640 x 480 = 920,000

Dec 30, 2008
Megapixel Fraud
Even the most mathematically challenged individual should see the problem with the equation shown above, yet such psuedo math is frequently used in false advertising of low end display devices. So how is it that a device with only 307,200 pixels came to be advertised as having 3 times as many?
It's a con older than computers!

Microscope salesman used to describe their instruments in terms of "diameters" (power squared) rather than "power", thus an instrument that was 30 power would be described as magnifying by 900 diameters, a description obviously intended to mislead their customers. While this was dishonest, it wasn't fraud since the statement was technically true.

Similarly when digital optical devices first came out with resolutions greater than a million pixels a new term, "megapixels" was coined. Thus a device with a resolution of 1280x1024 was described as having 1.3 megapixels. This was all well and good, but makers of sub megapixel devices wanted to use the term too. Thus 800x600 could be desribed as having 480K pixels or, rounded off to the nearest decmal place, it could be described as 0.5 megapixels. Of course, having a spec that's fractional, starting with zero, tended to give potential customers an all too realistic impression of their product.

So, like the microscope salesman of earlier times, the makers of sub megapixel devices came up with a scheme to make their products sound better than they actually were. Instead of rating the actual pixels, they rated them in terms of subpixels, the red, green and blue dots that blend together to make a visible pixel. Thus, a device with a resolution of 800x600, which is actually 480K pixels would be described as having 1.44 Megasubpixels or, when rounded off, 1.5 megasubpixels. This is dishonest and misleading but since it is technically true it isn't outright fraud.

The term "megasubpixels" sounds kind of awkward and requires an explanation, so some marketers began dropping the "sub" and described a device with a resolution of 800x600 as having 1.5 Megapixels. This is outright fraud! Fortunately, this fradulent exxageration of pixel count by a factor of 3 seems to usually be limited to devices in the sub megapixel range, but there have been reports of 2 megapixel cameras being falsely advertised as sporting 6 megapixels, so buyer beware, don't trust a megapixel rating unless the maximum resolution is given.

Thus we see how a device with a mere 307,200 pixels is fradulently described in false advertising as having 920,000. I suppose that it could be argued that only the most naive individual would actually think that 640 times 480 equals 920,000 so perhaps they get away with it just as lightbulb makers get away with falsely claiming that their lightbulbs put out 100 watts of light while using only 87 watts. Nevertheless, should a maker of an 800x600 device be allowed to describe it as having 1.5 megapixels while a device with a resolution of 1280x1024 is correctly described as having only 1.3 megapixels?

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