« Steampunk Workstation | Main | A Tune Upon the Blue Guitar »

Monday, 15 February 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The original Canon 1D is the best 6 mpx camera ever made. They're bulletproof and you can get them used for around $400. They're light on some "features" newer cameras sport, but I'd take a 1D over any of them.


I was wondering the very same thing when I read the announcement. The kitlens (which will be the only lens used by most people buying an entry-ish DSLR) will probably not even be able to resolve 18 million pixels. My guess is this was a decision from the marketing department. It makes one wonder where this'll stop, if ever.

Nikon D40 still available and works quite well with kit lens 18-55/3.5-5.6DX. Battery life is very good, too. For fuller description check at kenrockwell.com

Well, I do not know. But I do know that I find it annoying not to be able to have the sensor of Nikon's D90 in a D40 body (which, with the Voigtländer Ultron 40mm or similar, fits in a in jacket pocket as long as winter lasts). So if the sensor of the new Rebel does not only have many pixels, but is actually good, then I am all for it.

How right you are. I was trying to help someone this morning set the ISO on their 80-button superzoom camera, to begin to show him how to set his camera when it's on a tripod. He was frantically pressing buttons, and settings were frantically changing, but none of them ISO. He asked, "do you think I need 'night landscape scene mode' or 'night portrait scene mode?'"

I said "probably none of the above," and then commented that what he really needed was a digital version of a K1000 (my new favorite old camera). If it were only 6mp, all the better, but I think the most important thing would be to steal the idea of the Leica X1's control layout in a more... affordable... package. There's a picture on dpreview: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/LeicaX1/page6.asp. Wheel for shutter, wheel for Aperture, both have an A option for Automatic. It's a beautiful setup, and there's not a "night pet portrait with fireworks at the beach" setting anywhere.

Dear Out of Step Mike, you are out of step.

But the 550D series hasn't been the lowest tier for a while now. That would be the 1000D / XS. The 550D is for "serious amateurs" who will absolutely lap up all those pixels.

While the 12MP of my cameras is enough for my taste, I don't think the storage requirements for an 18MP camera are of any true significance. Harddrives have become really cheap over the last few years, in fact I'd say the cost of storing an 18MP picture today is probably less than that of storing a 6MP picture was at the time when 6MP was mainstream.

I couldn't agree more.
Whatever I might need to make better photo's, it's certainly not more megapixels :).
(who is perfectly happy with her 350D)

Everyone who regularly prints larger than 11x14, raise your hands.

Everyone who prints 8.5x11, 90% of the time, raise your hands.

So shoot in one of the lower res jpeg modes. If you have a great lens (or an iffy one shot in its sweet spot) and the need you've 18mpix if you want it. Nothing says you have to use it.

I borrowed my friend's T1i, it was a pretty sweet camera. I'm not sure they are "entry level" cameras. I think Canon still has the Rebel X series, which don't have video and have lower pixel counts. (I don't really keep up on this to much though, don't trust me).

3rd party manufacturers are making all kinds of rigs for shooting video on these small cameras. I think it's pretty cool.

There's also a forum for film makers using DSLRS.

This http://www.photoinduced.com/3181/want-to-know-what-you-need-to-shoot-hd-video-with-a-dslr-whats-in-the-bag-with-chris-weeks-gives-you-the-inside-scoop/>guy has a crazy rig on a 5d.

The really interesting thing is that you can get video quality superior to the $4000 (or more) DVD camera of 5 years ago for $900. At least I think so. I'm not an expert but it sure seems that way.

So, Mike--How's that Konica-Minolta D7D working out for you?

Uh huh. Just as I expected.

The fact is, for the majority of PROFESSIONAL photography, 5-6MP is still more than sufficient. You didn't NEED to upgrade, did you?

18mp wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't disabled mRAW and sRAW. I have a feeling that if those two modes were available and consumers were educated as to their benefits, people would buy this to use as a 10mp camera with really stellar image quality rather than an 18mp camera with above-average image quality. You can do so with the 7D if that's your cup of tea.

But for some reason, in the consumer model where such reduced-RAW modes would me MORE useful than they are in the pricier 7D market segment, the option is absent. Canon's hobbling of features in lower models is, regrettably, and understandable business strategy, but... when the feature disabled is MORE useful to the low-end market... I just don't get it.

