largest print with 6 megapixels

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by william_oleson, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. Hi Folks,

    Been itch'n to buy a DSLR. The one in my price range that works with
    my current lens is only 6 megapixels. Where I want to take digital
    photography and photoshop is into the fine art arena. I don't want my
    images to be burring, but since I'm printing on archival matt paper
    and canvas, I don't need to be super sharp either. Questions is, how
    large can I expect to be able to print and still get a decent image
    with 6 megs?
  2. I get very nice 12x18 prints on 13x19 paper after resizing in Photoshop.
  3. 13x19 prints fine with a 6 MP camera. Seems the bar for affordability has just been raised, though, with the new Digital Rebel. 8 MP sensor, just like the 20D, and the Digital Rebel's price (body only) is $900.
  4. The latest Outdoor Photographer has an article about sensors, and they repeat what i've seen in many places. You're hard pressed to tell the difference between a 6 and 8 mp camera until you hit very large prints. Not saying it's not there, or that it isn't very cool. I'm just saying that 6-8 isn't a huge quality difference.

    There's no set answer to this question because of a variable you didn't mention: How far away to do want it to look good? At 6 inches, a 13x19 print won't look (very) good from a 6mp camera, but at 3 feet it could. Exposure, sharpenss, enlargement technique all play huge roles as well.

    When you start pushing the "obvious" range I've come to the conclusion that your only path forward is to get test prints done. You're totally safe in the 8x12 size, and usually safe in the 10x15. On a good image you should be able to pull off 16x24 if its on a wall and you won't do close up scrutiny. Beyond that it's all about your talents at Photoshop or Genuine Fractals.
  5. William, I have a D70, and I output 12 x 18 inch images in house
    on a daily basis. They look great. I also tried a 24 x 36 (at a lab)
    on a whim, and it looks good as well. Not as sharp as the 12 x
    18, but satisfactory, and virtually noisefree. The original images
    were captured in RAW, low ISO, with a nice sharp lens
    (80-200mm ED AF).

    Posters to this and other forums are always asking "How big a
    print can I expect from a D70, Rebel 300, 20D, etc?" I think the
    answer to that is something that only the shooter can answer to
    and for himself.

    And as you know using this in the fine art arena makes the
    results more subjective than objective. (I know, I know, there is a
    mathematical formula to arrive at maximum resolution for a
    particular sensor size, etc., etc.,)

    There's probably no question that the larger sensors will
    produce a finer print. But at what point in the process do you say
    "okay, that's the limit for this sensor, let's move up to the next

    Also, I'm a firm believer that if you do your prep work while taking
    the photo, you'll be ahead of the game when you put the image
    on paper.

    I've rambled on here. Sorry. Others will chime in and give their
    opinions as well. Good luck.
  6. William:

    If you want to sell your prints the quality bar is much higher than if you are a hobbyist. You can reliably produce 8x10 inch prints from a 6MP camera. Larger size prints sometimes can be produced depending on subject matter, viewing distance and media type.

    Bare in mind that upsizing in PS or Genuine Fractals adds no new data and just spreads your existing file over more area.

    BTW the standard viewing distance for a print, in order to judge its quality, is the prints diagonal. This is the viewing distance used when producing depth-of-field tables.

  7. Theoretically speaking, it is commonly accepted that the minimal print resolution not producing any visible blurring is 300 dpi. This is a little more than 100 dots per centimeter, which is equal to 5 lpmm (line pairs per millimeter), which is about the maximal resolution of the human eye (at about 30 cm distance).

    So, a 6-megapixel image (3000x2000 pixels) printed at 300 dpi would be 10x6,7 inches or lets say 8x10.

    In practice, I guess most people will hardly notice any unsharpness on 30% even 50% larger prints.
  8. There's no right answer here.

    I once sold a 40x60" print from a 35mm neg, and it came out surprisingly well. The buyer was very pleased with it, and I was shocked at how good it looked.

    Now, ask how big one can print reliably from a 35mm Delta 100 neg (the film I used) and you'll probably hear "11x14" max" as the common response.

    So, what are your standards? What's your subject matter? Are you one of those who finds grain in film prints objectionable, or is it just part of the image?

