a 10 MP, how much will I get as maximum maintaning the sharpness? Thanks