Digital cameras have evolved to the point that even the least expensive point-and-shoot cameras and many cameras on smartphones and tablets provide enough resolution to be able to create attractive, 4- by 6-inch prints. In fact, unless you are a professional photographer with your own dark room, there's no reason to use film cameras anymore.
Even an 8-megapixel camera has enough resolution to produce a 12- by 16-inch print. The lowest-resolution, point-and-shoot camera that hhgregg sells is the Vivitar 10.1-Megapixel Camera. And most built-in cameras on tablets are between 5 and 2 megapixels, such as the front and back cameras on the Acer 10.1-inch Iconia Tablet.
When Do Megapixels Matter?
Where the number of megapixels matters is if you intend to crop images in photo-editing software.
For example, if you shoot an image using a 16-megapixel camera, such as the Canon PowerShot 16-Megapixel Camera, but you end up cropping the image to only one-fourth of the original size, you reduce the image resolution to 4 megapixels. You probably won't notice a difference unless you increase the image size significantly. 4-megapixel resolution is still strong enough to produce an 8- by 10-inch print, but if you get much larger than that, the image will get pixelated.
Something that is pixelated may appear as squares or it may be blurry, depending on the rendition parameters that are built into the image's computer code. A megapixel equals 1 million pixels, or 1,000 square pixels, and a pixel is the smallest unit of measure on a computer monitor.
We took a screenshot of the Golden Retriever & New Friends Nintendo game off the hhgregg website and blew it up from 60 pixels to 300 pixels. The result looks mostly blurry with some squaring. Such an adjustment wouldn't be something that you would want to see on a professional brochure or website. Note that most images you get off websites are lower resolution than images that would generate from most digital cameras, but you can see that even at this low of resolution, you have to significantly increase the size before images noticeably lose their resolution.
Film cameras offer more flexibility when it comes to maintaining resolution as you crop an image, but unless you have your own photo development equipment, you are still limited to working with the resolution of the print you receive. Errors can happen so easily when developing film, even when you develop them at professional photography boutiques. That's why digital cameras are used so universally today, even by the professionals.
Things to Consider
When taking photos, consider where you will display the images. Will you print them and place them in a frame? Will you post them on your Facebook page? Or will you put them in a slideshow that you show to dinner guests? Also, consider what part of the image that you are the most likely to use, and frame the image accordingly at the time you take the shot. Will you use the whole landscape or just the horse in the pasture? If you only intend to use the horse, frame in close to that component at the time you take the photo. As a result, you will be able to work with more resolution as you crop and use other photo editing tools.