The megapixel race continues, and now even mobile phones in their number can bypass very expensive SLR cameras.



61 megapixels for a full-frame DSLR camera Sony 7R IV are no longer surprising, even 64 MP for inexpensive camera phones, such as Redmire Xiaomi Note Pro 8, are already something common and everyday. Imagine if full-frame cameras used matrices with pixels of the same dimensions as mobile devices.

The physical size of the main sensor on the phone Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro 6 / 128GB is 1 / 1.72 in.... The diagonal of the sensor is 9.216 mm, width 7.6 mm, height 5.7 mm, which gives us crop factor Kf = 4.55... The sensor area is approximately 20 times smaller than the classic Full Frame 36 mm X 24 mm sensor. The pixel size is pathetic 0,8 microns

If the full-frame sensor (sensor) of a modern full-frame camera is filled with pixels, the same size as that of Redmire Xiaomi Note Pro 8then we would get a camera with 1276 MP! It is easy to calculate: (36 * 24) / (7,6 * 5,7) * 64 = 1276 (MP). Such a 16-bit TIFF file would take about 6 GB... And if we go further and stamp such pixels on the matrix from some Phase One IQ180 (with sensor dimensions 40.4 X 53.7 mm), then we get 3205 MP - about 3.2 GP (GIGA PIXEL!). Can you imagine the joy of the pixel marketers of the future?

Actually Redmire Xiaomi Note Pro 8 uses not yet the smallest pixels, and I did the calculations only to show the possible "gigapixel" future that photographers can expect :).

If we look at the practical side of increasing the number of MPs, then in addition to the improvements and deteriorations associated with a decrease in the physical size of the photosensitive element, described in section Battle of Megapixels, there are several important aspects that are very rarely touched upon by 'pixel scientists'. The main one is resize ('resize' - resizing the original image).

In order not to be so boring to read, take a photo of a cat (everyone loves cats, especially Instagram users).


Spherical cat in resize

The photo of the cat was taken using a camera Nikon D700which has 12MP (12 052 992 pixels). You see this photo in a reduced version up to 720 X 479 pixels, which equals 0,34488MP. It turns out that now we are not seeing the photo that was taken using the camera’s sensor, but only 1/35 (about 3%) of its original size and quality in the original image.

Of course, no one resizes their photos to 720 X 479, but this indirectly occurs when viewing photos. For example, I view photos on my monitor, which creates images of 1920 X 1200 pixels, which equals 2304000 pixels (2.3MP). On my monitor, I see only 19% of the original image. 81% of the source file is not available to me. If I even enlarge the picture so that one pixel in the photo corresponds to one pixel of my monitor, then in the end I can only view the same 19% of the original image at the same time.

As another example, let's take a monitor with the maximum resolution for personal computers, for example, some 30-inch NEC that can simultaneously display 4MP images (2560 X 1600). Even on such a powerful monitor, only 1/3 of the information from the original image will be placed. Even if we take the old 5-megapixel camera, then its picture will not fit on this monitor.

To fully view the entire 12MP image with Nikon D700 will have to use a 4K TV with the ability to display 4096 X 3112, but I have not seen such TVs on sale yet :). When I wrote this article, on sale it was possible to find only UHD TVs that can create images of 3840 X 2160 and cost about 10-15.000 cu At the same time, such a TV can only display 69% of our 12MP image.

UPDATE: after a couple of years, not only TVs appeared, but also monitors with a slightly higher resolution - 3840 x 2160 (example - BenQ SW320) and 5120 x 2880 (example - Iiyama ProLite).

Everyone loves cats

Everyone loves cats

If an ordinary amateur photographer is not destined to see his whole picture 1: 1 in its original quality using a monitor, projector or TV, then maybe printed pictures will come to the rescue? Let's try to print our picture in a photo lab (usually good photo labs allow you to print images with a density of 300 dpi, i.e. 300 dpi). We print the picture 10 * 15.

