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

Started Jun 14, 2013 | Discussions
rwbaron
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Re: not what i've seen
In reply to bronxbombers4, Jun 17, 2013

bronxbombers4 wrote:

rwbaron wrote:

bronxbombers4 wrote:

LaszloBencze wrote:

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

All I can say is could tell apart 8MP from 20MP prints even on an 8x11 never mind 20x30!

I printed at 720PPI on crisp paper.

Plus you have a lot more freedom to crop the 20MP images when you need to and they sure give a lot more reach for stuff like sports and especially wildlife.

I'm confident you have a lot more experience with this than I but why are you printing at 720PPI? I did a comparison on my Canon i9900 and could see little advantage going above 240 and in many cases 180. The commercial printer I work with who has the latest and biggest Epson and Canon printers has never asked for a file more than 240PPI. To print at 720 you have to upres the files dramatically even from a high res sensor which would cause all sorts of artifacts.

Bob

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Well if you download one of those special PPI comparison sets of test files you can see a difference. Going from 180 to 240 to 360 to 540 you could see a big difference in each step up. 540 to 720 was there but that was very, very minor and hard to spot. So you can clearly see differences going above 240PPI, very, very clearly.

anyway those little prints I referred to above were only 10" wide

normally I pick 360ppi or 720ppi depending upon the print size and the file MP count, Epson drivers seem use either 360 or 720 and internally scale to that anyway I believe

I mostly use very crisp papers. Some papers are much softer and some non-glossy that are also less crisp version of those on top might not gain much over 240ppi.

Where would I find the PPI comparison set of test files?  I've never printed anything above 300 PPI on either an Epson or Canon printer and the results are excellent.  All the detail I see at 100% on screen is in the print.  If I printed even modest sizes (13x19) at 720 I'd have files of a gig or more to contend with and my computer would not like that.  Uploading to my commercial printer on line  would be a royal PITA too.  You're interpolating and creating false information by increasing the resolution that high so I'm confused as to what benefit you're seeing.

Bob

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Mako2011
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printer res
In reply to rwbaron, Jun 17, 2013

rwbaron wrote:

Mako2011 wrote:

rwbaron wrote:

bronxbombers4 wrote:

LaszloBencze wrote:

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

All I can say is could tell apart 8MP from 20MP prints even on an 8x11 never mind 20x30!

I printed at 720PPI on crisp paper.

Plus you have a lot more freedom to crop the 20MP images when you need to and they sure give a lot more reach for stuff like sports and especially wildlife.

I'm confident you have a lot more experience with this than I but why are you printing at 720PPI? I did a comparison on my Canon i9900 and could see little advantage going above 240 and in many cases 180. The commercial printer I work with who has the latest and biggest Epson and Canon printers has never asked for a file more than 240PPI. To print at 720 you have to upres the files dramatically even from a high res sensor which would cause all sorts of artifacts.

Bob

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Apples and oranges. A 720 dpi printer produces ink blobs 1/720 inch apart, but they overlap. Your i9900 is actually doing that and more at the fine setting. It's how you get color fidelity from 8 inks. The 240 PPI, your commercial printer asks for, refers to the images resolution Pixels per inch. Most likely he is printing those pixels at a much higher dpi (drops of ink per inch). bronxbombers4 may be mixing his terms. PPI vs DPI
You probably cannot truly resolve more than 200 to 300 PPI on the picture,
depending on the kind of paper. Nonetheless the higher "resolution" DPI of the
printer helps give a smoother and more color accurate image.

Note...Printers need to dither, and their current
effective full-color resolution is around the 240-300ppi mark.
However, you should send the jobs at 720ppi (for Epson, 600ppi for
Canon) because this is the driver's native resolution and assuming you
have un-sharped the image, there will be high-contrast areas that the
printer may be able to achieve towards 720ppi. Question will be if you print will be large enough to notice the smooth high-contrast transition. Likely not.

Better explanation:
resolution

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My opinions are my own and not those of DPR or its administration. They carry no 'special' value (except to me and Lacie of course)

I know the difference and I'm talking about PPI not DPI.

I take a RAW file from my 7D and open it in PS at 240 PPI. The native image is 5184x3456 which equates to a 14.4x21.6 inch print and the file size is 102.5 meg as a Tiff. If I change the resolution to 720 and keep the print size the same the file becomes 922.6 meg. I've never printed anything at greater than 300 PPI and large prints typically at 240 and even less with excellent results. Maybe there's something I'm missing but what benefit is it to interpolate a file to that size for printing?

