: The Megapixel race...


iMatt
Aug 19th, 2009, 12:41 PM
...appears to be coming to an end.

Canon Powershot G10 (2008): 14.7 MP
Canon Powershot G11 (2009): 10 MP

Panasonic Lumix LX2 (2006): 10 MP
Panasonic Lumix LX3 (2008): 10 MP

Many camera manufacturers are still cramming more and more pixels onto tiny sensors, but it's telling that these two (the 800 lb gorilla and the 200 lb alpha chimp) are holding the line with their flagship compacts.

Canon's announcement is particularly dramatic. Almost 50% fewer pixels than a year ago? Wow.

For most of us, more = better probably ended somewhere around 8 MP (or a lot less if you never print bigger than 5x7)... should be fun watching them try to explain to consumers -- who've been quite effectively brainwashed to demand more and more pixels -- why less is sometimes actually more.

screature
Aug 19th, 2009, 12:57 PM
Yep although there are experts who have for years been trying to get the message out to forget about the megapixel race. Ken Rockwell is one of them and he makes a very compelling argument:

The Megapixel Myth (http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/mpmyth.htm)

MacDoc
Aug 20th, 2009, 01:44 AM
Yep - it's all about the lens ....my 4 megapixel Lumix with a big Leica lens in front of it still startles me at times.

http://static.phing.com/listings/12/125274/12790-2zirz8_m.jpg

Panasonic Leica Lens Explained (http://www2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/LeicaLensExplained?storeId=15001&catalogId=13401&langId=-1&catGroupId=24999)

Panasonic was smart in concentrating on the lens - my 5 year camera meets all my needs in this category and the results please me.

My buddy's high megapixel with a baby lens sucks...

The Doug
Aug 20th, 2009, 09:14 AM
Ditto - my 5 megapixel Lumix FZ20 (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz20/) is a keeper. Superb lens, great camera.

As for my Nikon D50 DSLR, it's a keeper as well. What a sweet camera. At 6 megapixels it's more than adequate for my needs / methods, and the image quality is excellent. I intend to keep using it indefinitely; getting a more current / higher megapixel DSLR doesn't interest me at all - but I will purchase additional lenses for my D50 over time.

KC4
Aug 20th, 2009, 09:54 AM
Ditto - my 5 megapixel Lumix FZ20 (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz20/) is a keeper. Superb lens, great camera.

As for my Nikon D50 DSLR, it's a keeper as well. What a sweet camera. At 6 megapixels it's more than adequate for my needs / methods, and the image quality is excellent. I intend to keep using it indefinitely; getting a more current / higher megapixel DSLR doesn't interest me at all - but I will purchase additional lenses for my D50 over time.

+1 re the D50!
I also have a D300 - don't even remember how many megapixels it sports - just know it is more than the D50 which is sufficient for my purposes.
Interestingly, I reach for the D50 more frequently than the 300.

iMatt
Aug 20th, 2009, 10:48 AM
Yep - it's all about the lens ....my 4 megapixel Lumix with a big Leica lens in front of it still startles me at times.

The lens is a big part of the equation, yes, but the quality of the sensor matters too.

I wouldn't be surprised if your 4 MP Lumix were better in low light and/or above base ISO than my 8 MP Lumix (greater pixel density being a big contributor to noise, especially as you ratchet up the ISO), but my guess is that both are pretty poor in low light unless you keep ISO low and use very long exposures. (I know this for a fact with my 8 MP Lumix, and AFAIK this applied to pretty much every Lumix ever made until a year or two ago.)

Today's 10 MP Panasonic sensors + in-camera processing should easily trounce both of them in just about any situation -- because of advancements other than the number of pixels.

I now have a 12 MP camera. That translates into 22x16 inch prints at 180 DPI (and it's probably possible to make good quality prints even larger). And yet like most people, I rarely print at all and most of my shots are viewed on a ~2 MP monitor.

All 12 MP really accomplishes is filling up my hard drive faster, and yet I too have absorbed the "more pixels = better" mentality: I only ever set the camera to a lower resolution if I know for sure that the shot is only for e-mail/web...

screature
Aug 20th, 2009, 11:36 AM
...but my guess is that both are pretty poor in low light unless you keep ISO low and use very long exposures...