10cm * 15cm = 5.91 inches * 3,94 inches which equals 23,29 square inches. Such a print can fit 23,29 * 300 * 300 = 2096100 points. Let's take into account that we came across a good photo lab, which can translate each pixel into a point on paper, so we will “print” 10 megapixels on a 15 * 2.1 image. In order for all 12MP to fit on a print with a print density of 300 dpi, you need to use a 30 X 40 cm format. The cost of one such print in the best case will be about $ 3. But imagine if we need to enjoy not a 12MP picture, but a 38.2MP one taken with the aforementioned Nokia Lumia 1020?

I have not seen a single person who would print photos of this format just for a home album. If we find a laboratory that deals with denser printing, then due to the limitations of our vision on the 10 * 15 print, it is hardly possible to notice every point created by the camera.

The cat looks at megapixels somehow incredulously

The cat looks at megapixels somehow incredulously

If you average and look at the reality of an ordinary amateur photographer (or just a person with a digital camera), then viewing the shot material usually takes place through the camera’s display, on a monitor or TV, and very rarely in a printed version of a small format. In all these cases, in no way can you see the entire original volume of the captured image, and viewers show only a small fraction of the information, or the image that has passed resize.

Thus, I want to make a very important conclusion:

Modern amateurs pay for megapixels that they don’t use at all!

Many still cherish the hope that once their 20 megapixel photos of a cat will be in demand. But the reality is sometimes different, and such photos just in vain clog the free space on the computer's hard drive. Sometimes marketing is easy kills a sense of proportion, which is very necessary for a healthy person. One small story that happened in the summer of 2013 will be pertinent to this note. My parents left for Crimea on vacation in their minibus, which at the same time served as their home on wheels. The rest lasted about 10 days and during this time they traveled all over the Crimea, the main thing for the parents was to see interesting places and visit different beaches. Unfortunately, they forgot their digital compact at home and each of them had a phone with a 0.3MP camera (640 X 480 is the last century, isn't it?). Nevertheless, they were not taken aback and brought back from vacation about 150 photographs. My dad said that when he took pictures, he removed the back of the phone's worn out to make the pictures clearer. After the rest, my parents asked me to copy photos from their phones and make an album. I submitted about 120 photos to print, which ultimately turned out to be an album of 80 photos in 10 * 15 format. The photographs were not technically perfect, but it was obvious that they were taken with a thoughtful approach. The next time my parents came to see me, we spent a whole hour behind the album and long stories about where and how it was. I cited this story as an example of the fact that megapixels for such amateur photographers as my parents may not 'solve anything' at all, and fond memories can be saved with the simplest technique :)

The cat is looking for pixels

The cat is looking for pixels

Let's go back to resize. Whenever we look at a thumbnail, we see not the image itself, but the operation of the resize algorithm and fit the image to a specific size. No one ever wonders how the fit happens, because it is always done automatically. A little about resizing algorithms I have in an article about JPEG.

In fact, a computer or photo lab takes the original image and passes it through a special processing algorithm that allows you to stretch or shrink the image to the desired size. At the same time, a huge part of the data is lost and we see only a surrogate from the original image. Of course, the resized image is stored only in the device's RAM and this process does not affect the original image in any way. I clearly see the work of the resizing algorithm when I prepare images for large format printing. When adjusting the image to the size of my monitor, the algorithm eats up some of the data - they just become invisible in the photo. These can be specks of dirt, small details that immediately catch the eye when printed. In this case, I preview the photo in 1: 1 mode before printing.

The more raw data, the easier it is to process the photo. In particular, the original photo with a huge amount of MP can be reduced, while you should be very careful in choosing the algorithm that will carry out this procedure. With the help of resizing photos you can achieve very useful visual sharpening effect. Also, when resizing, you can get a visual effect. noise reduction. Many professional photographers take advantage of this and significantly improve their photos.


Very often, we simply do not use a huge number of pixels embedded in the camera. In full, all data obtained using the camera’s matrix can be useful only during their subsequent processing, when viewing 1: 1 and when printing in large format. That's just ordinary amateur photographers do not do this, and marketers continue to build up megapixels on amateur-level cameras :)

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comments: 211, on the topic: Gigapixels.

  • Anatoly

    Arkady, marketers of free-thinking will not forgive you ...

    • Orkady

      The same eggs, only in profile ..

  • Sanya

    I have a Nikon D3200, I understand that there is a lot of 24mp and therefore I want to ask if it makes sense to set a smaller number of pixels in the camera settings, namely 12mp? In this situation, there is no way to shoot in RAW, which is a little alarming.

