What Are Megapixels (MP) — And How Many Do You Need?

To understand how many megapixels a camera should provide, camera shoppers should start by understanding a few basic terms. Camera ads and specifications almost always include a megapixel value. Each pixel represents a tiny bit of information, and one megapixel equals one million pixels.
As Time explained, an 8MP camera can capture an image with eight million of these little pieces of information per inch. This measurement says something about the camera’s ability to capture and reproduce images. In general, the number of megapixels newer cameras can capture keeps increasing. For example, the latest iPhones boast a 12MP camera, but older versions may only offer eight megapixels or less.

Does the Number of Megapixels Impact Picture Quality?

The number of megapixels can indicate expected image quality, but it won’t tell the entire story. Tom’s Guide offered an excellent analogy by comparing megapixels to calories. Like megapixels, calories represent quantity and not quality.
For instance, a cup of cooked beans and a glazed donut might provide about the same number of calories. Still, that measure of calories will not say anything more about the comparative nutritional quality of beans and donuts.
Similarly, a lot of factors determine image quality. These include sensor design, optics, firmware and software, and pixels. For one thing, pixels can vary in size, and this size determines how many photons of light they can hold. As a result, larger sensors can capture larger pixels, and in turn, this impacts image quality.
The size of the lens offers a rough measurement of the sensor’s size. For example, compare the lens size on a smartphone with the lens size on a typical digital camera. If both of these devices offer 8MP resolution, the standalone camera will probably produce better image quality.

How to Determine the Number of Megapixels Needed?

Photographers who plan to print photos will need higher resolution than those who plan to share pictures on social media. A general rule to determine minimum megapixels for printing images is multiplying the final image size by 300 and dividing that number by one million.
As an example, to determine the recommended value for 5×7 prints, multiply 1,500 by 2,100 and then divide that value by one million to get 3.2MP. Ideally, a 16×20 poster would take 28.8MP. That exceeds the capability of smartphone cameras these days, but plenty of mid-priced compact cameras exceed 30MP.
Most social network photos require fewer than one megapixel, and even the maximum allowable image sizes would only need about 4MP. When images exceed this resolution, the software will automatically adjust them downwards anyway. Picky social network users may want to edit pictures themselves, so the social site software doesn’t reduce them in a way that detracts from the intended image.

How Many Megapixels Do Photographers Need?

The number of megapixels required depends upon the planned use of the images and other features of the camera. Also, the images from cameras with larger sensors and lenses will probably offer better quality than cameras with smaller sensors and lenses. A new smartphone will likely prove suitable for online photos and smaller prints. For portraits or posters, photographers might need a dedicated digital camera.

Pair the Best Warranty With a New Camera

These days, most people rely on their smartphone cameras. For printing photos on paper, they might consider investing in a standalone digital camera with enhanced resolution. Some simple-to-use beginner cameras can produce fantastic photo prints. Explore the best beginner cameras for 2021 to learn about various options on the market today.
Cameras and lenses are vulnerable to damage, and the best way to protect your camera is by pairing it with an extended camera warranty from Upsie. Upsie compliments your camera’s limited warranty by overlapping with your existing coverage. Once your limited warranty expires, Upsie takes over entirely, ensuring that your camera is protected every moment.
In addition, not only does Upsie cover defects after the limited warranty ends, but Upsie also covers accidental damage, such as exposure to liquid. Besides cameras, Upsie also offers affordable, high-quality warranties for camera accessories, smartphones, and other electronics.

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