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

Started Apr 26, 2009 | Discussions
bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 61,142
Re: All true essentially

R Butler wrote:

Now that's a much more reasonable suggestion.

Richard - dpreview.com

but begs the question, why wasn't it open to discussion in the first place?
--
Bob

bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 61,142
Re: Preaching to the choir

VincentJ wrote:

Now all we can hope for is a sudden outbreak of common sense among
camera manufacturers who think we all need 20 megapixels on a credit
card sized toy camera, whose owner would probably never print
anything larger than 5x7".

Quite a few respected singers in discord here.

-- hide signature --

Bob

Azra Regular Member • Posts: 407
Nikon have some good examples

Real world example:

I take a lot of photos at concerts where no flash is allowed and the performs are fast moving. I've used d2 series cameras, d200,d300 and currently use d700. noise at high iso is a major concenr for me.

I am aware that there have been a lot of improvements in the camera but the d700 has the same pixel count as the d300, but a much larger sensor. I can now produce clean publishable images at iso 4000+ on the d700, where as the d300 I was limited to iso 1250 for 'emergency' poorly lit situations. Once printed out by the same magazine company you can see noise/grain in the 1250 image and not in the iso 4000 image.

Obviously improved processing and other factors have allowed me to obtain higher usable isos. My experiences have lead me to conclude that the sensor contribution to noise issues is as of this relationship:

no. pixels vs. sensor size vs. site density.

Pixel density is obviously controlled by the first two factors. If I was given a choice between a larger or smaller sensor on a fixed mp camera body, I'd pick the larger sensor if I ws after lower noise.

Marketing example:

The D3 and D3x are very similar high spec machines and the 'main' difference is 12 vs 24 mp. The D3x normal iso range is given as much lower than the d3. One camera has been marketed heavily on the > iso3200 performance, the other marketed on its studio uses (and example image exif usually quoted at iso 200 or iso 400). The majority of camera reviews indicate that the high iso performance is better on the d3 than the d3x.

So I'd say the OP article is 'right' - for the current generation of digital cameras higher mp counts generally leads to higher pixel densities which in turn leads to greater noise seen in images. Not because more mp means you get more noise, just because they cram more sensor sites into the same sized chip.

hopefully everyone can agree on that?

If not, can they post examples of where (same brand camera / same chip size) denser pixels reduces noise? Cos I'd like to see that

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ejmartin Veteran Member • Posts: 6,274
Re: All true essentially

R Butler wrote:

re: ejmartin

I'll try to find a moment to read those posts in more depth.
Ultimately, though, my initial scan through suggests that much of the
disagreement comes down to the per area/per pixel argument. And while
it's by no means flawless, there are arguments in favour of a
per-pixel assessment of image quality and strong arguments against us
changing. Which isn't to say we're incapable of listening to reason.

The problem with the per pixel comparison of cameras with different numbers of pixels in the sensor is that it ignores the fact that noise is a function of spatial frequency. I analyzed the noise power of the 40D and 50D at the time of the blog post, and here is what I found (40D in red, 50D in blue):

As you can see, they are the same at the spatial frequencies that they have in common. The 50D has noise power that extends beyond the Nyquist frequency of the 40D, because it has a higher Nyquist frequency. But for spatial frequencies that both cameras can sample, there is no substantive difference.

To compare the noise of two different cameras one should compare the noise power at the same scale; other measures are methodologically flawed.

What does the pixel std dev of levels in a uniform patch measure? It is the area under the noise power curve. Any camera with comparable noise power, but a finer pixel pitch and therefore higher Nyquist frequency, will have higher pixel level std dev, even though they have the same noise characteristics at comparable spatial scales.

In the 40D/50D example, proper downsampling reproduces the 40D noise power curve (40D in red, 50D in blue, 50D downsampled with PSCS3 bicubic in orange, 50D downsampled with ImageMagick Lanczos in black):

Throwing away the high frequency noise spectrum reproduces the 40D noise power, and measurements of the pixel level std dev shows much the same results.

