Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Started Jul 17, 2009 | Discussions
Robsphoto
Robsphoto Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

I thought you may be interested to read a really informative and wide-ranging discussion / debate about whether amateur photographers really need the 24.6 megapixels offered by the Sony A900. This discussion is still in progress here:

http://www.dyxum.com/dforum/sony-a900-do-you-really-need-246-megapixels_topic49214.html

Some of the topics that have been discussed are:

Are A900 owners really making full use of the high megapixel count, for example, by making large 40-inch wide prints or by viewing their images on large LCD screens?

Are photographers aware that large prints can still be made from A900 images that have been quite heavily cropped? Are photographers cropping images too much and not paying sufficient attention to framing the pictures when they are taken?

Does a 24 megapixel camera really help a truly artistic photographer to obtain better images? Is too much attention paid to the number of megapixels a camera has, instead of concentrating on capturing artistic images?

Would the images of past master photographers have been improved if they had used a 24 megapixel camera?

Because of the high price tag of full frame cameras, is now the right time to upgrade to them? Are the advantages that you obtain from full frame cameras worth the money you have to pay to get them? Is there some “snobbery” attached to owning an expensive full frame camera?

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Sony-A900.html
(Examples of the outstanding resolution of images from the Sony A900)

Dave_Anderson Senior Member • Posts: 1,471
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

For me, the high resolution was icing on the cake. What I wanted, and what it took for me to make the jump from film to digital(aside from my aging P&S), is the convergence of all of the following features in one body:

  • Full Frame

  • DOF Preview

  • Mirror lockup

  • 100% VF

  • Flash sync connector

  • Compatibility with the fine Minolta A-mount glass I've acquired over the years

  • Image stabilization that works with my lenses

  • Memory locations for custom settings

  • Better than 3 FPS

Bonuses that sealed the deal:

  • 24.6 MP

  • AF Micro adjustment

The last item seems like a no-brainer that should be offered on any DSLR... Honestly, I didn't know I wanted it until I saw that it was available on a body that I wanted for other reasons.

The DOF and MLU were features that I sorely missed on my trusty 7000i/8000i bodies; I soldiered on without them but resolved to never buy an SLR without those features again. The FF and Sync were on my list from the beginning, the others were added as the state-of-the--art advanced.

dw73 Contributing Member • Posts: 863
Re: Future-proofing

As I see it, technology will continue to advance to the point where one day we might be looking at 50 megapixels in a FF camera - and then we'll be asking the same question - does an amateur really need 50 megapixels?

I simply believe that the A900 has positioned itself in the dslr camera chronology as being a camera that is future proofed - because of its VF, SSS, user interface, build quality, and finally its 24mp. Because, shouldn't 24mp be enough for an amateur when we arrive at 50mp FF cameras?

Graham Best Veteran Member • Posts: 3,424
50 MP FF unlikely

dw73 wrote:

As I see it, technology will continue to advance to the point where one day we might be looking at 50 megapixels in a FF camera - and then we'll be asking the same question - does an amateur really need 50 megapixels?

You may find this article of interest: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/brick-wall.shtml

Regards,
Graham

'I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.' -Garry Winogrand

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Robsphoto
OP Robsphoto Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Re: Future-proofing

dw73 wrote:

As I see it, technology will continue to advance to the point where one day we might be looking at 50 megapixels in a FF camera - and then we'll be asking the same question - does an amateur really need 50 megapixels?

I simply believe that the A900 has positioned itself in the dslr camera chronology as being a camera that is future proofed - because of its VF, SSS, user interface, build quality, and finally its 24mp. Because, shouldn't 24mp be enough for an amateur when we arrive at 50mp FF cameras?

I think we might have already arrived at 50 megapixels.

http://www.engadget.com/2008/07/07/hasselblad-introduces-the-50-megapixel-h3dii-50/

I think the cropping advantage of 50 megapixels would be fantastic, imagine getting a quality 30-inch wide print from just a very small part of an image!

You may even get better results than shown on this page!

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Sumatran-Tiger.html

Regards
Rob

Chad Marek Senior Member • Posts: 1,550
Re: Future-proofing

The 50mp Hassy has twice the sensor size as a FF camera so it has the same pitch as a 24/25mp FF cameras.

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I don't chimp.

