What's the point of 21.1 pixel camera?

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by grace_woo, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. Hi, does anyone know if there's a printer out there capable of printing out a 21.1 pixel picture taken by such
    expensive camera? If not then what's the point of it but just to post them online (if there's a compoter capable of
    showing such high resolution). I mean why not buy a camera that has the highest pixel a printer can match?
  2. I don't know much about the technical aspects of digital photography and printers, but you are assuming that printer
    technologies won't progress.
  3. Also,

    There are plenty of printing and photo processes that print quite large.


    I'll bet you that a 16 x 20 shot with 10MP and one that is shot at 21MP will look very different to somebody.
  4. So you can print 12x18 at 300 dpi.

    That really isn't that outlandish of a print size. The 5D can do almost (but not quite) 10x15 at 300 dpi.

  5. I can remember when people said that about 5 megapixel cameras, and I remember when a computer salesman said that there was no reason for me to want an external 30gig hard drive because I would never be able to fill my computer's internal 6gig HD. And besides, someone might want to print a mural of themselve 80 stories tall, that looks sharp from 2 feet away, for the whole city to enjoy.
  6. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    There are any number of labs with large format printers- LightJets, Epsons, Durst Lambdas etc- capable of making prints of say 72 x 48" or larger. Even a 40" sq print made at 200dpi would require a 200MB file, several times what a 21MB camera turns out, and indeed there are backs for MF cameras that offer many more pixels than this, simply because there are people who have very demanding applications and high quality standards. At a simple level, 21MP would allow me to meet my stock agencies' size criteria without interpolation.

    A better question might be whether the constant growth in pixel count from sensors of fixed size is actually achieving anything worthwhile in quality terms.
  7. You just won't know what you'll need until someone invents it.
  8. Not to mention the ability to crop the center portion of the image and enlarge that small portion to 16 x 20.

    Paul Noble
  9. Thanks guys, for your responds. This is such a great site! So it seemed like a 21.1 pixel camera is primary to print large photos. If that's the case I don't need one for my 4x6 and 5x7 postcards. Thanks again!
  10. If you have to ask, you probably do not need a camera with such a high resolution.
  11. Grace, it's refreshing to see somebody who is honest
    about his or her actual photographic needs.

    But if you think 21.2 megapixels is bad,
    what do you think of the Sony A900 with 24.4 megapixels?
  12. I print almost exclusively to 13" x 19", with 11 MP.

    *I* could use 21 MP. In fact, I could use 40. I like taking a landscape in my hands, and looking into it for all the goodness in the scene.

    It's sad that so many people can't fathom that others have higher goals and deeper vision...
  13. Yes, I agree. It is so sad that some people think their own goals are so much loftier than other people's goals, and that their vision is so much more vivid than the the the rest of us. But we know how *those* people are. :)
  14. Hey, what do I know? I probably don't do a good job of using the 10 MP I have now, but having more would be fun.
  15. "I'll bet you that a 16 x 20 shot with 10MP and one that is shot at 21MP will look very different to somebody"

    I´ll take that bet. Most likely, the 10MP shot will have lower noise, assuming same sensor size. The increased resolution (provided the lens can match it!) will not be visible in that print size.
  16. Using a D200, I often print 20X30's glossies via the Durst Lambda (?) at EL-CO Color Lab. In portraits you can see fine detail in people's hair and the cornea of their eyes. I suspect interpolation? But still the prints are stunning, vibrant and noise free. I assume 20+ megapixels would be better, and in an a/b comparison, noticeably better.

    But it's the overall impact of the image that matters most, and at this size, even 10.2MP is great.
  17. You can crop the image better. If you don't like the original framing you have change it and focus on some area of the previous picture with sufficient quality to print.
  18. "What's the point of 21.1 pixel camera?"

    We seem to be heading in the direction of medium format quality on a 36mm x 24mm sensor. That to me is quite significant: medium format resolution in the convenient and highly portable package of a camera the size of the traditional 35mm film camera.

    Why? One might as well ask why persons want to shoot medium or large format, and do so very conveniently.

    I am optimistic that we are not simply talking about the prospect of larger and larger numbers of megapixels, but also faster processing time, and, above all, better processing that will continue to reduce noise in the future even as more pixels are placed on a smaller and smaller sensor, subject only to the limitations of quantum effects--and I cannot say when those effects are going to be truly noticeable, although I am pretty sure that they are not yet particularly noticeable to the eye at ordinary print size.

    One might as well ask, "Why should we want progress where digital imaging is concerned?"

