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Friday, 19 August 2011


I've been craving 24MP, but I think 36MP is overkill for almost everyone. Isn't it?

When I printed for a show last winter, my gallery and I wanted to hang three prints at 40x50", but we ran some tests and found that 30x40" was the largest we could do in the quality we wanted.

I'm sure 24MP would have taken me over the hump for 40x50". That would have been grand!

But after that, aren't we bumping up against the resolution of these lenses?

And of course, more megapixels means more noise. I love the low noise on my D700. I wouldn't want to take a step backward in that department.

Shooting full spread (~50 x 35cm) for magazines, I often fall behind the limits of a 21MP sensor at 300dpi. Some interpolation is required, but not a lot. 36mp would be a sweet spot. That said, I'm more eager for a revolutionary jump in video ergonomics, handling and recording in the next crop of FF DSLRs.

I have an A900 and have very few complaints. If Sony makes a new camera with the main selling point of having 36 MP, I have no interest. However, if Sony makes an A920 with a stop or 2 of improved high ISO performance, I don't care how may MP's are in there, I will want one. I just hope they don't screw up the rest of the camera in the process.

I'm looking forward to the best photo I've ever taken, and the best print I've ever made, using the equipment I currently own.

Mike, re: your megapixel comment, people have been saying that the megapixel race is over since the day of the 1DS Mark I. We've had people saying six megapixel crop sensors were enough to satisfy any conceivable professional demand. Then it was eight, then twelve. Then it was twelve megapixels, but a FF sensor. Now people are saying ~20-ish is enough. See the pattern?

As for "The market has spoken"...tell that to the 5D Mark II. Tell that to the 5D Mark III, when it appears. Tell that to the Nikon D700 replacement, whenever it appears.

24 megapixels didn't sink the Sony A850 and A900. Sony's poor lens and body lineup did. Sony's lack of live view and video did. Sony's still minuscule footprint in the DSLR market did.

A high megapixel count did wreck Nikon D3X sales, but it wasn't the 24 megapixel sensor Nikon used. It was the 21 megapixel sensor Canon used in a body that was 1/3 the price of a D3X.

@Joe, with regard to your print size comment... I was a wrangler for judging the photos entered into our local County Fair's photo contest, and several of the judges were commenting on how they felt there was a distinct bias towards larger print sizes being scored higher in professional contests.

Al these large megapixils cameras means is the photographer gets lazy.

I found with my Nikon D40X (10 mp) I could crop out 50% of the image and still make great 13X19 inch prints.

Now I have the Nikon D5100 with 16 mp. I'm getting really lazy.

I also now need a 3 terabyte drive to hold all these great 16 mp images.

Will it never end?

The point that's missed is that since the tsunami the Sony juggernaut has hardly missed a beat and is about to flood the market with several innovative cameras and high quality lenses but we haven't heard much from Canon or Nikon. Could it be the latter two are hurting more than they're letting on?

@DerekL — Sure, I think larger sizes would indeed bias results. A lot of the competitions I see tell you exactly what pixel size to submit via upload. They're judging the image, not print size or printing ability.

A Leica 50mm "Summicron" (f/2) "R" lens — some of us think this is a very fine lens indeed — delivers 40 line pairs per mm at f/8 with an MTF value of around 75% in the central part of the image circle with a low of maybe 55% 15mm off center. Mounted on a 21 mp Canon 5Dm2, this translates to about 3.5 pixels per line pair, which is apparently — I'm no expert, just relying on what I've read — very close to the maximum you can squeeze out of a Bayer array.

Going up to 30 or 36 mp isn't going to change much if even the best lenses can't deliver the resolution to take advantage of it.

I've used this lens on a 20D, a 1DsM2, and a 5D. I could see a difference going from the 20D (8 mp, if memory serves) to the 1DsM2 (16 mp), and I could tell a difference going from the 5D (12 mp) to the 5Dm2 (again: 21 mp).

I can see no difference to speak of, though, going from the 1DsM2 to the 5Dm2: the jump from 16 mp to 21 mp is only a ratio change from 4 to 5) which isn't much and is beyond what the lens can deliver anyway.

Pending the advent of lenses that deliver the resolution implicit in a 30 mp or 36 mp sensor, I don't see the point of making these increases (and yes, I do often make very large prints).

