So What Are Megapixels?

When you shop for a digital camera, you are bombarded with talk of megapixels. Consumers are often misled about what megapixels are and how many are needed. A megapixel is simply a unit of storage, whether internal or on a removable card. A megapixel is one million pixels and is a term commonly used to describe how much data a digital camera can capture. As with your car, just because your tank can hold more gallons of gas doesn’t mean it’s more fuel efficient or better than your friend’s car.


For example, if a camera can capture pictures at 3000 × 2400 pixels, it is referred to as having 7.2 megapixels (3000 × 2400 = 7,200,00). If you were to print that picture on paper at 300 ppi (pixels per inch), it would roughly be a 10" × 8" print. Professional photographers may need more pixels than this, but a consumer may not. It all depends on how the pixels are meant to be displayed or printed.

The more pixels you capture, the larger the image is (both in disk space and potential print size). Consumer usage (such as email or inkjet prints) is less demanding than professional usage (such as art books or magazines). Professionals need more megapixels than consumers; hence, high-end cameras cost more because they are targeted at people who make money by taking photos.

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