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

Started Jun 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Insightful Luminous Landscape article
In reply to misolo, Jun 18, 2013

Published in 2008 comparing Hasselblad Phase One 45+ back with Canon G-10 point and shoot

This article (which I had not noticed before) is a real eye opener. It comes to the same conclusions I came to but more so. The author is not saying that a $40,000 Hasselblad digital camera is no better than a $500 Canon pocket camera. What he is saying is that under certain commonly encountered conditions it is very difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Those conditions are:

1. Viewing the images at moderately large size (13" x 19")

2. Having the subject matter be a forest landscape with many leaves instead of "models in a studio with fabrics and delicate skin tones."

He points out that he allowed experienced photographers to compare a stack of prints made with the two systems and that the main distinguishing characteristic which allowed for camera identification was the shallower depth of field of the Hasselblad images. Apparently several viewers responded to the greater depth of field produced by the small Canon camera as being "sharper" and attributed those pictures to the Hasselblad.

I'm sure that if the images had been printed to a huge 4' x 6' wall mural size, the superiority of the Hasselblad would have been easy to spot. But 4' x 6' prints do not qualify as "commonly encountered conditions." Nor would cropping a picture to 20% of its image area.

Newer and better equipment always brings pleasure to serious practitioners of the photographic art. I know it does for me. But much of that pleasure is based on considerations other than image quality: better software, greater ergonomics, useful features, etc. When we evaluate new cameras solely on image quality, I'm afraid our satisfaction is more likely to be an abstract sense of technical achievement which resides more in our minds than in the images we create.

I agree 100% with the lesson he draws from his surprising comparison:

"The lesson here, especially for newbies and amateurs (the pros have always understood this) is – stop fussing over each new camera's image quality."

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