Difference Between 5 and 8 Megapixels

By Leah Waldron-Gross

When purchasing a digital camera, the difference between five- and eight-megapixel models can determine not only the maximum physical size of the photograph but the clarity. Understanding pixels, resolution and photo size can make choosing a digital camera a more simple and rewarding experience.

Pixels

Made up of millions of tiny dots that create a digital picture, pixels are an abbreviated term for "picture element." Pixels are often too small to be seen; if they can be glimpsed by the human eye an image is said to look "pixelated." Pixels, which are limited to one color each, combine to form various shades of color seen on a screen. Resolution is the term used to describe how many pixels are displayed on a monitor. It is represented in two numbers, such as 2048 by 1536, which describes a screen that displays 2,048 horizontal by 1,536 vertical pixels, or 3,145,728 total pixels, or a three-megapixel digital camera.

Megapixels and Digital Cameras

A megapixel is equal to 1 million pixels. Often used to describe a digital camera's resolution, five- and eight-megapixel cameras are capable of capturing images with five million and eight million pixels respectively. The higher the number of megapixels, the more detail a digital camera can capture, so buying a camera with a high number of megapixels increases the digital camera's effectiveness and worth.

Five and Eight Megapixel Cameras

An eight-megapixel camera produces 3,266 (horizontal) by 2,450 (vertical) pixels, or 8,001,700 pixels. Five-megapixel digital cameras, which have 2,560 by 1,920 pixels, produce 4,915,200 pixels. Digital cameras in the consumer market range from three (2,048 by 1,536 pixels ) to 16 (4,920 by 3,264) megapixels. When scanned, 35-millimeter film has the highest resolution, with a 5,380 by 3,620 resolution, or nearly 20 megapixels.

Megapixels and Photograph Size

To determine the maximum size of photograph a five- or eight-megapixel digital camera will produce, divide the number of horizontal and vertical megapixels each by 300. For example, an eight-megapixel camera, which has 3,266 by 2,450 pixel resolution, can produce a maximum 10.89 by 12.25 inch photograph with optimum quality. An 8.53-inch by 6.4-inch photograph can be produced by a five-megapixel digital camera.

Megapixels vs. Digital Camera Features

Five- and eight-megapixel cameras are used to describe the pixels that digital cameras that can capture, but the number of pixels captured is not the only factor in the overall resolution of the digital picture. Other factors, such as shutter speed, flash quality, start-up time and modes of shooting should also be taken into consideration.