Please explain megapixels & zoom...importance

Discussion in 'Photography Board' started by hockref, Nov 1, 2005.

  1. hockref

    hockref Earning My Ears

    Oct 29, 2005
    I will be buying a digital camera soon and have been scouting them out at local stores. The prices are all pretty much the same but I'm told that the higher the megapixel the better the quality and that lens zoom is more important than optical zoom. I'm totally confused. Could someone give me a Digital Camerera 101 lesson?

  2. safetymom

    safetymom Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2001
    Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. The optical depends on the lens where the digital zoom is accomplished by software. I am sure someone can explain it better.

    Also it isn't just the number of megapixels that make a good digital camera. You can have a great 3 megapixel camera if it has good optics, sensor and a 5 mp camera that doesn't give you as good a picture.
  3. Geoff_M

    Geoff_M DIS Veteran, DVC Member, "Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

    Sep 13, 2000
    When camparing cameras, don't get caught up in the "megapixel game." Be aware that, all other things being equal, in order to double the resolution of a digital camera, you must quadruple the megapixels. So keep that in mind if you're weighing a 4 vs. 5 megapixel camera. So don't think that images from the 5 MP camera will be "25% better" than ones from a 4 MP camera.

    As for the "zoom" question, ignore the "digital zoom" unless you insist on printing images directly from the camera. It's image manipulation that you can easily do on your computer when you edit your photos. All "digital zoom" does is enlarge the image, it doesn't cause the camera's sensor to grow pixels.

    The camera's optics also play a big role in final image quality. Pick a couple cameras you like and check out places like or for sample images that aren't hand picked by the makers and their takes on the cameras' performance.
  4. ndelaware

    ndelaware DIS Veteran

    Oct 5, 2005
    There is a whole article about megapixels here: . Basically the more megapixels, the higher the resolution, or the larger the print you can produce before you start to see a breakdown of the image quality. But as safetymom said there is a lot more than just megapixels that contribute to picture quality.

    Optical zoom is done completly with the lense on the camera. Like when you see those big long lenses on a professional's cameras. The glass inside actually brings the image closer to the camera. Digital zoom just blows up the image inside the camera without getting any closer or improving the quality of the image. All it does is take a piece of the image in your viewfinder and make it bigger. You can accomplish the same thing on your computer later.
  5. PaulD

    PaulD Mouseketeer

    Oct 28, 2005
    The only other thing about having more megapixels is that you can crop your photos more and still make decent, non-pixelated, prints. That being said, I think that getting good optics and a zoom range that suits your purpose is more important. I have a 3.2 megapixel Canon S1 IS that has a 10x zoom lens that I am very happy with. I don't need to crop after the fact since I can do it with the zoom lens when the photo is taken. And at 3 megapixels I can make good 4x6 and 5x7 prints so it's a great camera for vacations and snapshots of the family. For more serious stuff I use my Digital Rebel.

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