Do Megapixels Matter?

I have been taking digital photographs for over 20 years now. I first began dipping my toe into the digital universe as a supplement to my color film photography, but I went full time digital around 2007.

I’ve used a variety of cameras but almost all of my images went on to this blog or were viewed on a computer monitor. I did the odd color print on my home inkjet, but in the last ten years or so even my travel photography was documented for the Internet.

Of course as I got more into digital, my cameras got better and certainly the sensors featured more megapixels. At the end of the day though does a larger more sophisticated camera sensor really matter?

Lets take a look at a few images over the years.

2 Megapixels

Location: Ravine, Georgetown Ontario

Camera: Canon Powershot A60

Date:2003

This was my first digital camera and quite primitive by today’s standards. The photo holds up pretty well as a blog entry though.

5 Megapixels

Location: Woolen Mill Ruins, Merrickville ON

Camera: Nikon Coolpix 5000

Date:2005

This was one of Nikon’s early fixed lens, non DSLR digital cameras. It had its quirks and was quite slow in use, but given the right conditions it yielded a decent result.

6.3 Megapixels

Location: Wolf Grove Road, Mississippi Mills, ON

Camera: Fuji Finepix S6000fd

Date:2009

One of my most enjoyable digicams – this was a bridge camera with a 10.7X wide angle to longer telephoto lens attached. This rather large and bulky apparatus went on many a trip with us, and gave us some wonderful memories.

8.2 Megapixels

Location: Kensington Gardens, London UK

Camera: Fuji Finepix F480

Date: 2008

There were times when we took a cruise holiday, and it just wasn’t convenient to carry the large and clunky long zoom S6000 ashore. As an alternative I picked up a smaller Fuji pocket sized camera. The F480 was not an easy camera to get a good picture with – it was slow to focus and very poor in low light situations. Once in a while I did manage to use it properly.

10 Megapixels

Location: Sydney Harbour, Australia

Camera: Canon Powershot S90

Date: 2015

By 2010 I wanted to stop taking a big heavy bridge camera on holiday but I could not tolerate using the smaller Fuji Finepix 100% of the time. The Canon S90 solved my problem as long as I did not want to take long telephoto shots. It had a great lens and sensor combination for most travel photos and it went everywhere with us for years. My granddaughter Veronica still uses it.

12 Megapixels

Location : Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage Church, La-Seyne-sur-Mer, FR

Camera: Panasonic Lumix ZS50

Date: 2016

This compact 30X zoom is my current travel camera – tiny, lightweight and extremely versatile. I got it in 2016 because I wanted to get longer telephoto images than I could get with the S90. it is a bit slow for action shots, but it has image stabilization and the colors are great.

12.3 Megapixels

Location: Old Railway Bridge, Almonte ON

Camera: Nikon D90

Date: 2024

With most of the major manufacturers switching to mirrorless cameras, the older DSLRs are getting sold off at bargain prices. I picked this 2008 era Nikon up dirt cheap.

The D90 was a great still photo camera in its day, and I can use all my 1990s era Nikon autofocus film lenses with it. It’s very heavy and I’d never take it on a holiday, but it sure is a fun camera to use.

24.2 Megapixels

Location: Mississippi River, Almonte ON

Camera: Nikon D5500

Date: 2015

Although I was a single lens reflex film photographer for close to 25 years, I was slow to embrace the DSLR. A major reason was that I did not want to be cleaning dust off the sensor. In 2015 I decided that Nikon had solved the dust issue and I got the D5500 and a couple of VR lenses.

The D5500 is arguably the best camera I have ever used. I have not traveled extensively with it, although I’ve used it a lot for family photos and around Almonte. It has an articulated touch screen and a pretty good optical viewfinder. It is excellent for fast action.

I do plan on taking it on future driving holidays and I likely will use it to teach my granddaughter the basics of DSLR photography.

To sum up, I have taken images with 8 different digital cameras with various sized sensors ranging from 2 to 24 Megapixels. All of these images look OK on a blog. Now if I were cropping the image to enlarge a portion of it, or making large paper prints, the situation would be different. But for my uses I would say that anything over 5 MP will be fine.

There are other issues that might influence your choice of camera, such as the need for fast action in sports, or long telephoto wildlife photography. Certainly if you intend to make high res videos, many of the earlier digicams would be useless to you.

At the end of the day, an old school still photographer can get by perfectly well with a 10-12 MP old school camera. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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