What Is the Best Pixel Number for a Digital Camera?


When buying a digital camera, every consumer is faced with the same question. What is the best number of pixels? Depending on your use for the camera, and your budget, the number of pixels can be a very important consideration. Don't overspend for more pixels than you need, or cut yourself short with your digital work. Pixels are the paint on the digital photography canvas. Take a moment to learn more about what pixels are, how they effect your digital images and what number you should choose for your photography needs.


  • Pixels are the meat and potatoes of a digital image. Pixels, or picture elements, translate into tiny little dots of information in a digital picture. If you could zoom in on a picture close enough to see the pores of human skin, you would be looking at each individual pixel that makes up the photograph. Pixels are organized pieces of digital data, positioned together to make up an image.


  • Digital cameras are rated by the number of pixels they use to capture images. The term "megapixel" refers to the millions of pixels available on that camera's sensor. An 8MP camera contains 8 million pixels on its sensor, which means it gathers 8 million pieces of information to make one whole picture. (MP is the abbreviation for megapixel.)


  • There are a few different types of digital sensors. A compact digital camera has a CCD sensor covered in light receptors, or pixel wells. An SLR (single lens reflex) camera most often contains a CMOS sensor. The pixel wells on a CMOS sensor are larger, and produce more detailed data.


  • Selecting a camera with a larger megapixel rating means your images will be recorded with more information. Think of an artists's canvas. More pixels are equivalent to more strokes of paint to create a picture. If you have more paint, or pixels, to work with, your pictures will be clearer, contain more fine details and be sharper. When more data is recorded, it is easier to enlarge the photo and have the image still look sharp and clear. Cropping a picture that originally contains a lot of pixels will also produce a clearer image than one made from fewer pixels.


  • Using a camera with a large number of pixels, or high megapixel rating, doesn't mean you will instantly have better pictures. Taking a good photo also requires getting the camera focused, attaining the proper exposure and framing the photo well.

    Most digital camera users can't tell the different between a photo taken on a 5MP camera or a 10PM camera, until the image has been altered. Those extra pixels become noticeable when the photo is enlarged and stretched or cropped to enlarge a specific portion of the picture.

    Digital camera users that use their photos on the computer exclusively, rarely notice a difference in image quality between a 5MP and 10MP camera, since they are only viewing them on a computer monitor.

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