By the way, I'm speaking only of the "35mm" world; medium format, I gather, is another story altogether, and one that I have no personal experience with.

Dear Joe,

I've written about this. Short answer-- you need to get up into the 100 megapixel range before more pixels stop meaning more detailed photos.

'Course, that's only using very good lenses (not spectacular, just very good), somewhere near optimum apertures, and you're not talking corner-to-corner sharpness, just the best.

In other words, not one bit different from the film world.


Dear John,

If that wasn't humor, then it's the first time I have ever heard cropping equated with laziness... as if that had anything to do with photography, anyway (it doesn't).

pax /Ctein

Can Sony's (or anybody's) FX lenses actually take full advantage of the 36mp? Are not aberrations a limiting factor?

36mp is the magic number for people with a 17'' desktop printer. like peas and carrots.

A full frame NEX style camera is what I'd like.
The NEX mount is plenty big enough. I would imagine a full frame live view stationary mirror camera would make more sense commercially but I like the big sensor in a lens cap design of my NEX.

Whatever Sony announces, I hope it has provision for a wired remote or a USB remote. Sony seems to botch that part of camera design with regularity.

Other than that it seems like Sony is the only company other than maybe Ricoh that actually thinks about camera design a little.

D3x has been selling well without you knowing it. Yes, we need more megapixels.

In what way do you feel 24mp of the A900 has been a liability? It isnt, I'm just wondering what has mislead you into believing that.

One thing that might make a 36mp sensor appealing isn't necessarily more megapixels but that the sensels themselves may be small enough they should be able to eliminate the AA filter. This could make the lens limiting factor in resolving detail weather than the sensor. Then of course they can go about making better lenses out of all that cool stuff Ctein mentioned on a recent post.

Nothing "misled" me, I just don't need it is all.


Aug 24 is also the date when Nikon is rumored to announce their mirrorless.

Why of course, I *NEED* 36MP. According to all the internet camera experts, more MPs will make all my photos better. Pulitzer Prize, here I come!

Dear Richard,

That theoretical analysis is nonsense. Deciding that you need to use 75% as the MTF frequency cutoff has no connection with reality whatsoever. Decent, not fabulous, just decent full-frame lenses project WELL into the three figures lp/ mm of useful detail. Not theory-- real, measured results, and long and well established.

Yes, it makes little sense to buy only 30% more pixels (vis going from 16 to 21 Mp). But that's got nothing to do with lenses, it's a straightforward consequence of the fact that a 15% increase in resolution is just barely perceptible, if everything is going just right. Was true going from 4 Mp to 5, from 16 to 21, it'll be true going from 24 to 30, and ultimately from 80 to 100! Just don't bother. In fact, don't bother buying more pixels, ever, unless you're buying at least 50% more pixels.

But, unless you lean toward really crappy lenses, it's not gonna make sense to stop buying more pixels at all until you're somewhere around 3-4 times what you can get now. So don't even waste the mental energy worrying about that; we are far away from that mattering.

pax / Ctein

On APS sensors I agree that manufacturers should now focus on getting more dynamic range/noise control instead of just resolution (but they still should increase MP when possible), but there's still a lot of potential in FF sensor technology regarding resolution, it would be a pity if it weren't explored.

I will not buy a 5D MkIII to substitute the MkII just because it has more MP, but I like to know I can get a improved model when my MkII dies. I like the idea of how the FF cameras are becoming the new medium-format.

The market and technology must and will advance, and a future uber-mega-pixel technology might come in handy to turn the lytro technology viable for professional photography.

I'm afraid there's going to be no A920. That particular rumour has been disproven a few times. The A900 replacement is rumoured to be coming next year and will almost assuredly be an SLT, probably called the A99.

As to the other announcements, 4 cameras are expected, the A77 and A65, both 24MP APS-C SLT's and the NEX-7 and NEX-5N, the former being a 24MP APS-C with 3MP EVF (same EVF as the A77 and A65) and the NEX-5N which shares the NEX-C3's updated 16MP sensor in a upgraded version of the NEX-5 body. The A65 was the real surprise, it's going to be a plastic body version of the A77, without some of the extra frills (no top LCD, more limited LCD articulation, slower and a couple other changes).

yeah, I must admit I myself haven't been using my big Nikon camera much since I got my Olympus Pen pocket-system-camera ... but I use the old lenses :) I even bought some beautiful glass from Konica as well. Who needs more cameras? When you can buy more glass!

