Camera Buyer's Guide

Lesson 6/15 - Pixels


Camera Buyer's Guide


Lesson Info


So, when you decide to buy a digital camera, one of the very first questions that comes into play is pixels. How many pixels do you want, how pixels can you get, how many pixels can you afford? So, let's take a look at the pixels option. First off, pixels comes from the word Picture Element. It's the individual cells that are acquiring light and helping create the image. Now, these day, a pretty common sensor is gonna have 6,000 columns and 4,000 rows, and if you multiply that out, that means you're gonna get 24 million pixels or 24 megapixels, as we like to call it, in a camera. Now, there are some cameras that have more, and some cameras have less. And when cameras get very confusing, as they do, a lot of people kind of retreat to, let's just compare numbers, whatever number is highest is best. And so, let's take a look at where 24 megapixels compares on the chart. So, there are cameras at around 12 megapixels. The highest-end ones, at least in our category, is 50 megapixels. So, how...

many pixels do you need? That is the really big question, all right, because buying more doesn't really do much for you, and it's gonna depend on your output, what are you doing with your photographs? So, this is gonna depend on the image size, you're gonna blow it up really large, or viewing distance, how close are people going to be to it? And so, if it's gonna be images for the phone, you're gonna be putting something on social media, doesn't really need that many pixels for that. So you're gonna be making large prints, then you're gonna be needing something more. There is a definite misconception among people who don't know a lot about cameras. They assume that cameras that are expensive have more pixels, and that is definitely not true. Let's take a look at a few examples. The Sony A7R III, brand new camera on the market, has 42 megapixels, is widely considered one of the better cameras, one of the best cameras on the market for a wide variety of purposes. It sells for around a little over $3,000. Also in that price range, is the new Nikon D850, which is being loved by a lot of different people out there, and that's at around 46 megapixels. The king of megapixels at this point in time is the Canon 5DS and 5DS R models, which are also in that same price range at around 50 megapixels. But if we look at these same manufacturers at different cameras they're offering, Sony has an A9, which is over $1,000 more and is at 24 megapixels. Now, why would a camera be more money but have less megapixels? It's because it does something else really well. The Sony A7R III shoots at 10 frames a second, which is very, very good. The Sony A9 shoots at 20 frames a second, which is unbelievable, it's the fastest on the market. The other two professional sports cameras out there is the Nikon D5 and the Canon 1DX, which are shooting in the range of 14 to 16 frames per second. They're gonna sell for around $6,000. They are really well-built. They're some of the most durable cameras out there. In fact, I read a recent report that NASA just sent up to the International Space Station 10 brand new Nikon D5's, and I would think NASA would wanna use the highest resolution images possible. But what's more important than resolution to them is durability, ability to withstand all of the different things that might happen to a camera in that environment, and those professional high-end cameras have better-built systems all around it. And so, they went with 20 megapixels rather than the option of doing 46. And so, it really depends on what you are gonna be doing with that. And that's kind of hard to contemplate this because it doesn't make a lot of sense. It always seems like more pixels is better. So, let me use a John Greengo analogy, in donuts! Everybody likes donuts, right? So imagine you're in charge of getting donuts for the office. You need to stop by before you go to work to pick up donuts for everybody in your office. You pick up a dozen donuts, and everybody gets a donut. Perfect! Now, when you get to the counter, they say, hey, we got a special today, we got two for one. You get 24 donuts for the same price as a dozen. Your brain thinks, well, that's a great deal, I get twice as many. Well, they pull out a box that's exactly the same size, and all the donuts you get are half-size donuts. Are you getting more donuts for your money here? No, I'm getting more donuts, but I'm not getting more food! And that's kind of true with megapixels as well, it's size versus quantity. Photographers want large pixels, but we also want mini pixels, and you can't have both at the same time. You have to choose one or the other. Whether it comes to donuts or comes to pixels, you're gonna have to choose do you want bigger pixels or more pixels. And there is a balance because, the bigger the pixels are, the better they do under low-light conditions. Let me show you one camera we got over here. These is kind of a special camera. This is about a $3,000 camera, it's from Sony. It's the Sony A7S, and it has 12 megapixels, which is one of the lowest you can get on the market today, and its sibling camera is the Sony A7R, which is the 42-megapixel version. And Sony makes two different cameras that have almost identical feature set between them. Differences is that one camera is extremely good under low