I hope the Rebel CHDK guys figure out a way to re-enable this.

"...it's possible that what the world needs now is a really good stripped-down 6-megapixel entry-level DSLR. I'm just sayin."

Nikon, Samsung, Panasonic, et.al. would have veritable field days if Canon introduced such a Rebel. The public has no interest in "stripped-down" (cameras).

My goodness we're crabby lately! ;-\

Mike, don't you see the relationship that has been built between the high-tech forces of the world? 18mp in a consumer camera will require the user to buy a faster/larger capacity computer, larger/faster memory cards, a higher quality "pro" printer, new image manipulation software, and of course, lenses of greater quality to "match" the level of camera. And do not forget the banks and credit card companies who will reap the benefits of all this consumer purchasing. OOPS, one more interest that will be the recipient of great rewards..the landfill companies where all the outdated no longer worthwhile equipment will wind up. All this so the consumer user soccer mom can put her camera in "point-n-shoot" mode to capture little Johnny in the game of his life (at 7 years old). Sorry to be such a cynic, but I have reached my personal level of excessive consumerism tolerance. Get real America! Michael

You DO realize that right now you are agreeing with Ken Rockwell? ...
Which is not bad after all.
You also agree with me. Or rather I agree with you.

I couldn't believe my ears (or my eyes) when I found out that Canon was squeezing 18mp on to an APS-C-sized sensor. Ack! I know they did it for the 7D, and personally I feel that was overkill as well.

I mean, seriously - that puts each photosite as around 4.2 microns. The T1i (15mp) is at 4.7. The XSi (12mp) is 5.1.

Perhaps Canon has done some really amazing work on the sensor, and that noise at low ISO hasn't increased significantly from the T1i, and that noise at high ISO isn't absolutely awful. (The DXOMark does seem to indicate improvements over the T1i and XSi.)

All I know is that though I love my T1i and XSi dearly, the T1i definitely generates more noise than the XSi, even at low ISO. Not the same sensor as the T2i, granted, but my experience has not indicated that increase of megapixels will result in a decrease in noise.

That said, there are a lot of other features in the T2i that have me drooling. But given that my T1i isn't a year old yet, I'll be hanging on to it for the time being.

"But I do know that I find it annoying not to be able to have the sensor of Nikon's D90 in a D40 body"

Carsten S,

Check out the D5000. No, it isn't EXACTLY the D40 body, but it is pretty darn close and the tiltable LCD screen is useful.

Best regards,

The "newest" Rebel is such a consciousness hog that we forget there are two less pixel packed versions still available - the XS and the T1i. My sense is that this camera is not aimed at the duffer but at the advanced amateur who does not want or can't afford the 50D/7D. Don't forget this is also a smaller lighter body and for the price of a 7D body you can get a T2i, the power grip and the new 15-85mm. I'll take one please.

Here's a good article on why we don't always need the heavy artillery. Go to the reader followup at the bottom of the review.


Mike, Mike, Mike ...

Clearly, you don't understand that the average step-up-from-p&s'er absolutely HAS to be able to blow up to 60x40. I mean, didn't you notice that sideboards and coffee tables are now an average of half an acre wide? And when Benny wants to re-do the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he's absolutely going to be in Canon's pocket for the one-snap-fits-all solution. It's the future ... today!

The points made in earlier comments about camera complexity are well taken.

Cameras these days have a lot of processing built-in. For example, the T2i also supports 8 and 4 megapixel modes and of course will compress to JPEG. These features leave the messy handling of large files and raw conversion to the camera's brains and produce convenient, ready-to-eat images of manageable size for the casual user.

Someone who wants more can buy fancier lenses, shoot full resolution raw, and all that.

The uninformed truly believe the extra pixels are good. They have no idea why, and probably don't print anyway.

"Why not just make 10 louder, and turn it up to 10 instead?"

"But 11 is one more."

Actually, the original Canon 1D was a 4mp CCD camera. And yes, the it was and still is the best damn 4mp you could ever want.

The big problem with that camera is that the CCD is a battery whore, and despite the considerable length, girth and weight of the cells, they just didn't have the staying power necessary to satisfy it's needs. You always had to keep a few spare units in the bag to keep it happy, and operating.

