Nikon D800 Megapixels: Why Having 36 Megapixels Doesn’t Suck!

Why the heck does anyone need 36 megapixels!?!?!?

I will be the first to admit – I was disappointed when Nikon announced the D800, with 36 megapixels.  Everything else about the camera I loved and wanted and after lots of thinking over a couple months I ordered it and have been in love with it ever since.

The megapixel rat race between major camera manufactures like Nikon and Canon have been a heated topic lately, mainly referring to Nikon’s 36mp D800 vs Canon’s 22.3mp 5D Mark iii.  In fact – I know of many wedding photographers who were so against the monster D800 megapixels that they sold off all their Nikon equipment and switched to Canon, to opt for the lower megapixels sensor of the 22.3mp 5D Mark iii.

The truth is – you don’t “need” 36 megapixels all the time…but when you “need” it, you really “need” it.  In fact by having the extra resolution you are able to create images that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to in certain situations.  Just as I learned first hand a week ago.

A quick story to explain my point

I just returned two days ago from a week and half vacation to Paris & Italy.  While visiting the Tuscan countryside I had a specific image in my mind that I wanted to capture and make a huge landscape print of.  I was looking for rolling, green landscaped hills and a Tuscan country looking farmhouse to frame into the overall photo.  You know what I mean – the photo that you think of in your head when you think of what Tuscany, Italy looks like!  Well – I wasn’t having too much luck coming across this perfect scene for a few different reasons and when we were visiting a castle (oops, forgot the name) I looked out and saw just about the photo that I was looking for!  The only problem was, it was far away, and I only had 2 lenses with me on the trip, my 16-35 f/4 and my 50 f/1.4.  The fact that I was having to shoot through two walls of the castle didn’t help matters but I knew I could crop that out of the photo.

I knew that to get the photo composed as I wanted, I was going to have to do some big time cropping – I changed my D800 megapixels setting from “Medium” – 20 megapixels to “Large” – 36 megapixels and took my shot.

Here were two of the original shots I took.  I took both a vertical (portrait) and horizontal (landscape) to see which would give the better result after cropping.  These original 36 megapixel files are 4912 x 7360 pixels each.

Nikon D800 36 megapixelsNikon D800 36 megapixels

After cropping – here are my final images:
Tuscany Italy Cole's ClassroomD800 Megapixels
The crop (above) was from the “portrait” original and measures: 4659 x 3109 = 14.48 megapixels

Tuscany Italy Cole Joseph PhotographyNikon D800 36 MegapixelsThe crop (above) was from the “landscape” original and measures: 3079 x 2055 pixels =  6.32 megapixels

As expected the portrait oriented one yields the better result and gives me the most megapixels after cropping compared to the landscape one showing the castle walls.

After zooming in in Lightroom to a 1:1 preview you can see how great the resolution is, even after cropping away 22 megapixels worth of data!1-1 zoom detail

Questions for Discussion

You’ve now had a chance to hear my story and my thoughts but now it’s your turn, I want to hear from you!  Here are a few questions that I have for everyone, I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments down below.

Is more megapixels really a bad thing?

Does the benefit that you get from having much higher resolution images outweigh the cost (larger storage)?


Isn’t the heated megapixels debate similar to RAW vs JPEG?  Both (RAW & high megapixels) have the same cost of larger file sizes but, the benefit of more flexibility and latitude in post processing and ultimately, image quality?

Thanks so much for reading – if you found this post insightful please feel free to share it by using the share buttons below.  Happy shooting and rock on!

Cole