Comments on the need for 36 Megapixels, by Someone Obsessed with Resolution.

Started Mar 6, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Legion5
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Comments on the need for 36 Megapixels, by Someone Obsessed with Resolution.
Mar 6, 2012

I just thought I'd make some comments on resolution because there's been a lot of debate latley.

I do photoshop work for a lot of the top photographers in the world and retouching for ads in magazines. The work I do specifically involves, cropping, printing 20 foot wide images and severely degrading the source image, so the number one thing I need from a source image is image quality.

I do photography semi professionally so my needs aren't that great but the way I take images means I do a lot of editing and require the highest quality images possible.

To make my editing job easier I've spent a lot of time figuring out the science behind imaging, which as someone with an engineering background was fairly simple for me.

In any case the personaly conclusion I've come to is that the 5D Mark III will have a higher or equal resolution than the Nikon D800E.

The resolution of any system follows the formula: 1/system resolution = 1/lens resolution + 1/sensor resolution

Notice how the resolution is a factor of both the LENS and the SENSOR. A better sensor will help render the lines in smoother gradients helping to capture the transitions between edges more accurately and therefore improve the resolution of the lens EVEN if the lens is outresolved by the sensor.

Likewise a better lens will contribute to higher system resolution even if it completely outresolves the sensor.

It's a well known fact that Nikon's lenses lag behind Canon's. So the essential result we're left with is if Nikon's inferior lenses and superior bodies (resolution wise) can beat out Canon's superior lenses and inferior bodies (resolution wise).

I think the most fair way to predict the resolution of the D800E is to use the D7000's 16 MP sensor and take resolution readings from it's corners (as defined by lens standards in testing not the actual corners). Because resolution is a curve of course it's hard to make a judgment on resolution over the whole frame because it varies so much. However, at the corners on a crop camera we essentially have a very good point of refference because we have a point where 72% of the full frame will be lower resolution AND with the D7000 we have the equivalent of a 36.45 megapixel camera. Perfect.

So here's the conclusion I came to. Even at 16 MP crop over the corners of the frame most of Nikon's ED lenses only acheive 2500 LW/PH at the corners, most are around 2100 LW/PH at their sharpest setting. This transaltes to 3150 and 3700 on full frame with 36 MP. The D800 has 5000 lines per picture height on it's sensor, meaning that 30% of it's sensor resolution will be wasted as they aren't resolving anything but the gradiation between lines of a lens which can't out resolve the sensor.

More importantly most of Canon's L lenses can match 3150-3700 LW/PH, at the boarders on the 5D Mark II on their sharpest setting. In other words Canon's lenses on a 21 MP body can match the resolution over 66% of their imaging area of a D800 compared to Nikon's lenses at the center of the lens. To me this is an indication that the D800 + Nikon's lenses will either be equal or less sharp that the combination of Canon's lenses + the 5D Mark III.

When your center is as good as your competitor's frame boarders overall your resolution will probably be lower or aproximately equal.

So really the D800 is no replacement for medium format cameras it's just a way for Nikon to catch up without incresing the resolution of their lenses. Going to 36 megapixels gives their lenses about 10% more resolution than staying around 20 megapixels due to how system resolution works. The downside is larger files for the same or worse results that you'd get with Canon.

In the end it seems what it will come down to is the nuances between the two cameras because both seem fairly equal in most respects. There is no major advantage to either, especially resolution wise.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D7000 Nikon D800 Nikon D800E
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