I do agree that 6 mp is more than enough for most everyone who only needs it to make snapshots.

"(which, with the Voigtländer Ultron 40mm or similar, fits in a in jacket pocket as long as winter lasts)"

You´ve got quite some big pockets, right?
Unless you want to mimic the joke of "glad to see me", or similar, that combination is not even fitting a Beaufort Jacket*.

The *istDS [my current battered camera], not even with the basic 43 fits confortably in the back pocket of the jacket. Or the front pouches [calling them pockets is a little bit too much].

And no, 10 mpx is the sweet spot now, unless you want to spend hundreds of years post-processing and upscaling the image [and "vectorwonder" programmes are not a substitute for the pixel amount].

Still, I do agree with you about the mpx race. My mumblings are as follows:
I need a new Pentax, but the purchase of that camera will make me buy another laptop, as my 6 year old laptop can barely handle Ligthroom 2.2.

By the way:
Beaufort jacket is one of the old jackets produced by a british manufacturer with waxed cotton outer shell, and tartan inner lining, which are very good for heavy rain, but stink like nothing else in the world.

Mine is called "the mummy", bu the way. And even if you can have them rewaxed at factory, they never regain the "firstbought" appearence.

Like Carsten said, the world already has a good 6MP entry-level DSLR.

But it also needs an 18MP Rebel, to drive down prices of many perfectly sufficient DSLRs that are already out there.

Oops! It was Mike O'Donoghue, not Carsten, who suggested that the world already (or still) has a good 6MP entry-level DSLR.

I agree with you, Mike as always ... But don't get frustrated about Canon and all their pixels ... Just forget them! And think of Nikon :)

You hit the nail on the head again. When the G11 came out there were cries of "has the pixel race ended". Well apparently not. Shame.

I've taught a few "intro" type adult ed. classes, and in every one, at least a third of the students happily reduce the file size (and sometimes .jpg quality!!) settings instead of going through the pain of purchasing a larger memory card or the torture of resizing for email.

I guess it's like having 300 hp in your Honda Accord. It's nice to know it's there?

I think a 6MP APS DSLR with the high ISO and image quality of a D3S and the size of a D40 would be an amazing product. I would buy one in a second.

I still use a D50 with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 as my "small" camera and 6MP is just fine for family snapshots and casual photography. (I've got a much bigger camera for the serious stuff.) I would love something similar with a more sensitive sensor and a better LCD.

Classic problem for manufacturers: people tend to buy based on features, however their satisfaction is based on ease of use.

In this case, the average consumer has the misguided notion that more MP is always better. Only after buying and using the camera will he or she discover that's not always true. Besides, there's got to be a way to scale down the MP to something more reasonable.

For myself this means i can get what the 7D offers in image quality but maybe in a years or two instead of four or five years (budgets being what they are, mostly non-existant). Budgetary constraints aside this is also smaller, a big plus in my book these days. Now if Canon will put a full frame sensor in a compact body… (one doesn't need budgets to dream!)

I would like to know if there's a way to determine if the reduced resolution options on these high megapixel cameras employ pixel-binning. If so, I would almost certainly select a lower resolution mode. I would expect slightly reduced noise as well as more reasonable file sizes.

1. Do you HAVE to use all 18MP? Can you set it to record at lower resolutions?
2. Whether a lens can resolve enough lines per millimeter or whatever isn't relevant unless you're shooting test charts. When i want a higher resolution camera, it's because i don't want to run up against seeing pixels when i want to enlarge/print something, or because i want to be able to crop without penalty.
3. I have a 5DMkII, and i was just considering this 'consumer grade' camera to 'complement' it - because a) i'd like a smaller, lighter, 'cheap' camera to carry when conditions don't support carrying a $3000 camera, and/or b) because i also want to use the Sigma 30mm/1.4 lens, which is only compatible with APS-C sensors.
4. I don't see why high resolution should be reserved for photographers with higher incomes. Just because the camera isn't priced high it doesn't mean photographers on a limited budget shouldn't be able to produce work of equal technical specification to hacks with dentistry practices : )

I had the same reaction just going from 6 (Maxxum 5D) to 10 (Sony A200). Nobody can stop the inexorable march of technology however.