    I am almost tempted to say, if you have to ask, then you will never understand, or even, "Why did we build the Hubble telescope when my dad already had a good pair of binoculars?" There is always more to see, and some are going to want to see it, even if it does not fit into the staid conception of photography that is based on the premise that the only thing worth capturing is what one sees in the field, through the traditional viewfinder. I personally like to bring huge digital files home and see what else I might have captured: the "framing" and "capturing" might indeed be increasingly transferred to the computer screen, but, as long as new and creative images are being found or discovered, I am not at all concerned that the day might come when one might take a snap with a two hundred mega-pixel sensor and then come home and at that point truly start the creative process. Such a view will always be anathema to those who insist on tossing whatever they cannot capture beautifully through the viewfinder, but they can toss and toss--but more and more will do creative cropping and will like and keep what they see and frame on the screen.

    Even as we discuss these matters, there are sensors (typically of more or less square format) being developed that will go well beyond fifty megapixels, along with the processors that can handle that kind of potential resolution. There are vast implications to better and better imaging technology, and no one can possibly see all of the possible applications that will follow at this time.

    In some ways the era of digital imaging technology has matured, but in a more profound sense it is barely off the ground. What does the future hold? I do not know, but I wish that I were young enough to be able to see what will be standard or at least common photographic procedure in another fifty years. Maybe my grandkids will see it, and perhaps they will say, "And you did WHAT back in 2008?!"

    The future is wide open for those who will embrace it, but embracing it does not mean asserting dogmatically that twelve megapixels is enough. Enough for what and for whom? Twelve megapixels will be enough only for those whose brand loyalty or latest purchase gets in the way of their vision and imagination.

    More and more megapixels? Yes, bring them on. We will find something to do with them--unless we have our heads screwed on backwards and keep looking back and asking, "What would Henri Cartier-Bresson have thought?" or, even more dogmatically, "What would HCB do?"

    Who cares?! We are moving into the unknown. Ain't it great?!

  19. Lannie, if you want more pixels, why not get a medium format system. You might find that the same number of pixels from a MF digital back (i.e. 20) is much better than in a 24x36 based system. You wouldn't have to use optimum apertures to get good results, and worry about the pixel pitch, dynamic range, etc. of each new iteration of small format cameras, which are intrinsically the wrong tool for large prints, no matter how small they make the pixels.
  20. bms


    Twelve megapixels will be enough only for those whose brand loyalty or latest purchase gets in the way of their vision and imagination
    Currently, common sense, my wife, my job and the economy in general are getting in the way of purchasing another camera + lenses.... :)
    I think most people who do not need a 1DIV/5DII/D3 - whatever - professionally would be well advised to put the money away (the safest bet right now would be in a sock under the mattress), and wait if their job/savngs/401k/pension plan/health insurance still exists next year......
  21. means I would have to buy a new computer
  22. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    "if you want more pixels, why not get a medium format system. You might find that the same number of pixels from a MF digital back (i.e. 20) is much better than in a 24x36 based system"

    Thats what I thought too, but two things are now apparent. First I can get , from November at least, 21MP for just over GBP 2000, less whatever I can sell my current 5D for. A digital back for my MF system will cost at minimum more than twice that and probably much more.

    Second, the most cost effective MF backs I found were in essence crop sensor which means no wide angle photography unless I switch back to film and scanning for wider fields of view. I considered this inelegant. Also on the one I actually looked at, sold by Hasselblad, the LCD was tiny and not very useful compared with what I can get even on a digital compact today.

    I would not deny the image quality that these things are able to turn out, but this does come at a price quite apart from money.
  23. Cropping.

    Your question should be: "Can I justify spending $2700 for a camera that will lose its 1/2 of its value in 2 years?". High quality pixel count is good. Do you crop much?
  24. There is almost no point to a 21 MP camera if you don't have lenses whose acuity matches or exceeds the
    resolution of the sensor. This is especially true if you're thinking of cropping a high-res image aggressively. I
    can't think of a situation where an aggressively cropped image would EVER produce a better result than you would
    have gotten if you'd simply used a longer focal length to start with.

    And at some point, with photography, anyway, we're going to reach the point of diminishing returns. I think we're
    not there yet, but we're getting close.

    It's fun to remember that, in 1985, few of us thought we'd ever need GIGABYTES of storage. We were, of course,
    wrong about that. I use 500-750 GB drives now and wish I had more storage space.