But downsampling need not have been performed; it introduces a whole host of additional issues into the discussion that are not germane (for instance, that Lanczos resampling is more accurate than bicubic for downsampling). The noise power was the same for comparable scales in the image before resampling; all that resampling did was throw away the high frequency image content, and the high frequency noise along with it, from the finer pixel pitch camera.

Noise reduction (as well as the upsampling Phil did in his example) is a local operation, and therefore only affects high frequency image content. If noise reduction is performed first, and then downsampling, then high frequency noise has been removed before downsampling, and so there is little for downsampling to chop away; you can't remove what isn't there. This still has no bearing on the comparison of noise at comparable scales, which as I have shown above can be done without resampling. Downsampling can be a flawed method of comparison if one doesn't understand the facts about noise power and its frequency dependence.

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Richard Butler
Richard Butler dpreview Admin • Posts: 2,654
Re: All true essentially

Bob, you've made it abundantly clear that there's an argument you want to have with Phil.

However, I'm not Phil, so me responding to you is just wasting time for both of us.

Richard - dpreview.com

John De Bord Photography
John De Bord Photography Senior Member • Posts: 1,295
Re: hardly an authoritative source.

bobn2 wrote:

Not necessarily, says Amit Gupta, founder of Photojojo.com, an online
newsletter for camera tips and projects.

Who is this guy? Anyone can start a web site.

photojojo.com is one of the biggest photoblogs on the planet, and is massively popular. They are actually very well known.

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bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 61,142
Re: Nikon have some good examples

Azra wrote:
The D3 and D3x are very similar high spec machines and the 'main'
difference is 12 vs 24 mp. The D3x normal iso range is given as much
lower than the d3. One camera has been marketed heavily on the

iso3200 performance, the other marketed on its studio uses (and

example image exif usually quoted at iso 200 or iso 400). The
majority of camera reviews indicate that the high iso performance is
better on the d3 than the d3x.

hopefully everyone can agree on that?

Sorry, no. Particularly that example. The D3/D3x are examples of cameras optimised carefully for different applications. When you look at the amount of differences in their design, you understand how different. Particularly, the differences have very little to do with pixel density.

The 12MP pixel count for the D3 is not set by the requirement for high ISO, it is set by the requirement for high speed. With 24MP, the D3 would only be a 5 fps camera, like the D3x. That would render it unsuitable for the PJ users it is aimed at. Also, for people who do much of their work in JPEG and rely on transmitting their work back to the office, for reproduction in newsprint or web, 12MP is overkill. the important thing about it was that it was bigger than 10, and enough to replace the D2x pro tem. By contrast, if the D3x had had only 12MP it would not have been able to address the high quality studio/landscape roles it is aimed at. These applications don't demand 9FPS, so the slow down to 5 is acceptable.
The D3 has been optimised for high ISO in three ways:

i) the sensor is unusually efficient in converting photons to electrons. This is probably due to effective 100% microlenses.

ii) it has a low photoelectron saturation density, about three quarters that of Canon sensors. This decreases the absolute low ISO DR available, but along with the high efficiency raises the base ISO by nearly a stop. This means that compared with the competition, the D3 needs half the gain to achieve high ISO's and at each ISO, has a higher saturation density, which leads to more DR at that ISO.

iii) it has nikon's best high ISO anlog front end (still not as good as canon's, though)
The D3x has been optimised for low ISO in at least two ways.

i) It has Sony's column ADC architecture, which gives the lowest low ISO read noise in the business when used by Nikon. The downside of this architecture is that it is not so good as the D3 at high ISO's.

ii) It has a lower base ISO, which means it can use larger exposures which means lower absolute shot noise.
These two together give it the best low ISO DR in the business.

So, the relative performance has everything to do with the detail of the design and nothing to do with pixel density.

If not, can they post examples of where (same brand camera / same
chip size) denser pixels reduces noise? Cos I'd like to see that

No-one ever said higher pixel density reduces noise, we said it didn't increase it.

