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What Are Megapixels on a Camera?

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    Definition

    • A megapixel on a photo image is made up of one million colored dots. The more megapixels a camera has, the more tightly packed the megapixels are on each digital image, according to Jeff Keller, creator of the Digital Camera Resource Page. More densely packed megapixels produce larger digital photo image files. Larger image files require more space on the memory card of a digital camera and on the hard drive of a computer.

    Megapixel Minimums

    • In general, a camera with 5 or 6 megapixels will produce photo files of sufficient size and with sufficient resolution to make prints of satisfactory quality of up to 8 by 10 inches, according to CNET News. The larger digital photo image files produced by cameras with more megapixels allow you to crop a larger area of the digital photo image, such as an individual face in a group photo, without sacrificing quality of detail on the selected area of the photo. To produce 4 by 6 inch or 5 by 7 inch prints, a 3 megapixel camera will suffice, according to the Digital Camera Resource Page website.

    The Megapixel Myth

    • Many consumers and camera manufacturers perpetuate the myth that more is better with camera megapixels. Indeed, cameras with more megapixels are much more expensive than comparable models with fewer megapixels. However, having more megapixels does not necessarily result in better photos. In fact, cameras with more megapixels produce more heat, which can result in speckles in photos shot in low light, according to "The New York Times." Factors such as the quality of the processor and lens and technology that allows for image stabilization have as much impact on photo quality as the number of pixels, CNET news states. Lighting and photo composition also play a key role in producing good photos.

    Digital Versus Film

    • Many purists insist that photos produced by film are of inherently higher quality than photos produced with digital cameras, Blacks and whites are truer and colors are crisper with film, according the PC Tech and Authority website. Nonetheless, most photographers have switched to digital cameras. In addition to being more convenient and less expensive than film, digital photo images suffer no loss in quality no matter how many times they are reproduced, the Canon Europe website states. Additionally, a study originally published in 2005 by the "New England Journal of Medicine" and reported by the National Cancer Institute stated that mammograms of digital images produced more accurate readings for women under age 50 or women of any age with dense breast tissue than images produced on film.

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