Digital cameras capture images as pixel elements, known as pixels. The pixel exists as a tiny square dot. An image is formed from millions of these tiny little square dots. A megapixel is composed of one million pixels.
The number of megapixels determines the resolution or print size that your camera will be able to produce. The more pixels, the higher the image resolution and the more detail you will see in the final image. But, higher megapixels also means higher costs, so think of your budget before you decide what pixel count is right for you.
It is almost impossible nowadays to buy a camera with a megapixel count of under 5 or 6 megapixels. Indeed the race to produce cameras with more and more megapixels continues unabated with advertisers promoting high megapixel cameras as being superior. This is not necessarily the case.
If you don’t intend to print your photos, but simply view them on your computer screen, you only need up to two megapixels. If you want to produce normal size prints a camera with 6 megapixels will do the job. However, if you wish to edit and crop your photos or do enlargements you will need more than 6.
A digital camera with a count of 6 megapixels will produce great results and is recommended for most photographers. A 9 or 10 megapixel camera is required only when you wish to produce very large pictures or when you have intricate detailing in your photos. A 10 or 12 megapixel camera will produce prints up to A3 size. However, after a certain point, the image becomes so high quality that paying for more pixels just doesn’t make sense, you won’t even notice the difference.
And remember, although more megapixels gives you large pictures with more room to crop, it also creates much bigger files and uses more memory on your camera.
Conversley, if you buy a digital camera with too few megapixels for your printing and editing needs, your prints will look fuzzy or pixelated, as will a digital image that is cropped too much. The best advice is to buy the best camera you can afford that most suits your creative needs.