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Robert, so she has also big megapixels? So Canon has big pixels and big lenses and Nikon has them smaller? When I had to decide between Nikon D700 or Canon system most people said to me to choose 5DmkII or 1DsmkII or mkIII because more pixels is better. I am confused about this, just like PhilDWedding says. This is also because my 1DsmkII is significantly better to my eyes than 1DmkII which is also difference of 2x in mp. So I would expect the Nikon at 36mp also to be significantly better and give much more crop room.
There's three things to take into account:
* Number of pixels
* Quality of pixels
* Technology improvements
In theory, you could make a 200MP image out of a small sensor but the quality of those pixels would be pretty poor using the current sensor technology so you probably wouldn't want to.
Most people agree there is something of a sweet spot for current sensor technology, where the pixels that are recorded are still high quality. This does depend on what ISO you need. So, a 12MP camera will *generally* do better than a 21MP camera for high ISO photography, but the difference can be less than a stop.
I don't think we laymen know enough about sensor technology to confidently predict where the sweet spot is, but I use the 5dii so I can say that, even though it's medium-high resolution, the pixels are still high quality. Since then technology has also improved and sensors are doing better - the Nikon d3x for example has 24MP but very high quality.
However, physics is still physics and people in the know seem to be suggesting that we're approaching the limits of the current technology. This has made some people wonder whether 36MP from a 35mm sensor is just pushing it too far. However, the same was said about the 5dii, so who knows? We don't... yet.
What we do know is that both Nikon and Canon have chosen 16MP and 18MP for their top of the line pro cameras since most pros understand it's not always about the amount of pixels - it's about the quality of those pixels. Plus, an 18MP image will still print at 17" at 300dpi, and most people accept you can scale up a bit without any particular degradation in quality so a 24" print from 18MP is perfectly feasible.
So there's a real question on who *needs* more than this. Lots of people *think* they do but they actually don't. When I was talking about my next camera I said I wanted 18MP rather than the 21 of my 5dii since it suits my shooting style for weddings - slightly lower storage requirements, slightly better high ISO, slightly more dynamic range in theory and so on. I don't *need* more than 18MP for this work. That's *my* sweet spot.
Another thing to take into account is your lens. Not every lens is physically capable of making the most of the 36MP, so having a 36MP camera will mean you'll have to have the absolute the top of the range lenses or you might as well have a lower resolution camera.
Finally, the other thing to take into account is storage requirements and speed of your computer. Many Nikon users aren't used to high resolution images, having been used to 12MP cameras on the whole (unless they use a d3x or other brands too). They are in for a bit of a shock when they try to process 36MP images on old computers - I needed to completely upgrade when I got my 5dii..
I'm not saying Nikon made a mistake with their choice - but just don't fall into the consumer marketing hype which says "more mega pixels is automatically better". In some cases it's just to make you want to buy their gear.
Hope this helps