Robsphoto
OP Robsphoto Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Dave_Anderson wrote:

For me, the high resolution was icing on the cake. What I wanted, and what it took for me to make the jump from film to digital(aside from my aging P&S), is the convergence of all of the following features in one body:

  • Full Frame

  • DOF Preview

  • Mirror lockup

  • 100% VF

  • Flash sync connector

  • Compatibility with the fine Minolta A-mount glass I've acquired over the years

  • Image stabilization that works with my lenses

  • Memory locations for custom settings

  • Better than 3 FPS

Bonuses that sealed the deal:

  • 24.6 MP

  • AF Micro adjustment

The last item seems like a no-brainer that should be offered on any DSLR... Honestly, I didn't know I wanted it until I saw that it was available on a body that I wanted for other reasons.

The DOF and MLU were features that I sorely missed on my trusty 7000i/8000i bodies; I soldiered on without them but resolved to never buy an SLR without those features again. The FF and Sync were on my list from the beginning, the others were added as the state-of-the--art advanced.

I agree that the combination of the above factors certainly makes the A900 an attractive proposition!

In one of my replies on the Dyxum forum, I tried to summarise why I was benefiting from the A900's 24.6 megapixel count, I said this:

"Thanks very much for confirming what I have found myself, namely that “mind-blowing” high quality large prints can be obtained from the Sony A900’s images. At 150 pixels per inch, you get a print that is 40.32 inches wide, 41.6% larger, all things being equal, than you can get from the 12 megapixel Sony A700. If I owned the A700, this factor alone would be sufficient reason for me to decide to upgrade to the A900. It brings pictures to life in a way that is simply remarkable.

Incidentally, the fact that you can print at way below 300 ppi and still get a great result from A900 images, needs to be emphasised because quite a few internet articles say that you need to print at 300 ppi to get the best results.

And of course the ability to crop out say, 50% of the width and 50% of the height of a picture and still get a great 20 inch wide print is a huge advantage of having 24.6 megapixels. This cropping advantage should not be underestimated. You may think that you’ll never gain much advantage from cropping, but it gives you a huge amount of freedom to produce different versions of the same print, all of which give you an excellent print size.

I was asked if I could give a few more examples of how the 24.6 megapixel count is benefiting me, in comparison with a lower megapixel count of say, 10 or 12 megapixels. I have mentioned this before, but it’s not only a 40 inch print that I love looking at, it’s also the huge sharp image on a big LCD screen. Imagine looking at huge images on a 52 inch LCD screen and being able to zoom in and read the writing on buildings or signposts that are a long way away from the camera. Or even being able to recognise people in a picture when you can hardly see them in pictures taken by lower megapixel count cameras. I use the Playstation 3 to view images on a TV screen and I zoom in and out using a games controller. When you zoom in to the maximum extent with A900 images and get even a small part of an image filling the whole screen, you can’t imagine how much more life is injected into a slide show than can be achieved with images from lower megapixel count cameras.

You mention above that: “The sheer image quality that the A900 provides (when paired up with lenses like the CZ 85mm or CZ 135mm) when printing large, is not matched anywhere in dslr-dom….”

This is a huge factor in itself, and your view on this not only matches my experience with the A900, but it is also referred to in the DPR review of the Sony A900, which says that the A900 has excellent out of camera results with superb tonality, dynamic range and colour. Now what more could you ask? This “sheer image quality” as you put it, is probably reason enough on its own for an enthusiastic amateur photographer to upgrade to the Sony A900.

Incidentally, the A900 itself is a ruggedly built camera with heaps of extremely useful features that I haven’t experienced with other cameras. Some of these alone would be justification for upgrading to the Sony A900, but I won’t go into these because it goes beyond the theme of this thread, which is, do you really need 24.6 megapixels!

Now I realise that, to get the above advantages there is a fairly hefty price tag. Because I am a very enthusiastic amateur photographer, the price was well worth it to me, and without question the best photographic dollars I have ever spent! I can fully understand, however, and respect the views of other people who say that the above advantages, to them, are simply not worth the amount you have to pay to get them. And I know my friends respect my viewpoint on cars, which is that, although I would really like to own one, I simply don’t think it’s worth the hefty price tag to upgrade my nice little modern car to the latest BMW saloon!

Regards
Rob
http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Sony-A900.html

p.s. Does anyone else use Playstation 3 for viewing their images. The zoom function on the games controller is most useful, as mentioned above.

