Megapixels vs. Print Size

Numbers are dots per inch of resolution. Colors are a subjective judgement of print quality: purple is highest, orange is lowest.


It’s interesting that adding a couple of megapixels to a camera has very little effect on subjective print quality. Too, notice how plain old 35mm film is highly rated for print quality compared to any common digital camera resolutions.

Chart from West Coast Imaging via D40 Photographer.

See also:
Pixel Density on Digital Cameras
The Megapixel Myth (

5 Responses to Megapixels vs. Print Size

  1. With the 5 megapics came out, one of our photogs told me it was overkill. He said unless you had a very high-end camera (professional) the difference between 3 and 5 was nill.

  2. Les Jones says:

    Probably true. I’ve had photos from my 4 MP Canon and 5 MP Panasonic picked up by professional print publications. The resolution wasn’t an issue for them.

    The one technology that has made a difference for me has been anti-shake, which compensates for your hand movement. My first digicam didn’t have it, and I had tons of shaky, blurred pics I had to throw away. Panasonic calls it Optical Image Stablization (OIS), Canon calls theirs Image Stabliziation (IS), and Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction (VR).

    Antishake is especially helpful with lightweight cameras where just pressing the shutter release causes a lot of movement, and on telephoto lenses where the long lens magnifies small movements.

  3. gattsuru says:

    From a normal user level, the difference between a good sensor and a bad one is significantly more important than that between the common five to eleven megapixels out there today. Any off-the-shelf camera will get you decent images from a stable position at long distances, but when it comes to taking pictures indoors or at close ranges, a cheapo VuPoint DV-DA1 going to be blurry and unpleasant where even comparably priced Canon or Fujifilm cameras can provide nice images.

    Antishake is probably the most important feature, but there are some other nice ones to look for. Lack of noise at higher ISO values can be rather important, especially if you do much at night or indoors. You’ll get too much noise by ISO 400 or so even with better consumer cameras, but the intermediate steps in there can be important. For similar reasons, variety in shutter speed is always good. Internal compression is an issue, often a big issue in consumer devices. ~70-85 quality JPG files can lose a lot of quality with the wrong compression technique; likewise, the ability to save files to RAW format can be rather valuable.

    I’d have no problem printing a 16×20 inch 5 megapixel shot that was minimally compressed or not compressed at all, from a camera built for the given situation. I’ve also had 7 megapixel shots that were absolute garbage, even for 8×12-sized printouts.

  4. Pingback: What Wednesday : Cameras «

  5. Pingback: Nikon Camera Advice | Les Jones