Last year or the year before 10 was the new 6. I guess now 14-16 is the new 6. With the coming of this model, maybe this year through next year 18-20 will be the new 6? Where do we go from there?

If canon would put some effort into figuring out a way to focus their cameras, then those pixels would be useful.

I picked up a couple 40 year old ten dollar M42 lenses at a swap meet over the weekend that out resolve the 5DmkII sensor. An EOS no-mirror electronic viewfinder only camera with the t2i specs would be nice.

I would venture to guess that Canon spends millions on market research and they are number 1 in market share, so this must truly be an indicator of what customers want.

Personally I would be happy if my VCR with it's auto setting clock could keep accurate time, so I didn't have to manually fix it.

".. it's possible that what the world needs now is a really good stripped-down 6-megapixel entry-level DSLR. I'm just sayin'."

Which is exactly why I still have my Pentax *ist DS.

I think a entry level, 1.5 crop, 6 MP camera with the high ISO of the D700 (or D3s) would do well. Paired with some sort "It can see in the dark" ad campaign. Better high ISOs would do more to improve most peoples photos than more megapixels. There's an ungodly number of terrible photos taken in dark interiors, lit solely with the built in flash. Give entry level cameras usable ISO 6400-12800 and it would do wonders.

Isn't there also the matter of keeping up with technology. They already have an 18MP design that works well on current fabs (if the 7D is as good as they say). They can take a lot of the IP in that chip design and just re-use it. If they re-engineered for fewer pixels, it would probably add to the costs. I think this is likely to be another factor that adds to the feeping creaturism to increase pixel-count.

To those who may complain of high noise - for a given output size, this camera is likely to have less noise than previous generation cameras. The reason is that higher res mitigates noise via over-sampling for typical print sizes, and you'll also have to up-size less for larger sizes. So unless the total efficiency of the sensor (not the per-pixel noise) has gotten less - which is very unlikely - you'll make less noisy prints despite the higher MP count. People often make the mistake of comparing one pixel of a 18MP sensor to one pixel of a 12MP sensor by looking at 100% views. This gives a skewed impression if your ultimate goal is a standard size print or screen image. I like to pixel peep with the best of them...but it helps to keep your final output goal in mind.

To those who want sRAW (or pixel binning) - sRAW mode on Canons does NOT do pixel binning, so there's no quality advantage to be gained. According to Canon, it's simply for times you want smaller files and still want RAW file flexibility. A camera that did binning would be nice, but no different than doing it in post-processing.

What the world really needs (and has never had) is a good, stripped-down 6MP (OK, 8MP) entry-level m4/3 body.

You're not out of step at all, Mike, but spot on. Nikon made a camera just like that: the D40. It lastet three years, a long time in the cameras-full-of-chips market. And it's it's still a great camera, coz it's the right blend of size, function, simplicity and quality.
Btw, gave you a nice big plug in a piece I wrote for DPS http://digital-photography-school.com/nikon-d700-review

"image storage headaches"?
Fry's is selling 1TB drives for $60.
What storage headaches?

What the marketers can't do is change physics. Present technology seems to limit quality pixel size to 5 microns. Look at the DxO comparisons of the Sony A550 and the Canon 7D ( or for that matter the Canon 5DMk11 vs. Sony A900) and you can see that pixel pitch determines IQ more than price or manufacturer. But seriously Mike you're preaching to the choir. The average person about to buy the new Canon has very little appreciation of digital photography technology.

I have a 5D MkII that I use for serious work and when somebody is paying me. I have a Rebel XSi I take along on walks when I don't want to lug something heavier. With the new 15-85 IS, it's capable of great images and I've even captured some nice stuff with the kit 18-55IS. Sometimes I shoot something good enough to upload to a stock site and stock agencies like 48 megabyte plus files. With the T2i, no upsizing is required. I'll wait to see if it has any bugs and then I'll buy one when all is well.

The Rebel has become a serious camera and a great backup to bigger bodies.

It's for upgraders. It's a way to steal market share. The era of growing DSLR marketshare is over.
Therefore outresolving the lenses you can afford to put on it is a feature, not a bug. The goal is not merely to sell additional cameras, it is to to sell a reason to buy additional glass. I might be a potential upgrader. I have an Olympus E-520. 18 megapixels would almost double the resolution I can work with. This is a very good strategy for getting people who buy micro 4/3ds cameras: they will be "dual system" people pretty much forever, and if Canon really isn't going to compete in the small, mirrorless category, it works out well for them. Heck, they can even widen the pool of Canon lens buyers without risking defections to other brands, since the short flange back distance on Canon lenses is only* compatible with micro 4/3.

