Your Camera CCD Sensor Size And The Number Of Megapixels

ccd-megapixels-tipsThe digital cameras megapixels madness is very similar to the personal computer Mhz madness back in the 90s. The number of pixels a camera uses to produce a digital photo is just one element in determining the photo quality. Another important element that is usually forgotten is the sensor size. Here is why.

Digital cameras use an electronic sensor (also known as a CCD) in order to capture a digital photo. This sensor replaces the old film rolls used by traditional cameras. The electronic sensor is built from small light sensors also known as pixels. When you take a photo the camera opens the shutter for a certain amount of time. During that time light hits each individual pixel. The amount of light that hits each pixel determines its intensity (also known as the pixel value). A digital photo is comprised of many pixels each with its own pixel value.

There is a direct relationship between the size of the CCD the digital camera uses, the number of megapixels it supports and the size of each pixel. For a fixed CCD size the more pixels the CCD supports the smaller each pixel is. On the other hand for a CCD with a fixed number of pixels, the larger the CCD the bigger each pixel is.

So why should you care about the pixel size? There are many reasons to care about the pixel size as it plays an important role in the overall quality of your digital photos. One reason that is very easy to understand is sensitivity to light. Assume that you are taking a photo with the shutter opened for a fixed amount of time. During that time light hits each pixel. The larger a pixel is the more light energy that it accumulates during that period of time. The result is that with larger pixels you could take photos in darker scenarios than with smaller pixels. Also – with larger pixels the amount of noise in each pixel value is reduced.

For example if you have two digital cameras both having the same number of pixels but one is using a larger CCD sensor – the camera with the larger CCD will be able to take digital photos that are sharper and with less noise. It will also be able to take digital photos in scenes that are too dark for the other camera. Higher light sensitivity also allows more flexibility with both shutter speed and aperture settings.

High end cameras like digital SLR use larger CCD than point and shoot digital pocket cameras. Why is that? The main reason is simple: cost. It costs more to manufacture a larger CCD (for reasons such as yield and other specific manufacturing processes issues). The CCD size also influences other optical attributes of the camera – for example the aperture needed in a specific scene changes as the CCD size changes. The depth of field is directly influenced by such aperture changes.

In conclusion, when buying a digital camera always remember not to get fixated on the number of pixels. Although this number is important it is not a standalone feature. If you plan to take digital photos in extreme conditions, if you do care about depth of field, aperture settings, shutter speeds and light sensitivity than you should also check the size of the CDD the camera uses among other optical parameters of the camera.

Ziv Haparnas is a technology veteran and writes about practical technology and science issues. This article can be reprinted and used as long as the resource box including the backlink is included. You can find more information about photo album printing and photography in general on http://www.printrates.com – a site dedicated to photo printing.

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4 responses to “Your Camera CCD Sensor Size And The Number Of Megapixels”

  1. xx says:

    Electronic sensor is not known as CCD sensor! They are not synonym!!
    CCD is different type of sensor and most DSLR today use CMOS sensor, not CCD sensor.

  2. Rebekah says:

    Help! I’m trying to buy a digital camera, and I’m stuck between two different ones. I either want to purchase the Nikon d700 (with a CMOS sensor type and FX sensor format, size 36 x 23.9 mm, and a total of 12.1 effective pixels) OR the Canon Mark D5 2 (with a CMOS sensor type, size 24 x 36 mm, and a total of 21.1 effective pixels). Both are similar in price range. Now I know that the Canon one has nearly double the pixels, but according to a review I read at dpreview.com, what you give up in pixels for the Nikon, you gain in extreme ISO capabilities and speed. Likewise, the Canon has a good amount of pixels with a little lag in speed. What is the best thing to do here? I know that a lot of people focus only on the pixel amount rather than the sensor size and ISO capabilities. Truth be told, I simply want to be able to take a good, high-quality image in lower light settings without having to use a tripod, which would force me to lose out on capturing any candid moments, and force me to pose my subjects for longer periods of time. Not to mention the noise problem, which gets to be an issue for a lot of digital cameras when you go past 400 ISO. Any advice? I wish I knew more about all this, but…

  3. Rebekah says:

    Sorry! I meant to say Canon 5D Mark 2, not Canon Mark D5 2…although I’m sure you gathered what I meant by it.

  4. Twothousandman says:

    Is this article like 12 years old?

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