light, one camera is extremely good high resolution. It depends on what you are doing as to which camera is best. Everything else about them is pretty much the same, which I really like, being able to choose kind of what type of engine is in your car. And, in some ways, the 42 megapixels is like having a really big engine in your car. You're gonna get terrible gas mileage, but you can go really fast, or you can get really good gas mileage. And so, it depends on your needs, and you're trying to get a camera that fits you needs the best. All right, so more is better only if you need them. And so, think about what you're going to be doing with your images and whether that resolution fits your particular needs. I will share with you one image quality test, and I shot with an older crop frame 10-megapixel camera, a more modern 24-megapixel crop frame camera, and that's where most of the cameras are on the market these days. And then, I have a 24-megapixel full frame. So there's no difference in resolution, it's just a larger sensor. And then, at the top of the line is a 50-megapixel sensor, and what we're gonna do, is we're gonna blow up a small area of this sample photograph to take a look at the detail of this image. And you should notice that images on the right are sharper than images on the left because we've gone into such close examination of this image. Now, you will notice that the two in the middle don't have anything significantly different about them because they are at the same number of pixels, and in this particular case, they have pretty good lighting on them, and under good lighting conditions, the size of the sensor doesn't have as big a play in it. Under low-lighting conditions, the full frame sensor is gonna be able to do a little bit better. But even with the 10-megapixel crop frame camera, you're still getting very good image quality. In fact, in many of the classes that I teach here at CreativeLive, I'm using photo samples that I shot with 10 years ago on a 12-megapixel camera, and I still get people who call in and say, oh, that is a great photo, can I buy a copy of it? And so, 10 megapixels is probably enough to get you good image quality, but 24 is kind of the middle of the road these days. So, let's talk about the options of either getting less or more pixels in a particular camera. Less pixels means they're bigger in size, more means they're more in quantity. All right, if you have more, you're gonna have greater resolution. That means you can make bigger enlargements. If you wanna make a poster-size enlargement, yes, you do want more pixels. Gonna give you more cropping ability. Ah, maybe you didn't get it cropped right, you didn't have the right lens. Gonna give you a little bit more versatility. The camera's gonna have a little bit more lifespan just because cameras with really low pixels, they tend not to do as well on the used market. So, as far as the value of your camera, it will retain a little bit more of its value for a little bit longer if it does have more pixels. The lower number you have, generally, the better off you're gonna be under low-light conditions. You'll generally be able to shoot at more frames per second. So, if you're into sports photography, those top sports cameras, were not shooting at high resolution. They were shooting very modest resolution. And it's gonna require less storage in your cameras. So, whether it's memory on your memory card or memory on your computer at home or you external hard drives or uploading to the cloud, there's less data to worry about when doing that. It's also gonna make your transfers faster. So if you wanna download images, it's gonna go much faster. And so, people in the news industry, people who need to have quick updates on things right away, they're not shooting at 50 megapixels, they're probably shooting at 16 or or, at the most, 24 in most cases. And so, there is definitely a balance on this, and more is not always better.

Class Description

Buyer's guide will be your guide to figuring out the best digital camera for your needs.

Gear expert John Greengo dives into the major brands and lenses that are currently on the market.

John breaks down some of the more confusing aspects of mirrorless and DSLR's from focusing systems to sensor size; you'll get a better understanding of what the gear does so you can make an informed decision.

At the end of the class, John gives his recommendations for different types of photographers from the aspiring student to the filmmaker and everyone in between.


Samantha Locadia

John is a great teacher, and I've learned allot in this lesson. I already had an idea what camera I want to buy next but happy to know it was also what he recommended (for my field). Really love his free classes by the way where he talks with other photographers and discusses photos of viewers. Awesome!

Michael And Dawn

John has a very good way of explaining things to make them both simple and complete. His makes great use of visual graphics in his explanations. I highly recommend any of his courses, the material presented is well thought out and flows very well.

Kevin Li

Amazing course. So much education provided in these free classes. I will definately be taking more. I am so glad I watched these before jumping in and buying a camera. This is a much watch for all people who are new to photography and are looking to buy a camera.