What is a megapixel? | A Quick Guide

When camera shopping (or even phone shopping these days), you’ve probably seen a lot of statistics on the camera’s megapixel count.

In this brief and concise article, we’ll explain what a megapixel is and how much the megapixel count even matters as it concerns to both digital cameras and phones.

What are megapixels?

A megapixel (mp), to put it simply, is simply a quicker and easier way of saying “one million pixels”. The way pixels are calculated is by multiplying the resolution (dimensions) of an image. For example, a 1920×1080 image (the standard size of many TVs/displays) would be equal to 2,073,6000 pixels, or, in other words, 2.07 megapixels. 

Most modern cameras, such as the Sony a6000, shoot around 24 megapixels or more. This translates to a roughly 6000×4000 image, or 24,000,000 pixels. There are some cameras, however, such as the Sony a7rIV that can shoot as many as 61 megapixels, creating a resolution of roughly 9575×6370. Modern phones, such as the iPhone 12, capture around 12 megapixels (although phones are limited by having a small photo sensor size).

A chart illustrating various crops of megapixels.

When do megapixels matter?

It is important to note that if you are uploading content online (say, to Instagram), that having an ultra-high megapixel count doesn’t matter that much. Everything on social media is compressed (reduced in quality) anyways, so you won’t be taking as much advantage of the high resolution. Even a 4k resolution display can only showcase 8 megapixels of a photo.

With that being said, higher resolution cameras can create larger physical prints, and can also crop in images without as much loss of detail. For the vast majority of photographers, however, a more standard megapixel count (such as the 24mp Sony a6000) will totally be adequate.

A close-up of a camera’s image sensor.

And that’s all there is to megapixels. If you enjoyed this guide, consider reading some of our other content. Thank you. 🙂

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