The (in)significance of resolution

Started Apr 15, 2013 | Discussions
DMillier
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The (in)significance of resolution
Apr 15, 2013

A lot of people are obsessed with resolution. And why not, surely the more detail, the better?

Well, yes... and no.

I've just completed a little experiment.  Using my 16MP Bayer Nex 5n, I fitted a PC/shift medium format lens.  I flat stitched (shift left - no shift- right shift) a 3 frame composite. Files were alligned using Photomerge.  Flat stitching means no warping of the files so effectively it's like 3 normal frames placed side by side.

I then printed my 48MP image on A4 paper (image area about 10.5 x 7 inches), pretty near a traditional print size and compared to a straight single frame image.

No difference.

I then cropped the frame in half and printed that on A4 (equivalent printed area 14 x 10.5 inches).

No difference.

The results mimiced the print comparisons I did D800 vs DP2M vs RX100. The extra resolution is invisible in prints below A2 and insignificant until A1 size (c. 30 x 20 inches).

So there you go. Unless you are printing much larger than a 13" wide desktop printer or cropping like crazy, a 10MP class camera (4.6MP) is every bit at good detail wise as a D800/Merrill.

If you're a typical amateur photographer casting envious eyes at the uberCams, but feeling a bit short of the ready cash, don't worry, your 5 year old camera will get the job done just as well.

You can thank me for the money I've saved you with a small donation

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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

I remember the first time i saw a medium format film negative printed.  Both a 6 x 9 negative as well as a 6 x 4.5 negative printed to only 5 x 7 absolutely CRUSHED a 35mn negative printed the same size.  It was so different, you could pick out the medium format print 100% of the time.

Clearly resolution mattered then.  Why would it not matter now??

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DMillier
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to rattymouse, Apr 15, 2013

Don't know, there could be any number of reasons that had nothing to do with the intrinsic resolution of the media.

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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

DMillier wrote:

Don't know, there could be any number of reasons that had nothing to do with the intrinsic resolution of the media.

No, it was the resolution difference.  Have you ever seen a medium format print?  It is completely different from a 35mm print.  Not even close to the same.

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victorgv
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to rattymouse, Apr 15, 2013

rattymouse wrote:

I remember the first time i saw a medium format film negative printed.  Both a 6 x 9 negative as well as a 6 x 4.5 negative printed to only 5 x 7 absolutely CRUSHED a 35mn negative printed the same size.  It was so different, you could pick out the medium format print 100% of the time.

Clearly resolution mattered then.  Why would it not matter now??

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1. In general photo paper will have much much better resolution than printer.

2. Lenses on medium format probably better .

3. Effect from grain would be much less on print from medium format.

In digital world it does not matter after certain point how good your camera is from point of view of dpi on paper.

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KM Legacy
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to rattymouse, Apr 15, 2013

Agreed. I used to be amazed at the superior quality of medium and large format film images vs. 35mm ones in magazines, where they were reproduced much smaller than 8x10". Yet the standard dogma was that you shouldn't see any difference unless they were enlarge much more.

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SandyF
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

I've been shooting the (lower resolution) SD15 and the (higher resolution) DP2Merrill side by side on florals over the past days. I believe I certainly do see more resolution on-screen in the detail of the flower surfaces on the DP2M than the SD15. That was true too of the transition of the SD10 to the SD14/15/DP2/DP1 sensor and now the Merrill sensor.

Now whether this increase of detail is visible on paper at various sizes is another question.

Yes, resolution is significant, but how significant depends upon the a) subject b) how you're preparing the file c) whether you're cropping etc.

I hope to get these photos processed today. I've been experimenting with the old 55-200mm lens vs the 70-200mmEX lens in good light. The 55-200mm seems to hold up well in sharpness, I emphasize in good light. I used it one year at Death Valley in dim dawn light and it was awful... haven't since then, but I'm really digging through my photo bags for lens options for our Hawaii trip... something with more 'reach' than I normally use. So I thought I'd try it on the SD15 and it seems to have made the cut.

Best regards, Sandy
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Lin Evans
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You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

Hi David,

You really haven't increased resolution at all with what you have described below. You simply have increased the field of view composing the scene.