  • Alexey

    Good afternoon!
    Arkady, gentlemen, commentators, I ask you not to ignore it, but to help with advice, maybe give it on the neck). I am an amateur at the start, for a long time I collected on the camera (D7100 + 18-105, +50 mm f1.8). Mostly I rent a son, sometimes friends and relatives at family parties, sometimes just people on the street. I stumbled upon Arkady’s site, and all of my previously recorded questions, articles answered 99%.
    Well, there is one problem, I took pictures in a room with sunlight of people, everything is ok, after that I looked at it on the screen - just beauty, the eye admires so much (the feeling is as if you are trying something very tasty, such warmth comes from the photo, the mood is in +++ +++). I open it on my computer for viewing, and just tin - they are somehow dark and dull…. Uploaded photoshop, I'm studying. But I am gnawing at something else that I missed, because when adding iso, the photo is in the cross light, the shutter speed is longer - the cross light. I shot at 50 by 1.8, I even turned on crop 1.3 - and they are dark. How to understand this darkness in the picture immediately, it is possible to reshoot. Give advice, please.
    py. sy:
    Thanks in advance to everyone, especially Mr. Shapoval, you give me the opportunity to quickly and easily learn, I liked everything I read))))).

    • Gendolf

      I used to have something similar, but certainly not as sad as you describe. I shot it on the D700, on the screen the pictures on the exposure are not bad, when viewing in Lightroom it is noticeably darker.
      As a result, I attributed everything to the overestimated brightness of the display in the camera and the underestimated brightness of the computer display, something like that.

    • Yura

      corisna thing manual (booklet in a set with a camera);)

    • Andrey Super

      I had something similar when printing. You need to set the sRGB color space!
      Search in color settings!

    • Yarkiya

      If you shoot in RAW, then it should be so, just the camera shows you a premium jeep with the settings that you have in the menu set. Well, the screen of the 7100 is quite festive, very bright, and everything on the camera looks much sharper than on the computer.

  • yar1000

    Alexey, send a couple of problematic pictures to yartime@yandex.rutry to help

  • Andrey Super

    I have Nikon D60 10Mpx, periodically I print posters 90x60 - Megapixels are not enough, just a disaster! I pull out ... Somehow ... And with smaller formats, a large number of megapixels is simply necessary for detailing, clipping!

  • Alex

    I would think twice about how to talk about unused megapixels. The reason is simple - the increasing complexity of the algorithms. Let's say the same diffraction - with sufficient data about the lens, it is theoretically possible to build a model taking into account the diffraction and correct it. In more complex cases, it is theoretically possible to correct optical distortion, by the way. It is clear that the computational power of the camera will not be enough for this, and in the RAW converter it will not be enough, especially in the future. Generally - I think the further - the more "raw" the values ​​taken from the matrix will be, the more difficult their processing will be - and it will be possible to extract ever higher quality.

    I would even venture to suggest that show-offs on the topic of “building a frame while shooting and minimizing processing” will become a thing of the past. It is much safer to get all the information you can think of, and then, in calm conditions, get the pictures you need. At the same time, if you have an ultra-high resolution, then you can, having found something interesting, accidentally included in the frame, get a picture of acceptable quality. More

  • Alex

    Another reason to have more megapixels (and detail) is that shooting isn't about art. There is documentary shooting, where it is not known what will be of interest in the frame. There is a technical one, where the more details you can see, the better.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Megapixels don't mean details.

      • Alex

        Before digital processing, which I spoke about above (and which, perhaps, has not yet been implemented) does not mean. But the caveat is that if you have RAW and the corresponding algorithm becomes available in a year, you will be able to pull out additional details in a year. It doesn't matter for an artist. For documentary filming - very even. By the way, I did a little googling here - the PENTAX K-S1 has digital diffraction compensation as a feature. How it is implemented - whether stupid sharpening, or what I am talking about - is another matter.