Which then introduces the problem of noise associated with long exposures... ;)

iMatt
Aug 20th, 2009, 11:54 AM
Which then introduces the problem of noise associated with long exposures... ;)

I don't know about MacDoc's camera, but my old Lumix (LX1) uses dark frame subtraction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_frame_subtraction), which I've found to work well, with the caveat that you really have to nail the exposure. And that means using manual mode and not necessarily trusting the recommended exposure -- usually adding time. Underexposures are especially noisy.

In other words, getting a decent low-light pic from such a camera is definitely a challenge, and it requires considerable trial and error, but it can be done and won't be overly noisy if exposed properly.

screature
Aug 20th, 2009, 12:00 PM
In other words, getting a decent low-light pic from such a camera is definitely a challenge, and it requires considerable trial and error, but it can be done and won't be overly noisy if exposed properly.

Oh definitely doable, just saying that long exposures introduce their own challenges to be overcome.

The Doug
Aug 20th, 2009, 12:04 PM
Yeah, noise can be a bugaboo but the benefits / joys of these cameras outweigh the problem, to me. I keep my FZ20 set at 100 ISO all the time and whenever I do low-light shooting I set aperture & exposure time manually, and use a tripod if necessary. If noisy, the images usually clean up pretty well.

eMacMan
Aug 21st, 2009, 11:46 PM
Quite honestly an extra MP or even 3 would not inspire me to switch cameras. What might is better control over close-up focusing.

I do like the compact size of the Canon PowerShot series. A DSLR would probably spend a good deal more time on the shelf than my little Canon point and shoot.

Still waiting for an affordable Graflok digital back for my medium format. Ah well we have to have something to dream about.:D

Glipt
Aug 22nd, 2009, 12:24 AM
More mega pixels = greater flexibility for cropping.

I love my 10MP Nikon D80 and have printed a few shots at 20x30 from Silvanos and they look fantastic.

SINC
Aug 22nd, 2009, 07:45 AM
I bought a Nikon Coolpix 8800 @ 8 MP new in 2004 and have been using it ever since. It suits my every need and the joy of not having to carry a lens bag is great. For all round versatility, I could not be more pleased. My Canon gear and lenses haven't seen the light of day since. I cannot imagine ever needing a higher MP unit.

eMacMan
Aug 22nd, 2009, 10:35 AM
More mega pixels = greater flexibility for cropping.

I love my 10MP Nikon D80 and have printed a few shots at 20x30 from Silvanos and they look fantastic.

Somewhat of a myth going from 7 to 10 MP will give you the same resolution on a 9.5"x13" image that the 7 MP gets at 8x11. Only a very minor increase. Going from a 3:1 optical zoom to a 5:1 will actually give you much greater ability to zoom in.

Current point and shoots tend to have a sensor about the same size as the old Kodak disk cameras (~4x5.3mm) which allows them to get incredible results with 6mm-24mm lenses. Doubling the sensor area would still allow for nice compact lenses and the accompanying great field of focus while noticeably improving the ability to capture detail.

fjnmusic
Aug 22nd, 2009, 02:08 PM
I dunno. There's something to be said for the more pixels, the merrier. Checked out the 1400 and some megapixel gigapan? ;)

gigapan: President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address by David Bergman (http://gigapan.org/viewGigapan.php?id=15374)

EvanPitts
Aug 24th, 2009, 01:30 PM
^^^
Of course, the gigapan does have the oddity of having people with two heads, or an individual in two different places, as it is scanning...

There is something to be said about more Megapixels - though in many cases, the higher numbers are attributable not to more pixels on the CCD, but rather, to "interpolated pixels", where the camera used a shoddy, cheap CCD and uses software to guess what is in between.

Most people are not exploding their photos to billboard size - in fact, most people plunk their giant 10 or more megapixel pictures onto a photoframe, which can't achieve 1 megapixel, and is only 72-75dpi.

It's nothing more than an advertising scam, like when car companies discuss the massive horsepower available, even though the average person will never use more than 80HP at most, nor do people redline their engines or attain anything more than half of the top speed on our roads.

A camera should be selected on picture quality and the availability of drivers and appropriate media - rather than on the number of pixels it may or may not be capable of.

hayesk
Aug 24th, 2009, 02:56 PM
Quite honestly an extra MP or even 3 would not inspire me to switch cameras. What might is better control over close-up focusing.

That's more dependent on the lens that camera.

