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Debunking Megapixel Myths

Tuesday, 9 Sep 2008 | 8:43 PM ET

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but is a digital camera with more megapixels worth the fatter sticker price?

Steals & Deals
How not to get ripped off when buying technology, with David Pogue, CNBC contributor and CNBC's Carmen Wong Ulrich.

No, at least not as far as David Pogue is concerned.

The New York Times technology columnist told Carmen Tuesday that this megapixel myth is one of his biggest pet peeves in the tech world. The push for more megapixels is nothing more than “marketing mumbo-jumbo,” Pogue said. As he put it, “a bad picture divided into seven million little dots looks no better than a bad picture divided into 10 million little dots.”

If you’re shopping for a new camera, you really don’t need anything more than five or six megapixels, Pogue said. That is about the standard now. If you do choose a camera with more, you should know that your memory card will be filled faster, your photos will take longer to transfer to your computer, and your hard drive will fill up faster. Not only that, he said, but higher megapixels can actually make photos look worse because they give off heat and can lead to visual “noise.”

The one feature that matters above all else, according to Pogue, is sensor size -- something camera-makers typically don’t publicize. The only way to look this up is through web sites like dpreview.com and dcresource.com.