Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.

Started Jun 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
Great Bustard
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I have some questions.
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

LaszloBencze wrote:

It looks like this thread has played out. Having read every post, I'll summarize as follows:

1. Almost everyone agrees that it is near impossible to tell the difference between large prints made from cameras with widely divergent megapixels ranging from 5 to 36.

2. A few people argue that certain types of subject matter do reveal these differences. I agree with them but suggest that such subject matter provides a minority of picture situations.

3. Even when there are clear differences between cameras, the differences are not profound but difficult to discern, requiring close comparison.

4. The strength of a picture as a work of art far overrides the importance of megapixels. An artistically satisfying picture will be forgiven many technical faults. An artistically mediocre picture will provide a field day for nit picking.

And these lead to an interesting corollary: should Canon come out with a 40 megapixel camera tomorrow, the odds are high that it will not be twice as good as the current Canon line-up but more like 10% better based on subjective evaluation.

At least that would be case if the improvement were strictly in pixel count. If dynamic range were also extended and every vestige of banding eliminated, it would be a different story.

Thanks to all who contributed their thoughts—often very well expressed— to this thread.

For the sake of argument, let's take it as a given that all the above is true.  Then:

  • Does the same apply with noise?  That is, will people have the same reaction to photos with a three stop difference in light?  In other words, it's about three stops from 5 MP to 36 MP, so would the same apply to ISO 100 vs ISO 800?  ISO 400 vs ISO 6400?  Let's assume sensors that are roughly equally efficient.
  • Does the same apply with lenses and sensor size?  That is, a 1.6x DSLR with the kit lens vs a FF DSLR with a top prime?  For example, the T4i + 18-55 / 3.5-5.6 IS at 22mm vs a 6D + Sigma 35 / 1.4?
  • Or put it all together -- a modern day compact, like the G15, vs modern day FF, like the 6D with good lenses?  Is there any noticeable IQ difference between the compact and FF?
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