I thought David Bostedo's observation about basing ISO judgments against print size was quite insightful. If I am currently limited to printing at, say 11x17, printing at 19 x 30 at the same quality is pretty attractive. How many stops is that worth? Is a 400 ISO 11x17 from my Olympus comparable to an 800 ISO 11x17 from the Canon? This isn't a hypothetical for me: I take a lot of "environmental portraits" in EV 5-10, using available light. I have some well loved images that I shot at ISO 800 that don't stand up well on close examination. Having better looking output at the same print size would be wonderful.

I have been told that more pixels translates into "better tonality" which I interpret to mean "smoother transitions between light and dark, and from one color to another." Is this not so? Would a change from 10 megapixels to 18 not be noticeable? (Possibly not dramatic, but noticeable?)

There are three objections that have been raised that I really disagree with.
1. Too much storage space & processor power!
The periodic costs to me to upgrade storage and replace computers have been declining in real dollars. It's no fun to spend money on hardware instead of cameras, and I sympathize with anyone who really can't afford to do it. I've been in that position before, hopefully I won't be in that position again. However, I don't think it's a strong argument.
2. You don't need the extra pixels 90% of the time!
That gives me cold chills. It means that 10% of the time I'm guaranteed that I will. Really, that means that the 10% of the time I catch a really wonderful moment I won't be able to print it at 36 x 48. (Or, more likely, won't be able to crop it by half, because I had the wrong lens on the camera at the time.) If more pixels nets me 10% more really wonderful photographs, I have to seriously consider it.
3. You don't print that big!
Yet. The word is yet. :)

*okay, there are some exceptions. I can't remember what they are right now.

While most cameras seem to be heading toward more is better I do need to point out that Canon has at least once reversed that trend with the G11/S90 combo. And I personally I think it was the right move and applaud the step back.

I want one just for the video. Nice cheap super high def video. I want one. As in pre-order.

I agree with others here, the world has a great 6mp DSLR, the Nikon D40. What it actually needs is a great 6mp P&S. They keep trying to stuff 12-14mp into a pinhead sized sensor, and the prints look fuzzy even at 4x6!

Oh heck, I am coming into this late. I have a Minolta 5D, 6 megs. Great camera, in camera stability… Long list of Minolta lens… plus the new Sony stuff, which I can't afford! I may lust for a Sony 24 meg but I get great pictures now. And have for 6 years, With no problems whatsoever.

I tried to counsel an employee of mine (who wants a dslr to shoot food with through a macro lens for her blog) to buy a D50 and 55mm manual Nikkor (roughly $350) on the used market. But she's quite taken in by the marketing and is convinced that she'll do better with one of these new Rebels and the kit lens. She's going to end up spending more than twice as much for something that will work less well for her.

I think the main reason for this is competition pressure. This is to be the month of Nikon -- predicated by many including Thom. What to do if you were Canon? How about steal the show by doing something. I think there would be more Canon shooting in the air.

Let us see.

It seems that everyone has forgotten that the basis of comparison is the resolution of 35mm film. It is true that there are some problems comparing film at large magnification because of grain, but why should we not expect technology to progress toward that goal?

People do need more pixels to provide greater cropping flexibility and while it is true that many smaller prints are made than large ones, perhaps the ability to make high quality large prints will encourage people to have them made. I have seen people getting large prints and/or posters at the photo processing centers and they were excited about them. Let's face it, cost is an issue for the majority of the market and inexpensive prints encourage people to have their favorites blown up to larger sizes once they figure out that they can do so an still have a great print.

Hard drives are cheap...you are backing up your image files (and other data) aren't you?

Fairly common computers have the power to do rather substantial image editing. OK, they may not be rompin', stompin' Photoshop machines that you would use to do professional image processing all day, every day, but consumers can do rather nice work with the likes of PS Elements or iPhoto on them.

