Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.

Started Jun 14, 2013 | Discussions
LaszloBencze
LaszloBencze Contributing Member • Posts: 761
Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
13

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

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Rick Knepper Forum Pro • Posts: 14,895
Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult
2

to dispute your claim that you can't tell the difference. I'm not inside your head or seeing through your eyes. I have no choice but to accept your statement.

Congratulations on the exhibit though.

LaszloBencze wrote:

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

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Phil
Phil Veteran Member • Posts: 3,138
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
3

LaszloBencze wrote:

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

It's funny, we all think what we know is reality. When I went back to school to formalize my training as a photographer I jumped over all the beginning level courses even starting in the advance courses is was hit or miss on learning something new each week so I started an on-line course out of Seattle as well.

The local class(es) were taught by a portrait and wedding photographer and the Seattle classes were taught by graphic artist. Each week I'd learn something new from the Seattle class and there were times when the local profession would swear you couldn't do that in Photoshop.

Long story short the local guy went to a 5D MKII when they were brand new and sold standard wedding products. The graphic artist was happy with a 20D and did works as tall as 20 feet for Las Vegas Convention customers.

It turns out the graphic artist approach produces output for the human eye seen from known viewing distance to calculate a require resolution for a project while the rest of us keep upgrading.

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Phil Agur
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LaszloBencze
OP LaszloBencze Contributing Member • Posts: 761
Re: Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult
2

Thank you for your congratulations.

Of course my point was to invite anyone who could attend to see for themselves and determine if THEY can tell the images from the two camera systems apart. Mind you, the point the of the exhibition is art, not pixel peeping. But for those who might wish to test their discernment in addition to appreciating the art, this presents an easy and public opportunity.

LaszloBencze
OP LaszloBencze Contributing Member • Posts: 761
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
8

Thank you Phil. You support my point. Images are powerful and appealing not because of their technical perfection but because the technique supports whatever artistic statement is being made. There's a big difference between the two. Sometimes exquisite technique is crucial to the impact of the photo as in the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and, more recently, Greg Crewdson. All three artists provide that exquisiteness in spades.

But sometimes the image is great with minimal technique and low levels of perfection as in the work of Cartier Bresson or Dorothea Lange. Many of Bresson's pictures are extremely grainy. And that doesn't matter. Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" is out of focus. And that doesn't matter.

I think most photography (and this includes my work and the work of most advanced amateurs) falls somewhere in between. The difference between a camera which provides 10 megapixels and one which provides 36 megapixels, will,  in most cases, be insignificant. What matters is how well the picture is seen.

But of course it is always easier to argue about easily measurable specifications that it is to dispute about art.

Mako2011
MOD Mako2011 Forum Pro • Posts: 23,399
Very true
2

LaszloBencze wrote:

Thank you Phil. You support my point. Images are powerful and appealing not because of their technical perfection but because the technique supports whatever artistic statement is being made. There's a big difference between the two. Sometimes exquisite technique is crucial to the impact of the photo as in the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and, more recently, Greg Crewdson. All three artists provide that exquisiteness in spades.

But sometimes the image is great with minimal technique and low levels of perfection as in the work of Cartier Bresson or Dorothea Lange. Many of Bresson's pictures are extremely grainy. And that doesn't matter. Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" is out of focus. And that doesn't matter.

I think most photography (and this includes my work and the work of most advanced amateurs) falls somewhere in between. The difference between a camera which provides 10 megapixels and one which provides 36 megapixels, will, in most cases, be insignificant. What matters is how well the picture is seen.

That is often the case

But of course it is always easier to argue about easily measurable specifications that it is to dispute about art.

That said...I personally get more use, enjoyment, and personal pride from my pics made with the new gen camera than the older gen 5mp camera I still use, all else being equal. There are also other elements of photography that bring enjoyment/pleasure that have nothing to do with the exposure. Sometimes one camera just feels good. Snapping off a Polaroid might do it for some. It's more complex than one might think...because we are all wired different. As an example, my wife will always pic the picture with the horse in it as her favorite...even if the rose pic is stunning and a masterwork done by Crewdson. The guy down the street will buy it as long as it's done on velvet. 

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DotCom Editor Veteran Member • Posts: 7,018
20" x 30" from my 20D
3

I display, print, and sell 20x30-inch images shot years ago on my 8MP Canon 20D. They are superb.

It's about knowing how to use the camera to its fullest capability, how to properly post-process, and how to use a proper managed workflow with the requisite knowledge of how to make museum-quality prints. Lesser results are usually not the fault of the equipment, but of the operator.

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talico Contributing Member • Posts: 614
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
1

Laszlo,

You are right.  There is not that much difference.  With higher resolution, you can crop more into an image, but that comes at the cost of perspective.  Get the best equipment you can afford and then take photos and don't worry about what other cameras are available.