Dave_Anderson Senior Member • Posts: 1,471
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Robsphoto wrote:

Dave_Anderson wrote:

For me, the high resolution was icing on the cake. What I wanted, and what it took for me to make the jump from film to digital(aside from my aging P&S), is the convergence of all of the following features in one body:

  • Full Frame

  • DOF Preview

  • Mirror lockup

  • 100% VF

  • Flash sync connector

  • Compatibility with the fine Minolta A-mount glass I've acquired over the years

  • Image stabilization that works with my lenses

  • Memory locations for custom settings

  • Better than 3 FPS

Bonuses that sealed the deal:

  • 24.6 MP

  • AF Micro adjustment

The last item seems like a no-brainer that should be offered on any DSLR... Honestly, I didn't know I wanted it until I saw that it was available on a body that I wanted for other reasons.

The DOF and MLU were features that I sorely missed on my trusty 7000i/8000i bodies; I soldiered on without them but resolved to never buy an SLR without those features again. The FF and Sync were on my list from the beginning, the others were added as the state-of-the--art advanced.

I agree that the combination of the above factors certainly makes the A900 an attractive proposition!

In one of my replies on the Dyxum forum, I tried to summarise why I was benefiting from the A900's 24.6 megapixel count, I said this:

I saw your other posts, and I'm glad you're thrilled with your results, whatever your reasons. I spent some years working for NEC and Minolta in the 90's, testing color printers, benchmarking the engines and testing firmware and software, so I am well aware of how higher-resolution, better-quality images lead to more printing options and better prints(in the right hands).

The extra resolution is certainly a benefit IMHO, and the fact that you can elect to use lower resolutions may benefit many.

I'm familiar enough with digital workflow that I should be able to get up to speed quickly. I already built a computer a bit over a year ago(pre-i7) with video editing in mind, quad core 3.0, 4G, 2.5TB RAID, GTS8800 @ 1080p on a 24" monitor so file size won't be much of a hindrance for me.

p.s. Does anyone else use Playstation 3 for viewing their images. The zoom function on the games controller is most useful, as mentioned above.

Not so much, because my 5MP P&S writes to mini-CD which the PS3 doesn't like. I do have 750+ pics from my trip to India that I copied on there via USB HDD, but it's more convenient to use the computer. I do have a 60GB PS3(with a CF reader built-in, and it's now a 250GB PS3 ), so I will definitely check this out -- I have a 42" 1080p monitor connected via HDMI so it will be interesting to see how images render, PS3 vs off-camera via HDMI.

tompower53 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,261
Re: 50 MP FF unlikely - almost certainly wil not be produced in quantity

I read this article with interest when it first came out on LL site.

Seems to me to be very good news as the MP race should end and camera makers can now concentrate on AF - DR - high ISO performance etc.

Reaching that 25-30 MP limit on a full frame sensor as they have now enables them to change their efforts to a lot of other - very useful improvements.

Of course there is nothing to stop them from making larger sensors with 40 - 50 - 100 MP+ sensors but that will be for a very specialized market that does not want to combine multiple images for big prints as can be done pretty easily now with available equipment.

JMO
--
tom power

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tompower53 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,261
Re: Future-proofing

Well you need to reread the LL article on physical limits due to diffraction. Zero advantage to 50MP on a standard full frame size sensor. Would need a larger sensor to be able to take advantage of 50 MP due to physical limits.

Kind of like going from a visible light microscope to an electron microscope. Visible light microscope limited by the wave lenght of light.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/brick-wall.shtml

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tom power

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Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 15,366
here's a good article

Here's a pretty good article called Do you really need an Alpha 900?

http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/16/do-you-really-need-an-alpha-900/

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Henry Richardson
http://www.bakubo.com

Ionian Senior Member • Posts: 1,271
Re: here's a good article

Henry Richardson wrote:

Here's a pretty good article called Do you really need an Alpha 900?

What, and not suffer from the tremendous narcissism afforded us by the a900 to sit in a room, completely surrounded with 50 inch prints of our own work?

Surely you must be joking!

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there shines a star.'
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Barry Fitzgerald Forum Pro • Posts: 29,888
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

I think part of the pull if full frame, and not simply megapixels on it's own.

FF is appealing to many, esp getting back to the "normal" focal lengths, and DOF etc.

As for resolution, IMO the numbers may appeal to some who make massive prints, but I suspect few do really need 24mp on it's own. Too much is made of cropping, yes useful at times, but suggesting you need more res for cropping alone, I would start to question the logic of such a comment. You crop if needed, but I would not make a habit of being lazy and reliant on it.

Back to numbers, IQ is, and has always been a lot more than just res. Tonality and hues colour responses etc, are very very important, sadly not talked about enough either.

