How Much Camera Do You Really Need?

Yesterday, while I was writing a piece about the Nikon D810, I was thinking to myself, "How often would I need 36.3 megapixels?"

Certainly, my spontaneous candids of Dibs the cat don't need that much resolution, nor my vacation photos, high school basketball games, or product shots for the blog.

When digital photography was emerging, the common thinking was that a 6 megapixel camera would approximate the quality of a 35mm negative. Looking back, I think that was a bit low. But 6 megapixels was a rarity in those days. Now I'm more inclined to say 16 megapixels will get the job done.

One of my cameras, the Canon 5D Mark II captures RAW at 21 megapixels. The only time I use that body is for commercial shoots. I like having it among my choices. But I'm also happy it's not my only camera. Quite honestly, the body and the lenses that go on it, are too big for my nimble lifestyle.

For 90 percent of the work I do, and I'm serious about photography, I would say that 16 megapixels is the sweet spot. 12 megapixels feels a bit light to me, especially if I need to crop the image. And the 20 megapixels on my Canon 70D, or 21 on the 5D Mark II, feel like luxury.

The one caveat I would add, is that I do like a decent-sized sensor. I think 16 megapixels on a Micro Four Thirds or APS-C sensor performs better than on a sub-1" sensor that we see on many compacts and smartphones. This is especially true in low light.

And yes, I do walk my talk. The most important trips of my life, such as two weeks in Europe this past summer, or my visit to Cuba coming in January, have been and will be recorded with my Micro Four Thirds kit. 

Will I someday regret leaving my DSLR behind?

I seriously doubt it.