The printer has a native resolution as well. By sending it a file in the same native resolution, it can then dither the resulting print more accurately. Will only come into play where there are stark contrast/color transitions. When printing something very large...it cam make a difference in the transitions if the printer driver is not re-sampling to get to its native 720 or 1440 dpi.

Better Explanation:

examples

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buellom
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Re: my experience is just the opposite
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 17, 2013

When I upgraded from a 40D to a 5DII I noticed that even at print sizes where resolution should not be the deal (= at least 300dpi), prints of the 5DII looked better. There was simly better micro contrast and acuity with the 5DII prints. Prints looked somehow deeper und more intens. Of course, most people didn't notice this difference when I gave them these prints for comparison. So "real world" is not "real world". My "real world" differs from the "real world" of these most people.

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LaszloBencze
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Re: my experience is just the opposite
In reply to buellom, Jun 17, 2013

Opinions differ. Sensitivities differ. Tastes differ. What's surprising though, is that the obvious and clear cut difference between 10 and 20 megapixels does not result in an obvious and clear cut improvement for all pictures as viewed by all people.

It seems that straightforward, scientific measurements do not relate directly to human responses. I take that as an indication that humans are more complicated than measurements.

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Mako2011
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In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 17, 2013

LaszloBencze wrote:

Opinions differ. Sensitivities differ. Tastes differ. What's surprising though, is that the obvious and clear cut difference between 10 and 20 megapixels does not result in an obvious and clear cut improvement for all pictures as viewed by all people.

Unless...you take the exact same scene with the only difference being 10mp vs 20mp then print at the native resolution of the 20mp image and show side by side. Or you print at the native resolution of both and most would rather have the bigger pic on the wall. You can always set up a comparison that makes it near impossible to tell 10 from 20...but that means your limiting the output capabilities on the 20mp file in some way. Two pics of the same white wall devoid of texture...hard to tell them apart. Portrait of a man with a light beard in good light at 36x36 and 300ppi on Fujicolor Crystal Archive Paper...it becomes a bit obvious even with good processing (when viewed side by side up close).

It seems that straightforward, scientific measurements do not relate directly to human responses. I take that as an indication that humans are more complicated than measurements.

That's true....but when the comparison is an accurate/equivalent one....things change a bit. Bottom line...you can get great pics from either camera, but If I can have only one, it would be the current gen camera in my bag. The capabilities in print size, crop ability, DR, and high ISO noise are usually too good to want to go back to 10mp unless circumstances demand it.

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TTMartin
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Re: printer res
In reply to Mako2011, Jun 17, 2013

Mako2011 wrote:

rwbaron wrote:

I know the difference and I'm talking about PPI not DPI.

I take a RAW file from my 7D and open it in PS at 240 PPI. The native image is 5184x3456 which equates to a 14.4x21.6 inch print and the file size is 102.5 meg as a Tiff. If I change the resolution to 720 and keep the print size the same the file becomes 922.6 meg. I've never printed anything at greater than 300 PPI and large prints typically at 240 and even less with excellent results. Maybe there's something I'm missing but what benefit is it to interpolate a file to that size for printing?

The printer has a native resolution as well. By sending it a file in the same native resolution, it can then dither the resulting print more accurately. Will only come into play where there are stark contrast/color transitions. When printing something very large...it cam make a difference in the transitions if the printer driver is not re-sampling to get to its native 720 or 1440 dpi.

Better Explanation:

examples

A photo printer is dithering between 4 and 7+ inks.

From www.scantips.com

Color printers are similar to B&W printers, in that they must print several of the printer's dots for each image pixel (except for dye sublimation printers, which can make any color on any printed dot). Inkjets have only 3 or 4 colors of ink, a few have 6 colors, and this is all they can print. They CANNOT print any one of 16 million colors on any one dot. So to represent each image pixel in various colors, shades, and intensities, the image is dithered, meaning the printer uses a pattern of several of its dots to simulate the color of each pixel in the image.