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Bob

bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 61,142
Re: All true essentially

R Butler wrote:

Bob, you've made it abundantly clear that there's an argument you
want to have with Phil.

Yes, I have.

However, I'm not Phil, so me responding to you is just wasting time
for both of us.

I only responded to you because you thought it would be unreasonable for him to respond to discussions on his blog. I disagree with that. But, I agree, you're not your bosses keeper, and given his general demeanour, if you tried to be it might not be too good for your employment prospects, so I really don't expect you to respond further.

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Bob

bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 61,142
Re: hardly an authoritative source.

John De Bord Photography wrote:

bobn2 wrote:

Not necessarily, says Amit Gupta, founder of Photojojo.com, an online
newsletter for camera tips and projects.

Who is this guy? Anyone can start a web site.

photojojo.com is one of the biggest photoblogs on the planet, and is
massively popular. They are actually very well known.

I stick to my guns. Anyone can start a web site. There is probably some merit to it if it's popular, but the ability to start a popular web site does not make you a technical expert. DPR is a case in point.

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Bob

Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,165
Digital printing at high resolution...

Ralfs wrote:

Joseph S Wisniewski wrote:

(then again, I'm nuts enough to go to a 9 shot stitch in an 8x10,
because it has a look you only normally get from a view camera
contact print).

Even if you have a very high resolution original, are any of the
digital printing techniques capable to come close to the crispness
you get form an 8x10 contact print?

Indeed there are...

The obstacle is our printing technique.

You would be surprised what you can do with a fairly common inkjet. All current inkjets, despite their insane dpi ratings (Epson bills one as a 5760 dpi machine) dither that high resolution into a "basic cell" that's typically either 300 or 360dpi. That won't match a good contact print.

Many of the newer machines drop to a much smaller basic cell at their highest resolutions. The newer Epsons, including the popular 2880, have two 2880 modes, and the fancier sounding one drops to a 720dpi basic cell, as do the machines with the 5760 dpi cell.

720dpi is 14 line pairs per mm, 8x10 only beats that with low speed emulsions, point source lighting, and vacuum contact printing frames.

There's other tricks you have to learn, like to not use the "bidirectional" (aka "high speed") mode, because even if you go through the annoying head calibration procedure, the alignment still isn't good enough for smooth tonality or fine detail.

And the most important thing is to feed the printer at its native basic cell resolution. If you just hit "print" in PotatoeShop, it dumps the image to the printer driver at the images dpi resolution. The printer driver uses a crude "nearest neighbor" scaling, and that does ughy things when either scaling up or scaling down. In other words, starting with an image resolution higher than 720dpi (5750x7200) actually makes things look worse. It's up to you to scale the image exactly to native resolution. Or use a program like Qimage, that performs the scaling automatically, using scaling methods better than PotatoeShop.

If I want something really killer, I normally start with an 80MP 10,000x8,000 image from a 3x3, 4x4 or, 5x5 stitch, because 10kx8k is very close to sqrt(2) * 720dpi * (8x10). (the 3x3 will typically end up a bit smaller than 80mp).

Scaled properly to 41mp 7,200x5,760 with a sharp cutoff low pass filter, you compensate for a DSLR's AA filter limitations, and get full bandwidth 14 lpm to feed the printer driver.

The look really is like nothing else you've ever seen.

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Rahon Klavanian 1912-2008.

Armenian genocide survivor, amazing cook, scrabble master, and loving grandmother. You will be missed.

Ciao! Joseph

http://www.swissarmyfork.com

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padang Senior Member • Posts: 1,103
yes but

First of all, I am a bit disapointed that Phil's post has not been updated to reflect the opinion of the entire community - I think it is not fair.

That told, I think his main argument against the "spatial frequency" theory is that noise measured out the ouput photo is not random and thus downsampling does not provide the expected return.

Looking at a few photos, I admit that is seems to me coming in "splashes" more than something truely random. What do you think ? If this fact is true, does it have any impact on the theory you presented ?

