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THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

The megapixel myth : Take great Digital Photos

Skimboarder shot on 6MP camera

Skimboarder shot on 6MP camera

One of the most frequent questions to settle before coming to Digital Photography and Photoshop I is: what kind of digital camera should I choose?  The answer depends on your objectives and comfort with camera technology.  If you are a hobbyist, you’ll probably focus your attention on DSLRs: those traditional-looking cameras that accept different lenses and provide an optical viewfinder through which to compose your shots.  The pocket point-and-shoot alternative is generally more  travel-friendly and affordable, although there is considerable overlap in the latter regard among high end point-and-shoots and entry-level DSLRs.

One measuring stick commonly employed when comparing models is the number of effective megapixels (MP) of the image sensor.  All things being equal, it would seem reasonable that a 12 megapixel camera  would resolve an image twice as well as a 6 megapixel model but, in fact, the comparison depends on additional variables.  If the optical precision of the 12MP camera is not commensurate with the power of the sensor, actual improvement over the 6MP camera may be nominal.  Even though the greater number of pixels will yield a larger croppable area, insufficient sharpness can render the results a wash. The smaller the size of the pixels and, therefore, the greater their density, the greater potenital for stray data, known as noise, and poor detail in low-light shooting situations. The image of the skimboarder was shot with an older 6MP camera yet reporoduced sharp enough to earn a full page spot for July in the 2009 Tidelines calendar. In this case, the quality of the lens was more important than the number of pixels.

For detailed side-by-side comparisons and actual image samples, I recommend dpreview.com Regardless of the form factor you choose, consider investing in a camera that shoots images in the RAW format.  While Photoshop CS4 can employ many of the same enhancements on JPEG images, you’ll truly enjoy the full power of the application with images shot in RAW.

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