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Saturday, 01 November 2008


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Hello there, Mike!

Just wanted to drop some thoughts. I'm an amateur film photographer, mainly in medium and large format. When i read this article, i couldn't but feel unimpressed by the resolution findings. Please take a look at this crop on my site: http://www.marionogueira.com/?p=491

This shot (not particularly good, i know) was made with a 500USD camera and an used 500USD lens. Now, this is what i call resolution! ;) Can't help but think that all the resolution, definition, dynamic range that everyone is looking for is already available, at a very low price, in technology with over 50 years, at least. For me, digital is getting there, sure it is, but it's still at a premium price, and not THAT good.

As a friend of mine says (he's a great photographer), "not this week". I'll stick to my large format camera... ;)


mmm, this looks interesting!

Even more to the point, Christmas expenditure may be cancelled this year :-)


"I'm half tempted to actually quantify this—do an experiment to see how much better the A900 sees than I do. Set up some visual targets 20 feet away that I can barely make out, and then back up to where the A900 can only barely make them out too."

Interesting idea. At what focal length would you do it to be meaningful? Or are you comparing vision thru the viewfinder and on screen?

Hi Mike
The A900 is a remarkable camera and the response of the industry seems somewhat underwhelming.
Fot a great and almost unbelievable comparison...A900 against Hasselblad see http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1037&message=29852201
I discovered Minolta and then Sony late in life having spent most of my time with Nikon/Leica/Hasselblad and 5 x 4 but each day the A system (10,700,900) drops a little sweetie in my lap and the G/Zeiss lenses are IMO unbeatable by any equivalent.


P.S. Keep up the good work I have acquired a couple of superb books via your recommendations.

This is great - takes me back to when I mostly shot 6x7 medium format.

Even average pictures become a joy once you get back home - you can sit and find details you never saw when you clicked the shutter.

It's also much more viable to shoot with just one or two good primes - zoom by cropping up to 50% and you still have plenty of detail for a print.

I'm not sure I'll be going with the Sony, but I definitely see a >20MPixel SLR in my near future.

Hi Mike,
Looks like a great camera and sensor.
Having a Minolta 7d and a A700,
Seriosly considering this one. A question though,
I've always wondered, if you took 2 shots from a 12mp DSLR (a700, D300, etc) and stitched them together, would the end result be an equivalent as the results from a single shot from the A900 (or the new 5dmk2), or is there something special about an image coming from a large MP single sensor. Of course stitching works on landscapes/static situations.
I often stitch for landscapes with fabulous results from the a700.
Then again I've made advertising shots in the past with the Canon 1dMKII (8mp), then blown up for trade show use for 8x10 ft. SkyLine trade booths and the details were amazing.........
of course, people don't go right up to the booth backdrop and put there nose to it either...

(Love your site!)

you are corrct about vision. 20/20 means you see at 20' what theoretically perfect vision does. It is possible to have better than perfect vision, I have 20/15 in my right eye which means that I see at 20' what perfect vision does at 15'.

You may want to try other RAW processing software, it's been fairly well proven that ACR's results with the A900's RAW files isn't up to what the camera can deliver, particularly when it comes to sharpness. Capture One 4 and RAW Developer are the best of the crop right now for A900 users.

Mike, I think our eyes are about 60mm. I don't know what there resolution is L/MM. But your breaking you own rules when looking at images on the computer and ZOOMING in on the subject. Your eyes are just fine--get closer to the dog and you will be able to see his whiskers just fine.


Have we gone full-circle?

How often have you made a silver print and noticed that you could read the time from someone's watch, or read some sign that you could hardly see when you took the picture?

I certainly don't want to get into a silver vs bits argument, but it's good to know that the new technology allows us to (re)discover a sense of wonderment from our photography.

I don't think cameras necessarily "see" better than we do.

If you were able to stop motion with your eyes and focus on just that one dog, I think you might have been able to see how many feet he had on the ground. When looking at a photo you have all the time in the world. Even the version you've provided which shows the entire field of view is mis-representative - it occupies only a small portion of my FOV when looking at it on my computer.

Of course, with a telephoto lens, the argument is clear: of course the camera "sees" better than you... but not really. I can "see" awfully well with a good pair of binoculars too. Heck, with a good telescope, we can see rocks on the moon.

Yes, 22.8 MP is a lot. Is it out-resolving the lens? That's another discussion entirely.

Here's the explanation my eye doctor gave me when I was 10 years old. "20-20 vision means you can read 20 point type at 20 feet. 60-20 vision would mean you can read 60 point type at 20 feet."

No idea if this is true, just what the doctor told me.

It's good to see you having fun with a camera in your hands, Mike.

The Sony looks like a contenda'. The resolution of today's digital cameras is remarkable. They've long out-resolved my eyes.

