In the early 1990′s there was a truly massive breakthrough in the photographic industry. 1991 saw Kodak release the first commercially available digital SLR, the Kodak DCS-100, a modified Nikon F3 SLR body giving an output resolution of 1.3 megapixels. ’1.3 megapixels?’ I hear you ask…’why..that’s rubbish!’ you exclaim. The fact is, the DCS-100 was aimed at the professional photo-journalism market and cost a whopping $30,000 USD.
So why then, was a 1.3 megapixel professional digital SLR in the 90′s good enough for the top professionals yet in today’s non-professional market you’d likely see a group of techno-junkies pointing and laughing at your measly 5 megapixel camera phone? Because of course…”The more megapixels a camera has, the better the pictures.”
Well…no, putting it quite simply, the last statement is nothing more than a falsity, a myth that holds little more truth than the quest of Jason and his Argonauts. The Camera manufacturers know it, their high street resellers know it, but still our misunderstanding of the matter is exploited at our every turn as the seemingly inferior tech spec of our purchases from merely 6 months ago are flaunted alongside the impressive double digit resolution ratings of the latest model.
Yes, its difficult to deny that a simple increase in output resolution will be the only improvement when upgrading to the latest model, of course other technologies, lenses, sensors and power management for example continue to improve as time passes but I’m hardly going to trade my 5 year old 8 megapixel DSLR for the latest 14 megapixel price busting compact and here’s why….
At first thought I’d certainly forgive you for thinking that more megapixels would mean a sharper and overly more impressive image. A megapixel is simply the term given to 1 million of the tiny dots of colour used to make up a photograph, and this number and its description remain the same whether taken with the best £25,000 digital monster or a £99 point and shoot compact ‘throw about’. The truth is that a 14 megapixel blur is no better in quality than an 8 megapixel blur, you still have 2 poor photographs, just one of them is made up of more dots and uses up more disk space on your trusty memory card. The camera’s lens, sensor and your own natural ability to frame a scene are the most important things when taking a photograph, megapixels are only worth considering when extremely large sized prints are of concern or when heavy cropping is needed from within the original frame, 2 points that are of little use to the average non-professional photographer.
There is no cause for concern when trying to choose between 8 and 10 megapixel cameras even when creating poster sized prints, the extra 2 megapixels add as little weight to the quality of your piccies as the extra file information adds to the weight of the memory card in your pocket.