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How to Tell the Difference Between Megapixel and Resolution

by Roveen Anyango
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When discussing cameras, megapixels and resolution are often mentioned. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably by many people, and I think many of us who aren’t camera enthusiasts wouldn’t even know the difference.

If someone asks for our camera’s resolution, I would imagine that many of us would simply give them our camera’s megapixels.

However, megapixels and resolution are not the same.

Let us begin with megapixel.

What is a Megapixel?

Megapixel refers to the number of pixels on the sensor. Usually, a camera sensor is rectangular (a 3:2 aspect ratio). Within this sensor are small square pixels. One million of these pixels make up a megapixel.

The more pixels a camera’s sensor can hold, the more MP the camera will have. So, a 200 MP camera will have 200, 000, 000 pixels.

What is resolution?

On the other hand, an image resolution refers to the width-to-height ratio of an image and the pixels within that ratio.

Essentially, resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image.

It is the resolution that determines the clarity of an image, and while you will need more pixels to achieve this clarity, that isn’t always the case.

For example, the apple iPhone, which has 48 MP on its main sensors, manages to take photos that are as clear as Samsung’s 200 MP main sensor camera, sometimes even better.

This is because, no matter the MPs on a camera sensor, more often than not, the resolution will be what determines the clarity of the image.

This is why screen resolution is represented not by megapixels but by the number of pixels in the width and height of the screen. So, when speaking of resolution, we will see figures such as 1440 x 900, 1280 x 1024, or 1920 x 1080.

These figures represent the number of pixels displayed across the screen horizontally (the first number – 1440, 1280, 1920) and vertically (900, 1024, 1080).

And there you have it, the difference between megapixel and resolution.

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