You have some great work on your website.  I would like to make it to the exhibit, but it is way too far.  Do you have any of them posted online?

Tom
My photos http://www.alicoatephotography.com

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rwbaron Forum Pro • Posts: 12,278
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
1

Congrats on the exhibition. I wish I were within range to see it.

My experience is similar to yours. I've produced gallery quality prints from high end pigment printers with my 6 MP 10D, 10 MP 40D, 15 MP 50D and 18 MP 7D and frankly can't tell the difference in the final output. I've not pushed the envelope in size but at sizes up to 16x24 there is no discernable difference. I've been fortunate to have prints displayed in exhibitions and no one (even the other displaying photographers) asked what equipment was used for the capture. The prints either stand on their own or they don't.  The only advantage I've found is for cropping into the scene for something I didn't orginally see but then other issues can arise.

Interesting thread.

Bob

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Sellwood Forum Member • Posts: 84
Re: Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult
1
Of course my point was to invite anyone who could attend to see for themselves and determine if THEY can tell the images from the two camera systems apart. Mind you, the point the of the exhibition is art, not pixel peeping. But for those who might wish to test their discernment in addition to appreciating the art, this presents an easy and public opportunity.

Rick, I'll be in Sacramento Monday and will come by to see your show. Congratulations. I don't need, however, to be convinced that your cameras can all be pleasingly reproduced in 20x30 prints. I've had shows for several years and have sold many 24x36 prints that I shot on my old Rebel Xti.

Sharpness rarely determines a fine art print--whether a photograph or painting.

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DugT
DugT Senior Member • Posts: 1,137
Re: Why I like pixels.
1

I like lots of pixels for cropping and pixels are cheaper than bigger lenses. An alternative for me would be lugging around a bigger lens or start my own zoo.  I don't mind carrying my 100-400mm but a 500mm would be cumbersom. This probably only applies to the subjects I prefer, birds and butterflies and furry animals. For those who shoot weddings, portraits, landscapes, architecture ... more pixels probably do more harm than good because of the nasty noise disadvantage to more pixels.

I just had to get that off of my chest because it is sore from lugging around a big lens.

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dt

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Rick Knepper Forum Pro • Posts: 14,895
Re: Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult
4

Sellwood wrote:

Of course my point was to invite anyone who could attend to see for themselves and determine if THEY can tell the images from the two camera systems apart. Mind you, the point the of the exhibition is art, not pixel peeping. But for those who might wish to test their discernment in addition to appreciating the art, this presents an easy and public opportunity.

Rick, I'll be in Sacramento Monday and will come by to see your show.

Laszlo is the one with the show.

Congratulations. I don't need, however, to be convinced that your cameras can all be pleasingly reproduced in 20x30 prints. I've had shows for several years and have sold many 24x36 prints that I shot on my old Rebel Xti.

Sharpness rarely determines a fine art print--whether a photograph or painting.

I can't argue with this either. If you can sell prints made with a DigiReb, yoo da man. You wouldn't be selling them to me - mostly because I am uninterested in photography as art especially made by anyone else but myself.

I am my only customer. I am very hard to please. Just as I will not watch a basic cable channel any longer and must have HD, I can see the difference a D800E or 5D2 makes in the detail of my images and I have an appreciation for that. And, I don't think you can argue against that.

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wazu
wazu Senior Member • Posts: 1,373
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
2

LaszloBencze wrote:

I currently have a show of 38 20" x 30" prints appearing at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. Most of the pictures were taken with either a 5D MKII or 5D MKIII. However, some of them come from the Canon 1D MKII and 1DMIII which are not full frame and have about half the number of pixels of the 5D cameras (8 & 10 megapixels vs over 20 for the 5Ds).

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

Now I'm sure that there are benefits of the 20 megapixel cameras. And I do own two of them. But my point is that real life photo situations with large areas of bland texture or out of focus areas do not reveal such differences. This is a bit of a surprise for me but a reassuring one.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento area, you're welcome to look for yourself. The gallery is at 2015 J street and is well identified with signage.

without posting any examples of your preposterous proposition I can only conclude this is a sneaky way of promoting you exhibition.

In the realm of art less detail is often desirable. The vast majority of painters employ styles that minimize or blur detail to capture the essence of the subject. There aren't that many surrealists who paint photographically.

However when generalizing about photography it always is advantageous to capture more pixels if the signal to noise ratio is maintained. The trend for more megapixels has unfortunately resulted in compact cameras with 24mps and far too much noise to be practicle for fixing in PP.

-still waiting for the single shot single lens gigapixel dream camera.

