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The best megapixels for your buck in 2021: how to get more MP for less money!

Canon EOS 5DS
(Image credit: Canon)

Of course, there’s more too choosing cameras than megapixels alone, but if money is tight and all you care about is resolution, then that’s a lot of photographers right there!

For our lightning survey we’ve stuck to on APS-C and full frame interchangeable cameras. We’ve left out Micro Four Thirds and premium compact cameras this time around, but if this comparison proves popular we can add them in to a later version.

We have kept mirrorless cameras and DSLRs mixed in together because this makes for some very interesting value comparisons, but we have separated out APS-C and full frame cameras. Full frame models are innately more expensive because of the larger sensor. We reckon people will take a basic decision about which format they want to go for right from the start.

10 megapixel factoids

  • Older models are cheaper and can match the resolution of new ones, like the 'old' Nikon Z7
  • We didn't include the medium format GFX 100S, but at $58.81 per MP, it easily beats most full frame cameras
  • The Sony A7R IV has crept down in price and with 61MP it's almost in the top five
  • A pro sports camera has TEN TIMES the cost per MP of an entry level model
  • 24MP full frame cameras mostly come out pretty badly
  • The Sony A1 may sound spectacular with 50MP, but its price makes it poor value for resolution
  • The Canon EOS R6 has many qualities, but MP per buck isn't one of them
  • Cost per megapixel is roughly doubled when you move from APS-C to full frame
  • Some cameras may disappear soon: the 50MP Canon EOS 5DS R is hard to get now, and the 42MP Sony A7R II likewise
  • For all this, remember that megapixels aren't everything – you need enough and no more!

For reference, we have included charts showing our data. We took a snapshot of prices in the US and UK and we present these separately because these two territories tend to have some significant price differences. 

Read more: Nikon D750 vs Nikon D850

So let’s go!

Best camera prices per megapixel (US)

Best prices per megapixel for APS-C cameras

• The top 5:
Canon EOS Rebel T7 with lens ($18.63 per MP)
Pentax K70 ($22.60 per MP)
Canon EOS M200 with lens ($22.78 per MP)
Canon EOS Rebel SL3 ($23.20 per MP)
Canon EOS M50 ($24.02 per MP)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Amongst APS-C cameras, the all-out winner for megapixel value is the Canon EOS Rebel T7, which even comes with a basic 18-55mm kit lens. It’s not our favorite camera, but you can’t argue with the value!

The Pentax K-70 (body only) is really good, too, with a price that’s a stark contrast with the brand new K-3 Mark III, a much more powerful camera but with the same sensor size and resolution as the K-70.

Otherwise, Canon has this nailed the bargain end of the market, with the EOS M200 and lens, the EOS Rebel SL3 and EOS M50 all offering great megapixel ratings at the price.

The most expensive cameras for cost per megapixel are the high-powered premium models, as you would expect, including models like the Sony A6600, Fujifilm X-T4 and X-Pro3, Nikon D500 and the new Pentax K-3 Mark III. The old Canon EOS 7D Mark II is still on sale in the US, but a long way from a bargain in megapixel terms.

Best prices per megapixel for full frame

• The top 5:
Canon EOS 5DS R ($29.62 per MP)
Canon EOS RP ($38.13 per MP)
Sony A7R II ($42.41 per MP)
Pentax K-1 Mark II ($49.37 per MP)
Canon EOS 6D Mark II ($53.40 per MP)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

In the full frame market, if you can still get it, the old Canon EOS 5DS R tramples the rest for megapixel value. It’s an old fashioned and dated camera in many ways, but you still can’t argue with the resolution.

Stock of the EOS 5DS R won’t be around for ever, and this is where the Canon EOS RP steps in. This is a perpetual bargain and typically the cheapest full frame camera around.

But if you can find a Sony A7R II new, you should snap it up. It’s more expensive than the EOS RP and older, but with 42.4MP and today’s prices, it’s a steal.

The Pentax K-1 Mark II, whose price hasn’t shifted in years, is a good deal right now, as is the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. In the US at least, DSLRs are putting up a tough fight for value against mirrorless cameras.

The worst value cameras are not surprisingly the pro sports and cinema cameras, where the resolution is secondary to high-speed shooting and video features. The big surprise is the Sony A1, the most expensive and worst value all round camera in the list. It may have 50MP, but the price puts it at around $130 per megapixel!

Best camera prices per megapixel (UK)

Best prices per megapixel for APS-C

• The top 5:
Canon EOS 2000D (£15.31 per MP)
Sony A6000 (£17.65 per MP)
Nikon D3500 with lens (£18.55 per MP)
Canon EOS M200 with lens (£19.46 per MP)
Nikon D5600 (£21.86 per MP)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

For APS-C cameras, UK buyers get a similar choice of cameras but in a different order. The Canon EOS 2000D gives you the most bang for your buck, but the Sony A6000, with or without kit lens, is close behind, with the Nikon D3500 and Canon EOS M200 bringing up the rear.

The worst value (for resolution) comes from the same high-performance, premium models: the Sony A6600, Fujifilm X-T4 and X-Pro3, Nikon D500 and Pentax K-3 Mark III. That’s not to say these cameras don’t give you what you’re paying for, it’s just that it’s not resolution alone.

Best prices per megapixel for full frame

• The top 5:
Sony A7 II (£37.00 per MP)
Canon EOS RP (£40.04 per MP)
Nikon D750 (£48.52 per MP)
Pentax K-1 Mark II (£49.42 per MP)
Sony A7R IV (£52.44 per MP)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

The full frame contenders are slightly different for UK buyers. The best value comes from the Sony A7 II and Canon EOS RP, but if you can find the Sony A7R II (it seems to drift in and out of availability), you should snap it up there and then. The Nikon D750 (not the newer D780) and the old but capable Pentax K-1 Mark II give you good resolution for the money too.

Down at the bottom of the list are the expected pro sports and cinema cameras which trade resolution for speed and video capture, but just as in the US, the Sony A1 is near the bottom too, with its impressive 50MP resolution but huge price tag.

Three ways to get the most megapixels for your buck

1. Look out for deals on older cameras. Sony sells old models long after new versions have been released, and many are still highly desirable, even years after launch, and especially at their new, discounted prices.

2. If resolution is all you want, make sure that’s all you’re buying. If you don’t need 10fps continuous shooting or 4K video, make sure you’re not paying extra to get it. To use Sony as an example again, the A7 II has the same resolution as the A7 III, but at half the price.

3. APS-C cameras typically give you more megapixels for your money. You may like the idea of full frame, but it does cost substantially more to get the same megapixel count as a smaller format camera.

Read more:

Best cheap cameras
Best camera deals
Highest resolution cameras
Best full frame cameras
Best beginner cameras

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.