What Mars Rover Teaches Photographers: Megapixels Don't Always Matter

We're expecting to learn a lot from the Curiosity Rover currently exploring the surface of Mars. One important reminder it has already given us: megapixels are far from the most important measure when it comes to choosing a camera.

This isn't news: we made this point when looking at how to choose a camera as part of our Lifehacker Night School series on better photography. But the fact that we've seen such awesome images from Mars, even when some of the Rover's equipment only uses a 2MP camera, is a reminder that choosing the right subject and planning meticulously is just as important as aiming high with the specifications.


    This teaches Photographers? I know 99% of experienced photographers know this, and a lot more.

    Maybe add amateur to that title before assuming you can tell photographers what they should learn

      Depends on your definition of photographer. If you use the simplest definition -- someone who photographs -- then everyone is a photographer these days, and too many definitely don't know that megapixels are more-or-less meaningless.

        Well look at Dannas definition: "99% of _experienced_ photographers..."

          Now look at the context in which it was used in the actual article.

        Thanks for pointing that out to our friend, mike.

        Max, you "sound" like you know what you are talking about, however megapixels are far from meaningless. Yes they are less important than marketing would have the general population believe and it takes other camera components and most of all, the user, to create a good image. But any experienced wedding, fashion, landscape, travel and sport photographer (to name a few) will tell you megapixels, high and low, are as important as camera settings, lens choice, lighting etc. Everything impacts the finished product.

      Point taken but I'm pretty sure the author meant photographer as in 'people who take photos' - like 'motorist'.

    I thought Curiosity Rover was using some Instagram filter..

    That may be true - but let's not forget the stitching and post production that is going on with many of the pictures that Rover's 2MP camera has sent us.

    You are assuming that Things Stay Still. Under those conditions, you can take multiple overlapping shots and stitch them in software. Try telling a football player, kicking a winning goal, that you need to take 64 shots in an 8x8 grid. Don't forget to mention you need time between shots, to change the camera direction...

    What, no iphone 4s camera on the rover? What is NASA doing?

    The choice of just 2 MP cameras on the rover is mainly because of the very limited bandwidth available for sending the data back to earth. I've no doubt they'd absolutely love to have 50 MP cameras if it was practical and feasible.

      also, a 2mp camera taking multiple images that are stitched together than result in theoretically infinite megapixels - depending on optical zoom I guess.

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