Do you really need all those megapixels in that shiny just-released camera, or is your current 20-something-megapixel camera still just as good as the day you bought it? Let's talk a little about why the megapixel race is great for some photographers and might not even matter for others.
Camera brands have been consistently raising the megapixel count of most cameras for over a decade as a means to sell newly released cameras to the masses. While there are great reasons to pick up a 50-plus-megapixel beast of a camera, there are many reasons to hold onto the current setup you have. Through the B&H Photo YouTube video above, David Flores takes us through what some of these reasons are.
If you are shooting on an 18-to-24-megapixel camera currently, you are shooting beyond the resolution of a 5K image. That's right, that 5K Apple iMac doesn't have the resolution of an eight-year-old Canon 60D body. Most people use monitors that are sub-4K resolution, so all those extra pixels are going to waste. Nearly everyone will never see any discernable difference in your new, high-megapixel camera's image resolution versus your old camera body.
If you do a large amount of cropping in post on your images, it may be a great idea to pick up a higher-resolution camera. What if you crop to get closer to your subject, as is the case in some wildlife imagery? Rather than picking up a new camera, maybe a teleconverter is a better option; and this way you can shoot for the subject to fill the frame. The upside is a teleconverter is a great deal cheaper than a new camera body.
What about shooting epic landscapes? Surely you need a higher-megapixel body to print those large images, right? I would very much say, "No." If you are looking to gain more megapixels in an image, you can simply shoot a panorama. By overlapping by 50 percent and shooting three images, you have doubled your pixels for your finished image — a very simply technique that allows for your camera to take advantage of noise reduction by trading some image detail or maximizing the image's flexibility for post processing. Where this may be a hindrance is during bracketing of an image. At this point, some people will have a harder time to process their image if they have to combine layers into a panorama. A higher-megapixel camera makes much more sense here for ease of use.
If you shoot families or portraits, the extra detail for editing and, more importantly, cropping may be a boon for you. This will allow for cropping that may be a better and more sellable image. By being able to shoot so you can crop to 5 x 7 or 4 x 5 imagery, you are better prepared to sell that image to a client, and the higher-megapixel camera won't lose effective sharpness as quickly as a lower-resolution camera.
If you want to print your work, a higher resolution camera won't really help you create better physical images. Having 300 pixels per inch in a photograph sounds fantastic, but the reality is a viewer has to have some space between themselves and the image to be able to appreciate the work. This viewing distance results in a lower required pixel-per-inch/ dot-per-inch figure to match the sharpness of our visual acuity if the image were smaller and closer to us versus larger and farther away. Billboards are a great example of this, as they are routinely made with resolutions between 10 and 20 dots per inch at a viewing distance of several hundred feet, yet look as sharp as a 300-dot-per-inch 8 x 10 print.
So what's your take on the megapixel debate? Do you need that high-megapixel camera or do you have a 10-to-24-megapixel camera that's meeting your needs on your photographic journey?