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largest print with 6 megapixels

William Oleson , Feb 17, 2005; 09:41 a.m.

Hi Folks, Been itch'n to buy a DSLR. The one in my price range that works with my current lens is only 6 megapixels. Where I want to take digital photography and photoshop is into the fine art arena. I don't want my images to be burring, but since I'm printing on archival matt paper and canvas, I don't need to be super sharp either. Questions is, how large can I expect to be able to print and still get a decent image with 6 megs?


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Paul - , Feb 17, 2005; 09:53 a.m.

I get very nice 12x18 prints on 13x19 paper after resizing in Photoshop.

Stephen Lutz , Feb 17, 2005; 09:59 a.m.

13x19 prints fine with a 6 MP camera. Seems the bar for affordability has just been raised, though, with the new Digital Rebel. 8 MP sensor, just like the 20D, and the Digital Rebel's price (body only) is $900.

C.G. Hubbell , Feb 17, 2005; 10:04 a.m.

The latest Outdoor Photographer has an article about sensors, and they repeat what i've seen in many places. You're hard pressed to tell the difference between a 6 and 8 mp camera until you hit very large prints. Not saying it's not there, or that it isn't very cool. I'm just saying that 6-8 isn't a huge quality difference.

There's no set answer to this question because of a variable you didn't mention: How far away to do want it to look good? At 6 inches, a 13x19 print won't look (very) good from a 6mp camera, but at 3 feet it could. Exposure, sharpenss, enlargement technique all play huge roles as well.

When you start pushing the "obvious" range I've come to the conclusion that your only path forward is to get test prints done. You're totally safe in the 8x12 size, and usually safe in the 10x15. On a good image you should be able to pull off 16x24 if its on a wall and you won't do close up scrutiny. Beyond that it's all about your talents at Photoshop or Genuine Fractals.

BW Combs , Feb 17, 2005; 10:09 a.m.

William, I have a D70, and I output 12 x 18 inch images in house on a daily basis. They look great. I also tried a 24 x 36 (at a lab) on a whim, and it looks good as well. Not as sharp as the 12 x 18, but satisfactory, and virtually noisefree. The original images were captured in RAW, low ISO, with a nice sharp lens (80-200mm ED AF).

Posters to this and other forums are always asking "How big a print can I expect from a D70, Rebel 300, 20D, etc?" I think the answer to that is something that only the shooter can answer to and for himself.

And as you know using this in the fine art arena makes the results more subjective than objective. (I know, I know, there is a mathematical formula to arrive at maximum resolution for a particular sensor size, etc., etc.,)

There's probably no question that the larger sensors will produce a finer print. But at what point in the process do you say "okay, that's the limit for this sensor, let's move up to the next size."?

Also, I'm a firm believer that if you do your prep work while taking the photo, you'll be ahead of the game when you put the image on paper.

I've rambled on here. Sorry. Others will chime in and give their opinions as well. Good luck.

Fred Bonnett , Feb 17, 2005; 10:55 a.m.


If you want to sell your prints the quality bar is much higher than if you are a hobbyist. You can reliably produce 8x10 inch prints from a 6MP camera. Larger size prints sometimes can be produced depending on subject matter, viewing distance and media type.

Bare in mind that upsizing in PS or Genuine Fractals adds no new data and just spreads your existing file over more area.

BTW the standard viewing distance for a print, in order to judge its quality, is the prints diagonal. This is the viewing distance used when producing depth-of-field tables.


Petar Lambrev , Feb 17, 2005; 11:14 a.m.

Theoretically speaking, it is commonly accepted that the minimal print resolution not producing any visible blurring is 300 dpi. This is a little more than 100 dots per centimeter, which is equal to 5 lpmm (line pairs per millimeter), which is about the maximal resolution of the human eye (at about 30 cm distance).

So, a 6-megapixel image (3000x2000 pixels) printed at 300 dpi would be 10x6,7 inches or lets say 8x10.

In practice, I guess most people will hardly notice any unsharpness on 30% even 50% larger prints.

Derek Zeanah , Feb 17, 2005; 11:18 a.m.

There's no right answer here.

I once sold a 40x60" print from a 35mm neg, and it came out surprisingly well. The buyer was very pleased with it, and I was shocked at how good it looked.

Now, ask how big one can print reliably from a 35mm Delta 100 neg (the film I used) and you'll probably hear "11x14" max" as the common response.

So, what are your standards? What's your subject matter? Are you one of those who finds grain in film prints objectionable, or is it just part of the image?

To answer this question, solicit some sample files from 6 megapixel cameras, and print them yourself at mpix.com or ophoto.com or Sam's Club, and see what you think.

Mike Lepp , Feb 17, 2005; 11:32 a.m.

If you figure a quality prints is about 3 lp/mm when viewed at about 10 inches, then doing the math this equates to about 180ppi. In reallity a little over 200ppi is what's best. Converting this to a 6Mp dslr comes to about 10x15. Thus, 8x12's are easy for a 6Mp dslr.

In practice I'll often interpolate up for the printing device to about 240dpi. I can't tell the difference going higher on an inkjet. The labs like 300dpi, but I or the lab can tell the difference between 240 and 300. In fact, they say it's nearly impossible to tell 180 vs 300. At least without a loupe. But that's not how I view prints. IOW, I tend to use ~200ppi as a guide line (if I crop etc) then interpolate for the printer as this "may" help make a better print. Though I've been able to go to about 180dpi on my inkjet without seeing a noticable difference. The lab charges so I haven't experimented there.

I find with quality images with good lenses and a tripod that I can get 12x19 inch prints (using interpolation). But you need to be realistic in your cropping. Nobody has verified the minute loss of detail with a loupe. Plus a great images is a great image; nobody cares.

As an aside, a div I university has a volleyball poster from a 4Mp shot I made with my 1d. In this case a little loss of detail isn't going to hurt.

Kelly Flanigan , Feb 17, 2005; 12:02 p.m.

There are several grades of canvas inkjet materials. Some are extemely coarse; and a 50 ppi image is about all the detail the "paper" will accept. Super glossy and an aligned printer can hold easily 300 ppi; and up to 600 ppi for mapping with fine text. "Fine art" mans nothing in the printing business. EVERY CUSTOMER has a radically different opinion of what fine art is. It is such an overused term; it is now known as "fine fart prints" in printers production rooms. Each customer believes his fine farts are good. :) Do some tests with your type of images; enlarged with the papers you like.

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