What are interpolated pixels?
March 8, 2005
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I recently bought a camera. It stated in its specifications that it has "4-megapixel interpolated." May I ask what that means?
Interpolation is a method used to increase the size of digital images; mathematically, it's a way to estimate an intermediate value from two or more known values. With your camera, it likely means that the camera uses a 2-megapixel sensor and mathematically enlarges it to a 4-megapixel file. Programmers use a variety of different techniques to interpolate pixels, some of which produce better results than others.
However, all forms of interpolation result in a poorer-quality image than you could obtain by initially capturing the image with a truly higher-resolution sensor (we refer to that resolution as the optical, or effective, resolution). That's because no matter how well you can estimate an intermediate value, it's still an estimate.
has been an avid photographer for almost 30 years. Her digital-imaging coverage has been referenced by academic journals and Web sites and published in many forms of media.