The truth about ‘megapixels’

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A lot of people buy cameras, especially camera phones based on the pixel count, often starting conversations like this “My 8MP camera > your 5MP camera!!” That can’t be further from the truth.

This is what matters most, the sensor:

The sensor is where most of the megapixel machismo comes from. When you squeeze the shutter button, the sensor (like film in old-school cameras) is exposed to light for however long you have the exposure time set for. The most common metaphor to talk about how a sensor works is that it’s like an array of buckets (the pixels) that collect light, and the amount collected is turned into an electrical charge, which is converted into data. We talked a bit about the differences between the two major types of sensors, CCD and APS (CMOS) earlier.


Lots of informative links. To satisfy my curiousity, I went to look for the technical specifications of the N82’s camera. This is what the Nokia site says:

Sensor: CMOS, 5 megapixel (2592 x 1944)
Carl Zeiss Optics: Tessarâ„¢ lens
F number/Aperture: F2.8
Focal length 5.6 mm
Focus range 10 cm ~ infinity
Macro focus distance 10-50 cm

Doesn’t really give the sensor dimensions, does it?

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