My first digital camera boasted just 1 megapixel. Now, I see ads for a 34-megapixel camera. How many megapixels are possible? I almost hate to buy one because next year they will have a much better one. -- S.K., of Collinsville
Sounds like you're suffering from that high-tech affliction known as pixel envy. You figure if 3 megapixels (MPs) are good and 5 are better, then you're going to be the first on your block to buy a 100-MP model that takes Pulitzer-Prize winning shots by itself.
Well, to borrow the title of one of the worst songs in pop music history, don't worry, buy a camera now, and be happy. The MP capabilities on today's cameras are more than enough to satisfy all but the most hard-core photophile.
In fact, this is another case where more is not necessarily better, Justin Vadasz cautions. He's the manager of Creve Coeur Camera in Fairview Heights, so if there's anyone who would want to overload you on megapixels for a bigger sale, he would. But he doesn't because he knows most people don't need them.
"Really, we're so far beyond what's necessary to make a good-quality print, it doesn't matter anymore," he told me. "For most people, anything around a 10-megapixel camera is going to be more than adequate."
Let's review: A digital picture consists of tiny square dots known as picture elements -- or "pixels" for short. One specification for cameras is how many millions of pixels (megapixels) their sensors capture when the shutter opens.
This number is figured by multiplying the number of pixel catchers placed horizontally across the sensor times the number down the sensor. So, a 3-MP camera has 2,048 pixels across and 1,536 down for a total of 3,145,728 pixels -- or 3 MPs for short.
Now, I know what you're still thinking. If you try to fill up a standard 4x6 print by blowing up a few hundred small dots, you're likely going to get a very blurry (pixelated) picture. That's true. More and smaller dots produce a sharper image -- but only to a point, Vadasz said.
Obviously, if you want to enlarge pictures to the size of posters or highway billboards, you want a camera with more MPs. But today's cameras, which normally come with about 12 MPs, are more than enough for 99 percent of consumers.
"If you're just making 4x6 prints, you could do that with essentially a 3-megapixel camera. Anything beyond that is more than adequate," Vadasz said
Fewer pixels mean faster Internet transfers, too. In fact, Forrest Gump might say that, for normal use, pixels are like a box of chocolates: Eating too many may make you sick.
"I don't know that there will ever be a limit to what they offer in terms of how many megapixels we can do," Vadasz said. "But more is not necessarily a good thing. Especially when you're looking at point-and-shoot cameras, fewer megapixels give you better quality images."
"Because you're trying to take a million little dots and cram them on a little sensor. If you multiply that by 12 or 16 or what have you, the more dots the 'noisier' the picture appears when you blow it up."
For a more detailed explanation, read "The Megapixel Myth" at www.kenrockwell.com.
Occasionally, people are awarded honorary degrees from universities. Do these bestow any real benefits or are they just B.S. -- and I'm not talking about the degree. -- H.P., of Fairview Heights
Now, they're usually more pomp than circumstance. But it didn't start that way, according to "Oxford University Ceremonies," by L.H. Dudley and Strickland Gibson.
Back in the late 1600s, honorary degrees were given out regularly -- possibly to curry favor with whatever monarch was visiting Oxford or Cambridge. When King James I visited Oxford in 1605, 43 members of his party were given Master of Arts degrees -- and these carried the full weight of a regular degree, according to records. (The very first on record went to Lionel Woodville in about 1470.)
Today, it's generally more of a way for schools and VIPs to pat each other on the back. The "honoris causa" (for the sake of honor) degrees usually just salute a person's work or contribution to society. It's not a shortcut to writing a 300-page thesis. But the celeb gets a few moments in the spotlight, and the school grabs headlines for being associated with the well-known recipient.
Harvard, by the way, granted the first in the U.S. in 1692 -- a Doctor of Sacred Theology to famed Puritan clergyman Increase Mather.
What was the first creature ejected from a supersonic plane?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Of the 77 winners of college football's most cherished prize for individual achievement -- the Heisman Trophy -- only eight are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They are: Detroit's Doak Walker (1948 Heisman); Green Bay's Paul Hornung (1956); Dallas' Roger Staubach (1963); Buffalo's O.J. Simpson (1968); Dallas' Tony Dorsett (1976); Houston's Earl Campbell (1977); Los Angeles Raiders and K.C. Chiefs' Marcus Allen (1981); and Detroit's Barry Sanders (1988).
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org