    But things don't get bigger, faster, smaller, cheaper, or _______ (insert comparative degree adjective of your
    choice) forever in all fields, and the fact that hard disks have continued to get bigger or even that processors
    have continued to get faster - these are not sound analogies for the issue of photographic resolution. Notice
    that standard keyboards have not gotten smaller. (I'm not talking about the dinky keyboard substitutes found on
    cell phones but real keyboards used by people who want to type more than a few words.) The size of keyboards is
    fixed by the size of human hands. The frame rate of video COULD be increased to, oh, 1000 fps, but there's no
    point in doing so, because nobody could tell the difference. (Not talking about slo-mo video here.) The useful
    resolution of digital camera sensors will, at some point, be limited by the ability of human eyes to tell the

    With digital photography, we're still in the early days of the technology and makers are still expanding the
    limits of the technology. A lot of really interesting questions have not yet been answered. Most of the world
    seems to be betting on larger sensors - but Olympus is out there with its new micro four-thirds sensor presenting
    a contrarian view, and with some success. I'm a Pentax user, so I don't personally have a horse in that race yet.
    I will say that I like the results I get from my 14.6 MP Pentax K20D better than the results I get from my 10 MP
    Pentax K10D - but the difference, in most photos, is relatively small and I have to look very hard to see it.
    What I personally want from my next camera is not more megapixels but other things that MAY be achieved without
    increasing resolution: I want lower noise and greater dynamic range. I suspect that the sensor engineers HAVE to
    play around with sensor resolution as part of the process of discovering what they can do to solve these other

  25. If I make a full 16 bit scan Tiff from a 35mm slide with my Coolscan, the resulting file is 64 meg.

    If I scan an 11x14 color print to 300 ppi, (have only done it once, so the numbers are not totally a wag) as I recall the
    file was close to 100 meg or higher, I had one that was 250 meg, but it was probably scanned at 600 .

    Assuming the scanner people are not just pulling my chain, is there information to that degree in these formats? I
    am hoping it is not all interpolation. ;-)

    I have been told a 24 meg digital file from a camera with good glass is superior to a scan, but even with a degree or
    two of estimation, I would prefer a file of 24 meg. in my shooting camera to allow presentation size prints of quality
    as similar as possible to the RA4 prints I made from medium format negatives, or even good 35mm negatives.

    Otherwise, I may have to dust off my 45m. :)

    If you are making snaps or viewing on a computer screen, your requirements are obviously less, in fact, your perfect
    camera might be anything over a couple of megs. that fits your pocket, or a one use film camera. A Canon Elph
    makes terrific snaps.

    If your requirements are similar to what I aspire to, you can begin by asking yourself, without regards to expense,
    what would your ideal kit be to do fine work? The answer may be in the middle, but I am taking a hard look at the
    Sony A900.

    On the output end, am afraid that is for another day, and someone else will be producing my prints for a while.

    Regards, John
  26. "What's the point of 21.1 pixel camera?"

    What's the point of a 60" High-def television? My 1971 tube tv looks great! Wood panelling and all!

    If it was all about what we 'need', we would all be living in straw huts and growing our own potatoes.
  27. No one will every use more than 64k of memory.

    Spoken like a true visionary...
  28. Everything else set aside, the more pixels I have to work with in photoshop the better.
  29. "Assuming the scanner people are not just pulling my chain, is there information to that degree in these formats? I am hoping it is not all interpolation. ;-) "

    John, your question is a good one. I'd love to know the answer. Scanning at 4,000dpi from Velvia and K25, I'd STILL prefer what I'm getting with my 10.2mp D200, enlarged to 20x30...

    I've had expensive 70mb TIFF scans done of a few Velvias, and again, I wish I'd shot the frames with what I have now.
  30. laica just leaked an almost medium format dslr at 37MP now that's slot of mp's :)
  31. I work in all three formats, film and digital. Each one has it's special advantages.

    I have seen the argument that the eye cannot resolve more than 300 and therefore a print with more than 300 dpi is wasted. Nonsense. To me, higher resolution in a print adds a quality of aliveness.

    In 2006, my wife and I photographed Bridge Day in Fayette WV. She used a 12.7 megapixel 5D, I used an EOS 3 with Fuji Velvia. Same lenses (300mm F4). Comparing the results, the film seemed to have a better presence. Comparing the digital images to the slides on a light box under magnification, there was ever so slightly higher resolution on the slides. (Don't compare scanned slides to digital images because consumer scanners have abominal resolution and do horrible things to slides). I'm really looking forward to comparing the 5DII to film. It seemed the film was about 16mp and the 5DII should do better.