A900 looks very nice, but if you gave me the buy price in cash, I would not get one. FF is too pricey at the moment.

Ionian Senior Member • Posts: 1,271
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

FF is appealing to many, esp getting back to the "normal" focal lengths, and DOF etc.

I think that's why for many of us, me included are really hoping or banking on Sony releasing an equivalent of the D700. I would have no problem staying 12mp as long as it's FF. I'm sure some people want the megapixels so I'd be willing to go 12-14. Maybe no more then 16, but if it was a 12 mp FF, I'd be fine. I rarely have ever had to print larger then 11x14 - and that's rare. Most of it is 8x10 - 9x12 range (US sizes, I'm referring to). It would be nice to have a 12 MP FF with big, fat pixels!

I think too many people get hung up on the importance of printing big simply because the a900 is capable of it. Just like so many people get hung up on clean, high ISOs since the Nikon D700 is capable of it.

Frank
--
'...For every man who has ever lived, in this universe,
there shines a star.'
-Arthur C. Clarke
-------------------------------------------
Why is it that the people with the biggest and most
conspicuous watermarks have the photos least worth
stealing?

I instantly disregard any thread or poster that use the
words 'Tack Sharp'.

Eoin Kavanagh New Member • Posts: 14
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Possibly 24mp is an over kill, however it was not the primary reason for my purchase. I decided on the a900 for the simple reasons of

1 affordability relative to other FF offerings
2 availability of AF Zeiss glass

3 simple layout of controls and large display of menu items (useful when I have my glasses off)
4 The fantastic viewfinder

The other benefits have been

Plenty of overhead in resolution to enable selective cropping if needed. The use of SSS on all lenses, not specific lenses like in other systems. And above all... I actually like using the system, love the output, marvel at the quality of the lenses.

Very happy overall and could quite possibly settle on this body / lens combination for a very long time.

Robsphoto
OP Robsphoto Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

I think part of the pull if full frame, and not simply megapixels on it's own.

FF is appealing to many, esp getting back to the "normal" focal lengths, and DOF etc.

As for resolution, IMO the numbers may appeal to some who make massive prints, but I suspect few do really need 24mp on it's own. Too much is made of cropping, yes useful at times, but suggesting you need more res for cropping alone, I would start to question the logic of such a comment. You crop if needed, but I would not make a habit of being lazy and reliant on it.

Back to numbers, IQ is, and has always been a lot more than just res. Tonality and hues colour responses etc, are very very important, sadly not talked about enough either.

A900 looks very nice, but if you gave me the buy price in cash, I would not get one. FF is too pricey at the moment.

With regard to cropping, I found this article to be very interesting:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/und-crop.shtml

One benefit of cropping is that you can zoom in and get a lot closer view without the need to use an extra long telephoto lens. This can also overcome the so-called "crop factor" disadvantage of a full frame camera and give you at least the equivalent view of a photo taken with the same lens by an APS-C two-thirds sensor camera.

For example, if you crop an A900 image taken with a focal length of 300mm so that it represents the same view as you would get if you used this same lens on the Sony A700 camera (that is, 450mm with a crop factor of 1.5), then even though the A900 image has been cropped, I think you would get as good (if not better) a quality image as the uncropped 450mm image taken by the A700. Would anyone like to confirm that this is likely to be the case?

Another example can be seen in this photograph:

http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Sumatran-Tiger.html

In the above image, half the width and half the height of this 300mm focal length image was cropped out, so that a lot closer shot of the tiger could be displayed. To get the equivalent of the first photograph on the above page without cropping, you would probably need to use a 600mm lens. That might be OK for a professional photographer, but for amateur use and hand held photography, I use the Sony 70-300 mm G SSM lens.

When you crop in the manner shown in the above image, this is not "lazy picture-taking", because I couldn't get a closer pic of the tiger with the 300mm lens I was using at the time. Neither could I get any closer to the tiger in this instance without jumping into his enclosure!

So despite the fact that a heavy crop was made with the A900 image, I still got a really good 20 inch wide print. With the A700, all things being equal, I would have got only a 14 inch wide image.

To me, this example illustrates how valuable cropping can be and how good it is to have a camera that has 24.6 megapixels, rather than, say, 12 megapixels.

Regards
Rob

Barry Fitzgerald Forum Pro • Posts: 29,888
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Robsphoto wrote:

To me, this example illustrates how valuable cropping can be and how good it is to have a camera that has 24.6 megapixels, rather than, say, 12 megapixels.

