The Megapixel Myth – You're getting ripped off.
Megapixels don’t matter. There, I’ve said it. Throw your stones, rotten vegetables, or what-have-you.
David Pogue has an article in the New York Times today about the Megapixel Myth. His heart is in the right place, and he comes to the correct conclusion, but he’s fairly sparse on the details and the proof is a little hard to grok without actually being there.
News.com ran a story this week quoting Chris MacAskill, my father and SmugMug’s President. He comments on how the word megapixel is a marketers’ dream, and he’s right. Anyone marketing a camera based solely on megapixels is ripping you off. But their article wasn’t clear enough either. So here it is, as clear as I can make it:
What you *really* want are “better” pixels, not more of them. Contrary to popular belief, adding more pixels to the same size sensor isn’t going to help you very much. In fact, it may hurt. Why? It’s reallly quite simple: A limited amount of light gets through the lens and hits the sensor in your camera. It’s really quite small. At some point, if you cram more pixels into the same tiny space, those pixels aren’t picking up enough light to be useful. Instead, they’re making your photo noisier and reducing the quality.
The real way to get better images is to have a bigger sensor (so it can capture more light) and a better lens (so more light gets to the sensor). It’s that simple.
Don’t believe me? NASA’s Spirit Rover has a 1 megapixel camera and it takes better photos than any 8 megapixel camera you can buy at Best Buy. MSNBC has a great article on how it works and sample images. See for yourself.
Finally, SmugMug has printed more than 3 million photos for very discerning customers. We publish the reasons why photos get returned. The number of returns for “not enough megapixels” is at or near zero.
So how do you figure out what camera to buy since megapixels don’t matter? Pogue is right on the money with this one: read reviews at sites like dpreview.com.