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What is a Megapixel and why is it important?

If you’ve bought a new camera, smartphone or action cam’ recently you’ll inevitably have stumbled across the term “megapixel”, or MP for short. But what is it and why is it so important in the world of photography? We explain all in this guide.

What is a megapixel?

Megapixels are the number of pixels that you can capture in one photo. A pixel is the smallest unit of information in digital images. It is a combination of red, green and blue dots called ‘sub-pixels’.

The number of pixels determines the resolution of an image, also known as its size or scale. A high megapixel camera can in theory not only capture a detailed photo but it can also help you crop your shot without losing clarity.

Do more megapixels mean better images?

Although Megapixels are a big part of the camera specifications, they don’t necessarily make the best photos. A camera with fewer megapixels can produce better pictures than a camera with higher numbers, because each pixel is larger. This means that more light is being let in and the picture is brighter.

When looking at specifications, make sure that you check out more than just the megapixel number. There are other factors that play a role in the quality of images, such as the size of the sensor and the quality of the lens.

Why is Megapixel important in mobile phones?

On a phone this is exacerbated as the device’s form factor limits the size of lens and how much light it can take in. Since you’ll likely want to share these pictures on social media, having too many megapixels can actually be a disadvantage.

If you try to post a high-quality image to Facebook, it will appear pixelated and fuzzy. This is because Facebook uses a lower resolution when you upload a photo, so that it loads quickly and everyone can see it. In order for higher-quality images to appear as intended, you’ll need a camera with at least 8-megapixels.

You can see examples of the above in our best camera phones guide, which includes a number of handsets with lower megapixel main sensors.

Which is the best resolution for Videos?

Megapixels work slightly differently for videos. For videos, you want a low resolution. When capturing video, you have to consider the megapixels that are used for each frame. If you have too many megapixels, you will end up with a low-quality video.

It’s important to remember that more megapixels doesn’t always mean better quality. If you don’t know what you’re looking for when shopping for a new camera, keep these things in mind. A higher resolution isn’t always better, and you don’t necessarily need the highest number of megapixels in order to get good results.

What’s the difference between a megapixel and resolution?

Megapixels and resolution are not the same thing. Resolution measures the number of pixels in an image – the total number of dots that make up the image. Megapixels measure the size of each pixel – one million sub-pixels make up each pixel. Image resolution and print resolution are different things.

Resolution is about how much information you have to work with, while print resolution is about how much of that information you can actually use. Print resolution is measured as dots per inch (dpi), and it tells you how many ink dots can be applied to a sheet of paper within one inch. The higher the dpi number, the more detail your printed images will have. Digital camera images are created at a specific resolution. There are a few standard resolutions, but most cameras allow you to change the settings to suit your needs.

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