When shopping for a digital camera it can be easy to get caught up into the”Megapixel Myth” mindset, that is based on the idea that more megapixels are better. While the number of megapixels a camera has should be a consideration, they are not the only thing that needs to be considered that will affect the overall image quality. In fact there are other often overlooked factors that should be taken into consideration in order to buy the camera that is best suited for your specific needs.
Another way of saying this is that we need to remember that not all megapixels are created equal! What do I mean by that? It is simply that more megapixels alone do not always mean a better quality camera or result in better quality photos
Debunking the “Megapixel Myth” syndrome begins with understanding the important relationship that exists between the number of megapixels and the size of the image sensor.
This is because the size of the image sensor is also important to overall picture quality. For example an 8MP camera with a sensor that is 1/4 the size of another 8MP camera will not have the same quality of image even though it has the same number of megapixels.
The reason for this is that a larger image sensor has more surface area exposed to the available light, which will result in a better quality image.
The Importance of Image Sensor Size
Remember back in the days of film cameras? You had 110mm Instamatic cameras and you also had 35mm cameras. Most people understood that the larger film used in the 35mm camera produced better quality prints than the smaller film of the 110 camera, especially if you wanted to enlarge the photographs at all.
That same principle holds true with today’s digital cameras but instead of having different film sizes, we now have different sizes of image sensors that are commonly used in digital cameras. Just like the larger film of a 35mm camera had a larger area to capture available light, so does a full frame DSLR camera. The larger image sensor in a “Full Frame” DSLR or even an “APS-C” DSLR camera is significantly larger than the smaller sensors commonly found in “point and shoot cameras” or a “cell phone camera”.
The size of the image sensor plays an important part in the overall image quality the camera can capture. Image sensor size is something that should be given careful consideration when choosing a digital camera.
People caught up in the “Megapixel Myth” syndrome do not recognize that the size of the image sensor is at least as important as the number of megapixels the camera has…maybe even more so.
Comparing Image Sensor Size
In the above diagram we see the relative size differences between different image sensors. The term “Full Frame” simply means that the image sensor is the same size as 35mm negative. The larger “Full Frame” sensors are found in your more expensive “professional” DSLR cameras while the smaller APS-C sensor is commonly found in the lower priced “entry level” and mid-range “pro-summer” DSLR models.
The smaller 1/2.5 to 1/1.6 sensors would be typically found in the more compact “point and shoot” cameras and cell phones typically have even smaller sensors. The much larger image sensor found in a DSLR will generally produce better quality images than the same resolution (number of megapixel) sensor in a point and shoot camera.
Another Look At Image Sensors
As you can see there is a big difference and range of image sensor sizes found in today’s digital cameras. The size of the image sensor becomes very important if you will be enlarging your photos at all or if you will need to crop them.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you need to look at both image sensor size and the number of megapixels in order to choose the best camera to suit your needs. You will be better off with a larger image sensor and less megapixels than more megapixels and a smaller sensor.
The “Megapixel Myth” syndrome fails to recognize that the more megapixels you cram into a tiny image sensor the more noise and less usable ISO range you will generally have. Larger image sensors allow you to capture images with less noise and greater dynamic range than a smaller sensor. That results in better images.
The bottom line is that DSLR cameras produce better images because they have larger sensors. When it comes to comparing cameras look carefully at the size of the image sensor. Of course many other factors come into play when determining what the best camera is for YOU…including price, size, features, etc.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right digital camera and image sensor size is an important one that is often overlooked. Avoid being caught up with the “Megapixel Myth” mindset that only considers how many megapixels the camera has.