PRACTICAL differences in sensor IQ?

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Jacques Cornell
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PRACTICAL differences in sensor IQ?
6 months ago

How do the differences in sensor IQ actually affect you in a practical and significant manner? I'm really curious.

I'm a working pro specializing in events, portraits, and landscapes. I've been shooting for twenty years. I upgrade my cameras every few years, usually for improvements in performance, handling, features, UI, or size. In fact, I downgraded from a DSLR for just these kinds of reasons. IQ improvements mean nothing to me unless they double, and anything above 16MP and ISO 3200 is frostingMy old G3 & GX1 provided sharp, detailed landscape prints at the largest size I normally make - 16"x21" - and clean enough files at ISO 1600 to keep my low-light event clients more than happy. I know what IQ is, having shot for years with 6x7 film and a Canon 1Ds Mark III, and I know what it's good for.

We're at the point where just about any entry-level MFT or DSLR sensor has good enough IQ for 99% of uses out there and beats the hell out of that staple of working pros for decades - 35mm film. A couple of years ago I was aghast when a successful lifestyle and stock shooter I work with showed up to do a fashion spread with a $600 DSLR. But then I realized that it outperformed the $5,000 D2X she'd been using to make a good living for years. Another colleague has recently won international awards for poster-size portrait prints made with a 12MP D700. And, my business partner actually prefers his D700 over his D800 because the latter's 36MP is ridiculous overkill that just slows post-production time. All this reminds me that I used to shoot events with an original Canon 1D that had four - count 'em - four stinkin' megapixels, and my clients loved them! Yes, compared to my GX1, my GX7 lets me shoot at 3200 instead of 1600 in low light and lift underexposed areas about 1/2 stop more. And, the 16MP let me print a few inches bigger than, say, my 10MP LX7 or 40D. But, these are incremental improvements, not quantum existential shifts. And, I could easily do the same work today with a camera from 6-8 years ago.

So, I gotta wonder, what are all you guys doing that 1/2 stop less noise at ISO 6400 or 1/2 stop more dynamic range or two more megapixels from a DSLR makes a difference worth arguing over? I mean, you'd think the way some people go on about this stuff that their very livelihoods depended on it. Am I missing something, or is everyone around here making billboard-size prints of cave interiors shot at ISO 12800?

It seems to me that in a time of riches, people are still quibbling over pennies. But, I could be wrong. If you'd care to share, I'm genuinely curious to know whether a current m43 sensor enables you to do something significantly different than you could with one from 2-3 years ago, and if so, what is the practical advantage (viewing onscreen at 100% not included)?

(BTW: Attitude included for humorous purposes only. Please don't take it personally.)

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