How big are pixels?

A pixel is an abstract, size-less thing. A pixels size is relative to the resolution of the physical device on which it is being viewed. The photosites on a camera sensor do have a set dimension, but once an image is acquired, and the signal are digitized, image pixels are size-less.

For example, let’s consider TVs, and in particular 4K Ultra HD TVs. A 43″ version of this TV might have a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels (w×h). The 75″ version of this TV has *exactly* the same number of pixels – about 8 million of them. What changes is the pixel size, but then so does the distance you should view the TV from. The iPhone 11 in comparison has a screen size of 1792×828. For example, the 43″ 4K TV has dimensions of roughly 37″×20.8″, which means that the size of a pixel is 0.24mm. A 75″ 4K TV would have a pixel size of 0.41mm. An Apple Macbook Air with a 13.3″ screen (2560×1600 pixels) has a pixel size of 0.11mm.

As an example consider the image below. Two sizes of pixels are shown, to represent different resolutions on two different physical devices. The content of the pixel doesn’t change, it just adapts to fill the physical pixels on the device.

Pixel sizes on different screens

Likely more important than the size of pixels is how many of them there are, so a better measure is PPI, or pixels-per-inch. The iPhone 11 has 326ppi, a typical 43″ TV has 102ppi, and the 75″ TV has 59ppi.

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