Megapixel wars seem to be all the rage these days. Between the Sony a7R IV, the Nikon Z 7 II and Canon EOS R5 (not to mention medium format options), high-megapixel cameras are certainly becoming more and more common on the market.

But do you really need 50 megapixels? Or is 20 megapixels just fine?

What is a megapixel?

Megapixel means that a camera can capture 1 million pixels per image. That means a 12 megapixel camera can capture 12 million pixels per image. Does that mean a 50 megapixel camera is amazing? Im sure the camera is amazing, but why would you need 50 megapixels?

Ask yourself how and where you utilize your images. Are you and your clients mostly posting for web and social media? What are your largest print sizes? Honestly, unless your images are constantly on massive billboards, you do not need 50 megapixels.

Other aspects to consider

Larger files from your camera will require more memory and more powerful computers to handle them. You are going to need to consider your storage situation. These files will take up quite a bit more space.

You might need a new set of lenses. Lenses older than about five or six years might not be able to hold focus for the entire image. If you are a landscape photographer, you probably want clean and sharp edges. Your older lenses might do fine for the center of the image, but the rest of your image might be soft.

Truthfully, more megapixels can possibly decrease your overall image quality. Your higher megapixel count will likely increase the noise ratio in the camera. Chances are you will have noise in your images that have a higher ISO.

Think about your editing workflow. You are going to see details and a lot of them. The amount of detail you see will affect how you process your image. You will zoom in and see lots of wrinkles but zoom out and it looks great. You will have much more information to work with and that may or may not be a good thing.

Bottom line

I personally would rather have lower megapixels and overall better ISO with less noise. My images aren’t being printed for massive buildings and billboards. If 50+ megapixels excites you, then go for it. Just understand the bigger picture.