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Darren N Regular Member • Posts: 345
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
1

I have fantastic prints at 24x 36 from my 1DMKIIN 8mp so if I could afford £4500 for a new 1DX  then did a print at the same size & couldn't tell much difference if any I would be very sad. So no I'm not interested in lots of pixels it's a waste of money & a marketing ploy.

some pros might need it for advertising or fashion but the rest of us I don't think so.

roustabout66 Contributing Member • Posts: 703
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
1

I had a similar experience a few years ago. In an attempt to see for myself how much difference in print quality different MPs actually made I downloaded images from the cameras in question from DPReview, sized them all to the same size (13x19) and printed a portion of the images. There was a difference if I put my nose in the print and went back and forth between them, but I was surprised at how little difference there actually was. The D800 was not around then so it may make more of a difference, I don't know. It would be easy to run the same test with your choice of cameras and print size to see for yourself.

talico Contributing Member • Posts: 614
Re: Do pixels matter? What 20" x 30" prints reveal.
1

To start with less IQ and an older body limits you from the start. I took the original post to mean good photos from good equipment are still good. But I don't think the sentiment was that older equipment is good enough for all but the most demanding work.

Tom
My photos http://www.alicoatephotography.com

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TTMartin
TTMartin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,304
Re: Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult

Sellwood wrote:

Of course my point was to invite anyone who could attend to see for themselves and determine if THEY can tell the images from the two camera systems apart. Mind you, the point the of the exhibition is art, not pixel peeping. But for those who might wish to test their discernment in addition to appreciating the art, this presents an easy and public opportunity.

Rick, I'll be in Sacramento Monday and will come by to see your show. Congratulations. I don't need, however, to be convinced that your cameras can all be pleasingly reproduced in 20x30 prints. I've had shows for several years and have sold many 24x36 prints that I shot on my old Rebel Xti.

Sharpness rarely determines a fine art print--whether a photograph or painting.

The XTi is a very special camera. I still use mine, even though I also own a 6D and 7D.

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Mako2011
MOD Mako2011 Forum Pro • Posts: 23,399
No need
1

LaszloBencze wrote:

What I noticed is that I could not tell which pictures were taken with the lower pixel count 1D cameras. They do not stand out as obviously inferior. In fact all the pictures look good and are indistinguishable in terms of sharpness or resolution.

That is to be expected. The older generation camera will have less resolution and less DR capabilities, in general. Same scene, same lens, same photographer, etc.....up to the artist to decide if he wants to take advantage of the things the file from the new gen camera might offer.  Certainly no need to do that in every case. The limits of potential will certainly be different in some respect...one gen to the next.

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LaszloBencze
OP LaszloBencze Contributing Member • Posts: 761
Re: Yes pixels matter. But it would be difficult
2

I am my only customer. I am very hard to please. Just as I will not watch a basic cable channel any longer and must have HD, I can see the difference a D800E or 5D2 makes in the detail of my images and I have an appreciation for that. And, I don't think you can argue against that.

Well Rick, based on what you said, you are exactly the person I would love to have come by my show to differentiate the pictures. I'm not being sarcastic. I truly would like to meet someone who can easily discern such differences. I might learn something.

Drop me a line if you are coming to Sacramento.

Thanks,

Laszlo

LaszloBencze
OP LaszloBencze Contributing Member • Posts: 761
Re: Very true
2

That said...I personally get more use, enjoyment, and personal pride from my pics made with the new gen camera than the older gen 5mp camera I still use, all else being equal. There are also other elements of photography that bring enjoyment/pleasure that have nothing to do with the exposure. Sometimes one camera just feels good. Snapping off a Polaroid might do it for some. It's more complex than one might think...because we are all wired different. As an example, my wife will always pic the picture with the horse in it as her favorite...even if the rose pic is stunning and a masterwork done by Crewdson. The guy down the street will buy it as long as it's done on velvet.

I agree with everything you've said. I, too, greatly enjoy using the 5D MKIII for many reasons. Those old 1D cameras were too heavy. The 5D MKIII fits so comfortably in the hand. And of course I certainly do like the idea that I'm now getting 20+ megapixels even if I can't tell those pictures from the 10 megapixel ones. At the very least it's a personal satisfaction in knowing you have the "best" in your hand. That satisfaction is very similar to the satisfactions to be had from fine hand built furniture, a custom made pocket knife, a carefully chosen stereo system, a house designed to personal taste by an architect, or any material good that exceeds the limitations of what is considered standard.

And yes, people do vary in their taste and appreciation for such things. Good taste comes at a price. It is always purchased by long study, lots of looking, and usually discussion with others who are avid connoisseurs. The pay off can't be measured. After all a standard tract house will keep the rain off your head as well as a ten million dollar architectural masterpiece. The pleasures derived from the latter are far more likely to be aesthetic rather than practical advantages.

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