Image Resolution: What’s the Difference?

I recently treated myself to a 50 megapixel Canon camera for my birthday (I know, I’m a geek and proud of it!). I won’t be using it for frog and toad portraiture, which is one of my favorite pastimes. Instead, I’ll be using it in my camera scanning rig.

I think there is a lot of confusion when it comes to scanning and understanding the differences between scanning options, and it’s not surprising! Words like megapixels, resolution, DPI and PPI all get thrown around a lot, and it can be hard to really understand what people are talking about.

So, I thought it would be fun to do a quick comparison! The image above is a photo I took with my iPhone SE. The subject is a small, vintage photo, and I have it next to a ruler so you can get a feel for how small it is. The iPhone actually did a pretty remarkable job of getting a good representation of it! This was about as close as I could get and still be able to focus.

The second photo has three items: one is the tiny original photo; above that is a print of an iPhone SE shot, printed at full size; and to the right is a print of a shot from my new camera on 13×19 paper, which is as big as my printer will go. At full size, it would have been over 20 inches square. I didn’t do much editing to the photos, just tried to match the iPhone and Canon shots in overall look (I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the reddish hue and would probably tweak things a bit so it was more faithful to the original, but this gives you the basic idea!).

Now, you may never need to print a 20” photo of Aunt Bettie from the turn of the (previous) century, but this illustration demonstrates that the more information you’re able to capture in your scan, the more you’re able to do with your images. Think about displaying your family’s vacation slides from the ‘60s on a large-screen TV! You’ll be seeing photos in a way you’ve never seen them before!

Just something to take into consideration when you’re investigating scanning options!

Published by Amy

Professional Organizer specializing in digital and photo organization. Bassist/singer for prog-rock duo Clatter.

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