Thanks,

David Clarke29 Contributing Member • Posts: 787
Re: Nikon have some good examples

Photogo wrote :- So I'd say the OP article is 'right' - for the current generation of digital cameras higher mp counts generally leads to higher pixel densities which in turn leads to greater noise seen in images. Not because more mp means you get more noise, just because they cram more sensor sites into the same sized chip.

hopefully everyone can agree on that?

*********************************************************

Good comment and clearly put. If only this had been stated as clearly as here by other posters then maybe a few more people (including myself) would have understood a lot earlier. Why say one word when twenty will do ?

Dave. (UK)

ejmartin Veteran Member • Posts: 6,274
Re: yes but

padang wrote:

That told, I think his main argument against the "spatial frequency"
theory is that noise measured out the ouput photo is not random and
thus downsampling does not provide the expected return.

This has been explained, and is readily understood in terms of the noise power spectrum. I commented on that elsewhere in this thread

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=31708796

and earlier in a post that Daniel linked to

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=30176643

But this is orthogonal to what I think is the central issue, that noise at equivalent image scales is the same. This point can be made independent of any resampling, by direct examination of the two images at comparable spatial scales relative to the frame size. People often use the resampling argument to discuss the relative amounts of noise in images, but it is a red herring. Resampling introduces a whole host of additional variables that have little to do with the image content of the two images one is wanting to compare. Instead one can simply examine the noise spectra of the two images without resampling, which is what I did in some of the posts Daniel linked to (or similar posts in the same threads).

Furthermore, Phil's blog post is a red herring about a red herring. Instead of comparing images from two cameras with the same sensor size but different pixel counts via resampling the finer pixel pitch image to the pixel count of the coarser pixel pitch image, he analyzed what happens when one upsamples an image, increases the contrast of the upsampled images to increase the noise, and then downsamples it back again; as compared to the original image. What is this supposed to have to do with downsampling images generated from a source having a higher pixel count to begin with? The logic escapes me.

Looking at a few photos, I admit that is seems to me coming in
"splashes" more than something truely random. What do you think ? If
this fact is true, does it have any impact on the theory you
presented ?

Noise coming in "splashes" or "blotches" is an indication that the high frequency noise content is absent; instead of the noise being random down to the pixel level, it is only random down to the "blotch" size, and the image content is coherent (similar, non-noisy) over the scale of the blotch. So yes, what you are seeing is explained well by the structure of the noise power spectrum. When people go on about the "tightness" of the "noise grain", or other aspects of its appearance, they are making qualitative statements about the noise spectrum.

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Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,165
Where the high res prints sell for more...

Ken Phillips wrote:

... 'cuz in the real world we worry about CONTENT.

Exactly. The higher resolution prints have more content.

Enough people see it so that the higher resolution prints translate to more money.

$ real world $

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Rahon Klavanian 1912-2008.

Armenian genocide survivor, amazing cook, scrabble master, and loving grandmother. You will be missed.

Ciao! Joseph

http://www.swissarmyfork.com

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The Davinator
The Davinator Forum Pro • Posts: 22,060
Re: hardly an authoritative source.

bobn2 wrote:

Lobalobo wrote:

bobn2 wrote:

PhotoGo wrote:

A high-megapixel count doesn't always equate to better image quality.
Actually, if camera designers try to cram too many megapixels into a
small camera, it can have the opposite effect.

When will people stop peddling this big lie?
--
Bob

Hard to answer your question, Bob, considering that he's right and
you are wrong.

That's your first mistake. You got that the wrong way round.

As this site explains carefully and persuasively, all
else equal, pixel density is an enemy of quality. Increasing
megapixels can increase resolution, but at a price of lost dynamic
range, lost tonal quality, and noise in general.

That's your second mistake, taking as truth the extended campaign of
a web developer who's happened to start a successful photography web
site, even when it flies in the face of physicists, electronic
engineers, optical system designers and the fellow who actually
invented the active pixel sensor and is completely unsupported by any
practical eveidence. You are not in a position to judge who is
'correct' and who isn't unless you've been through the detailed
discussions of the workings of photosensors and have the background
to do that. I have, and I'm convinced. Many others with better
qualifications and more extended expertise than me have also, and
agree that the 'pixel density is an enemy of quality' line is BS. And
there is no evidence whatever to support it, at all. Still people
like you propagate the lie. It is incredible how a myth can spread,
unsupported by theory and evidence, on the back of a few
self-appointed, so-called 'experts'.

