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€¢ How big pictures can I print from my camera?
Unlike in compact camera market, the DSLR market have some benefits from increasing pixel density on sensors. At least as long as camera manufacturers will keep noise under control (read: not worse than previous version) as it was until now.
We mentioned how you can use higher pixel count and crop as kind of digital zoom in one of previous articles, in this one, we will talk about how big prints you can make out of given pixel count. We will take into account not only popular bubblejet printers, but als canvas and printing on professional printers in print company or Photo shop.

DPI and resolution

DPI (dot per inch) resolution of the image tells you, how many image pixels you will fit on one inch (~2.54cm) of length. What means that 100DPI resolution will have on each inch 100 image pixels. For those on metric system, easy to remmember is that there will be about 4 pixels in each milimeter of the image (or 40 pixels in each centimeter) at 100DPI. This might seem dense enough. In fact, best way to imagine what 100DPI means is to look at your common PC monitor.

In praxis it means, that 100DPI is about lowest resolution you feel as smooth upclose. It is easy to see individual pixels (specially on geometrical shapes, letters) but it is already high enough for photography watched upclose.
While of course it is always good to have higher resolution, this, so called web resolution, should be fine enough for typical prints.

Table showing required approximate resolution of given paper size:

Paper size72 dpi100 dpi144 dpi216 dpi288 dpi
Dimen. [px]ResolutionDimen. [px]ResolutionDimen. [px]ResolutionDimen. [px]ResolutionDimen. [px]Resolution
7,6x12,7cm (3x5")216 x 3600.07Mp300 x 5000.15Mp432 x 7200.31Mp648 x 10800.69Mp864 x 14401.24Mp
10.2x15.2cm (4x6")288 x 4320.12Mp400 x 6000.24Mp576 x 8640.49Mp864 x 12961.11Mp1152 x 17281.99Mp
12.7x17.7cm (5x7")360 x 5040.18Mp500 x 7000.35Mp720 x 10080.72Mp1080 x 15121.63Mp1440 x 20162.9Mp
A5 14.8x21cm (5.8x8.3")417 x 5970.24Mp580 x 8300.48Mp835 x 11950.99Mp1252 x 17922.24Mp1670 x 23903.99Mp
20.3x25.4cm (8x10")576 x 7200.41Mp800 x 10000.8Mp1152 x 14401.65Mp1728 x 21603.73Mp2304 x 28806.63Mp
A4 21x29.7cm (8.3x11.7")597 x 8420.5Mp830 x 11700.97Mp1195 x 16842.01Mp1792 x 25274.52Mp2390 x 33698.05Mp
Letter 21.6x27.9cm (8.5x11")612 x 7920.48Mp850 x 11000.93Mp1224 x 15841.93Mp1836 x 23764.36Mp2448 x 31687.75Mp
Legal 21.6x35.6cm (8.5x14")612 x 10080.61Mp850 x 14001.19Mp1224 x 20162.46Mp1836 x 30245.55Mp2448 x 40329.87Mp
A3 29.7x42cm (11.7x16.5")842 x 11881Mp1170 x 16501.93Mp1684 x 23764Mp2527 x 35649Mp3369 x 475216Mp
A3plus 32.9x48.3cm (12.9x19")928 x 13681.26Mp1290 x 19002.45Mp1857 x 27365.08Mp2786 x 410411.43Mp3715 x 547220.32Mp
A2 42x59.4cm (16.5x23.4")1188 x 16842Mp1650 x 23403.86Mp2376 x 33698Mp3564 x 505418.01Mp4752 x 673932.02Mp
A1 59.4x84.1cm (23.4x33.1")1684 x 23834.01Mp2340 x 33107.74Mp3369 x 476616.05Mp5054 x 714936.13Mp6739 x 953264.23Mp
A0 84.1x118.9cm (33.1x46.8")2383 x 33698.02Mp3310 x 468015.49Mp4766 x 673932.11Mp7149 x 1010872.26Mp9532 x 13478128.47Mp

Home prints smaller or equal to A4

Even mainstream bubblejet printers have quite huge resolution, which is very usefull given the target photos they will produce. Most prints from those printers will be watched from albums, what means closest viewing distance all of the time. Some photos be on the small wall or table frames, even though it can hardly be recommended due their color fade.
Your target resolution should be about 144DPI or more (at best multiply of 144) to match the typical resolution of those printers (1440DPI). If your photo is good and printer as well, 288DPI gives you magazine-worth high resolution photo output.

Home prints up to A3plus (13x19")

For A3 or A3plus size you can still get an affordable home or small office printer. Large photographs like that are already big enough to be used in small (home) galleries. Target resolution should be about 100-144dpi given they will be watched from 1 or more meters distance. If you can produce at this size prints with about 288dpi (that would need at least 12Mpix camera with very good lens) it is allmost all you want to get for professional output. This will produce huge photos in magazine quality or to be used even in small exhibition.

Posters and banners above A3

Target resolution on the poster should be about 100-144dpi. Higher makes rarely a difference unless printed on very good (and heavy) paper which also holds colors properly. Viewing distance is usually 2m or more.
For professional output on those sizes, you need medium format camera.

Canvas prints

There are basically two types of canvas. Typical mainstream canvas is very low resolution, it have tread few tenths of milimeter wide and so it also makes rarely sense to hunt for high resolution. Canvas printers are often about 144dpi but often higher (with about same result anyway). It is safe to prepare photo in 100-150dpi, but if canvas is huge (A0 or even more) and viewing distance is accordingly bigger, you can safely live with 72dpi.
On high resolution canvas you should look for about 300dpi (again depending on printer). Tread is much smaller and canvas lives longer with higher price so it also makes sense to print only good photos in good resolution.

Huge banners and billboards

Excessive banners and billboards usually using 72dpi or even less and are viewed from 5m or more. Ask your printer shop about the precise resolution and adapt the print accordingly. Even small difference in those values with such low resolution can give you very blurred output.
Posted on 18 Mar 2008

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