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In compact cameras, I think that the megapixel race is pretty much over | photography by Antonio Marques

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Photography in General

“In compact cameras, I think that the megapixel race is pretty much over”


On February 2nd, 2006, the New York Times published an article by David Pogue (registration needed to see it here) where it foresaw the end of the Megapixel race in compact digital cameras.

Even C. Westfall, director of media for Canon’s camera marketing group had this to say about it: “In compact cameras, I think that the megapixel race is pretty much over, (…) Seven- and eight-megapixel cameras seem to be more than adequate. We can easily go up to a 13-by-19 print and see very, very clear detail.”

He was right on the printing part, but nothing else. Since the dawn of digital photography, the consumer has been given the idea that the megapixel numbers of a camera is it’s more important feature, the highest the better.

This trend slowed down when the 6-8 Megapixel limit was reached and camera manufacturers had to compete outside of Megapixel numbers and started actually investing more in other features to pack their cameras with, like battery life and bigger LCDs.

But now still, the magical number for the average consumer is still the MP. Would an upgrade from 300 to 350 shots per charge make you buy the new model? Probably not, but if the MP number goes up by 2 or 3…

So Mr. Westfall, the megapixel race is healthy and better than ever… You missed by a mile on that one. If not, let’s see just two small examples:

  • On the 21st of May, Casio announced its new model of compact digital camera, the Casio Exilim EX-Z1200SR packing 12.1 effective megapixels on a 1/1.7″ CCD sensor.
  • On the 21st of May (same day as above), Panasonic introduces to the world the Lumix DMC-FX100 with 12.2 effective megapixels again on a 1/1.7″ CCD sensor, and enough for Panasonic to claim on the press-release “The world’s first 12.2-Megapixel digital camera with 28mm wide-angle lens…”

If this is not a race, then I have no idea what a race is.

What are your thoughts on it?
Are megapixels still the most important factor for a consumer when choosing a compact digital camera?
And in the future, will the megapixel race still go on?

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  2. Paul

    June 5, 2007 at 10:57 am

    I tend to agree with you. The megapixel race will only stop after it’s impossible to pack more megapixels into the sensors. Until then, no way.

  3. Luis Cruz

    June 5, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    They can keep packing more pixels into the sensors, but that would only hurt consumers more. I wrote about that on PopPhoto Flash a while back.

    Yes, the megapixel race can keep going, but if you’re smart, you’ll ignore that and other races too. The races are still hotly contested, but I would hardly call them “healthy and better than ever.”

  4. A Marques

    June 5, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Thanks for your insights.
    Would you buy a camera that has less a lower MP sensor but extra features?
    I’m talking about P&S cameras, not dSLRs.

  5. Luis Cruz

    June 8, 2007 at 3:27 am

    I probably wouldn’t buy a P&S at this point, but if I did, the two main reasons I would get one are:

    1. Ruggedness: I see that Olympus has some weatherproof / waterproof models out. On days that I would rather keep my DSLR in its bag or in a case, at least I would still have a camera.
    2. Size / Portability: I could get one that fits in my shirt or jeans pocket. Then again, if this is all I’m looking for, I could probably just use the camera on some of the newer phones out there.

    Oh, I probably wouldn’t get anything past 7MP.

  6. A Marques

    June 8, 2007 at 11:58 am

    That is true. I think that are also the main reasons why I would buy a P&S. Actually I have been thinking a little about it. Sometimes you just want to have a camera with you without the bulk of a dSLR.
    What do you think the noise ratio of this new 12.2Mp things are going to be? It’s sounds very weird to manage to put 12.2 MP on a 1/17″ sensor.

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