how many pixels do you need

How many pixels do you need for making large prints? I made a 30" by 40" print from 20 MP

How many pixels do you need to make a large print? Sometimes you hear people say the more pixels the camera has, the better the print looks. Sometimes you hear some other people say you don’t need more than 8 megapixels to make a print at any size. So who is right? In this video I did a 30” by 40’ print from a 20 MP photo, and I will show you how the print looks at different viewing distances.

As I mentioned in the video, the method I used is rather simple and straightforward. I set up my Fujifilm X-T2 with the 35mm f/2 lens to capture a footage of the print at different distances, so later I can compare the footage to decide if the print looks good at each viewing distance. I tried a couple viewing distances as following:

  1. 15 Inch away from the print

  2. 30 inch away from the print

  3. 45 inch away from the print

  4. 60 inch away from the print

  5. I put the camera further back until I can have the entire print fit into the frame

Here are some results as I mentioned in the video. At 15 inch viewing distance, the print does look soft. Also at 15 inch viewing distance, my Fuji X-T2 only captures a tiny little portion of the entire frame. When the camera is back up to 30 inch away from the print, the details look much sharper and the print starts looking better. At 45 inch viewing distance, the print looks good and sharp. Beyond 40 inch viewing distance, I didn’t notice any noticeable improvements in terms of sharpness and the print looks sharp and nice to me.

With this video, I want to demonstrate that

  1. If you regularly make large prints and you expect people to look at your prints at a very close viewing distance, you can definitely benefit from a high-megapixel camera

  2. If you make large prints but you don’t expect people to look at your prints at a close viewing distance, then you are probably going to be just fine with a 16-24 MP camera.

  3. If you don’t make large prints, then you don’t need to worry about your camera’s resolution.

Another benefit of high resolution camera is the capability to crop. It is definitely true and I totally agree with that. The more megapixels your camera has, the tighter you can crop. But I just want to point out that it might not be the only option you have. You can also consider using a different focal length or using a different lens. But yes, there are some circumstances, such as wildlife photography, even though you are already using a super long lens, you still want to crop in a little bit. In this case, you can benefit from a high megapixel camera.