Sure you can show examples where cropping is useful. But I cannot agree cropping is an "art". Over a period of time I have come to dislike many articles on the LL site..some very good ones, and some that simply make something out of nothing.

This is one such case. It depends a lot on your subject, I do crop..but avoid it if possible, esp for landscapes..most cropping I do is for print aspect ratios and not making a composition on the pc. I prefer to make that, behind the camera.

We all work in different ways..I like the more hands on photo side of it, some like the post stuff.

Regardless, you can still crop most double digit res cameras, and still get decent print sizes, not sure it's making a case for 24mp on it's own.

Graham Best Veteran Member • Posts: 3,424
Print resolution

Rob,

I visited your site. You have some fine images of a truly beautiful country. While I'm happy with the US, New Zealand would be my top choice as an alternate.

As far as printing in general, and specifically printing large images, I don't agree with some of the statements offered on your site ( http://www.robsphotography.co.nz/Determining-Print-Size-Of-Digital-Images.html ).

You don't mention what device you use to output your photos. I'm going to assume an ink-jet printer, as that is the most popular. All ink-jet printers have a native resolution. In the case of Epson pro printers, and I believe most all Epson printers, that's 360 dpi. Anything else is interpolated up or down to the native resolution.

You may be happy with 40"+ prints from the A900, but at the native resolution (of Epson printers), you're looking at a print size of 11.2" x 16.8". I'm sure printing on canvas or other textured media will allow much greater leeway in what's "acceptable", but I think 40" may be pushing things a bit for a single A900 frame with any detail involved.

Jeff Schewe authored a pretty informative article on printing for Digital PhotoPro magazine you might find interesting. http://www.digitalphotopro.com/technique/software-technique/the-art-of-the-up-res.html

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Regards,
Graham

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Dave Oddie Veteran Member • Posts: 4,083
Re: Great debate on whether you really need 24.6 megapixels

Robsphoto wrote:

Are A900 owners really making full use of the high megapixel count, for example, by making large 40-inch wide prints or by viewing their images on large LCD screens?

Pre-digital I always lusted after a 6x6 camera to compliment my 35mm equipment and one of the reasons was the quality of prints produced form 6x6 negatives or from 6x6 slides had something intangably better about them even when they were not huge enlargements.

You could IMO even tell the difference between a 35mm shot and a 6x6 shot in a magazine print. By magaze I am talking quality photopahic magazizine here but I reckon you could tell the difference even at A4 print sizes.

Whether images from an A900 carry similar sort of quality over images shot on an APS-C sensor I do not know but I would not be surprised if they did.

That said if Sony come out with a good A700 replacment with a few of the A900's feartures such as the lens micro focus adjustment I will not upgrade to FF but to the A700 MkII instead as I am happy with the quality I get from APS-C. My lens collection is geared to the APS-C senor even though most of them are FF compatible. My lenses cover the equivalent of 16.5mm up to 750mm and to get the same on FF would cost an arm and a leg.

Of course Sony could try and force users like me to FF leaving APS-C at the A2/3xx end of thre market but I would be disppointed if they did. I will buy an A700 MkII but I would not buy an A900 so they would lose a sale.

Dave

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Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 15,366
The Crop Religion

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

Sure you can show examples where cropping is useful. But I cannot agree cropping is an "art". Over a period of time I have come to dislike many articles on the LL site..some very good ones, and some that simply make something out of nothing.

This is one such case. It depends a lot on your subject, I do crop..but avoid it if possible, esp for landscapes..most cropping I do is for print aspect ratios and not making a composition on the pc. I prefer to make that, behind the camera.

This is just a general comment about cropping not directed at Barry.

Is the 35mm (3:2) aspect ratio a crop of the 6x6 frame? Or, is the 6x6 a crop of the 35mm frame? Or, are they both crops of the 8x10 and 4x5 frames? How about 6x7? Which one is it a crop of or are the others crops of the 6x7? It is all so confusing!!! How about 4/3? Oh, it is such a can of worms worrying about photography "rules"! Makes my head hurt. Which one of these is the "true" aspect ratio that all photos should conform to???? For those inclined, maybe Jesus, Buddha, Allah, et al will enlighten us. For others, maybe astrophysics will someday provide the cosmic answer.

Until the "truth" is revealed I am not going to worry about it. There is nothing sacred about the particular aspect ratio that the hardware imposes. If you want a square image but your camera doesn't produce it then crop. Vice versa. Let your imagination be your guide as to how, when, or if to crop. That is my opinion.

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