  • SashOK

    I completely agree with you all. Only not always technically can I justify it.
    I don’t understand, I don’t UNDERSTAND fans who buy cameras with 20 or more megapixels. To shoot on the machine in order to then look on a small laptop (this is still at best), well, or to throw thousands of dull monotonous "photos" into a contact, or into that trash bin - Instagram ... Why ????
    I don't even understand Nikon why the D800 has 36 megapixels? That everyone directly prints pictures from it on bigboards or at least 30x40 ???

    I sometimes regret very much that digital photography was invented. And the one who came up with the idea of ​​sticking cameras into the phone would have been killed.
    I speak as a photo studio worker.

    • Lynx

      D800 is made for advertisers, prints and billboards, everything is correct.

      • Pooh

        to those who have sold a drink - there is no faith.

  • Alexey

    Dear Arkady.
    Perhaps not quite on the topic.
    I myself just started to get involved in photography. And at first, it was still stuck in the photographs taken with the aperture fully open, I liked the fancy bokeh, so to speak :-). But now (after a couple of hundred shots, and not so much more than 10 worthy of attention), I began to lean towards photographs with greater sharpness. So the question is: almost all of your examples of photographs were taken with an open aperture, but do you have any interesting shots with the utmost sharpness? If it does not, answer me in the mail. Thank you in advance.

  • Boris

    Today, when 4K monitors and TVs are becoming more affordable, a 12MP camera can be enough for an amateur if you do not print pictures in a photo lab.
    If printing is to be done, then IMHO, there are no pixels. And photo labs are also improving, there are already models with print quality of 640dpi, which require 80mp files for 30x40cm format. A 30x30cm photo book spread from such a photo lab will already be larger than 100mp in size! So 150-200mp for printing on new photolabs and 40-50mp for more familiar photolabs with 300dpi quality will not hurt a professional.

    • Alexey

      But the guys don't improve their eyes) not only among amateurs, by the way ...

  • Oleg

    Arkady, maybe you will try to write an article about the so-called. diffraction limit to close the gigapixel topic once and for all. I mean, no matter what tricks marketers go for, even, conventionally, an “ideal” lens cannot already resolve top matrices. The wavelength and minimum refractive index of 50 line pairs per millimeter is a practical and theoretical limit.

  • Michael

    Very funny article. It is noteworthy that the authors of this strange Lumia 1020 not only managed to cram a tiny sensor with 38,33 MP, but also provided the ability to save images in DNG format. Such a raw file weighs as much as 48,5 MB, while the editing capabilities are limited to the actual one step in plus and minus. Such a technically unreasonable solution is not often found. Marketing has clearly taken up over the mind.

    • DmitryK

      Michael, it’s immediately clear that you are not the owner of the 1020th.
      The ability to work with DNG was added with firmware on Windows Cyan 8.1 (if I'm not mistaken).
      A big plus of DNG, specifically in the case of the 1020th, is the ability to adjust the WB in Photoshop, in Adobe Camera RAW. There were many complaints about the yellowness in jpg. And with the help of dng you can correct some things that cannot be fixed in jpg.
      It's funny, but the 808th dng is not needed at all. the color out of the box was very good for a phone.

      • Michael

        “You can see right away ...” - can we do without this offensive nonsense? I don't know what you can see right away, but I can tell you the following: 1) BB is adjusted by ACR and PS directly in JPG. To amend the BB, you need to have raw in limited cases, where the BB is completely knocked down. And where it is knocked down capitally raw at the 1020th does not help much, because stretches very badly. 2) The absurdity is NOT that the developers allowed to save the picture in DNG. The absurdity is that this DNG weighs 50MB with very little benefit. And the final image in jpg weighs 5-10 MB with, again, very questionable quality. Imagine what resources are involved in processing such a volume of initial information just in order to produce a huge file with plus or minus telephone quality. 3) If you insist that the 1020th has parasitic shades, then the developers probably first of all should have eliminated them in the box itself, and not sculpted 50 MB files.

        • DmitryK

          1) This is a 2014 phone. Now it’s 2018. And it’s difficult to buy 808/1020 in excellent condition, and it makes no sense.
          2) The problem is not in the weight of the files, but in the absence of models with 64GB of memory other than the United States. The quality of this phone gives a very decent, like the 808th. I specifically compared at full resolution. And yes, I have both of these phones.
          3) Thanks for the opportunity to twist dng to developers. This is valuable to me.
          4) Resources are modest.
          At 808 and 1020 there were very weak processors even at the time of release.

