Picture this scenario: you're out shopping for a new camera, and you see exactly what you want for the right price. But, you also see something that has more megapixels than what you were looking for. Do you automatically reach for the object that has more megapixels? Not so fast.
Manufacturers like to push 'more megapixels' because the average person will buy a camera just based on that megapixel size. However, you can't buy a camera based on megapixels alone. There are many, many, more factors that go into purchasing a camera, and, sometimes, a camera that has less megapixels might produce a much sharper image.
Why Sensors Matter More
The most important part of any camera is the part that captures light, right? Without light, photos wouldn't exist. The part of a camera that captures light is the sensor. Cameras that have large pixels have large sensors. Large pixels let you collect more light. So, cameras that can catch more light produce better quality photos. You with me so far?
What's happened recently is that camera and smartphone manufacturers have started to add a lot of pixels to a device -- without increasing sensor size. What happens? You won't capture more light. You might have more pixels, but that's about it. This is the reason why cameras with a proportionate sensor and pixel ratio tend to capture better photos. If you want a great photo, you have to have a bigger sensor - regardless of how many megapixels that manufacturer boasts.
How to Get a Better Sensor
When it comes to sensor size, smartphones aren't always the best way to go. Most smartphones today are slim because that's the way consumers want them to be. But, a slim phone tends to mean a smaller sensor, so keep that in mind. So, even though that smartphone boasts more megapixels, you now know that the sensor has to be bigger too, and this is often not the case with a slim phone.
How can you find out? You'll have to contact most phone manufacturers to find out about sensor size. For the most part, these details are not listed on the box. That, of course, means that you'll have to do your homework before you decide which phone to purchase. There are many other factors to consider too when purchasing a camera. For more information, take a look at some of the camera buying guides we have on this site.
Remember: More Megapixels Isn't Always Better
Just keep in mind that more megapixels doesn't always equate a better camera or smartphone camera. If you want a great camera, take a look at the sensor before all else. Sure, there are other components to consider, but the sensor matters more than most.
The next time a sales person tries to sell you on more megapixels, ask about sensor size. If that information isn't available, wait until you find out. This way, you can buy a camera or smartphone that meets your photo needs and expectations.