This is why Mamiya
and Hasselblad get pros to pay $20,000 or more for large sensors;
they frequently need both the resolution of many megapixels and the
image quality of low pixel density, and there is no free lunch.

You are confusing the benefits of large sensors with large pixels.
Big sensors are better than little ones. Little pixels are better
than big ones. Big sensors with little pixels are the best of all.

Little pixels are better than big ones? Really? Sorry my friend, but with that you have proven you have no clue what you're talking about.

So you're not right, but at least you're very loud.

Someone needs to be, with DPR, you and all the other acolytes
spreading this lie.

He's not spreading a lie.....he's exposing fools.

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Bob

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The Davinator
The Davinator Forum Pro • Posts: 22,060
Re: There is no big manufacturers conspiracy . . .

bobn2 wrote:

misha marinsky3 wrote:

In order to double the resolution, the diodes/pixels have to be
quadrupled.

The more diodes are crammed onto that tiny real estate, the higher
the noise, or artifacts. The diode well becomes smaller, and the
gain, or volume, has to be turned up, and noise increases.

That is completely untrue.

It is completely true.

Let me guess....your parents just got you a new camera and now you're a photographer.

ISO on a digital is increased by turning up the gain. Just as turning
up the volume on your audio amplifier increases harmonic distortion,
or noise.

Harmonic distortion and noise are not the same thing. Small pixels
need no more amplifier gain than large ones.

Olympus has stated they are not going above 12MP, and they are
correct. They want to concentrate on improving the chip's amplifiers,
and dynamic range.

They won't improve dynamic range by limiting pixel count.

When I was in college, I never made prints bigger than 8x10, and used
Tri-X 99% of the time, pushed to 1600 in Diafine.

Bully for you.

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Bob

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Daniel Browning Senior Member • Posts: 1,058
Diminishing returns and the speed / file size issue

Thanks for the response, VTL.

VTL wrote:

There's always some gain to be had in quality by increasing resolution
But, the returns diminish as one increases sensor resolution

Agreed.

Producing optics of sufficiently high quality...Diffraction...
Stability...vibration...Focus accuracy...Manufacturing tolerances...

Good summary of the principle factors.

For "average" shooters, using relatively inexpensive equipment and
not especially good technique, who print to only "normal" sizes (if
at all), there simply is no advantage to super-high resolutions. For
their needs, one simply doesn't need more than 6-8 Mp

I may not be the best judge of "average", but that seems like a sensible position to me.

The only exception I can think of is cropping in ample light. When there is ample light (outdoors and flash), the autoexposure system may choose an f-number that results in very deep DOF (taking care of optics and focus accuracy), and there is still plenty of light for a fast shutter speed (taking care of stability). In those conditions, average shooters can crop a wide angle image and make it into a super telephoto print, benefiting from the higher resolution.

If there is even just one situation that benefits from higher resolutions, and no downside, then that is enough to justify it.

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higher resolutions only make the workflow more painful.

Ah, the downside. There are two issues: camera speed/storage and computer speed/storage.

Let's address the computer speed problem first, because I think it's the most difficult of the four above, because some of the current software operations (demosaic) are not multi-threaded, which means they aren't benefiting from Moore's Law now that processors are advancing in cores and cache much faster than they are advancing in ops/core.

The computer speed problem has already been solved in software (one example below), but the solutions haven't made it into all popular software programs. Demosaic algorithms are principally slow because they try to optimize resolution using context analysis. If you have more then enough resolution to spare, context can be ignored. There are many options for increasing speed, particularly at regular factors (2X linearly), such as 24 MP raw -> 6 MP RGB.

Iliah Borg and Graeme Nattress have commented on this before.

