How many megapixels do you need in your digital camera? What MTF charts will be enough to satisfy your expectations? What type of photography do you practice, to justify the number of megapixels you just said to yourself (at least) you need, to do the job better, the best? Are you more a tech guy, than the art maker? Is the long list of your camera specs more important than the rules of composition?

More megapixels will come with more troubles, or better said, more processing / storing power. You need more hard-drives, bigger, faster hard-drives to handle the size of those files (especially when working with RAW files), you will also need faster processors to handle their tasks, more RAM memory; you might even change your actual PC with a more expensive one, only because you’ve changed your camera. I know you might say that today, technology progressed a lot and became really affordable. True. But I’m just saying, it’s the “growing” phenomenon that you need to be aware of. At the end, there might be some other supplementary costs that you couldn’t predict.

I see people moving from cameras with APS-C sensor to Full Frame or even Medium Format, only to believe they are on the right track of improving their photography. And here, I want to talk about the non-professional photographers. Those people who do not have to deliver paid work for clients; the passionate people who have almost unlimited budget and make this upgrade purely for the sake of “the bigger, the better” principle; somehow hopping that “the bigger the better” gear they just purchased will truly make their photography “better” and will lead them to a deeper and more valuable recognition from their public. This article is for them.

The more photography vernissages I attend to, the more interesting and talented photographers we invite to our Photography Club of Brussels to present their portfolios and artistic vision, the more I deepen my understanding that their success, their international recognition, their precious message through artistic expression and their value as artist photographers are owed not so much to the size of the sensor in their cameras, the number of megapixels and the clinical sharpness of their lenses. But to something else, far beyond their camera specs. Believe me, it’s true!

When we see posters, fashion magazine covers and billboard prints made with pictures from an iPhone, I start to wonder if the classical excuse “I print my work in large formats” is still a valid one, in order to justify the jump to a, let’s say, 50 megapixel camera.

It’s only natural that everyone would do whatever they want with their money. But I’ve seen a photographer making the switch to a digital Medium Format camera, only to take the same pictures of his children, family, dogs, cats and farm, but with a significant higher resolution. Where is the meaning in that? I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting as many megapixels as possible (take Phase One with 100 MP, for instance, which is close to 50.000 dollars), but if you think your photography will make a huge jump in its artistic value, you’re wrong. Tell it to the classic worldwide famous photographers that impressed the whole world with small 35mm film cameras.

At the end, this matter could be concluded in simple terms of what you want versus what you really need. If you look at it from a higher point of view, with the best objectivity you could get, you know it’s the things you need that are essential for your progress and not necessarily the things you want. It is something like that:

What do you want: A bigger camera with a bigger sensor and a higher value in megapixels.

What do you need: If we stick to photo gear, you may need some high quality lenses for the camera that you already have. The glass is essential for the high quality images. The camera bodies go obsolete in 2 years, the lens are there for more than 20. If we get away from the photo gear, what we all need is new experiences, new places to be discovered, where we could get the inspiration for better photography and more interesting subjects. We need photography education (photography courses, books, tutorials, workshops) more that the latest model of camera from our favorite brand.

Stay at home and shoot the dog, the flowers in the garden and the kids playing in the backyard with a 50 megapixel camera, or use that budget to visit Indonesia and have what could be the best photographic experience of your life? Just a thought.

If your budget is unlimited and it just doesn’t matter, forget what I’ve said. It might be useful for you to understand this, but it doesn’t matter, right? But if you dream of that 50 megapixels Medium Format camera and you need to sacrifice something, anything, to get it, then hear me! Until you make up your mind, go outside and practice, practice, practice. May the Light be with you! Stay inspired!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 /