If the sample images already posted on the 'net are representative, the new Rebel should be quite a hit. I will, however, reserve judgement until images from actual production cameras are available for testing to see if the images are as clean and the noise levels as low as the sample images.

OK, this announcement puzzled me at first. On the one hand, there's no technical reason for not kicking the pixel count up: Contrary to what some people have suggested, the kit lens likely can make use of it, that size pixel doesn't produce excessive noise at low ISOs, and it probably doesn't limit the performance at high ISOs more than an amateur would care about. On the other hand there's no obvious reason to do it, including marketing. It's not a very big jump in numbers so it won't stand out from the pack; there are any number of semi-professional and professional cameras with higher pixel counts so the casual reader isn't even likely to notice it as being anything unusual.

And, I do agree it's kind of pointless for the amateur market. I've explained in several columns that there are good reasons for pushing the pixel counts sky-high if you're going for the ultimate in image quality. But I sincerely doubt that the market for this camera cares about that ultimate image quality, any more than their equivalent film brethren cared about medium format.

So I'm going to suggest another possibility: economies of scale and standardized production. It looks to me from reading the specs for the two cameras that they are probably using the same sensor and may even be using the same support electronics. In which case, putting the 18 megapixels in the amateur camera probably saves Canon money over putting in a different, lower resolution sensor.

That's my hypothesis, anyway.

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

From the looks of the specs on this new camera, I would suspect that in addition to the marketing hype there are a lot of production synergies and economies of scale in producing this camera which is a slightly stripped down 7D. Canon can make better margins with fewer different platforms. I agree that 6MP is enough for most people. I have been using an istDs for 4 years with good results.
However, my new S90 certainly produces excellent pictures for such a small camera!

Well, at least I tried.

I bought a Pentax K-x because it's even smaller than my insanely great D40 and has been getting rave reviews for its low light capability. It's a great physical package, very fast in operation, it does have useful 3200/6400 ISOs and the kit lenses are very, very good...but it's going back because I can't get decent files out of it. I've been shooting it side by side with the D40 and I consistently prefer the Nikon's results. The Pentax overexposes constantly and the files look flat and lifeless. It's still a pretty good camera in most respects, but in terms of right-out-of-the-camera image quality, it's no D40 despite being both more expensive and four years newer.

Maybe it's something about CCD vs. CMOS sensors in cropped cameras. All I know is I'll be picking up one or two more D40 bodies before I'm through with this class of camera.

Which may be never.

I'll gladly sell anyone my 6 megapixel Nikon D100. =D Any takers?

"So, Mike--How's that Konica-Minolta D7D working out for you?"

I still use it, but generally only for tabletop stuff. It's semi-broken; it has electrical problems. Sony will supposedly fix it, but only if I pay a large sum to BEGIN the repair proceedings--they don't guarantee to fix it for that price, and might charge more before they're done. I'm not willing to enter into an open-ended repair process I have to commit money to before I know it will be effective, so to me the camera is unrepairable.

It's difficult to use a camera for shooting non-repeatable subjects when it spontaneously changes its settings and occasionally decides it has no lens on it and refuses to shoot, even though its lens is still in place. But I never had a problem with the sensor. K-M got that part right.


"I'll gladly sell anyone my 6 megapixel Nikon D100. =D Any takers?"

I know you're joking, but you're somewhat missing the point. I'm saying it would be interesting to know what would happen if manufacturers had continued to develop such cameras to today's standards.


Aside from the pixel quality argument, I find a number of the comments here a tad condescending. This could be the best some can afford, why assume it's just for soccer mums and point and shooters? Never heard anyone say the M9 has too many pixels for dentists

You know, I just recently sold my Pentax K7 and Pentax 20D, but I kept my Pentax K100D Super. It is Super!, and 6 megapixels.

"Never heard anyone say the M9 has too many pixels for dentists"

That's a tad condescending....


Hard drive manufacturers need all the support they can get, I did my share last fall getting a 1TB drive for backup. With 50% more pixels than its predecessor, the 550D will help things along.

"That's a tad condescending...."

would have been, didn't say it :)

Personally, 6MP just isn't enough. With 6MP, I've got just enough pixels in the frame to make decent 8.5x11 prints, but it suffers from a lack of cropping room. I found 10-12MP to be the sweet spot, with enough pixels that I can crop well down when needed, but not too much as to drive up file sizes.