In fact, I think it's faster to demosaic 24 MP into a 6 MP RGB than to demosaic the 6 MP itself, for the same level of quality.

The camera speed and storage problems can be solved with intelligent compression. Mathematically-lossless compression (e.g. LZW) should always be available for situations where FPS can be very slow, but there should also be a variety of additional options. Nonlinear bit depth compression can use only enough bits that quantization noise falls under the level of photon shot noise, like Nikon's partly-flawed implementation. On top of that there are many compression options that are "visually lossless" in many circumstances.

For an example of software solutions to these issues, check out the RED ONE, which shoots 9 MP visually-lossless raw stills at 30 frames per second continuously (no burst limit) to off-the-shelf compact flash cards, at a file size of just one megabyte per image. Here's the shot-on-RED reel:

http://red.cachefly.net/redreel/RedReel_h264_720.mov

Camera design should not be limited due to known deficiencies in software design. The currently popular imaging software (in-camera and out) is in the stone age only compared to what has been done already in software, nevermind the future.

If nothing else, Moore's Law provides the hardware solution.

For crop-frame DSLRs, the gains in IQ seriously diminish above 12-15
Mp. Sure, with enough effort (and money), one can still gain IQ above
that

For tiny digicams, I would agree. But I think DSLR shooters are above the average, and in some circumstances will get seriously diminished returns above 15 MP... but in other circumstances they will get almost the full gain. The plot of MTF over lp/mm on cheap lenses shows a long tail, especially at low Image Heights, so an improvement is possible without spending lots.

On the other hand, serious shooters will get the full gain much more frequently, at least until diffraction causes the MTF to drop below the Raleigh criterion at f/4.

The full-frame DSLRs, gains in IQ fall above 20-24 Mp.

A full-frame DSLR with the same pixel density as the 50D is 38.4 MP. So if 15 MP is enough for the 50D, I would think that 38.4 MP (15*1.6^2) would be about the same for full frame. I'm looking forward to at least 200 MP, if not more.

the extra pixels will consist in large proportion of essentially
redundant information.

That's the ideal situation. If one wants to have full chroma resolution with a Bayer sensor, it's necessary to oversample even more.

I don't think camera design should aim for the lowest common denominator. Instead I'd like to see manufacturers do everything they possibly can to maximize image quality, even if it's only for the "non-average" shooters.

At least until the returns diminish to 5% in ideal circumstances.

By and large, I agree with you, but I think that there's a compelling
case to be made for capping resolutions.

Workflow is the only negative. But given that resolution has (so far) increased much, much slower than Moore's Law, it can be said that hardware itself is an adequate solution. There is also the many more and superior software solutions.

Bring on more resolution for the few that can use it, and bring on a few software improvements so that everyone else can come along for the ride.
--
Daniel

Roland Karlsson Forum Pro • Posts: 28,124
Re: hardly an authoritative source.

Dave Luttmann wrote:

Little pixels are better than big ones? Really? Sorry my friend,
but with that you have proven you have no clue what you're talking
about.

Yes they are - up to a certain limit.

A normal DSLR camera, e.g. the Canon EOS 1000D, has a pixel density of 3MP/cm2.

With that pixel density a 1/2.5 inch = 7 mm x 6 mm = 0.48 cm2 sensor camera would be approx 1.5 MP. I assume you rather buy a 6 MP camera then. It will certainly produce better images.

The same goes for the 1000D, it would produce better images at 40 MP than at 10 MP.

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PeaceFrog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,185
Re: hardly an authoritative source.

Bob,

I see you posting this all over the forums here but so far I have never once seen you back up what you are saying. I am not saying you are wrong but I would like to see what your sources of this information are. Can you back up your claim?

Thanks,

Greg

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Roberto de La Tour
Roberto de La Tour Regular Member • Posts: 244
Re: Too many megapixels? Six is enough for an 8x10.

All I can say is that with 5.1 MP I got beautiful A4 and quite beautiful A3. With 7MP I got really beautiful A3
--
Roberto

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