The Canon 7D has 18 MP on a 1.6 crop sensor. If you would enlarge this sensor to full frame with the same pixel density this would result in a 46 MP sensor. The Sony 24 MP cropped to 1.5 aps-c is about 11 MP. 36 MP on full frame equals about 16 MP on 1.5 aps-c.

You would have think the MP race was over but it's still raging. And I've seen people choose a DSLR over another because one had 18MP and the other "just" 16. Which is silly because I'm betting a human eye cannot really distinguish much more than 10MP when looking at a picture as a whole, and probably much less than that actually.

It seems to me that high MP count is really useful for two applications: cropping and big landscapes (or cityscapes). For big landscapes, people like to look at small details. But for that, stitching is much more effective, with simple tools you can get gigapixels if you wish so. It will make a much bigger difference than a 10-20% increase in MP count.

Cropping may have its uses, I can imagine someone using a wide angle on a DSLR like a RF, only that cropping for composition would occur later "comfortably" in front of a computer. I put the quotes because it's one more thing to do in front of a computer. I digress but a time may come where you would everything in front of a computer: refocus (Lytro), adjust your bokeh, adjust your FOV (aka cropping) maybe even change your POV, why not?

It's yet another expensive digital camera in an endless stream of them, and it's big to lug around. It doesn't matter to me how many pixels it has.

@ pedro: what magazine prints at 300 dpi?
@ ken: The Japanese camera makers were hurt in different ways by the quake. For Nikon, the FX factory was near the epicenter. For Sony, it was compact cameras and sensor materials that were most affected. But I think you're mistaking Nikon's usual end of cycle slowdown for something else. One could also say that the A77 to be announced next week is long overdue.
@ john: no it will not end until physical limits are hit, at which time tech will find an alternative method and we'll start over.
@ hugh @ peter: while I like the NEX, so far Sony hasn't delivered on lenses, and I don't see how going to 24mp is going to help.

All these new announcements coming and all I can think about is how I get my hands on a *NEW* 8x10 Deardorff.

How much will you spend for a NEX7?
My experience with this kind of gear (M43/Nex) is that it's good 'for the money'.
Let me explain what i mean: The moment it starts becoming expensive, i tend to think of the returns...the equipment i can get in a 'Pro' (full frame) context in the same money. And therein lies the paradox: M43 and NEX systems, must produce premium, pro grade equipment to look serious enough for the enthusiast, but then, i won't buy them for that kind of money, because i will rather buy a full frame system. So while the 24 F2 is great, i will rather save for 24 1.4 L.
I think this is because of the sensor. The sensor is limiting the system's aspiration to go professional. And therefore, i will be more interested in value-propositions from this kind of alternate gear...so the GF1 with a 20 1.7 is the best representation of the system, and the most compelling one. On sony's side, the NEX5 feels better to me compared to a rumored $1100 Nex7.
Is it because i'm craving for a 'Full frame small camera'? I don't know.

I'm with Ctein on this one. I don't know exactly how many more pixels I can use, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 24mp. A little testing with my current printer (not a top-of-the-line model) shows I can benefit from around 32MP AFTER CROP in a 13x19 print.

What I could really use is a camera with something like 48MP available when I need to maximize detail, but with software abilities to deliver a super-fine 16 or 18 MP for normal purposes.

"One could also say that the A77 to be announced next week is long overdue."

I'll say. I can't even remember when the A700 was discontinued. Would you say, two or three YEARS overdue?


Dear Emmanuel,

You're entirely right about small pixel increases being totally unimportant, but you lose the bet on substantially more pixels not mattering. Even in a 8x10 print with today's printing technology (which is also a limiting factor), you don't hit the perceptual wall until you are up around 40 Mpx!

That's not saying many folks need that exalted quality. Personally, I am pretty happy at the moment at 12 Mpx (although I'd not turn up my nose at more). But that is more like the fact that 99.9% of photographers were happy stopping at medium format film and never went bigger. Put an 8 x10 made in medium format next to one made from 8x10 sheet film and there is a palpable difference. It just has costs that exceed its worth for almost everyone.

The key word being "almost".

pax /Ctein

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