For example, to print one "pink" pixel on our inkjets, we know it must mix some red and some white. There is no white ink, white is the bare paper color, no ink at all. To make red, the printer only has the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK) ink colors, and so must use a few magenta and yellow ink dots, not necessarily equal numbers of each, to achieve a certain shade of red. To make lighter shades of red, blank white space is used in the right amount. Black ink dots are used to darken some colors. The average visual effect of all these individual magenta and yellow ink dots, white paper, and sometimes perhaps black ink too, looks pink to us. But all of these multiple ink dots represent or simulate the color of only ONE pink image pixel.

So it is clear that we don't get anywhere near 600 or 720 or 1200 or 1440 dpi of "image" resolution from our printers in Color mode. This requirement for multiple printer dots for one image pixel greatly reduces the printer's real image resolution capability to a fraction of the printer's advertised dpi. Printer specifications are real and accurate and meaningful, but are not to be confused with image resolution. Printer ink dots and image pixels are simply very different things, and one color image pixel requires many printer ink dots. This is why we need a 1200 dpi printer (ink dots) to print an image at 250 dpi (pixels). And like B&W printers, attempting higher resolutions on color printers simply limits the pixel size area, allowing fewer ink dots, which then limits to even fewer possible color tones. We need the several ink dots in that space to simulate the correct color of the pink image pixel.

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buellom
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Re: my experience is just the opposite
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 17, 2013
What's surprising though, is that the obvious and clear cut difference between 10 and 20 megapixels does not result in an obvious and clear cut improvement for all pictures as viewed by all people.

Somehow yes, I agree. But actually I wanted to say the oppsite, well, kind of.

When printed at DIN A4 (30x20cm) the resolution of the 40D is high enough to have 300dpi. So I expected a kind of perfect quality. But compared with prints at the same size of files from the 5DII I noticed a difference that I didn't expect. (DR or noise at high iso is not what I'm talking about.)

So my conclusion is: More pixel give you better prints even at smaller print sizes.

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qianp2k
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Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 17, 2013

This is normal and expected. I have a few 20x30" prints from 5D1 and 5D2. They are very close and I don't think most could tell difference. I have read several well known photographers who own both 5D2/5D3 and D800 and they said they could not tell difference either at this size or even at bigger size such as 30x40" prints. Printing on paper like applying a big NR that effectively smear some details.

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LaszloBencze
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Bottom line summary
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

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.

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Dave Luttmann
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Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

It would depend upon subject matter.  At that size, I can easily tell the difference between the 5D2 and D800.

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Re: not what i've seen
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

LaszloBencze wrote:

All I can say is could tell apart 8MP from 20MP prints even on an 8x11 never mind 20x30!

Please come to my show. I'll meet you at the gallery. I will be interested in learning how you can tell them apart.

I've attended, and printed for enough photographers at sizes up to 7 feet.  If you cant tell the difference between 8mp and 21 mp at 20x30, either the subject matter isn't demanding, or youaren't

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Just another Canon shooter
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Re: my experience is just the opposite
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

LaszloBencze wrote:

Opinions differ. Sensitivities differ. Tastes differ. What's surprising though, is that the obvious and clear cut difference between 10 and 20 megapixels does not result in an obvious and clear cut improvement for all pictures as viewed by all people.

It seems that straightforward, scientific measurements do not relate directly to human responses. I take that as an indication that humans are more complicated than measurements.

Or maybe that they are not complicated enough to understand what the measurements mean.

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Don't believe it.
In reply to bronxbombers4, Jun 18, 2013

bronxbombers4 wrote:

LaszloBencze wrote:

All I can say is could tell apart 8MP from 20MP prints even on an 8x11 never mind 20x30!

Please come to my show. I'll meet you at the gallery. I will be interested in learning how you can tell them apart.

I will be in CA soon, but not hitting Sacramento, SF and Monterey are the closest I'll be.

I printed some crisp (looked perfect edge to edge at 100% view on monitor and were not shot at some f/16-f/22 diffraction limiting aperture) 8MP and 20MP shots and asked people to comment on the prints (without mentioning anything at all or hinting at why) and these were all fit onto legal size paper (it was a sharp somewhat glossy paper and printed on a printer that supports high PPI and I used all of the max settings). Some people right away asked why some of the duplicates I had printed were better, some noticed the sharpness difference after I mentioned that some were printed differently, a few I needed to mention what the difference was and then they were able to reliably pick them out, a couple people couldn't tell even after I told them and asked them to look again and again (I guess they had low density rods and cones or were far-sighted and not corrected, some people are a trace far-sighted and some people have much denser rods and cones than others, etc.) From what I recall about 50% noticed it quickly without any prodding, about 40% noticed it after various degrees of prodding and about 10% couldn't seem to see the difference no matter how hard they tried or for how long and they failed at all tests to pick the sharper ones out and only got random results.

