The Joy of Pixel Density

Started Jul 13, 2008 | Discussions thread
Amin Sabet
Amin Sabet Veteran Member • Posts: 6,763
Re: The Joy of Pixel Density

Thanks for sharing this, which is probably the best demonstration I've seen yet of what everyone has been saying. Ironically, I hear many more people complaining about the megapixel myth than I hear complaining about the megapixel race. If anything, I'd say that for each person complaining about higher megapixels, there are two people complaining about that person's ignorance. As for the images in the original post, the actual "Joy" demonstrated is IMO pretty modest, but it's there.

The problem is that there are no practical demonstrations of this Joy. Don't get me wrong. The example in the OP is a practical one, and I really appreciate seeing it. However, it's not as practical as comparing prints from two cameras of like technology with the same sensor size and different pixel pitch. Take for example, Fuji F100fd vs Fuji F31 or Nikon D3 vs Canon 1Ds III (giving the old F31 some credit here by presuming it is of the same generation tech as F100fd). When people who have both cameras in such a comparison report on their actual experience with prints, they invariably say that the camera with the bigger pixels has better detail/noise in low light at high ISO at any given print size. That certainly has been my experience in doing those sorts of tests. I can't get a high ISO G7 or G9 print to look as good at 8x10" as my old F31 images did, and I don't believe that Fuji has the amazing in-camera NR (otherwise their F100fd 6MP mode would be able to match the F31 at same output size, which it can't) nor do I believe that my G7/G9 postprocessing skills are deficient. Furthermore, while I can see how downsizing images can improve dynamic range, it doesn't equalize DR with that of large pixel cameras in my practical experience.

Since I don't understand these issues as well as the OP or any number of engineers, physicists, and mathematicians who like this subject (and like to complain about the so-called "rampant" misconceptions concerning it), I can only guess that the discrepancy between the theory put forth and what I see in real prints comes down to fill factor + - some factor I haven't considered. However, for the sake of making practical decisions when purchasing gear, I trust my eyes. Having looked at a number of cameras with equal sensor size and different pixel size (comparing current tech to current tech), my observations from a practical standpoint when considering image output at a given size are as follows:

1) In good light at low ISO, apparent detail/noise is better with smaller pixels.
2) In low light at high ISO, apparent detail/noise is better with large pixels.

3) Dynamic range and quality of color/tones is generally better with large pixels, especially at higher ISO values.

If anyone has practical experience showing otherwise, I'd really enjoy seeing it. Barring that, I do appreciate what John has shown here in the OP.

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