Beyond your enthusiasm for the camera itself, great picture. The greyhoung head. Beautiful. Both: The close up and the landscape shot. Just forgot they are the same picture!
I have just learned to appreciate these dogs as of late. Always found them rather ugly. I suppose they are an acquired taste. And an excellent bussiness: The police here -Spain- dismantled a few weeks ago a greyhoung traffic racket: They stole and resold them. They had 180. Seems a good one is worth 30.000 dollars. Better margins than cocaine!
I would think what you feel about the camera seeing more than you is just a wrong impression: you were so anxious to get your hands on it she started playing tricks on you as soon as she arrived! The eye can only sort and "see" a small part of the info within the "frame". You are scrutineering a still picture, printed, and comparing it with your memory. You will always fail. Even with a 20/20 vision. Just a guess:-)

Interesting choice of subject matter. I spent some of this week working out how many pixels wide our cat's whiskers were on some K20 images. Now I'm feeling guilty because my Airedale hasn't been to the local park in way too long.

Retired racing greyhounds are delightful animals. Had a couple my self. Both could have been Kangs' twins. Neither raced as well. If you are around when Kang decides to sprint across the park hold on, you'll likely wet yourself.

Oh, nice camera too.

"And before somebody asks, no, that's not the shadow of a dog humping my leg."

Ha ha ha! I'm sure *nobody* thought *that*, Mike :-)

Impressive stuff, this A900. I can already tell you love it and want to kiss it. No prizes for guessing what's going to be in your stocking this Christmas.

I would request that you not carry out that 20/200 test; I think you've proven the point already. If you have the camera for a limited amount of time, just have fun with it. Really, you don't owe *us* any such tests.

I liked the noise comparison in your previous post. It appears both JPEG and RAW have the same luminance noise, but chroma noise is much MUCH worse in JPEG. The RAW noise looks fine to me, but then I'm not averse to luminance noise (although I do hate chroma noise!).

Keep having fun!

Mike, interesting take on the A900. I'm still trying to get all the usefulness I can out of my D300. I really want to get the D700. I want my old wide angle lenses to be wide again. And I want to look through a large real estate viewfinder again. I miss the old Nikon F that I bought and got rid of long ago. So, yes: I'm jealous of what you're seeing these days. Eventually, there will be money spent. To hell with the recession. There. I said what the FED's won't admit.

My optometrist explained the vision numbers as follows:

The eye chart has multiple lines each of a different size labeled from small to large as 5,10,15,20,25 etc. These lines are labeled according to the distance away from the chart a person with normal vision is able to read the line.

Thus line 15 means that the observer can read this line from a distance of 15 feet.

The first number in 20/20 is the distance away from the chart the observer is standing. The second number is the smallest line on the chart the observer can read from that distance.

Thus 20/15 is the observer standing at 20 feet and able to read the 15 line. This is one notch better than 20/20 while 20/25 is one notch worse than 20/20.

For more info on eye glasses check this link: http://rvewong.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/how-to-select-eye-glasses/

Mário Nogueira,
Very true, but I carried my camera with me to the grocery store yesterday, and took 80 shots, which are ready for viewing and have already been edited with several published. Can you say the same for your large format camera?

The reason I shot 35mm, and now with 35mm-style digital cameras, is that it suits what I shoot. Kang, for instance, posed for that shot for all of maybe two seconds--I only got that particular shot because I was watching him continuously through the viewfinder. You might have gotten a different shot of Kang with a view camera, and it might have been just as good, or even better. But I could not have gotten *that* shot with a view camera.

The point of course is not that digital-out-resolves everything, but whether it provides ENOUGH resolution to not cripple its major feature, which is its convenience, immediacy, and flexibility.

I take your point, though.

Mike J.

The terrier's not that hard to find. Upper left, next to the running person in dark clothes, right?


I love equipment rentals, until the credit card statement comes and tells me how much I have spent on this little habit. I try to think of it as little bites, easily affordable, forgetting that lots of little bites is how you finish off Thanksgiving dinner and go lay down and groan a little. Still, it is an unbeatable way to try out equipment that has captured your soul with COB disease.

Have fun with that leviathan-file maker.

Mike, I like this tell-ya-what-it-can-do attitude of yours in reviewing a camera. Good job!

The deep crop of the dog is really interesting. This is literally something that *nobody* could see, regardless of how good your vision is, because eyes tend to be more like a scanning device than a freeze-frame. Applied to a dog, it might not mean much; there are other applications where it might mean a lot, like the subliminal apprehension of edges in a landscape shot.

I was in Iraq in January and took some photos of the rooftops of Sadr City in Baghdad from a Blackhawk -- rooftops in Baghdad are almost like patios, or backyards -- using a Nikon D3. Looking at the shots later, I was astonished at the detail, and what you could learn of the people living in the buildings just by combing over the photos.

I don't know what the A900 vs. the H3 test, on DPR, means. I read that whole thread, and looked at the photos, and I am skeptical about the differences shown. Nevertheless, the A900 shots on their own are amazing. Even if there is something wrong with the Hassy, and the Hassy is actually "better," what would you use that betterness to do? One possibility, I guess -- Victoria's Secret puts up huge posters of its lingerie models. I guess if you wanted a 200x40-inch print, a 60mp sensor might be better, but who exactly pixel-peeps a Victoria's Secret shot? It ain't the pixels you're peeping, IMHO.


I answered your question as a separate post, as you've no doubt noticed.

Mike J.


