The size of an image taken at different resolutions

Photo courtesy Morguefile

Digital Camera Resolution

The amount of detail that the camera can capture is called the resolution, and it is measured in pixels. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can capture and the larger pictures can be without becoming blurry or "grainy."

Some typical resolutions include:

  • 256x256 - Found on very cheap cameras, this resolution is so low that the picture quality is almost always unacceptable. This is 65,000 total pixels.
  • 640x480 - This is the low end on most "real" cameras. This resolution is ideal for e-mailing pictures or posting pictures on a Web site.
  • 1216x912 - This is a "megapixel" image size -- 1,109,000 total pixels -- good for printing pictures.
  • 1600x1200 - With almost 2 million total pixels, this is "high resolution." You can print a 4x5 inch print taken at this resolution with the same quality that you would get from a photo lab.
  • 2240x1680 - Found on 4 megapixel cameras -- the current standard -- this allows even larger printed photos, with good quality for prints up to 16x20 inches.
  • 4064x2704 - A top-of-the-line digital camera with 11.1 megapixels takes pictures at this resolution. At this setting, you can create 13.5x9 inch prints with no loss of picture quality.

High-end consumer cameras can capture over 12 million pixels. Some professional cameras support over 16 million pixels, or 20 million pixels for large-format cameras. For comparison, Hewlett Packard estimates that the quality of 35mm film is about 20 million pixels [ref].

Next, we'll look at how the camera adds color to these images.