Digital Photography Basics

Megapixel Ratings

­At five megapixels, image quality is close to that of film.
­At five megapixels, image quality is close to that of film.

The basic attribute of a digital camera that determines image quality is its megapixel rating. This number refers to the amount of information that the camera sensor can capture in a single photograph. Cameras with high megapixel ratings take larger pictures with more detail. Those photos will also look better when printed, especially in bigger sizes.

At five megapixels, image quality gets in the neighborhood of film. If you're willing to spend about $100 on a digital camera, then it's difficult to find a model that doesn't have five megapixels. These cameras are fine for most people who just want to take a few family snapshots or capture vacation memories. The more you spend, the more megapixels you get. In the $400 to $600 range, you can expect to find cameras with anywhere from eight to 12 megapixels. If you plan to take serious artistic photos, sell prints of your photos, or post large, high-resolution photos on the Internet, this is the range for you. If you think you need a more powerful camera than that, you probably don't need to be reading this article.

Next, learn about digital camera settings.