Megapixel (MP)

Megapixel (MP)


  1. A unit of digital image resolution that represents one million pixels.
  2. Commonly used as a metric to describe the resolution capability of digital cameras, image scanners, and display screens.


The term is a portmanteau of “Mega-” meaning “million” and “pixel,” which itself is an abbreviation for “picture element.”


The term “Megapixel” is ubiquitous in the world of digital photography, video production, and imaging technology. It serves as a quantitative measure to gauge the resolution capability of a device, typically a digital camera.

The higher the megapixel count, the greater the amount of detail a camera is generally capable of capturing. However, it is not the sole factor determining image quality. The quality and resolving capacity of the lens, as well as the size of the picture element on the sensor have a role to play, among other factors.

The Pixel: The Building Block

To comprehend what a megapixel means, one must first understand what a pixel is. A pixel, short for “picture element,” is the most basic unit of a digital image. A digital photo or display is a grid made up of numerous pixels, each having a color and brightness value.

Mathematical Explanation

One megapixel is equal to one million pixels. To calculate the megapixels of an image, you multiply the dimensions of its width and height in pixels. For instance, an image that is 1,000 pixels wide and 1,000 pixels high would consist of 1,000,000 pixels, or simply 1 MP.

Practical Utility

Megapixels are often the first thing potential buyers consider when purchasing a camera or smartphone. While this can be a useful metric, it’s not an end-all-be-all indicator of quality. Cameras with higher megapixel counts can capture more detail, making them ideal for large format printing or heavy cropping. However, other factors like sensor size, lens quality, and image processing algorithms can play an equally or even more crucial role in the resulting image quality.

Common Misconceptions

  1. More Megapixels = Better Image: Higher megapixels offer better detail but can compromise on aspects like low-light performance.
  2. Megapixels and Screen Resolution: Having more megapixels than the display resolution doesn’t always result in a better view. The quality of the display panel matters too.
  3. Megapixels in Video: While relevant in still photography, megapixels are less commonly used to describe video resolution. Video resolution is generally denoted in terms such as Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), 4K, and so on.

Not Just Cameras

Though most commonly associated with digital cameras, the term “megapixel” also applies to other digital devices capable of capturing or displaying visual information, such as scanners, projectors, and even some advanced microscopes.


Understanding megapixels is crucial for both consumers and professionals in the fields of photography, videography, and digital imaging. While it’s an important factor, it’s only one of many that contribute to the overall quality of digital images. Therefore, when evaluating devices based on their resolution, it’s vital to consider other contributing factors like sensor quality, lens optics, and computational processing capabilities.

Sebastian Chase
Sebastian Chase

Sebasitan Chase is a mobile digital photographer who enjoys trying out new mobile technologies, and figuring out how to get them to deliver high-quality images with minimal effort.Join him on his mission to help mobile photographers create incredible images and videos with their new-age digital cameras, no matter the form that they may take.

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