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Buying a Digital Camera: Knowing How Much Resolution You Need

When deciding what digital camera you want to buy, keep resolution in mind. You can find cameras with any amount of resolution you could want, so get a resolution based on what you plan to do with your digital photos.

As resolution increases, so does price, so look for a balance between cost and quality:

  • Less than 1 megapixel: You can create acceptable Web graphics, but that’s about all you can do.

  • 1 to 2 megapixels: This resolution range can create very good Web graphics and acceptable prints up to 4 inches by 6 inches. (See this figure.)

    This 8-x-10-inch photo was taken with a 1-megapixel camera.
    This 8-x-10-inch photo was taken with a 1-megapixel camera.
  • 2 to 3 megapixels: Create excellent Web graphics and good prints up to 5 inches by 7 inches.

  • 3 to 4 megapixels: Use this resolution range to create excellent prints up to 4 inches by 6 inches and very good prints up to 10 inches by 12 inches.

  • 4 to 5 megapixels: Create excellent prints up to 5 inches by 7 inches and very good prints up to 11 inches by 14 inches (as shown in this figure).

    A 5-megapixel camera took this 8-x-10-inch photo.
    A 5-megapixel camera took this 8-x-10-inch photo.
  • 5 to 6 megapixels: This resolution can make excellent prints up to 8 inches by 10 inches and very good prints up to 16 inches by 20 inches.

  • More than 6 megapixels: A resolution this large can create excellent prints 16 inches by 20 inches and beyond.

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