Absolutely right! For some themes (kids, sports, etc) there's no rival to digital. However, I do feel that sometimes the marketing goes over reality. For landscape, for example, there is no rival for LF film, at least at an affordable price tag. And when I see lots of hype surrounding every new camera release, I do feel the need to say to people that excellent techonology has been around for decades, and very cheap!

I'm not a film "fanatic", however, and as soon as I get a 30Mpixel, 11-12 stop dynamic range camera for under, say, 1500USD (including lens, of course), i'll jump back to digital, immediately!

For the time being, I only feel that we are paying premium money for not-so-good results, at least considering the landscape/classic portrait themes...

Thanks for the conversation! :)


Very cool camera, but there is a pent-up demand for lower-cost full-frame cameras. Three grand is just too much for most people.

The current floor of full-frame pricing seems to have settled at $2700-$3000. But considering the impending recession in developed countries, prices of these high-margin products are apt to fall by year-end and beyond once immediate demand subsides. Already we see that Nikon has appended a $300 rebate on the D700, for example.

The original Canon 5D has image quality that holds its own against the newcomers in the marketplace, and no one seems to be suggest tghat Canon is losing money by selling it for under $2k. (Too bad its feature set is comparatively primitive, otherwise it would have sold out by now.)

A sub-$2,000 price point is a reachable goal for manufacturers if they choose to pursue it. Any bets on seeing the likes of a 7D, A800 or D600 come spring?

For me, the joy of shooting color transparencies with an 8x10 view camera isn't the ability to make large prints, but the ability to slap them down on a light table and wander around them with a loupe, examining the myriad of details that went completely unnoticed at the moment of exposure.

While digital images provide an almost instant gratification, I find it to be more fleeting as well. I hardly ever look through my old digital files, but it seems I'm always pulling my box of film treasures out of the closet and browsing through them.

Well, horses for courses, as the saying goes. I wouldn't want to be without either my digital or film cameras, but they're definitely not fungible, as there's no confusing what they each do best.

Dear Erik,

23 megapixels does not out-resolve any halfway-decent 35mm-format fixed focal length lens, over a wide range of apertures. A top-notch 35mm lens, used at optimum aperture, can deliver twice the resolution of that. So you're really talking about needing 80 megapixels to match the best 35mm lenses.


System resolution isn't a "weakest link" situation. The resolution you get in your photograph is not determined by the worst resolving component of the system but by the combined blurs of all components in the system. Improving the weakest link gets you the biggest gain, of course, but even improving the strongest link improves resolution so long as that link isn't twice as "strong" as the next best link.

To put it another way, cameras are going to have to get into the high 10's of megapixels before you stop seeing improved resolution with good 35mm lenses and they'll have to pass well beyond 100 megapixels for the best lenses under best circumstances.

Do you need that many pixels? Doubtful. Few photographers would, any more than they need an 8 x 10 view camera. But if you're one of the ones that do, don't worry that you've reached the point where more pixels won't give you more sharpness. You're a long, long way from that.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Ctein: What about diffraction? Wouldn't it limit the "real" resolution? I've read some interviews from Canon people saying, for example, that the new Canon G10 has reached the limit for its sensor. Also, recent dpreview tests on the 50D reach the same conclusion. Will more megapixels bring any real resolution?



Dear Mario,

Diffraction is implicitly included in the term "optimum aperture." Were it not for diffraction, lenses would get better and better as you stopped them down, all away to their minimum apertures. Reality, of course, is different. Except for the very, very best lenses, lenses are not at their sharpest wide open. Conversely, except for the very, very worst, they are not at their sharpest stopped all the way down. At some point in between is a happy compromise between minimizing lens aberrations and minimizing diffraction and that's your optimum aperture for resolution.

In-camera tests do not directly tell you anything about the resolution of the individual components. Your Hasselblad, for example, does not produce negatives with anywhere near the resolution of either the film or the lenses you have available. There are many, many factors that degrade in-camera resolution. When you're talking about achieving ultra-high resolutions, even miniscule amounts of internal camera vibration, misalignment between components, and focus inaccuracies (a BIG problem) will substantially degrade sharpness.

An 80 megapixel camera that could fully exploit the best of today's 35mm lenses would be hellishly expensive, and it wouldn't just be because of the sensor. The camera would have to be built to much tighter tolerances and with much higher quality than any camera currently on the market. That's gonna cost!

In short, total system performance is not just about sensor resolution or lens resolution. Erik only asked the question about sensor resolution surpassing lens performance, which is a frequent one online; that's the one I addressed.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 


Understood, thanks for your time! :)


This is a bit off-topic, but your comments about the camera "seeing" things that you don't got me thinking about something and you may be one person who might know something about this. Has there ever been a photographer who consciously constructed their photos to somehow take advantage of this? I am thinking of subliminal, or not so subliminal, easily missed details in backgrounds that only emerge when printing big and even then only if you examine closely. Might be fun trying to find these.

Things not seen until you blow up the image? - the film 'Blow Up' of course! David Hemmings discovers murder in the park. His character has often been said to be based on David Bailey. Oh for the swinging 60's!

Norwich UK

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