What is an 'optimal' resolution?

Started May 16, 2012 | Discussions thread
bobbarber
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Re: 16MP does seem to be a sweet spot
In reply to Great Bustard, May 25, 2012

Great Bustard wrote:

So what you're saying is that there's a limit to how much resolution is useful, and anything beyond that point simply makes for larger files that take longer to process for no added benefit.

Fair point, especially considering that DOF, diffraction, and motion blur are often what put limits on the maximum resolution regardless -- we're not always shooting a flat resolution chart on a tripod in good light, after all.

As I said before, you have to let real life intrude into the discussion. Some of your guys' posts sound like you are in hypothetical la-la land, with no connection to what these cameras are used for.

Acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the earth is not 9.8 meters per second. That is only a crude estimate. If we had sufficiently sensitive instruments, we could measure acceleration due to gravity out to ten decimal places, or a hundred, or a thousand, or a million, or an infinite number, really. But what would be the point? 9.8 meters per second is sufficiently accurate for almost everything we do.

This megapixel discussion needs to also be conducted with reference to how much resolution is needed.

Just as the first question when you are calculating acceleration due to gravity should be, "How am I going to use this number and how accurate does it have to be?", the first question in calculating the number of megapixels that you need should be "How much resolution do I need to print or publish the kinds of photos that I want to take?"

And no, there is not always more resolution to be found. It is easy to think of an artificial situation, a perfectly regular checkerboard wall, for example, where you wouldn't get any more resolution from a 36 megapixel camera than you would from a 2 megapixel camera. There just isn't any more resolution in the scene than what the 2 megapixel camera can capture. In most real-life situations, you can capture all of the resolution that you need with a 12 or a 16 megapixel sensor. If you pixel peep, you might get more resolution on the out of focus pine needles in the background if you use a D800 instead of a GH2, but so what? Those out of focus pine needles are like the millions of irrelevant numbers trailing 9.8--they mean nothing in the context of what you are doing, in the context of the subject of the photo.

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