How many MP to make really good A2 prints?

Started Mar 26, 2013 | Questions thread
Jacques Cornell
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My experience with 10MP
In reply to timccr, Mar 28, 2013

I'm very happy with my 16"x24" prints of detailed landscapes made with a 10MP Panasonic LX7 and printed on Ilford Gold Fiber Silk on an Epson 4000. I put a print up in a show, and after a few weeks I remembered it as being not quite as detailed as I'd like. I went back and looked at it again, and hot damn, it looked great, even from 12" away.

I do think 16"x24" is about the limit for landscapes with that camera, but portraits and other shots where you don't need or want razor-sharp micro detail could go larger. Since I shoot a lot of landscapes and want to make bigger prints, I bought a 16MP MFT camera for that work. I also have a 21MP 1Ds3, and for portraits it's just TMI - too much information. Who wants to count pores? I'm also very happy with some 20"x30" landscape prints from 11MP 1Ds files.

As others have noted, there are several factors other than MP that have a big impact. I can think of three offhand: lenses, technique, and processing. The LX7 lens is better than most compacts, just a tad softer than my Canon L zooms. I shoot landscapes at base ISO, stopped down for optimal sharpness, and with fast shutter speeds or on a good tripod as needed. And, I shoot RAW, process carefully in Aperture, and apply gentle noise reduction and sharpening with Topaz Labs' DeNoise, InFocus and Details.

As for printing, matte or semigloss paper surfaces are more forgiving than glossy, which is one of many reasons I like Ilford GFS so much. Printing on a smooth high-gloss surface will ruthlessly reveal any micro defects in sharpening or pixelation.

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