Skip to main content


Lesson 7 from: Camera Buyer's Guide

John Greengo

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

7. Pixels

Next Lesson: The Lens

Lesson Info


All right, in the previous section we were talking about the sensor, so let's dive in a little bit more closely on the sensor and talk about the pixels. 'Cause there has been a pixel race you might say over the last several years as we been in The Digital Era. And of course, pixel comes from the words picture element and this is how many different light sensitive cells are on the sensor itself. A very common sensor by today's standards will have six thousand rows, or six thousand columns and four thousand rows. Six thousand times four thousand is 24 million pixels which we summarize into 24 megapixels. 24MP and so that is a very good standard, there are some cameras that have higher than that and this is a very typical one that you're gonna find out on the market. Some have a bit lower than this and that's perfectly fine as well. So one of the most important questions that you are probably asking is, Well how many pixels do I actually need in a photograph? And of course the answer is, ...

it depends on what you're doing with the photograph. 24 megapixels is generally more than enough to do anything good with. I remember back, maybe I'm dating myself now, but it was a few years ago, when the professional stock agencies required 17 megapixels from an image before they would consider it for their stock professional collection of stuff. And all the cameras on the market, with the exception of one camera that I can think of, fit into that category. So one of the things that is interesting is it's a lot more than pixels that makes one camera better or not. Here is three of the highest megapixel cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony. And frankly, these are all really nice cameras. They're very good cameras that are capable of outputting really high resolution images. But what might surprise somebody new to photography is this is not their most expensive cameras. In all cases, they make other cameras with lower resolution that cost more money and it's partly because these other cameras are very good at capturing images very quickly. There are sports cameras, action cameras that can capture 10, 14, 20 frames a second and that is a very expensive thing to do. There's also a number of other things that have to do with the weather sealing, and the size of the camera, and the other features that are in there. But just being more megapixels doesn't mean it's a better camera. It's a specialty camera for doing a certain type of thing. And so when it comes down to talking about pixels, I think it's great as an analogy to talk about donuts. Imagine you were to go to the donut shop and pick up a box of 12 donuts, all right? That's pretty good. And then as you get to the counter for ringing out they say, Well you know, we've got a two for one offer today. How would you like 24 donuts for the exact same price? Well pretty much everyone would say, Well, I'll take twice as many doughnuts, if it's the same price. And what if they presented you with the same size box and gave you 24 mini donuts, rather than full sized donuts? You might be thinking, Okay, wait a minute, I got twice the number but, in actual donut material, did I get twice as much? And this is what's been happening with pixels and sensors is we've been putting more pixels on the sensors, but they've been getting smaller in size and there is a trade-off. Whether it's donuts or pixels that you're talking about, you're limited by the overall area of that sensor and how many pixels you can fit in there and what each of those pixels can do. And so there are advantages to having less pixels in that they can be better under low light conditions and that's why there's a balance of how many pixels they want to put on any given sensor. And so whether it's 12 or 24, I think you're gonna get really good quality and so my general thinking is more is better, but only if you're gonna make use of them. And so if you don't need 50 megapixels, it's probably best that you don't get a 50 megapixel sensor 'cause there are some downsides in that the pixels are individually smaller and they're not gonna be good at receiving light in low light situations. Here is an example of four different cameras, a couple of crop frame cameras and couple of full frame at very different resolutions. What I'm gonna do is I am going to zoom in to my little scene here and I wanna see how sharp and clear the information is. And as you can see, it does get sharper and cleaner as you go to the right, but it's surprisingly not that big of difference. You have to really enlarge these images to see a great difference. And so for most people 24 megapixels is gonna be more than enough, having extra can be handy in landscape and product photography if you are going to crop in significantly or if you're gonna blow the image up and enlarge it to a very large size. And so my general thought on the less or more in the pixels, whether they're big pixels or more in quantity, you're gonna get greater resolution if you have more of them. You can make bigger enlargements, of course. More cropping ability so if you wanna dig into certain details you can do that. But if you have less of 'em, 24 megapixels in many cases, you're gonna have better low light ability, faster frames per second. The cameras can process that information a little bit better and it's less storage in the long-term on memory cards and hard drives going forward, and it's gonna make your transfers a little bit quicker. And so you'll be a better judge as to what's best for you. But for most people, you can do absolutely top of the line cover of National Geographic with 20 megapixels, let alone 24 megapixels.

Class Materials

Free Bonus Material

Camera Buyer's Guide Download

Ratings and Reviews

Denise Watson

Another outstanding class by John Greengo, my favorite Creative Live instructor. John's delivery is entertaining and his info clear and very easy to understand. If you need more explanation, well, don't worry - he's got a slide or PDF for that! I'm a working photographer and I learn something new with each of John's classes. Don't hesitate to buy any of his classes - you won't regret it.

David Reichel

Yes - there is such a thing as a free lunch - this class is it! I enjoy landscape, seascape, architecture, portrait and travel photography. I've been a Canon user for decades (film and then digital full frame with the 5D Mark II then 5D Mark IV). Recently I got a Fujifilm mirrorless medium format GFX 50R and discovered some Fujifilm features (e.g., film simulation, menu system) that resonate with me. I now have over-kill on full frame format and because I like the Fujifilm so much, I've been thinking about moving from my Canon 5D Mark IV to a Fujifilm X-T3 as my walk-around camera. This class helped me better understand the trade-offs and alleviated my concerns about a crop format sensor in the X-T3. On top of that, this is a great refresher course on camera fundamentals.

Sherry Throughmyeyes Prater

There a thousands of reviews/guides/ floating around the internet, but this one is by far the best by far. I usually watch a portion and then move on because I simply lose interest, but I watched every single lesson. John gives a very unbiased explanation of cameras, functions for every type of shooter. Not only would I recommend it, but I am going to recommend. I am a member of multiple photography groups on FB and one of the most asked questions is camera buying advice. This is excellent!

Student Work