And thus I'm off to replace one of my current 12MP cameras with another one, in order to get greatly improved high ISO performance. At this point, the K-X will be my fourth 12MP body. I started with the D300, which was excellent but too big, replaced that with the G1, which I love and still use to this day, added an E-30 for low-light and event/airshow work and am now replacing the latter with the K-X. The K-X looks to be about 2 stops better than my current E-30 above ISO 800 and I only own the E-30 for high ISO work, my G1 suffices for most other situations.

I actually wouldn't mind higher MP/small camera body options. Unfortunately, Canon's EF-S lens lineup means most of those extra pixels are going to waste in the wide and normal range. That and the fact that computer processors haven't sped up by a corresponding amount, meaning even more painfully slow RAW conversion...

The megapixel race has been over for a couple years now, but nobody seemed to tell Canon.

- Nikon continues to best Canon in areas that matter - DR, IQ, AF, & Build Quality.

- You don't see Olympus trying to cram 20+ MP into a 4/3 sensor, do you?

- Pentax isn't hopping on the full frame bandwagon.

- Sony's already proven they can beat them dollar for dollar.

And the likes of Leica, Panasonic and Samsung are at the forefront of the next big things in digital 35.

The T2i announcement does nothing more than prove Canon is out of touch with the market.

I'm not sure the numbers can tell the whole story accurately.

About those big print sizes that 18MP lets you do...

To put it in perspective, I cite digitalphotopro.com's Misinformation column on printing tech. I want to stay above 300 dpi to make the highest quality prints right? So how big can my 18MP print? According to the chart in the misinformation column, I can make:

18MP=11x14 inches at 350 dpi
12MP=11x14 inches at 312 dpi
6MP=Print size at 300 dpi isn't listed, but it's slightly less than 8x10 if you do the math yourself.

So 12MP and 18MP can both only make a print about 11x14. Yes, the 18MP can be printed slightly larger than 12MP, but not even on the order of an inch in any direction.

If I'm willing to compromise down to between 200 and 300 dpi I can make:

- an 11x14 at 215 dpi from a 6MP file,
- a 16x20 at 218 dpi from a 12MP file and
- a 16x24 at 230 dpi from an 18MP file

So again, not a huge advantage.

Yes I can uprez my 18MP file, but I can do the same to the smaller files, so no help there.

What about linear resolution(not pixel counts)? This is what people measured in the days of film, to determine what was higher or lower resolution. (Luckily some still do.)

From www.popphoto.com camera tests:
6MP K100Ds = 1590 lph
12MP D90 = 2315 lph
18MP 7D = 2610 lph

Even though the 18MP camera is THREE times the pixel count of 6MP, the resolution in terms of lines per picture height doesn't seem to be even twice that of the 6MP model (if I'm doing the long division in my head right). The 12MP is stuck somewhere in between, but despite being twice the pixel count of 6MP, it barely has half again the resolution of the 6MP camera.

(And yes, I know these are popphoto's lab tests, not my own. I hope they don't mind me citing them. But I had to get some numbers, lest some wag point out that I need to back up my point with "facts" which usually means numbers to people asking for facts. Thankfully, popphoto does these nice lab tests and publishes the results.)

I have a 40D and a 7D. I got the 7D for (insert blah blah blah excuses here)... because I thought I needed more megapixels. Surprise, the 40D is easier to use and takes nicer photographs.

That's all. Everything else is rubbish. the pictures are either good, or they are not.

"I have been told that more pixels translates into "better tonality" which I interpret to mean "smoother transitions between light and dark, and from one color to another." Is this not so?"

That may be generally true for output devices, but not so much for sensors.

If you are always trying to print larger, you'll always want more meaningful pixels. But more isn't always more meaningful, and you still can't get something from nothing, especially at the dark end. Just having more photosites covering a transition from dark grey to very dark grey does you no good if those photosites aren't sensitive enough to register the differences. In that case, you won't get better tonality, though you might get more resolution.

Generally, larger photosites are more sensitive and have more dynamic range, especially re dark tones, and that usually means fewer mega pixels per given sensor size. So is the resolution/tonality sweet spot for APS at 800 ISO with this year's technology 18MB? For you? I don't know.

