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A megapixel camera is a digital camera that uses at least million pixels in order to render an image or picture. In most cases, the camera is actually capable of more than just one million pixels, especially newer digital cameras. The megapixel camera is the standard in digital photography and the units are made by many different manufacturers. Some cameras may have resolutions of less than one megapixel, but these cameras are very low-end models often sold as children's toys.
One of the common questions asked about the megapixel camera is how many megapixels a person needs. There are many choices, from one megapixel to ten or more. While there are some exceptions, megapixels usually are synonymous with resolution. The more megapixels the camera is capable of producing, the clearer the image will be.
However, there are other things to consider about megapixel camera models. Most have the ability to limit the amount of information they record. Thus, depending on the settings, even a megapixel camera rated at five megapixels may not take a photo that detailed. Therefore, those who want the highest resolution should make sure the camera is set to record such information. There may be times when a photographer does not need to use the entire resolution. Using a lower resolution means more photographs can be stored in the camera.
There are two basic types of megapixel cameras to choose from. The point and shoot megapixel camera usually offers full automation, much like point and shoot film cameras. These are usually also the cheapest form of digital cameras. These models can cost less than $100 US Dollars (USD). The other is known as the single-lens reflex (SLR) megapixel camera. These type of cameras can be operated from a full manual setting of be fully automatic. The manual operation will allow the photographer to create special effects and features using the camera. These cameras start at approximately $500 USD for a new model.
Some megapixel cameras are also capable of not only shooting snapshots, but also video. However, the video may be very grainy and jumpy, depending on the model. Also the cards in most snapshot cameras are not equipped to handle a great deal of video and may reach capacity after a few minutes of footage. Still, for those who want some video of a special moment and who only have this type of camera, this is an option. Again, the video settings will likely make a difference as far as quality of the footage.
@Ubiquitous is correct in his analysis that the megapixel struggle has adversely effected image quality in cameras.
While consumers are wowed by large numbers and a convincing message about how large they can print the files, the reality remains that most consumers will not be making prints larger the an 8x10 from their digital cameras.
For this size of print a 6-8 megapixel camera has plenty of resolution to output a sharp and accurate print.
I think that many times there is an unjust race to increase the megapixel count of digital cameras that are available on the market today. This "higher number wins" mentality is actually degrade the technological advancement of digital imaging products.
An example of this is the sacrifice of digital noise issues that comes from cramming to many pixels onto a certain sized sensor. This results in a grainy effect when shooting in low-light conditions that many photographers can recall from using film in a similar setting.
One way to reduce noise issues like this is to actually lower the megapixel count and focus more light onto large pixels on the sensor. This will result in a more accurate and cleaner looking image.