    To answer this question, solicit some sample files from 6 megapixel cameras, and print them yourself at or or Sam's Club, and see what you think.
  9. If you figure a quality prints is about 3 lp/mm when viewed at about 10 inches, then doing the math this equates to about 180ppi. In reallity a little over 200ppi is what's best. Converting this to a 6Mp dslr comes to about 10x15. Thus, 8x12's are easy for a 6Mp dslr.

    In practice I'll often interpolate up for the printing device to about 240dpi. I can't tell the difference going higher on an inkjet. The labs like 300dpi, but I or the lab can tell the difference between 240 and 300. In fact, they say it's nearly impossible to tell 180 vs 300. At least without a loupe. But that's not how I view prints. IOW, I tend to use ~200ppi as a guide line (if I crop etc) then interpolate for the printer as this "may" help make a better print. Though I've been able to go to about 180dpi on my inkjet without seeing a noticable difference. The lab charges so I haven't experimented there.

    I find with quality images with good lenses and a tripod that I can get 12x19 inch prints (using interpolation). But you need to be realistic in your cropping. Nobody has verified the minute loss of detail with a loupe. Plus a great images is a great image; nobody cares.

    As an aside, a div I university has a volleyball poster from a 4Mp shot I made with my 1d. In this case a little loss of detail isn't going to hurt.
  10. There are several grades of canvas inkjet materials. Some are extemely coarse; and a 50 ppi image is about all the detail the "paper" will accept. Super glossy and an aligned printer can hold easily 300 ppi; and up to 600 ppi for mapping with fine text. "Fine art" mans nothing in the printing business. EVERY CUSTOMER has a radically different opinion of what fine art is. It is such an overused term; it is now known as "fine fart prints" in printers production rooms. Each customer believes his fine farts are good. :) Do some tests with your type of images; enlarged with the papers you like.
  11. One thing to keep in mind is the subject matter. What is acceptable for portraits and people may be absolutely horrid for architecture and landscapes.
  12. I have sold 24"x36" prints from my Digial Rebel. They are not as sharp as 11"x14". You need the best glass and technique to print that large. You also need a customer with room and cash for an image that large.
  13. I have posters 16x20 from a digital rebel that look AMAZING at <4" away so I'm not sure I agree with a lot of the responses. They are sharp, clean, brilliant. I used nothing special, 18-55 EF-s lens, no photoshop magic, no genuine fractals, nothing. I shot in raw, converted to tif @ 600dpi, actually resized the image down to 20x30 @ 300dpi, did a testprint with a place online, Inexpensive and good quality. I was so happy with that I ordered about 50 16x20 posters. All of them right up close have NO big pixels. So a lot of the answers, while I understand why people say them, and I even agree with them from time to time. I'm just not seeing it in my own work. Drop me an email with your address and I'll see if I can mail you a poster. They came out AWESOME in my opinion.

    I cannot explain my logic for the above workflow, I just did it for no apparent reason. It worked why question it?
  14. I've printed my 6meg 10D files up to 3' x 5' LightJet banners, and I'm astounded at how clean they are. Not something I'd do every day though, and they are obviously soft at reasonably close inspection.

    Agreeing with the above responses, I prefer to stick to 13x19 for ink-jet, and a bit smaller for glossy Frontier/LightJet for really critical work.

    InkJet printing to textured media like the cotton based matte papers allows you to get away with a lot more enlargement/interpolation than glossy.
  15. If you are going with Canon look at the new EOS 350D - it is a very good, 8mp camera, with an excellent image sensor and processing chip (DIGIC II) and a capable list of features, all for a sub $1,000.00 price. Excellent entry-level camera yet, capable of producing professional quality images.
  16. I made sale digital image from Canon 10D for billboard.Depends on many things....
  17. First, I'd like to apologize to everyone who talk the time to respond to my question. I thought I had selected a button that said something like ?Notify me of any response?. I never got that notification, so I didn't check my forum.

    Thanks for all your input. I'll definitely pick up a copy of Outdoor Photographer and read that article. Andrew, I'll get in touch with you and check out your poster. I must say I'm a little surprised at the answers. Most of you feel that 18x12 is an average size to expect, but I have an inexpensive 4meg camera and I'm already printing to that size. I'm going down to the local camera store and take some shots with the cameras '?m thinking about buying, taking them home, and see what I can produce.

    Thanks again.

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