In order to convince you to buy a new digital camera, manufacturers are toeing the more-megapixels-are-better myth. But buyers of compact point & shoot cameras are slowly beginning to realise that buying a camera with higher megapixels does not necessarily improve the image quality. What they still don’t know is that more megapixels may actually spoil the image quality of your pictures!
People who blindly buy a 12 MP camera instead of a 10 MP camera are the same ones who purchase a computer with a 2.6ghz processor instead of a 2.2ghz processor even though the former may have much lesser RAM as compared to the latter.
Megapixels & Image Sensor Size
The size of the sensor of your camera’s lens is more important than the number of megapixels. Compact cameras are normally equipped with a sensor size such as 1/2.5-inch, 1/2.3-inch or 1/1.6-inch. For those who aren’t very strong in mathematics, a 1/1.6-inch sensor is bigger than a 1/2.3-inch sensor.
As the megapixel war between manufacturers escalates, they cram more and more megapixels into the same sensor size simply because larger sensors are more expensive to make. As a result, the individual sensors become smaller, they receive less light, and eventually it increases the noise, which looks like grain in your photos. To counter this, camera processors impose heavy noise reduction which results in blurring, reduces the amount of fine detail and make the pictures very soft.
How many Megapixels do I stop at ?
What is important is to compare the number of megapixels in relation to the size of the sensor. This is measured in terms of what is known as ‘pixel density’. So while a 12 MP camera on a 1/2.3-inch sensor would be extremely poor, a 12 MP camera with a 1/1.6-inch sensor may not be that bad, all other specs remaining equal.
The best approach would be to first get the largest sensor in your budget, as larger sensor translates into better pictures even in low light, and then look for the number of megapixels giving lower pixel density on that sensor, subject to a minimum of 3-4 MP. Of course, nowadays you won’t get anything lesser than 8 MP.
The reason why DSLRs tend to have better image quality than compact cameras is that they are equipped with a much larger lens. This is not to say that there is no point in buying compact cameras. It only means that you should not buy a compact camera having a very high pixel density.
Phasing out of cameras with lower megapixels
Most manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, Panasonic & Nikon are phasing out their 7 MP and 8 MP cameras in favour of 12 MP cameras with the result that soon you won’t find good cameras in stores with a low pixel density. So buy your 8 MP camera today instead of buying those newer 12 MP cameras. All other specs remaining equal, not only would you get sharper pictures, but you would also save storage space on your memory card and hard drive!