The Megapixel Race Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon

Every five years the experts at Canon hold an event to share their vision of future imaging technologies and present some of the cutting-edge innovations they have in the works. These events tend to be inspirational and aspirational for everyone interested in the art and craft of photography, and this month’s Canon Expo was no exception.

One of the developments that created a lot of buzz was a 250-megapixel image sensor built around the APS-H format which is intermediate in size between today’s 22.5x15mm APS-C sensors and the larger full-frame sensors measuring 36x24mm. In addition to the benefits of more detailed imagery that results from higher resolution chips, Canon’s new sensor technology promises greater low-light capabilities as well as significant boosts in processing speed—particularly useful to sports/action photographers and videographers.

So what does this advancement in miniaturization mean to us? Well, first of all, Canon points out that the new 250–megapixel sensor technology is initially intended for use in high-resolution measuring instruments, surveillance tools and other industrial applications; so don’t expect to find it in a consumer, prosumer or professional DSLR anytime soon. At the same time, Canon has a pretty strong history of sharing their advanced technologies with all of their product categories once they’ve become established.

Another fact to keep in mind is there are other important factors contributing to high image quality beyond the mere number of pixels on a sensor—like dynamic range, low-light capability and color sensitivity. Moreover, we’ve all learned that as we upgrade our gear with higher and higher resolution cameras, we have to do the same with our storage devices and memory cards as well as pay a price in image-transfer speed and the time it takes our computers to fulfill our editing requirements.

So while this news is an interesting development, it’s not quite time to start counting pennies and selling your gear so you can afford a new 250–megapixel DSLR. When the time comes we’ll let you know.