          • DmitryK

            You can argue for a long time which is worse and which is better.
            You can complain about the non-fixed battery in 1020, after the 808th. You can climb on dxomark and see iPhones and sgs in the top.
            To each his own. Both the 808 and 1020 were good camera phones with unusual characteristics. Their time is gone because They do not have Android or ios and they have not been in retail for a long time.

          • Michael

            Excuse me, why did you write all this? I just pointed out the absurdities that Microsoft did. There are no additional arguments. They shoved nearly 40 million pixels onto the tiny matrix, as if people taking pictures on phones print billboards or view them on huge screens with super high resolution. And then they dopped dng so that the files began to weigh under 50MB and are capable of even slowing down the brakes. Well, the nonsense is obvious, as this article points out. The race for megapixels in this case did not improve the quality of photos, but worsened, and even made these very photos heavy for storage, playback and processing. What you protect in this case is not clear. Apparently it's just a shame for the phone.

            • DmitryK

              Michael, you are again off topic.
              This is not Microsoft developed 808/1020, but a talented team of engineers Nokia.
              PureView was developed before the purchase of Nokia Microsoft.
              On a modern PC, nothing slows down. You just need to buy an SSD drive and a normal processor with memory, and not sit on an ancient PC 7-8 years ago.
              I defend progress. I am not offended for these two Nokia - the resolution is fair and you can look at the pictures pixel by pixel. It's just that other phones don't give such permission ... And you need to compare these phones with other phones, not cameras, and then everything will be correct. The fact that these two phones succeeded is evidenced by the fact that they are still remembered and even argued about.
              You don't need megapixels and don't need RAV? In 1020 you can take pictures not only in RAV, but also select jpg. And if both RAV and MP are not needed - buy an iPhone with its 12MP camera and enjoy life in jpg. Extreme iPhones, like the SGS, take pictures quite well. I repeat, to each his own.

              • Michael

                Yes, it seems you do not fully understand. I won’t convince you anymore. I am very glad that you like photos from 38 megapixel phones and with 50 mb of ravine for which you need a gaming computer with ssd disks. Good luck.

              • Anuar

                Well, the real victim of marketing.

              • DmitryK

                2 Anuar:
                If you are this to me, then very by.
                I repeat - both here and there the resolution is real, you can open it and view it pixel by pixel. I use these phones for travel and leisure.
                In everyday life, I use an android phone, which costs 1 / 2.3 ″ matrix and less megapixels than in Nokia.
                Someone lacks an iPhone and have nothing against it.

  • Sergei

    The camera is 12 megapixels, I set 6mp or even 3 megapixels in the settings. How is this processed in the camera, and how does it affect the quality of the photo?

    • Alex

      Two options - either a part of the photo area is cut off. For example, smart can take pictures either in 4: 3 or 16: 9 format. In the latter case, the dimensions of the photo itself are different, as well as the megapixel.
      The second option is when the image is stretched over several pixels. Roughly speaking, there will be not one pixel per point of the photo, but several. Actually, this is how the loss of image quality and information occurs.

      • Alex

        There is, however, the quad-bayer technology, which has a similar principle. This is what is used in those 48/64 / 108MP matrices, when they turn into 12/16 / 27MP, but there is a special algorithm that does not lose so much information and generally improves the image quality.

  • Reveur_Ph

    That's right! But, if you only knew ... how nice it is to frame with 45MP!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      with 150 mp nicer

  • LDS

    Correct, well-written article. Concrete arguments. Here it was also worth highlighting the issue of the physical size of a pixel and how this size affects the quality of photographs. Personally, I think that 12 megapixels will be enough for most photography tasks. On small-format cameras (full frame), these same 12 megapixels will be a kind of threshold value or Rubicon, beyond which the inevitable problems associated with a decrease in the physical size of a pixel begin. For more than 10 years I have been using Fuji S2 Pro and Fuji S3 Pro cameras with a sensor resolution of 12 megapixels. During this time, there has never been a desire to purchase a camera with a higher resolution. Before that, I used a compact Canon Power Shot G6 with a resolution of 7 megapixels and got excellent pictures in RAW. An unexpected and pleasant discovery for me was the ability to use the functions of the camera on the Canon MVX4i camcorder. The device supports a resolution of only 4 megapixels, but the pictures are just wonderful. Now I constantly carry this camera with me, and I shoot from the heart and for the soul.

