12MP, 16MP or 24MP for the 17-55 lens?

Started Apr 19, 2013 | Questions thread
photoreddi Veteran Member • Posts: 7,973
Re: Maybe a different question?

MarkJH wrote:



If you want to consider 1:1 views on your monitor a measure of "sharpness" or other kinds of image quality, then I suppose this question has an answer.  At some point moving up the megapixel count, those pixels will get smaller than the smallest circle of confusion the lens can project, and at that point a 1:1 view will look blurry.

You're confusing "circle of confusion" (a term related to a lens's depth of field) and "Airy disc", which is the smallest image that a lens can produce from an infinitely small (theoretically) point sized object.

I'm assuming you understand that as sensor resolution increases, the 1:1 view's magnification also increases, right?   So looking at 1:1 with a D3200, you're looking at an area of your photo 1/4 the size of a 1:1 view with the D90.

So, I have a hunch that a 24MP APS-C sensor may have pixels smaller than the 17-55's smallest circle of confusion.  Maybe the 16MP does, too.  Meaning that if you zoom 1:1 with 24 megapixels, it might not look as "sharp" as viewing 1:1 with 12 megapixels.

No. The quality of the lens has nothing to do with either the size of the circle of confusion or the size of the airy disc. Both are functions of the aperture and other parameters, such as focal length, viewing size, etc. You're on the right trail, sort of, in that the 12mp sensor's 1:1 (or 100%) view might look better than the 24mp's view, but that can be misleading because to get to a 100% view, the 12mp sensor's image isn't magnified as much, but if the magnifications of images produced by both sensors are equalized so that the subjects in the frame are the same size, the 24mp image will be better, irregardless of the lens used, as long as the same lens is used on both cameras.

Basically, it boils down to this: if you choose a lens that can out-resolve your camera, then your camera limits the maximum size of your prints.  If you choose a camera that can out-resolve your lens, then your lens limits the maximum size of your prints.  But there's nothing intrinsically "better" about the IQ from one choice or the other at the same print size.

So, how big are you printing and what kinds of DPI / detail are you interested in showing at those sizes?

(My suggestion: if you're never printing larger than 16" x 20" or so, think long and hard about what you'll really get by replacing your S5 Pro.)

The S5 pro is a nice camera (I own one) but even a 12mp D90 produces higher resolution images. Where the S5 Pro has an advantage over the D90 is its ability to produce 6mp images that have very high DR, but the newer Nikon DSLRs also are capable of capturing a wider dynamic range than the D90. When the S5 Pro isn't using its high DR mode its resolution is somewhat higher than 6mp, but still significantly lower than the D90's 12mp resolution. Here's a quote from Thom Hogan's S5 Pro review where among other things he compares its resolution with Nikon's 10mp D200. Following that is a link to his "How Big Can You Print?" article.

Should you get a D200 or an S5 Pro? (Or perhaps both?) The answer to that question will lie in your priorities. The D200 is a hands down winner in speed, handling, and all-around decent image quality with plenty of megapixels for the maximum size of any desktop inkjet printer. While I normally shoot with my D2xs (as I write this in mid-2007), I have no qualms at all about instead using the D200 for some shoots. For example, my climb up Kilimanjaro, where I sacrificed a teeny bit of image quality for a big reduction in size and weight. The D200 isn't a great high ISO camera, but it's also not a bad one. Thus, it takes something mighty fine to dethrone it from a trusted place in my bag.

Meanwhile, the S5 Pro is a hands down winner in (un-neutral but) pleasing color and dynamic range. Boy could I have used that shooting white arctic foxes on snow earlier this year. But the lack of speed, some handling issues, and slightly less usable resolution make the S5 Pro more of a specialist than the all-around D200. If you need a specialist that does what the S5 Pro does, you'll love the S5 Pro. That's why, it, too, has found a place in my bag. I don't use it as often, but when I need what it does, nothing else can match it. If I were an event shooter or portrait specialist, I'd probably use it more than I do--there's something quite pleasing about the color rendering of most skin tones (once you get it dialed in with the white balance).


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