updated 05:45 pm EST, Thu February 8, 2007
The 'Megapixel Myth'
Many people are buying cameras that claim to be better than they are, writes David Pogue in his latest column for the New York Times. Companies such as Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm often make their megapixel ratings the foremost advertising point, but Pogue notes that in reality, the resolution provided by high megapixels is useless if the light isn't captured properly. Lens quality can often be a much more important factor, as can sensor design and (naturally) the skill of the photographer. Ironically, high-megapixel sensors can sometimes harm image quality by introducing heat, which creates more noise at elevated ISO settings.
Most importantly, though, the quality of different megapixel ratings is often unnoticed at practical print sizes. Pogue observes that in two separate tests he conducted, the majority of people were unable to tell the difference between low- and high-megapixel versions of the same image, printed at an extremely large 16x24 inches. Amateur photographers are likely to be better off buying cheaper five-megapixel cameras than spending on the latest 10-megapixel model, as the only real advantage to them is the ability to crop and zoom in without losing as much detail.