Too many megapixels? Six is enough for an 8x10.

Started Apr 26, 2009 | Discussions thread
caterpillar Veteran Member • Posts: 7,585
Not worried with the megapixel race

RedFox88 wrote:

Overall it's rather well put for the average camera user and buyer.
They pack more and more pixels into P&S cameras for users that either
never print and upload 800x600 photos for photo sharing or print 4x6
that only need 2MP. True that cropping is needed sometimes so they
should make them 6 to 8MP and leave it there. Oh and put the image
sensor sizes back to 1/1.8" as a standard maybe even an occassinal
2/3"

Actually, 3mp with a good 1/1.8" sensor is good enough. My first digital camera was the famous Kodak 4800 w/c had that sensor. 3mp. Large mp count in 2001. And they cost about U$1,200 in those days. It was a 28-80mm 35mm equiv in FOV if I recall. It made very nice prints at 28mm. Very nice indeed for a 3mp.

6-8mp is just fine. In fact, in aps-c sized sensors, 8-10mp maybe is the best overall. My 8mp 20d still surprises me to this day. ISO 1600 is still clean if you expose properly. The 5d mk2 has the same pixel size (to my recall) as the 20d, hence it is no wonder it is such a fine camera in low light, except you have 21mp at your disposal. But I bet even a 1/2.5" sensor at 8mp would look fine in good light, and only would suffer in higher ISOs.

But in fairness, there are applications that do require more pixels. Lanscape shooters and some macro and advertising shooters and PJs would require maybe 10-15mp if only to be able to crop. Of course landscape shooters need all the pixels they can get to resolve details of small objects like grass or leaves w/out cropping. But for most folks, I think 8mp is a safe bet overall, with 10mp as the threshold.

I am not worried with the megapixel race. I know it is a losing proposition for the sensor/camera makers. In the long run, they know they have to find "differentiation" of product lines elsewhere. There is no doubt that they can take the aps-c sensor to 20mp or more but there is a point where the cleverest software and use of technology will bog down to get a clean image at higher ISOs. The 35mm FF has still some room to go, maybe 30-40mp, but it will be a tough sell in time for smaller sensors.

Even P&S, as we are seeing are going to larger and larger sensor sizes if they are still to play the megapixel race. They still have room to grow as there still have to go 1/1.8" size so one can get 12mp or more with "clean" high ISO (for a P&S).

But I think the next competitive selling point will not be sensor size or pixel count, but other feature sets. And the one that will be driving it is video. Like it or not, that's how they will be marketed in the future. Any ancellary requirements of video will drive the new models (e.g. faster AF, quiter zoom lenses, higher bit-rates, 1080-60p, etc). The reason is easy to fathom. People will realize, they don't need all that pixel count for stills. And video will become the focus for many as well as stills. And then the tide will turn.

The megapixel race is a dead end proposition. The megahertz race in cpus is also a dead-end proposition for both Intel and AMD. The problem is not technology. They can sure make 6, 8, 16 cores in the future running at 3ghz per core. But to most typical consumer, as the high sales of netbooks has shown, don't really need all that horse power. Netbooks are low powered single core cpus. Today's dual/core 2 duo cpus do well for most chores. Only video and multimedia editing require quadcores and higher megahertz. And I am sure AMD and Intel are aware of those issues. There is a lot of lesson to be learned from the P4 architecture.

Same with the megapixel race. It is bound to stop simply because it is not sustainable. Technology-wise, unlike cpus, the hurdles to be overcome as far as noise reduction on higher ISOs are harder to go over. And if video does become the driver for the new cameras, then salesmen will be harping other pixel counts like 1080-30p/60p in the future, etc.

By that time, we hope that sensor makers will start concentrating on other issues like dynamic range, better AWB, or some other feature set. It's bound to happen simply because the megpixel race is a dead end proposition.

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