Digital Cameras. How Many Mega Pixels Do I Really Need?

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Thursday wasn't a great day for me. It kicked off with a terrible dose of man flue and in review am amazed I managed to endure at all. The morning didn't get that much better as I then spent what felt like an eternity driving around Northampton General Hospital desperately struggling to park so that my son could turn up at his hearing test consultation on time. With these and many more mild irritants behind me I was at least looking forward to one element of my day, visiting my local colleges photography course open day, more explicitly I'd been guaranteed a hands on demonstration by Hasselblad's area sales team of their recent drool inducing digital camera line up, the H4D series.

Well I'll brazenly accept what a dazzling piece of machinery this camera is, as with all previous Hasselbads (I've been lucky enough to own several) the build quality and ergonomics are just awesome, a bench mark for all other companies to follow etc etc etc... but this isn't a review article. What has been annoying me and by all accounts many other photographers, judging by the ones I met the other night, is this apparent mega pixel mania. This insane and down right inaccurate obsession with the pixel count as a measure of the quality of a camera and therefore the photographer.

This isn't as an attack on any one individual camera manufacturer, at least Hasselblad point their cameras at high end professionals whom could at least now and again utilise all those 60 megapixels on a billboard poster or something as equally substantial, all camera manufacturers are at it! When did you last shoot a 48 or 96 sheet poster? When did you last do a print bigger than say A4? In fact when did you last do a print at all?

I've been privileged enough to shoot for customers that have required billboard posters and exhibited in galleries with sizable prints all whilst shooting under the acute gaze of top London art directors. Since taking a step back from the advertising world but still continuing to photograph in a commercial environment where expectations are high I have seldom shot anything that the client expected to be printed bigger than A4. As a matter of fact after assessing last years commissions I can conclude that at least 75% of this commercial work will ever go near a printing press, instead they will continue to be firmly in the virtual world such as a clients internet website or email marketing campaign!

After shooting on just about every sort and size of camera format over the years from a standard 35mm negative to a wonderful 10x8 transparency I now opt to shoot on a paltry 12 mega pixel DSLR, unless of course when the job demands a specifically bigger file size. Guess what? I've never had any problems or concerns about the image quality! What I have to do is use all my know-how and understanding obtained from years of photographic training and work experience combined with the unique 'eye' I've cultivated as a result, to capture files that are of a commercially appealing quality. The message I'm hoping to hammer home is that these shots would be no better

I regularly peruse through my trade periodicals and indeed fantasize over owning the newest and greatest camera gadget, but I strive to overcome the desire to upgrade purely on the notion of acquiring greater picture quality. Image quality is not governed by pixel count or more specifically file size, that is a fact. There are endless challenges affecting the excellence of the eventual photo not least the actual talent of the guy squeezing the shutter. Think about the shots that have most sparked you or made you go wow and I can guarantee you that many of those shots were not captured on cameras of any better physical quality than even a modest modern day digital camera.

Digital cameras have grown to be quite exceptional in the amount of bang you get for your buck and have served as a great equalizer in the way that photography is no longer simply a rich mans hobby. Select your camera system (don't agonize), purchase a few good books and then get out there and use it. Try to discount those highbrow camera geeks you'll discover on any online blog and definitely dismiss the greedy camera manufacturers cries that bigger is better, its not!

This article has been supplied courtesy of Andy Nickerson. Andy is a Northampton commercial photographer with over 14 years experience in working for design and advertising professionals. Visit for more information.

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Occupation: Photographer
My passion for photography began with the purchase of my first camera at the age of 12. Many years later I went on to graduate with a Ba in Photographic Design and I have since gained over 14 years of commercial photographic experience working for many design/advertising professionals, Toblerone, Cobra beer, ITV, Channel 4, The Streets, Penguin Books, Transworld, Hodder and Stoughton, ETP Publishing etc.

After spending 10 years living and working from London I have since moved to Northamptonshire with my young family and set up a photography studio specializing in helping local business gain the creative edge over their competition.

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