I printed some 13x19" on my printer and I immediately noticed that my old 8MP shots didn't have that amazing extra detail my 5D2 shots had. Hahnemuhle PhotoRag Pearl on R3000 at highest settings for everything.

Up to here, I'm with you.

And for wildlife shots, it is easy to see the extra feather detail and such when I took a pic of a bird with a 7D and then a 5D2, the 7D pics clearly show more.

No, I'm afraid I don't buy that.  How is it that 18 MP 1.6x resolved more detail than 22 MP FF, unless, of course, you were framing wider with FF?  But if that was the case, then it would seem you would want to mention it, 'cause when we are talking about resolution of feather detail on a print, surely it's implied that we're talking about the same (or nearly the same) framing, unless we specifically state otherwise.

A 48MP FF would put a lot more detail on stuff when you are badly distance limited than an 8MP FF.

Just as 22 MP FF would put a lot more detail on stuff than 18 MP 1.6x, unless we were talking about using the same focal length on both FF and 1.6x, and then cropping the FF photo to the same framing as the 1.6x photo.

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Great Bustard
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Subjective vs objective
In reply to LaszloBencze, Jun 18, 2013

LaszloBencze wrote:

Opinions differ. Sensitivities differ. Tastes differ. What's surprising though, is that the obvious and clear cut difference between 10 and 20 megapixels does not result in an obvious and clear cut improvement for all pictures as viewed by all people.

It seems that straightforward, scientific measurements do not relate directly to human responses. I take that as an indication that humans are more complicated than measurements.

This makes some sort of sense under certain conditions:

  • The lens is not sharp enough to make use of the additional pixels.
  • The aperture is so narrow that diffraction softening greatly diminishes the advantage of more pixels (e.g. if the f-ratio were f/16, or more narrow, the diffraction softening will certainly lessen the resolution advantage of 22 MP over 10 MP).
  • Motion in the scene or camera shake adds blur that greatly diminishes the advantages of more pixels.
  • The sensor with fewer pixels is more efficient, thus having less noise and/or greater DR.
  • 129 PPI (10 MP at 20 x 30 inches) with a "good enough" lens is beyond the visual threshold to distinguish higher resolutions still (e.g. 191 PPI from 22 MP) without going to "extraordinary efforts" to see the difference in resolution.
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Re: Bottom line summary
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.

complete and utter garbage.

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.

wrong

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

wrong

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.

excuse making.

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.

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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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Mako2011
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Subjective summary
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.

Not true at all...no consensus there. It is possible to make the comparison hard to distinguish though...like printing only on canvas at 120dpi.

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.

Disagree...any subject with fine detail and there are lots of those (most landscapes, wildlife, portraits...list goes on)

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

Depends greatly on the output. The difference can indeed be profound. An example

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51658936

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.

Again, greatly subjective. Elvis on velvet

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Great Bustard
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Tread carefully, Mako.
In reply to Mako2011, Jun 18, 2013

Mako2011 wrote:

Again, greatly subjective. Elvis on velvet

Be careful what you say about The King and his divine representation on velvet. 

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misolo
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Re: I have some questions.
In reply to Great Bustard, Jun 18, 2013

Great Bustard wrote:

  • 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?

The sad truth is that, in good light and if you're not looking for shallow depth of field, there isn't that much difference. Still, you'll only pry my 5DIII from my cold dead fingers...

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Re: I have some questions.
In reply to misolo, Jun 18, 2013

misolo wrote:

Great Bustard wrote:

  • 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?

The sad truth is that, in good light and if you're not looking for shallow depth of field, there isn't that much difference.

Yes, that's what I was asking. So, up to a 20 x 30 inch print, the G15 would be as good as FF under those conditions. A similar sentiment was expressed here:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml

However, coming back to the subject of light, what's your opinion on that?  That is, if people can't see the difference between 5 MP and 36 MP, what about ISO 100 vs ISO 800?  ISO 400 vs ISO 6400?

Still, you'll only pry my 5DIII from my cold dead fingers...

For sure, there are operational advantages that make the 5D3 superior to a G15.  But I'm talking about just IQ, here.

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