Digital cameras : less is better

You just can't find a compact digital camera with less than eight megapixels. All the available cameras have between eight and twelve megapixels, and even fourteen for the more expensive ones. Is this useful ? No. Would it be better, for normal pictures, to have a four or six megapixel camera ? Yes.

Let's try to define the best size for a photo. With an inkjet printer, the best quality is obtained with a resolution of 240 dpi (dot per inch).

If you print in the usual size of 4x6" (10x15cm), you need a file of 1400x950 pixels, i.e. only 1.4 MP ! And, for a 8x12" (20x30cm) print, a file of 6 MP is enough. Do you often print this size of picture ?

But even if you do, and your printing is done by a minilab, where a 300 dpi resolution is needed, an eight megapixel camera will be fine.

What are the drawbacks to have more pixels than necessary ? The obvious one is that you store a bigger file. But it's not the most important. We can guess that manufacturers would be able to design a 6 MP camera less noisy than the 12 MP they actually sell. If you look at full size an image taken with most 12 MP cameras, it's just awful. Of course, at print size, it's fine.

We can guess too that with less information to process, a camera with a "little sensor" and nowadays technology should be able to focus and operate faster than one with a "sensor full of useless pixels".

Of course, it would be harder for the marketing department to sell an "excellent 6 MP camera with little noise and fast autofocus" than to sell a "12 MP camera". Easier to understand for most buyers. But, for cameras too, less is better.