Do You Really Need More Megapixels?

Choosing a new camera can be overwhelming, especially with the constant emphasis on megapixels in marketing materials. While more megapixels generally translate to more detail, it's crucial to understand how they impact your photography and whether a higher megapixel count truly aligns with your needs. 

Coming to you from David Bergman with Adorama, this informative video tackles the age-old question: how many megapixels do you actually need? Bergman discusses the technical aspects of megapixels, explaining how they relate to sensor size and image quality. He emphasizes that while more megapixels offer greater detail, they can also lead to increased digital noise and reduced dynamic range, especially in low-light situations. 

Bergman then explores the practical implications of megapixels for displaying and printing your images. He highlights that platforms like Instagram have relatively low resolution requirements, while even 4K monitors only necessitate around 8 megapixels for optimal viewing. For printing, the required megapixels depend on the desired print size and viewing distance. While a high-resolution print viewed up close might require 300 pixels per inch (PPI), larger prints like billboards, viewed from a distance, can achieve excellent results with much lower PPI and fewer megapixels.

The video also addresses the crucial factor of cropping. Bergman demonstrates how a higher megapixel count allows for more flexibility when cropping images without sacrificing quality. He showcases this with a comparison between images captured on the 24-megapixel sensor and 45-megapixel sensors, revealing the significant difference in post-crop detail. 

Finally, Bergman acknowledges the impact of file size on storage needs and budget considerations. He concludes by sharing his personal preference for higher megapixel cameras, primarily for their cropping capabilities and future-proofing potential. However, he reassures viewers that for most photographers, a camera in the 20- to 24-megapixel range offers excellent imaage quality and versatility. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bergman. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

Difficult being the first up at bat!!! I have a Canon T2i crop sensor 18MP that I started with in '10 and it is great. I went Sony A7S 12MP full frame in '14, also a great. With both in those years software I never did any cropping. In '17 got a Sony A7RM2 a full frame 42MP and it was also great. That year I went to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as well as the Horseshoe Canyon. Captures where long distance but I had some long lenses but mainly the new ultra wide FE 12-24mm F4, like a tourist you want to get it all in! But I also got a panorama rig as well as using the pano function. The one key difference was the IBIS and lenses with OSS/IS, I was still using a tripod like always before and other photographers around had Canon and Nikons who also had sticks all the time and few never heard of Sony. First stop Antelope Canyon and a mistake of forgetting the camera tripod plate left in my truck so had sticks but could not use like everyone else, so I started with a single shot in dim light and it looked great and being a HDR photographer with my T2i and tried Bracketing 3 at +/- 2EV and all looked perfect, well the others also had that ability but were long exposures on sticks. I was doing 5 to there one at each spot laying on my back aiming up and on by belly and zooming into good things like sand falling. Afterword back at the hotel and editing in the lobby was the wideness of each image but then I was asked about all the clicking and I showed the HDR images and was asked how did I get such bright images, then i had to explain HDR. But next was Horseshoe Canyon and something said put on the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6. A long walk with gear. But the 10mm got me a pano looking image while sitting, looked dangerous standing on the edge doing panos. The Grand Canyon was proving grounds for the 12mm and the 42MP's and yes used sticks. I also used a color cube because each section going across were different colors going down to the bottom, postcards had a blue tent toward bottom but the eye saw the colors everywhere even before sunrise and after sunsets.
Results when editing and zooming in there was detail in all images and yes if cropped would be there, I made some poster size prints and even using a magnifying saw it. But with the many years using my A7S also for landscape and Milky Way's I also did the glass test on those images 12 or 42 really no difference. And even by Canon 8300s 8.1MP had great detail.
I went A7RM5 last year and that is when I started cropping when capturing egrets in flight with many lenses. That is impress of.
But with also with today Topaz resize and the others you can bring a image back to size and on a metal print poster size for a friend looks awesome.
But the question still is not answered and can not be seen on a video on the tube. But i have to wonder if Sony has stopped at 61 MP is there any reason for to go to100MP's, the camera makers know for sure!
3. pano using camera pano selection, that is smoke from controlled burn not a cloud but colors are there way down.
Last image with a 12MP A7S in '15 redone in Lr a year ago it was a bracketed 3 at +/- 1EV HDR got rid of hot and dead pixels and Lr had the LC of the then hot Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 that was very bad all around great new SW. Hangs poster size in my eye doctor's lobby showing what can not be seen but is there, just believe!
Lastly I used the then SW and now the current and old images are like a 100MP so save your money and play with what you have no matter the camera maker.

One thing few know is the more MP's the faster SS the night capture has to be to have pinpoint stars for even the A7RM5 is super grate for Milky Ways. Proof check PhotoPills spot stars and select camera and lens mm to find either for accurate or default.

This video offered good and valuable information. I couldn't resist the temptation of a great deal on a 45-megapixel camera. Did I need this camera? No. Has it improved my photography? No. However, there is one clear advantage, as mentioned in the video: the crop factor. Recently, I did some sports photography for a friend using a 24-120mm zoom lens. Let me tell you, it made life a lot simpler—no need to carry heavy lenses around. I could crop effectively to capture a specific action without sacrificing quality. So, do I need 45 megapixels? Definitely not. Do I like my camera? Sure, especially for its ergonomic feel in my hand, although the 24-megapixel body feels much the same. Here's to happy shooting!

It's funny but each time I have looked at new cameras the last thing I checked for was the pixel count. My lowest resolution camera with a whopping 1.3 MP CCD sensor is my Olympus C100 which I bought many many moons ago, my Great Grandson uses it when we go out photographing the neighbourhood.

My highest resolution camera has 20 MP pixels, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II which along with my OM-D E-M5 II is all I need as I don't do paid work anymore. I do think though that if I was to go after the mega pixels it would have to be on a 6 x 6 cm camera though. The photo is from the C100, taken many years ago of my grandaughter.

Excellent points. Most of my shooting these days is with the XPro3 at 24 megapixels. I rarely crop a lot and have made prints up to 24x36 that look great. I can see that a higher megapixel count would be nice in some situations where serious cropping is needed, but I'm managing that with a longer lens. I'm (mostly) retired and the only commercial work I still do is for sales flyers that never have more than an 11x14 size wraparound cover print.