Why Not 36MP?

Started Oct 10, 2011 | Discussions thread
OP lnbolch Senior Member • Posts: 2,311
Re: For one important reason...

eNo wrote:

Yes, my computer may be faster and bigger today, and quite able to handle 36MP files. Just think how much faster and bigger it will be when I feed it 12-18MP files.

Barely noticeable. The machine upon which I am writing this message is fairly modestly configured for today. A Core 2 Duo of some vintage with an Intel 6600 at 2.40 GHz with 4GB of RAM—3GB usable under the 32-bit OS.

My 3D modeling and rendering machine also runs Photoshop, and has an i7 970 3.20GHz w/ 12MB Cache, 24GB RAM. It is hyper-threading, so Task Manager shows 12 CPUs compared to two on this one. There is not enough power in the universe to please one working in CGFX, but this one is as powerful as is practical. More power would be a rather poor return on investment. Instead, I am having the old machine rebuilt as a rendering server for network rendering. It is a quad-core, so I will in effect end up with 20CPUs working on every render.

The average size of a D700 12MP file with 14-bit depth and lossless compression is 15MB, so it is likely to be 45MB if the D800 is indeed 36MP. As it happens, I have a scan that is 45MP, and I opened it on this machine. It took 0.58 of a second. On the state-of-the-art machine it only took 0.19 seconds—a big difference in absolute terms. In real-world terms, it did not feel any different. I do have a few scans in the 200-300MB range, and one begins to notice the difference, though it is not that great.

Opening a 200MB file on the powerhouse took 0.53 seconds, while it took 1.39 seconds on the old machine. We are nowhere near having to worry about 200MB camera files, though they are common with scans. These times are so short, that the differences are meaningless for someone processing the images.

These are real world numbers—not scientific testing. They might even be shorter if I had rebooted both machines, and had nothing else running. However, there is lots of stuff running on both, so the point is that even an old and slow machine, is still pretty fast. The difference between a 12-18MP image and a 36MP image is trivial today. It will be trivial tomorrow and trivial ten years from now. Even on the old machine 200MB are easily handled, though not as effortlessly as on the new machine.

If one's present machine can not handle a 36MP/45MB file, it has certainly been earning its keep for many, many years, and is long overdue for an update. And updates are now dirt cheap. In the late 1980s, I rushed to buy two megabytes of RAM. There had been a fire in a major supplier's plant, and I knew that what I bought for $500 was going to cost $1,000 the next week. That was megabytes not gigabytes.

The 24GB of RAM I bought a couple of weeks back, cost $220, since it was the fastest RAM available—necessary for the rendering machine's high-end motherboard and fast CPU. For an image processing machine, it would be somewhat less. Loads of RAM are far more important than CPU power in image processing, and it is going at near give-away prices. Storage is also dirt cheap, approaching $50 per terabyte.

Few need the power of the 3D machine, so for a reasonably minor investment, camera file sizes are of no relevance now, and will be less so in the future. The only way I could see the difference between 45MB files and 200MB files was with a viewer that measured the precise time to open. Since the 45MB files opened in less than a second, I did not try 12MP files. When the difference is imperceptible, why bother?

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