Unless you use a telephoto lens, stitching multiple images taken by such a procedure only increases the field of view. Shoot a landscape and note the boundaries in the frame. Now place a medium telephoto lens on your camera and shoot multiple overlapping horizontal and vertical images until you have essentially the same field of view. Stitch these images into a single frame having the same field of view as your original. Now you have increased the resolution.

No matter how many images you stitch with the same lens that you take the original and no matter what the pixel dimensions of the final image are, the resolution does not change at all.

Best regards,

Lin

DMillier wrote:

A lot of people are obsessed with resolution. And why not, surely the more detail, the better?

Well, yes... and no.

I've just completed a little experiment.  Using my 16MP Bayer Nex 5n, I fitted a PC/shift medium format lens.  I flat stitched (shift left - no shift- right shift) a 3 frame composite. Files were alligned using Photomerge.  Flat stitching means no warping of the files so effectively it's like 3 normal frames placed side by side.

I then printed my 48MP image on A4 paper (image area about 10.5 x 7 inches), pretty near a traditional print size and compared to a straight single frame image.

No difference.

I then cropped the frame in half and printed that on A4 (equivalent printed area 14 x 10.5 inches).

No difference.

The results mimiced the print comparisons I did D800 vs DP2M vs RX100. The extra resolution is invisible in prints below A2 and insignificant until A1 size (c. 30 x 20 inches).

So there you go. Unless you are printing much larger than a 13" wide desktop printer or cropping like crazy, a 10MP class camera (4.6MP) is every bit at good detail wise as a D800/Merrill.

If you're a typical amateur photographer casting envious eyes at the uberCams, but feeling a bit short of the ready cash, don't worry, your 5 year old camera will get the job done just as well.

You can thank me for the money I've saved you with a small donation

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DMillier
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to rattymouse, Apr 15, 2013

I do have a 5x4 view camera and I used to own a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder so I'm perfectly familiar.

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DMillier
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to Lin Evans, Apr 15, 2013

Stitch was done with a 65mm lens simulating a wider view.

Results are pretty much the same a comparing Dp2m to RX100. It takes a huge print to see a difference.

The reason presumably is that there is only so much detail you see in a given area.  The best the eye can resolve is 300 ppi and that only with perfect black and white dots side by side. Colour resolution is way lower.

You want more detail, you print bigger. And that is what resolution gives you: the ability to print bigger.

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Lin Evans
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

DMillier wrote:

Stitch was done with a 65mm lens simulating a wider view.

Results are pretty much the same a comparing Dp2m to RX100. It takes a huge print to see a difference.

The reason presumably is that there is only so much detail you see in a given area.  The best the eye can resolve is 300 ppi and that only with perfect black and white dots side by side. Colour resolution is way lower.

You want more detail, you print bigger. And that is what resolution gives you: the ability to print bigger.

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Hi David,

The experiment you describe does not increase the resolution at all.

Here is one unalienable fact: The "only way" you can increase resolution by stitching over the base resolution of your sensor is by using a telephoto lens or moving closer to the subject.

The sensor can only produce "X" optical resolution. That "X" factor does not change magically with the number of images stitched. Each portion of that stitched image has precisely the same resolving capacity as the other portions. Stitching them together simply increases the field of view, it has zero bearing on optical resolution. Yes you have more "pixels" composing the image, but resolving power is unchanged.

Think of it like this. Use a three megapixel resolution camera with a 50mm lens and shoot an image of the wing of a butterfly from three feet away. Now mount the three megapixel camera on a microscope which has 50X magnification and shoot three hundred overlapping horizontal and vertical images of that butterfly wing which you move slightly between each frame until you have photographed every square mm of the wing. Now stitch these images together and you will have effectively increased the resolution over the original capture. "Only" by getting closer to the subject with multiple overlapping frames and stitching, or by doing it with magnification (telephoto) can you change the resolution.

Indeed, you can see a difference in even a 5x7 inch print between a high resolution sensor and a low resolution sensor if you use a magnifying glass to examine the prints. Depending on how good your eyesight is, you "may" not see a difference without doing this, but there "is" a difference assuming sufficient print resolution. For example, it's been said that the human eye can't discern much more than 300 dpi resolution. On the other hand, many can immediately discern the difference between a 300 dpi laserjet text print and a 1200 dpi laserjet text print. Why is this so if we can only discern 300 dpi?

