What is a Megapixel?

Canvas News

20 megapixel camera or 8 megapixel camera? Is it even important? If you are on the hunt for the best photography camera, and you don’t know your MP from your mega pixels to your pixels, read on – you’ve finally found an answer.

To help illustrate you should know about the Pointillism painting technique. It consists of small and distinct dots of singular colour arranged in patterns to form a picture. The most famous example of this in the art world is Georges Seurat’s painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”:

The technique relies on the brain’s amazing ability to blend the colour spots into a whole image.

A photograph is exactly the same – it is made up of pixels, referred to as megapixels because there are so many. Each pixel is a colour dot and the dots form the photograph. The amount of megapixels a camera has is simply the number of dots it uses to create a photo of the same size.

If you are standing far away from one of these paintings you can’t even tell it’s made up of dots. But if you came right up to it and put your face in front of it – it would just look like a bunch of coloured blobs! The more megapixels on a camera the more dots or pixels are used create the image, so the smaller these dots are (to fit more skittles into that rectangular picture above you would need to use mini skittles) and the less fuzzy-round-the-edges the image looks. This is said to have a higher resolution, and is also the way high definition works on TV.

When digital photography was in its early days it used to be important to buy as many megapixels as you can afford, but now there is no need to choose based on this as nearly all cameras have enough megapixels for a high quality photo. The higher the megapixels in a camera, the larger the image files it will create and your memory card will store less photos, so sometimes less is more! (Less megapixels = more photos!)

The only time megapixels really becomes important is when you decide what you are going to do with your photo. If the image is just going to go onto your computer or iPad you can use any megapixel camera, but if you are going to get it printed out and enlarged then the bigger it is the more megapixels you will need to ensure it’s not blurry and is high quality.

The reason a DSLR is set apart from a point and shoot and used by professionals – aside from all the extra functions – is they have more megapixels and bigger sensors as this offers the best image quality.

When it comes to creating the best quality canvas prints then the following is a useful guide to pixel values and the equivalent size that we could guarantee a result for subject to the image being in focus and correct with regards to image brightness and colour balance:

Pixel size On canvas On paper
310,000 30cm / 12" 20cm / 8"
480,000 45cm / 18" 30cm / 12"
1,920,000 50cm / 20" 40cm / 16"
3,000,000 60cm / 24" 50cm / 20"
5,000,000 76cm / 30" 60cm / 24"
7,000,000 100cm / 40" 76cm / 30"
7,800,000 152cm / 60" 100cm / 40"
9,800,000 No limit No limit

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