    • Mario

      2023 Kupil Sigma SD15 4MPx prosto super!!! A moya Pentax K-5 uxodit na prodaju!!!)))

  • Basil

    Now the race for higher camera resolution is being leveled by AI “enhancers” that make candy out of any number of megapixels. The old cameras are again on a par with the new ones, not inferior in anything, but winning in something.

    • Viktre

      Dreams Dreams..))

  • Eugene

    Didn't send, or something?

    Something struck me from this article. It’s already 10 years old, maybe no one will read it, but still.

    1) Let's say that in your entire life you will take only a few photographs that you want to print in large format. I have these. That's why megapixels are needed.
    Of course, you can’t fix an empty plot with quality (although editing can sometimes create an interesting grotesque), but it’s easy to ruin the best one with insufficient technical quality. I also have these, and, alas, there are no fewer of them than the first ones.
    Author, honestly, if those Crimean photos were from a camera and not from a phone, wouldn’t it be better? We would have to talk, maybe less, because it’s better to see once, etc.

    2) I photograph nature, and I systematically view some photos, and even many in general, in fragments on a scale up to 1:1, and I find a lot of interesting things there that I did not see/not notice there with the naked eye. It’s like I’m there again, only with binoculars. There are also interesting things up close, for example, pebbles under the lenses of water ripples in shallow water, which you cannot see in nature due to the flickering of these ripples.

    3) Probably technically the most important. The author seems to be losing sight of the fact that an N-megapixel file from a camera/phone is a recording of the total resolution of the matrix-lens system. So it is completely wrong to assume that there will be n*m ​​significant pixels from an n*m matrix. This would be something like this if the lens resolution roughly coincided with the matrix resolution (hello D70), but now it’s the other way around. With the same lens, a higher megapixel sensor will capture more detail. I don’t remember the formula, it’s something like a parallel connection of resistors, a quotient of the sum, the final value is less than the smallest (matrix and lens separately).
    You can easily verify this on the dxomark website by viewing the same lens on different cameras.
    For example.
    The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM on the 7D Mark II gives 12 “meaningful”, informative megapixels out of twenty purely matrix ones, and on the 5DS R – 32 out of 50. Take a look. And this is not a simulation/recalculation, these are real measurements. The difference with the same lens is more than two times due to different matrices! More than the “usual” difference between crop and FF.
    4) Resize. “In this case, a huge part of the data is lost and we see only a surrogate of the original image.” Of course, if you resize it to 1-2 megapixels, as on this site, then yes. (How people, judging by the comments, manage to form an opinion about the sharpness of lenses based on these previews or even source files from the D90 or, especially, the D70, is a mystery to me).
    With careful downsizing by Lanczos and increasing sharpness, “a colossal part of the data” is not lost, the water of excess “extra” megapixels is drained - they are always there. With downsizing to certain limits, of course. For a 10x15 print, it really doesn’t matter how many megapixels there were.

    An even greater role is played by the orientation of the overwhelming majority of all photography and amateur photography towards portraits/glamour/reportage/everyday life. There is even a “staged report” – weddings! I don’t know, probably, in these genres there really is some kind of reasonably sufficient upper limit - I don’t understand this at all, because not interested. But for me, “reportage/everyday” photos are preferable to good quality. For nature, the more megapixels, the better. Of course, not watercolor-oil-telephone ones, which can be downsized significantly without loss (they are there most likely for video zoom, where everything is a little different), but real ones. I haven’t seen blown SLR/BZK yet. Unless, of course, you attach hyperzooms to them (IMHO, a completely useless thing, which, in terms of resolution, reduces any crop to a cheap fifteen-year-old digital point-and-shoot camera).

    In a word, I personally don’t have many megapixels.

    Well, and finally, a little moral.
    “It is human nature to mistake the boundaries of one’s own horizons for the boundaries of the world.”

    Naturally, I am the same.

    • Arkady Shapoval


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