I don''t have the answers, but I can say without hesitation that "I" can tell the difference in an 5x7 print from my 3 megapixel Canon D30 and my DP2 Merrill. I can also tell the difference between my 12 megapixel Nikon D300 and my DP2 Merrill. It's more difficult between my 16 megapixel D7000 and my DP2 Merrill, but by 8x10 I can definitely tell the difference.

Best regards,

Lin

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D Cox
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to rattymouse, Apr 15, 2013

rattymouse wrote:

I remember the first time i saw a medium format film negative printed.  Both a 6 x 9 negative as well as a 6 x 4.5 negative printed to only 5 x 7 absolutely CRUSHED a 35mn negative printed the same size.  It was so different, you could pick out the medium format print 100% of the time.

Clearly resolution mattered then.  Why would it not matter now??

Much of the improvement with larger film formats is in gradation rather than resolution.

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Johan Borg
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to Lin Evans, Apr 15, 2013

Lin Evans wrote:

For example, it's been said that the human eye can't discern much more than 300 dpi resolution. On the other hand, many can immediately discern the difference between a 300 dpi laserjet text print and a 1200 dpi laserjet text print. Why is this so if we can only discern 300 dpi?

Because that laserjet doesn't have a 1200 dpi color resolution in the first place, it uses dithering and therefore needs a lot more than 300 dpi in order to produce actual detail of 300 dpi.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51267694

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Lin Evans
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to Johan Borg, Apr 15, 2013

Johan Borg wrote:

Lin Evans wrote:

For example, it's been said that the human eye can't discern much more than 300 dpi resolution. On the other hand, many can immediately discern the difference between a 300 dpi laserjet text print and a 1200 dpi laserjet text print. Why is this so if we can only discern 300 dpi?

Because that laserjet doesn't have a 1200 dpi color resolution in the first place, it uses dithering and therefore needs a lot more than 300 dpi in order to produce actual detail of 300 dpi.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51267694

Hi Johan,

Actually, I was referring to (text print) with  black and white 300 dpi versus 1200 dpi laserjets.

Best regards,

Lin

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mike earussi
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

DMillier wrote:

A lot of people are obsessed with resolution. And why not, surely the more detail, the better?

Well, yes... and no.

I've just completed a little experiment.  Using my 16MP Bayer Nex 5n, I fitted a PC/shift medium format lens.  I flat stitched (shift left - no shift- right shift) a 3 frame composite. Files were alligned using Photomerge.  Flat stitching means no warping of the files so effectively it's like 3 normal frames placed side by side.

I then printed my 48MP image on A4 paper (image area about 10.5 x 7 inches), pretty near a traditional print size and compared to a straight single frame image.

No difference.

I then cropped the frame in half and printed that on A4 (equivalent printed area 14 x 10.5 inches).

No difference.

The results mimiced the print comparisons I did D800 vs DP2M vs RX100. The extra resolution is invisible in prints below A2 and insignificant until A1 size (c. 30 x 20 inches).

So there you go. Unless you are printing much larger than a 13" wide desktop printer or cropping like crazy, a 10MP class camera (4.6MP) is every bit at good detail wise as a D800/Merrill.

If you're a typical amateur photographer casting envious eyes at the uberCams, but feeling a bit short of the ready cash, don't worry, your 5 year old camera will get the job done just as well.

You can thank me for the money I've saved you with a small donation

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Depends on how good your eyesight/close up vision is, or perhaps how fussy you are (or, obviously, how far away you're viewing the print). I can certainly see the difference between an SD15 portrait vs a SD1 on an 8x10 print in how it renders the fine detail of the hair when held about 18", a common viewing distance for this size of a print. And when I was using film I could see the difference when the magnification exceeded 4x, i.e. there was no noticeable difference between a 6x7 and 4x5 when printing an 8x10, but at 11x14 there was.

