The MegaPixel Myth Exposed

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Posted by Dave on December 25, 2007 at 09:56:55:

This reminds me of the the megahertz marketing war started by Intel who has now shied away from such hyperbole. Megahertz ratings were about as useful as hiding a car engines horespower, and more importantly, torque ratings, and just advertising the rpms.

It is like one engine manufacturer advertising that their engine will do 18,000 rpms compared to only 4,000 rpm's of Chevy's Duramax Diesel engine. Looks great till you find out that the 18,000 rpm engine is really a model airplane engine and would accomplish nothing in a car compared to over 500 foot-pounds of the DuraMax diesel.

Or maybe Shaquille O'Neil's legs only moving 30 times a minute as he runs compared to Billy Barty's at 60 times a minute.

MegaPixel ratings in camera ads are often deceptive.

As an example, I just bought a Kodak EasyShare V1253 digicam that boasts 12 megapixels. This is higher than the vaunted Nikon D200 in the 10 megapixel range, one of the standard bearers of professionals in above and below water imaging. (Check out the new D300)

But let's take a look at the actual size of the image capture device between the two cameras.

The Kodak V1253 lists the imager as 1/1.72. This is gobblegook for .172". Canon does the same thing and has about the same specs for their 12 mp pocket digicams. Nikons pocket digicams use the same bizarre sizing method.

.172" means if you divide an inch into a thousand parts, it is 172 of those. Expressed as a fraction, this is about 3/16" of an inch.

BUT, this figure is most likely on the diagonal, just like when they measure TV screens.

Pro camera specs don't use such bizarre spec listing protocols, so Nikon lists their Pro D200 imager size as about .930" wide x .622" tall once converted from metric.

Expressed as a fraction of an inch, this is close to 1" wide x 5/8th" tall. This is HUGE compared to the .172" CCD imager, yet the D200 is about 2 megapixels less in production.

Just yesterday I sent a tech support question to Kodak and asked them what the actual dimensions expressed in width and length and width and as a decimal figure, and they e-mailed me back that all they would tell me was that such information "was proprietary"! In other words, the consumer camera marketing guys would rather confuse you than inform you. Canons higher end pocket digicams boasting 12 mp like the well regarded G9 list their imager as the same "1/1.72" as they put it.

I'd rather have a Nikon DSLR in the 8 mp range with its large imager than a pocket digicam with 12 mp's.

So, my friends, do not be fooled and buy a digital camera solely on the basis of megapixels, check those imager sizes amongst all your other specification homework.

Dave The Publisher-

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