Not All Pixels Are Created Equal

Whenever I help friends and family buy a new camera, they almost always turn to pixels as the dominating trade point. The reality is, that’s probably not the most appropriate measure of “bestness” and here’s why:

The metric most often used by camera manufacturers and marketers to tout their products has been pixel count. That’s a shame, but it was probably inevitable — it’s easy to measure, and consumers are used to the idea that more is better. However, the number of pixels is a measure of quantity, not quality.

This is a great article explaining in a mostly non-technical way why pixels aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Case in point: I can (and have) print a 30″ x 20″ from my eight-year-old 6.1 MP Nikon D70 that look great because it has a 23.7 mm × 15.6 mm1 sensor. If I were to print a picture at the same size using my year-old iPhone 4S with its 8 MP 4.54 mm x 3.42 mm2 sensor, it would look very noisy.


  1. 369.72mm2 

  2. 15.52mm2 

One Reply to “Not All Pixels Are Created Equal”

  1. Yeah, I find that when purchasing a camera, I end up using the lens as the determining factor in what brand to buy, and not how many megapixels there are (since most have a load of megapixels now).
    A lot of companies can do the software and most of the hardware, but only camera companies (Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc.) really know how to get the lens right.

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