I can also see a subtle difference between printing at 600 dpi (12 LPM) vs 300 dpi (6 LPM) on my Epson 1400, as the theoretical max resolution of the human eye is 10 LPM (I should also perhaps mention here that my own eye resolution has been measured as 20/15, slighter higher than normal, which obviously affects my opinion). So a SD1 printed at 13x mag, which would equal a 8x12 print, would have a final resolution of approximately 7.7 LPM (102 LPM /13), well within the maximum resolution range of human vision.

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jande9
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

It also depends on the colours in the image.  I like how the colour resolution in the Sigma images match the luminance resolution exactly without the slight smudging of the colours.

That said, I agree that there is way more to taking great pictures than resolution.

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DMillier
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to Lin Evans, Apr 15, 2013

The eye (and only a young perfect eye) can separate a maximum of 300 lines per inch at a viewing distance of about a foot only if they are alternating 100% black and white.  Actually, most people would see 300 dots per inch as solid grey, most of us have somewhat worse eyesight.  The eye cannot see this level of resolution if the dots are grey. And if they are colour dots even less.  I very much doubt a laser printer in putting down pure black dots on a pure white substrate!  The resolution of an inkjet printer on matte paper (I use a R2400 on Permajet Matte plus) is rather less.

With respect to your claim I have not increased resolution, I think you are mis-thinking something.  If I shoot  a single frame, then zoom in and shoot a 3 frame composite covering the same field of view, I'm getting 3x the pixel count.  That's effectively what I did.  Shot a 16MP single frame with a moderate wide angle, then swapped out the lens for a telephoto shift lens and stitched 3 frames to (roughly) match the field of view of the reference frame but with 3x the pixels.

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Roland Karlsson
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Re: The (in)significance of resolution
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

A 35 mm film image is quite grainy. Its quite hard to keep plane. There is some diffusion of light in the medium. It has to be enlarged in the darkroom. All this makes it much better to use a bigger format. So, medium format is superior.

This is also why tiny sensor cameras today are much, much better than small negative cameras, and in some respects even better than 35 mm film cameras.

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Roland Karlsson
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

DMillier wrote:

You want more detail, you print bigger. And that is what resolution gives you: the ability to print bigger.

Resolution also gives you a stable ground to start with. If the resolution is too low you will get artefacts and unsharpness when deforming the image, e.g. doing restitution or correcting lens distortion. It also makes it possible to zoom in on digital images, something I like, and one of the reasons why I do stitching. Cropping also might make more resolution good to have.

All this said, if the sensor is very "sharp", it will generally have a high demand on the lens and the photographer, if he wants to achieve that sharpness in reality.

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Lin Evans
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Re: You haven't increased the resolution....
In reply to DMillier, Apr 15, 2013

DMillier wrote:

The eye (and only a young perfect eye) can separate a maximum of 300 lines per inch at a viewing distance of about a foot only if they are alternating 100% black and white.  Actually, most people would see 300 dots per inch as solid grey, most of us have somewhat worse eyesight.  The eye cannot see this level of resolution if the dots are grey. And if they are colour dots even less.  I very much doubt a laser printer in putting down pure black dots on a pure white substrate!  The resolution of an inkjet printer on matte paper (I use a R2400 on Permajet Matte plus) is rather less.

With respect to your claim I have not increased resolution, I think you are mis-thinking something.  If I shoot  a single frame, then zoom in and shoot a 3 frame composite covering the same field of view, I'm getting 3x the pixel count.  That's effectively what I did.  Shot a 16MP single frame with a moderate wide angle, then swapped out the lens for a telephoto shift lens and stitched 3 frames to (roughly) match the field of view of the reference frame but with 3x the pixels.

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Hi David,

How can you "roughly match" the frame with three images? If you are using a telephoto then you must stitch "both" horizontal "and" vertical images to match the frame. The way I see it is that it would take a "minimum" of four frames. What you describe has no "overlap" in your own words. If that is so it can only be "either" a horizontal "or" a vertical stitch. Are you saying that the FOV of the medium format lens "matches" either the vertical or horizontal FOV of your wide angle lens? Otherwise why bother? Just shoot a single frame with your moderate wide angle, put a telephoto lens on the camera and shoot overlapping horizontal and vertical frames and stitch.

To see any increase in resolution the way you describe what you did it would be necessary to do a 100% crop from the wide angle original image and compare it to the identical frame portion from the telephoto.

Best regards,

Lin

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