For today's sensors, DR varies with ISO, so if you're trying to get maximum resolution and tonality at particular ISO's it's worth doing that specific research. Then you'll also have to weigh, for your needs, the benefits of higher shutter speed vs lower ISO, stabilization, DR vs resolution, etc.

But Olympus sensors are not known for great low light performance. Most current APS DSLR's will have better DR and less noise in low-light, though you may or may not be happy with their character.

C.Cunningham, how does your own experience at various print sizes relate to the "Misinformation" you quote? In particular, what MP sizes have you found to fail at one print size, but be fine one print size down?

Because they're giving what I take to be the standard rules of thumb, and in terms of actual printing, those are very loose guidelines to the real world.

Camera manufacturers have to satisfy many needs of their customers, amongst others raising their ego and providing them with bragging rights. Never have I seen the ridiculous side of that game more clearly than on a day I was shooting in Bryce Canyon.

I was busy composing a picture with the annoyingly visible 80-200 AF-S when I realized someone had come to stand next to me, the tripod, and all that gear. Around his neck he carried an entry-level SLR with a smallish zoom I imagined to be of the f/3.5-6.3 type. "How long is your lens?" he asked without further introduction. "200 millimeters" I answered. His eyes brightened, he gained two inches in hight. "Mine goes to 300 millimeters" he said, turned around, and floated away in triumph.

This happened when film still ruled. Soon he may well be running around with the new T2i and crushing any D3s user with: "Mine has 18 MP".

A high pixel count on a entry-level DSLR may satisfy more customers' needs than one might first think.

robert e,
Thank you, that was a really nice, comprehensive, thoughtful response. I'll be over here thinking now. :)

David, you're right, these are commonly published guidelines for printing(with some slight variation.) I don't think they are immutable laws. (Sometimes they're presented that way though, "You must not print larger than 8x11 with 6MP.") I think you can print larger than 8x11 using 6MP. I've made nice 8x11s from resized 4MP images(or less in some cases.) Speaking of which, what's wrong with a really good 8x11? Do most people really print much larger than this?

Mostly I quoted the numbers because numbers get thrown around alot in relation to digital IQ. I think because there is some opinion involved, and numbers seem to be factual and unbiased, free of opinion. (And they are easy to measure.) They are facts, but I'm convinced that sometimes the numbers without a context aren't as helpful and decisive as they seem.
For example, 42 is a numerical answer, but without the question it doesn't help much.
Is 18 more than 12? No question, it is 6 more. I've become convinced that it doesn't matter much though. Mainly because I've seen some images taken with 6MP cameras that left me gobsmacked, and they wouldn't have been any better with a higher MP count.

So I'm convinced that MP counts matter less the more MP you get. It's sort of a diminishing return. 6MP is great. 12MP is luxury. The problem with 18MP is that some people start thinking they NEED more pixesl. And to compete, really still useful gear like the Nikon D70 or the Canon 10D get dropped before their time in favor of higher pixel-count gear, never to be reintroduced, because who (besides a few of us) would want to buy a 6MP camera when they could get xxMP(fill in the number.)

I keep meaning to sit down and shoot the same identical subject with my 6MP and my 12MP cameras using the same lens, etc. and print both at 13x19 just to prove to myself that I'm mostly right, but life kind of gets in the way. The rare free time I have to get out with a camera isn't time I want to waste testing something, especially a topic like this that doesn't matter to me.

And I apologize, due to this response being MUCH longer than I originally anticipated.

Aaagh! I should never post replies as I'm nodding off.

" The problem with 18MP is that some people start thinking they NEED more pixesl. "

This sentence was some kind of messy composite of unused sentence fragments that were left over from cutting and pasting.

I was trying to say that the problem is: as the marketplace becomes concerned with high MP counts(that may not be telling you what you think they are), manufacturers drop the 6MP(or 8MP or eventually the 10MP or 12MP) models some of us are quite happy with, so if you want one and don't already have one, you will have to get lucky on ebay. (Which is how I got my 6MP SLR. After I had "upgraded" to my 12MP SLR.)

I did at one time think that more MP was always better, but now I think that there's a point where having more pixels doesn't help in any significant way.

It depends on the situation, but my situation is one where a good 6MP or 8MP camera is PLENTY pixel-wise. 10MP or 12MP is luxurious.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007