Buying a digicam: Forget the megapixel hype

In the digital camera domain, if there is one key number that marketers want to hype on, it is the megapixel number. When I get together with friends and relatives and we all whip out our digicams, the first question that everyone asks is “how many megapixels?” The megapixel topic almost always crops up when people ask for advise in what model to purchase.

The fact is “more megapixels” do not necessarily translate to “better pictures.” There are dozens of websites that present an entire technical discussion on pixels but lets just say that the megapixel value simply measures the amount of data of an image. It has nothing to do with clarity or picture quality. If you have a 12 megapixel camera with poor quality lens, you will basically end up with a 12 megapixel image of poor quality.

Then you have the file size factor. The translation from pixels to bytes is roughly triple. So the uncompressed file size of an image taken with, say, a 6 megapixel camera is approximately 18 megabytes. Not exactly something you would want to send to your relatives via email. Most digital cameras allow you to scale back the pixels or tweak the JPEG compression, all of which has the end result of a smaller file size but also a degradation of picture quality. Which is ironic because you bought a 6 megapixel camera to have the highest quality, right?

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  • Yes, I am annoyed by the how many MP question, too.

    Easy answer to people asking digicam advice: get a Canon. How many megapixels? Basta, get the one you can afford, pero don’t be OA and buy anything more than 5MP for a point-and-shoot. And never be fooled into getting Taiwan-brands.

    Or, if you want to be different: get a Panasonic Lumix, with that luscious Leica lens.

  • Well I am a Nikon man 🙂

    But my advise to anyone buying a digital camera is simply get one that you can afford and then learn any photo editing software—be it Photoshop, Paint.Net, or GIMP. You’ll be amazed how professional the pics will look with just some minor tweaking.

  • Canon Ixus 30!

  • Angulo

    I see, I thought megapixel is something to do with picture clarity. Thanx for the info

  • I agree, it is the lens. If you’re into D/SLR you would probably spent more money buying different lenses than getting new body. BTW, if you’re into DSLR photography you should check this out Lenbabies.

  • cmr

    There is some truth in everything… Increasing megapixels does increase resolution until the increase causes too much change in the signal/noise ratio. Here is why: Each pixel depends on photons (light) hitting to create an electical signal. The smaller the pixels are the less light that each one gets. Each of those pixels also have a certain amount of electical noise so the small pixels have less difference between the light provided signal and the background noise. For the point and shoot dcams I think that the limit is reached with 5MP. Of course making the imager larger solves this problem which is why the dSLRs have imagers the same size as 35mm or as APS cameras (.6 x 35mm). There are other limits to small dcams in that as the front lens gets smaller distortion increases. (I have been involved in designing digital imaging systems since 1984)

  • cmr is right. More pixels do result in higher resolution. But the definition of resolution is, technically speaking, “the number of pixels.” So again, higher resolution does not necessarily translate to better pictures.

    cmr is describing an important factor in determining the quality of a picture—that what is called “pixel quality.” Pixel quality is determined by a lot of factors, including the quality of the sensor and the quality of the lens. One good source of info for this is at

  • Thing is, explain all the technical details to some casual user, and they’d just go off the other ear.

    I’d say get any sort of camera -kahit camphone- and learn how to use it properly. At least learn how to frame shots.

  • J

    On that note, Nokia’s APac site has some practical and effective tips on composition.

    Anyone’s best bet in getting a digital camera is going for a brand that’s known for making cameras. So I’d go with Canon, Nikon, Olympus and the like.

    Sony though has made a name for itself in the super-compact digicam market. Their super-compacts are so sleek and beautiful.

  • Only plus I see with Sony digicams is their use of Carl-Zeiss lens (not all units), and that’s it. Care for a propriety Sony Memory Stick? No, thanks.

  • Same here…I avoid Sony products mainly because of that #$%@&* memory stick.

  • filmboy

    The Sony Cybershot F828 has a dual memory card support for both memory stick and compact flash. So in the expansion side of things this camera is great if you like Sony’s form factor but hate the bane of mankind proprietrary expansion card that is the memory stick and it’s evil, evil siblings the pro, duo, etc…

  • baluga01

    i bought a 6mp digicam. and geezz… pictures are blur at night and loses focus if the subject is very near.

  • baluga01

    guys, where can i buy a good lens nga pala? is there a digital photography store here in philippines?

  • silkshadow

    I have to agree. I’ve been buying digicams since they first came out and Canon has been the one brand that I have had no complainst about. Of course, I don’t buy SLRs as I am not a pro. The thing is that digicams require two things, the meapixel side which gives you printable pictures and optics which give your clear pictures.

  • beliv8

    The easiest and best thing to look for in a camera is it’s sensors. There are only two sensor types: CCD or CMOS. Images taken with a CCD sensor are clearer while those with a CMOS sensor tend to be grainy or pixelated. Most webcams and digital cameras though uses CMOS sensors as it’s cheaper.

    If you want to know the detailed differed, read “What is the difference between CCD and CMOS image sensors in a digital camera?” from HowStuffWorks –

  • I’m looking forward to better phonecam quality since that’s all I use.

  • mechko

    guyz, is there a digicam na kung saan ung price range ay between 6K to 8K na good pa rin ung brand o quality?

  • rbr0813

    Please help me,my cousin gave me his canon powershot SD750,because he bought a new digicam,where can I possibly buy a charger for it? I already went to canon at SM but it’s too expensive.So I opt to get the imitation ones instead,like the ones that are made from China.

  • Jenn

    Really, thanks for confirming my thoughts. I was browsing through digicams lately and was offered with 10MP up digicams. Sad to say, none has the quality I was looking for. I have kids who are so difficult to capture in photos because they’re so restless. Para saken, ok lang kung 3.2MP pa sya basta hindi blur kahit may movements.

    So what should we look for in a digicam if this is our concern?


  • hello:) im planning to but a new digicam.can you please help meto choose between canon or nikon:))or any other brand that is affordable and with a high quality
    and will satisfies me.i dont think to buy a dslr but only a digicam . thank you God bless:))))))

    • canon seems to be a popular choice for point and shoot cameras.