"Less Megapixels = Better Color"...

Started 4 months ago | Questions thread
fPrime Senior Member • Posts: 2,632
Re: "Less Megapixels = Better Color"...

dereken wrote:

All these overly technical explanations don't have any ground to stand on. How do I know? Because if bigger pixels = better color, then the A7iii would have much better colors than the A7riii. And the A7s should blow them both away.

But nobody talks about the great colors from the A7s cameras, because they are the same as the other Sony cameras.

It's easy to reach a false conclusion by comparing the wrong cameras. While it's true that the modern Sony's all have middling color scores, that's only because Sony is using weak CFA's on all of them. The bigger pixels of the A7s here aren't being used to support a stronger CFA for better color discrimination. They are simply being used to achieve better high ISO performance instead.

The better comparison is between the 24MP Sony A900 and 24MP Sony A7iii. The former has a strong CFA and you can see color enthusiasts still raving about its color today. The latter has a weak CFA and produces, well, typical Sony colors.

They are called "Sony colors" because most people know digital cameras get colors from the software processing. It's the camera's processor which converts the raw sensor signals into the digital files we actually see.

Again, it's important to not isolate color quality to one aspect of the imaging chain. Sure, color can be twisted via camera profiling and RAW software, but fundamentally color discrimination starts with the CFA. Hues that are missed at this stage can't be manipulated in later stages by software.

Some people said older cameras were more "color accurate" and that's why their photos looked better. I think it's probably the opposite. Older cameras were less accurate, for better or worse.

Just know that this opinion is not supported by data. Color accuracy under different illuminants has been measured by DxOMark for a long time now and the trend is that color accuracy has gone down as the industry shifted from CCD to CMOS. The SMI data set can be found here:


Less accurate color is not always a bad thing. For example, many people love how film photos look, and most film is not accurate at all. In fact, different films were designed to distort certain channels of color.

I've actually noticed a lot of companies that had background in film cameras get praised for the colors of their early digital cameras. Fuji, Canon, Pentax. This is probably not a coincidence. The early cameras of these companies probably had software that made photos look good if not always accurate.

I think as sensors have become more advanced, they now are more accurate. It just makes sense that better technology exists now to calibrate colors and make them match reality. But that can end up with flat photos, razor sharp from corner to corner, but a flat mirror of reality.

Modern photos looking flatter is actually something we can agree on, albeit for a slightly different reason than stated above. It's more driven by modern lenses being prioritized for corner sharpness on high resolution cameras. When we just had low density sensors, we kind of expected our corners to be soft wide open. Oh, the horror!

If colors are not accurate in a bad way like the early Sony cameras, then people are turned off. If colors are not accurate but they do match our emotional memory of the event like Kodachrome, then people love the look. I think that's probably true of the old cameras you mentioned.

Cameras like the Fuji S5 pro had old film engineers working on the "look" of the digital files so they looked pleasing while not totally accurate. Now companies are focused on accuracy for the sake of accuracy, stupidly high ISOs and 50MP of sharpness...

Here, here on that. The attempt to squeeze medium format resolution out of full frame cameras is not only creating monster lenses, it's also taking the punch out of images. And the trade-off for better high-ISO performance in all modern full frame and crop cameras has been color fidelity.


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