©Verte Photography All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Time to Click: Understanding Megapixles

Digital camera's have been around for a while now... and for the most part you don't run into the same issues that you had when purchasing them say.. even 5 years ago when megapixels were still "good" and not really a part of the "buying" decision. However, I am very aware that many people chuck the technical words out the door without really understanding them, what they mean, or how they apply to your photography. Most people do this simply because its a technical word or subject. Trust me when I say, I get it. I LOVE photography... but when I sit down with technical photographers that are all about the science and numbers... I really feel like my head will explode. It's not that I don't understand them, I do. I just have no idea how they keep all those technical figures about EVERY camera in their heads! But then, there is a reason why I am not an accountant also.

Even though it is not a megapixel race any more, and every camera you purchase these days will produce a quality print easily up to a 16x20... doesn't mean that we should assume that all camera's are equal here or that it "doesn't matter" or shouldn't play a role in your purchasing decision. There are many differences, without even getting technical that you as a consumer should be aware of... and understand. If you are looking at buying or simply looking to get better quality images out of what you have this is very important stuff!

As is my teaching style (explain-er that I am) I feel it's my job to give you information in a practical and "hands on" way. How does this effect you, and what is really important! So, if your craving an exploded head tech report on the newest items... you have to wait your turn, this isn't that post!

Now lets dive in so we can learn WHY you want to care about this technical stuff!

What is a CCD or CMOS chip:

Both the CCD and CMOS chips are simply an image sensor or the capture device of your camera. It the camera's "film" so to speak. It is where the information is captured before it is digitally stored onto your memory card. It is the brain of the camera, if the eyes are the lens, and the mouth is the memory card.  Basically the image sensor job is to take the light gathered from the pixels and convert it to a digital image which is then stored onto your memory card as a file.

What is a MegaPixel ( MP )?
Megapixels are (basically) what your sensors are made up of,  it is what "reads" the information and creates the image. Each sensor is made up of  millions and millions of pixels (think of this like the grain pieces in old school film if your familiar) They capture, and decipher all the information.

So the higher the megapixel rating of your camera (or other device) the better your images. In the theory of more is better, the more MP you have the more information that is gathered. Also more MP you have the better your images are as they get printed larger, and the less you are to see them as broken squares or "pixels" when they are printed. (This also controls why you get different file sizes on your images, and why your data cards can hold different amounts of images... it's all based on HOW much information is being gathered)

Almost. There is another factor. SIZE of the chip. Yep, I am going to say it. Size does matter. A lot.

This is a really good chart, but you have to put into your mind just how small were really talking... point and shoot camera sensors are smaller then your smallest fingernail. By a LOT.

If you take just the standard point and shoot camera sensor (Red) and put 12mp on to it, they are all going to be really really tiny right? Now, if you put the same 12 mp on say the Pro DSLR "full Frame" (purple) those pixels by default are larger and capture more information in each one. (like almost 20 times larger) so before you even get into differences in lenses, skill or anything else your Pro image sensor is creating a better quality image even though it has the SAME mp rating.

Crazy right?

To be fair, most DSLRs are not the purple sensor size... but that does account for the "pro" price on the ones that are! Your typical DSLR entry level or "pro-sumer" that mid range camera would be somewhere between yellow and the largest blue. Which makes a HUGE difference.

You should learn what size your sensor is - so that as we talk about differences in lens, and how your sensor size effects cropping and such you can know how it effects YOU! If you don't already know, open your manual to the "specs" page and it should be listed out there! (consider this your homework, because you need this information for part 2)

Now, some people wont like this... but I am going to point this out anyway...  Do you see the grey square,  the smallest one on that chart? That's your Iphone sensor, half of that smallest point and shoot camera quality. So, when you ask why I am such a firm believer in not using them for product images... there ya go. Right now, no matter how good it is, its just not comparable based off the sensor alone. It's like watching the first color release of the Disney Cinderella before any remastering or editing... compared to say... Tangled or Brave.  Functional, but not very detailed or pretty.

Now... Like a good host, I am going to let you digest your dinner before we get to desert! I find that making technical posts too long is a little overwhelming! So tomorrow I am going to continue this train of thought and share with you how your sensor size is related to printing images, cropping, and even that silly digital zoom you hear so much about.


  1. Hi there, I am a co-host at the GYB hop. I just wanted to stop by and say that I am now following your blog.

    I am so glad I found you! I am working hard at taking better photos and have no clue. I learned so much from this post. I look forward to seeing what else you blog about!

    Cynthia at http://Feedingbig.com

  2. Thanks for coming over Cynthia! I have a whole series this month - sort of digital photography 101... be sure to go back a few posts and catch up! There is a lot more to come!!! happy you could join us!

  3. So helpful! That chart is great! Thanks for posting :D

  4. Found you through GYB hop... I think I can learn lots form you... I have two blogs and one is dedicated to photography. Following you through GFC.

  5. Thanks for the feedback ladies! I really do hope you learn a lot! That is my goal!

  6. Hi, Great post. I found you through the blog hop. Now following you.Please stop by and say hi when you get a chance.

    Be sure and check out my new Blog Hop that we just started, It's Weekly Goals Link Up. It's a great way to stay on track. Have a great day. :) Here's the link in case you want to check it out. Thanks again.http://lenettacarnes.blogspot.com/2013/01/weekly-goals-linkup-1.html

    Also,My daughter, Kisha, also is taking over Fill In the Blank Fridays. The person doing it has decided she can't do it anymore so Kisha is now doing it. Her first one is today. Would love for you to join us there also. It's a fun one. Her blog ishttp://www.kjaggers.com/2013...

    You can also go to her page and at the to sign up for a reminder on both of these each week
 Have a wonderful evening. :)