One of the features a point-and-shoot camera will brag about is its megapixel count. Most people will only care about that when buying a new camera. They simply forget or are not aware of the other little details that impact on the image quality.
In order to verify if megapixel count really matters, I did a simple test in extreme low light conditions and saw how the two cameras perform.
Canon Powershot A2200
This is one the cheapest point-and-shoot camera from Canon. A Q1 2011 camera costing only US$ 99 at Amazon.I managed to pay only R$200 ( I live at Brazil) on Kabum.com.br. I wanted a compact that I could carry with me for every I would go. This was the cheapest camera I found that met the criteria. It features a 14.1 megapixel sensor, Digic 4 processor and Canon Zoom Lens 5-20mm 1:2.8-5.9 capable of 4x zoom. Being a cheap camera, it lacks image stabilization, a very important feature for night and zoom shots. Although it is a Canon lens, we cannot expect quality from such tiny lens. And it is made on China, not Japan.
This is photo that I took at night from my bathroom window leaning on the windowsill to prevent shake. The photo has 4320x3240 pixels, focal length 6.36mm, F/3.2 8s ISO 80. I wish I could tell the camera to use a smaller aperture, but there is not way of doing that.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H5
Cyber-shot is certainly most popular brand for consumer cameras. But popularity does not necessary reflects good image quality. But in case of this Q1 2006 7.2 megapixels camera it does. Mostly because it features a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 2.8-3.7/6-72mm lens instead of the common Sony G lens that is used on most of the Cyber-shot lineup. That detail really makes that camera special. This japanese made camera also has image stabilization.
A shot taken with the DSC-H5 from the same point: 3072 × 2304, focal length 6mm, F/8, 30s ISO 80
The moment of truth
Here is a 100% crop for the DSC-H5 (left side) along with a crop for the same area from the image captured by the A2200.
DSC-H5 has a shaper image even though the A2200 has almost the double of pixels. Contrast, exposition and white balance are very similar on both imagse. A2200's image looks like a blurry version of DSC-H5's
Megapixel count do matter, but they are not essential. They should be enough to present all the image details in the target format. Agood sensor and quality lens will make the difference.