    Medium format is more image to spread the line pairs across. A really good lens will do about 70 lpmm no matter which format. 70 lpmm gives 2520 line pairs on 35mm film or a 24x36 sensor. 70 lpmm gives 3780 line pairs on 120 film (54mm) or 3360 on a 36x48 digital sensor. But medium format is expensive ($45k for a digital back)

    To me, large format is the way to go if you want high quality images and don't mind the time it takes to set up. Large format gives 8400 line pairs on 4x5 and 16800 line pairs on 8x10. Scanning (digital) backs are near useless in my opinion because something always moves in the image during the scan. Anything that moves is fuzzy. You can see object details on a large format transparency where you barely make out object in a smaller format. Extremely sharp wall sized posters are possible. Another advantage of large format is the tilts, shifts, swings etc. With a little patience, it is possible to get both foreground and background as well as the subject in sharp focus.
  32. Try googling Giclee Printers. I want one!
  33. I don't need so many mega pixels, I need a fast shutter, let's say a 1D Mark III. Ten frames per second and 10mp is enough for any action photographer.
  34. I have an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 A2 printer, which cost me less than a couple of my L lenses. A 5D MkI or D700 can only produce prints at a
    decent resolution (240dpi) up to a size of A3 (11.7×16.5 in). So my question is: why shouldn't I want a 21.1 megapixel camera? (...assuming I could
    afford one!) A2 prints aren't that huge, after all.
  35. I have a humble 10mp DX camera. I can easily see a quality difference between an 8x10 and an 11x14 print of the same shot. How is it possible to conclude that larger sensors and more pixels are not needed?

    As for the lens thing, I use lots of full frame lenses without any problems at good apertures. The same sensor density translates to 25mp at full frame. So what is the problem? The high quality lenses that get a lot of praise on the forums should be adequate well beyond this point.
  36. RL, the problem is that the image quality at the center of the image will be higher than towards the edges. Canon's landscape sample image from the 5D Mk II illustrates this nicely (see the lower left corner). With this approach and lenses available, variation of sharpness across the frame is obvious. Other examples of this are the dpreview.com skyscraper (mirror facade) example. Same thing here.

    To get even sharpness across the frame at this resolution level you need some special glass (ie. tilt/shift lenses would be a good candidate since they have a larger image circle) or just shoot a larger format in the first place, so lenses don't need to resolve so much in the corners. Of course, you might not care about this, depending on standards and the subject matter. But certainly if you make large landscape prints (measured in feet or meters) this is a consideration.

    A second consideration is noise and dynamic range. Canon appears to have done well at least in the high ISO noise department. But all other things equal, more densely packed photosites translate to less dynamic range. If you print small enough, the paper resolution and the eye will limit the detail you can see. In this case, unless there was too much sharpening used to make the print, you can gain some of that dynamic range lost in making the photosite density so high. So not much of a problem here. But the quality of the electronics on the chip might not be as good if the photosite density is high, which may still allow the smaller pixel count to result in better dynamic range.

    In any case, let's just make photographs.
  37. Ilkka, could you help us find the Canon "landscape sample image" you mention?
    If the DP review skyscraper is img_0635.jpg, I see what you mean about corners.
    Looks like something the G9 point-and-shoot would produce.
    And yikes, that is the 50/1.4 prime! The sky is also amazingly purple.
  38. "It's sad that so many people can't fathom that others have higher goals and deeper vision..."

    Just out of interest, how many megapixels do you need to have high goals and deep vision?

  39. The point is to have more pixels and thereby higher resolution for large / hi res prints. But it's sure not aimed at me, I've gone from 2 10meg cameras (R1 and E410) and have regressed to a 5 meg Oly E1 and 7.5meg Panasonic L1..while my "highest" res camera is a Ricoh GRD with 8megs. I'm most interested in 9X16 or 8X10 prints with the occasional 13X19" than mural size work.
  40. Hey! I always wanted to cover New York skyscraper with single pics of my baby daughter but the cameras were not
    up to task and building owners wanted sooo much money for it.
  41. I mostly use 35mm film cameras and sometimes my old Canon PowerShot G3. If I know I will need a really large print I will use a Bronica GS-1 with fine grain film. What kind of digital equipment would I need to match the quality of a 6X7 Velvia slide printed at 16X20?
  42. No DSLR can come close to 6x7 velvia (20 times the resolution of the 40D at high contrast, 5 times minum when shooting extremely low contrast, 10-15 times as a fair average ). Now, judging that I print acceptably well with my 40D up to 11x4, the new 5DII should fair for a 16x20 print.
  43. Lannie,

    The effects of special relativitiy have of a much more pronounced and visible effect than that of quantum physics
    here. Diffraction will long govern the practical limits of how useful a smaller digital photosite will be before the
    uncertainty principle comes into play. The only way to overcome this limitation that is to build massively bigger
    lenses (so smaller f-stop, less diffraction) like the lens they make for semiconductor manufacture. For the current
    almost diffraction-limited photography lenses such as the Rodenstock HR lenses, 6 microns is a useful practical
    limit (80 line pairs/mm equivalent). Not coincidentally, that is currently the smallest sized pixel on medium format
    backs. You'll note that the new Phase One back with 65 megapixels therefore represents the practical limit of utility
    of the classic 6x4.5 film back size.



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