Photo printing resolution explained

All that talk about megapixels and resolution can be confusing when you want to print a picture. But fret not, let our chart show you how.

It's always good to know what size you want to print your pictures in, so you can just shoot at that resolution instead of the highest.

Contrary to popular belief, shooting at a lower megapixel setting does not compromise the picture quality. You would just get an image with reduced pixel dimensions and smaller file sizes. That said, you can take more pictures, which is an advantage if you are using a smaller-capacity flash memory.

So unless you are thinking of making poster-sized prints for all the pictures you take, we will show you the maximum print sizes for various megapixel settings.

Camera resolution Pixels dimension Maximum print size
VGA 640 x 480 2 x 1.5
2-megapixels 1,633 x 1,225 4 x 6 inch (4R)
3-megapixels 2,048 x 1,536 5 x 7 inch (5R)
4-megapixels 2,464 x 1,632 6 x 8 inch (6R)
5-megapixels 2,592 x 1,944 6 x 9 inch
6-megapixels 3,008 x 2,000 6.5 x 10 inch
7-megapixels 3,072 x2,304 7.5 x 10 inch
8-megapixels 3,264 x 2,448 8 x 10 inch (8R or A4)
9-megapixels 3,464 x 2,598 8 x 12 inch (Super 8R)
10-megapixels 3,651 x 2,739 8.5 x 13 inch
11-megapixels 3,830 x 2,872 9 x 13.5 inch
12-megapixels 4,000 x 3,000 9 x 14 inch

100% crop of a 4-megapixel image resized for a 8R print.
(Click to enlarge image)

100% crop of a 4-megapixel image.
(Click for larger image)

This chart is meant to be used as a general reference only, and actual pixel dimensions may vary from camera to camera.

The aspect ratio is set at 4:3, but take note that some cameras are capable of shooting at higher resolution with the 16:9 ratio option activated.

At different resolutions, some cameras may offer the option to choose different image quality. Select the best if you want to get good prints.

The maximum print size stated is at best print settings. If you try to resize a 4-megapixel image to print at 8R, the print quality will be much lower.

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john posted a comment   

I am very new with this topic and want to know if this tables can be use in both Home printing and Printing press?I will be really happy if any can give me the answer.
Thanks in advance


Joe Pro posted a comment   

My final comment in response to David above. The Cannon EOS 450D is a good camera of 12 megapixel resolution. It's large file is 4272x2848 max. A maximum high res. photo is 300dpi. which translates to 9.5x14in. at 300dpi, 11x17 at 259, 14x21 at 203, 16x24 at 178, and 20x30 at 142dpi. You can see as the size increases the resolution goes down. At 180-300res., the photo quality is pretty good. The Sony Alpha 900 at 24.6 megapixels is 4032x6048 large file at 300dpi res. and size is 13.5x20in. max image. A 20x30in image will be 202 res. with the Sony Alpha 900.
This is a full frame camera or equivalent to a 35mm camera DSLR.
It can accommodate 35mm lenses and less megapixel cameras have smaller image sensors and are not full frame and take special DT or Digital Lenses that correct for the smaller image sensors. So if you would put a Digital Lens on A Sony at 24.6 megapixels or DT lens, it will result in a cropped or halo image since it will only be capable of 11 megapixels max. Or vice versa if you put an old 35mm lens on a Digital less than full frame Digital SLR, the lens is larger than the image sensor in this camera. After market camera lenses such as Sigma or Tamron make digital small image sensor camera lenses for less than full frame Digital SLRs.


Joe Pro posted a comment   

In response to David above, I would like to mention that a 35mm full frame film translates to 24.6 megapixels like the Sony Alpha 900 for about $2600 or the D3x Nikon 24.5 megapixel camera for about $8000 US dollars. Photo scanners like the Epson V500 48bit for about $200 US dollars, can scan a 4800 by 9600 dpi photo to a digital file. These come close to 250- 300dpi resoution at 20x30 inch blow- ups. I found a web site that has a pixel and inch calculator for size conversions which is very helpful
Hope, this helps, Joe.


Joe Pro posted a comment   

This table is pretty on the money. Other tables show larger sizes like 20x30 or 24x36! for a 10 megapixel camera. You can print on say canvas, but you need to lower resolution to about 72 because you will be trying to invent pixels. If you want 180 res. or true photo quality 300 res. at larger sizes for printing then you need higher mega pixels like 12,15,21,and 22 for a 35mm camera quality print. You can use good blow up programs like alien skin blow up 2 or genuine fractals 6 or enlarger pro, but they have to invent pixels at higher resolutions but their is a degrading of quality or blurring. So yes, you can get larger prints, but you have to lower the resolution down. If you want large 20x30 prints at 300 res then get a 22 megapixel or 50 mega pixel Hasselblad camera $$$$! I have blown up to 20x30 using a 5 megapixel camera at 72 res. Take your picture and put it into photoshop and leave the ressmpling unchecked and type in different sizes and see what resolutions register in the size box as you increase or decrease dimension sizes leaving scale and constrain proportion boxes checked. Note, if you leave the bicubic box checked, it will lock in the resolution say at 72 res for any size you plug in in the image size box. so leave it unchecked. At least until your ready, then check bicubic or bicubic smoother to enlarge. Bicubic sharper to reduce.


David posted a comment   

This table simply cannot be correct. You're saying that a Canon EOS 450D cannot provide an image resolution big enough for even a magazine cover shot. That's just patently wrong.


Alyson Emmins posted a comment   


This a well composed article on a topic that some people (including some of our customers) find quite confusing. Well done, and it is good that you pointed out that it is a 'general guide' :-)



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