MacDoc
Sep 7th, 2009, 01:20 PM
Finally got a chance to use a purchase I made a while back..the camera is about 10% smaller than this image.

http://a.img-dpreview.com/news/0507/Panasonic/panasonic_fx9backfront-001.jpg

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9

It is a very compact 6 mp and seriously small. Stlll with a Leica lens and image stabilization even in a tiny package and even a 4x optical zoom.
Good review of the technology here - and that's a 4 year old model!!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9: Digital Photography Review (http://www.dpreview.com/news/0507/05072002panasonic_fx9.asp)

Very pleased now I've started carrying it instead of the big one.

Took this last night in low light conditions....camera did all the work

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m269/macdoc/Picture88-1.jpg

Up at Flowerpot island..

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m269/macdoc/Picture91-2.jpg

detail impressed me on this....really is a point and shoot - camera does the work and then slips into your pocket...it is very small for it's feature set.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m269/macdoc/Picture94.jpg

this was out at full zoom

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m269/macdoc/Picture93-1.jpg

mguertin
Sep 7th, 2009, 02:37 PM
Those are great P&S cameras MacDoc

Here's some fodder for the megapixel race conversation from Ray Maxwell:

Why Moore's Law does not apply to Digital Photography (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/brick-wall.shtml)

MacDoc
Sep 7th, 2009, 03:06 PM
Excellent article - since I only ever view the images on screen the pixel race is just about meaningless for me except cropping with detail.

Just like my binoculars....lens and light gathering are critical. Much of the rest is marketing hype.

mguertin
Sep 7th, 2009, 03:34 PM
Ray Maxwell is great. He's one of the best out there at debunking all the marketing hype when it comes to digital cameras and the link since he's a great scientist and also a photographer who is into all the technology behind the scenes. I also edited an interview with him for the Luminous Landscape Video Journal a couple of years ago, he's a wealth of knowledge. In that interview he was talking about colorspaces: sRGB vs. Adobe RGB vs. Pro Photo RGB.

hayesk
Sep 8th, 2009, 05:20 PM
MacDoc, while the composition of the photos are really good, there is a lack of sharpness and purple fringing that would not be there (or less) with a larger sensor and perhaps a better lens. But this shows that other factors matter more than pixels.

dona83
Sep 8th, 2009, 06:33 PM
The next race is the ultra compact DSLR, the lens would basically take up half the front face of the camera. Ha ha.

MacDoc
Sep 8th, 2009, 06:48 PM
Hayesk
The camera was only set at 1 mp and standard quality.

iMatt
Sep 9th, 2009, 10:21 AM
..the camera is about 10% smaller than this image.

So I can get a really, really tiny one if I view this thread on my iPod? ;)

iMatt
Sep 9th, 2009, 10:27 AM
The next race is the ultra compact DSLR, the lens would basically take up half the front face of the camera. Ha ha.

Already saving my pennies for a GF1. Gotta ditch the mirror box if you really want a small SLR-like camera (the old Pentax Auto 110 notwithstanding).

Then there's the large-sensor fixed-lens compact, no longer a Sigma-only category... if you have a spare $2,000 kicking around for a Leica X1. Too rich for my blood, but it's nice to see Leica back in the game doing more development in-house instead of rebadging Panasonics.

screature
Sep 9th, 2009, 11:34 AM
I dunno. There's something to be said for the more pixels, the merrier. Checked out the 1400 and some megapixel gigapan? ;)

gigapan: President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address by David Bergman (http://gigapan.org/viewGigapan.php?id=15374)

This "photo" was made up of 220 stitched images. It is not a 1400 megapixel camera. It is the hardware used to mount the camera that is interesting and provides the "effect". You can actually even use a point and shoot camera. So not really what you seem to think it is.

MacDoc
Sep 9th, 2009, 01:18 PM
THIS is a 142 megapixel camera - a mere $5 mill///

http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/astro/f/sdss.20051208/assets/264/Sloan_Night.BIG.jpg

Science Bulletins | Astro | Feature | Sloan Digital Sky Survey: Mapping the Universe | The 142-Megapixel Digital Camera (http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/astro/f/sdss.20051208/essays/77_1.php)

gmark2000
Sep 9th, 2009, 01:38 PM
Already saving my pennies for a GF1. Gotta ditch the mirror box if you really want a small SLR-like camera (the old Pentax Auto 110 notwithstanding).

The GF1 needs in-body image stabilization and it would be almost perfect.

mguertin
Sep 9th, 2009, 01:40 PM
MacDoc, while the composition of the photos are really good, there is a lack of sharpness and purple fringing that would not be there (or less) with a larger sensor and perhaps a better lens. But this shows that other factors matter more than pixels.

The fringing is a lens issue, it's called Chromatic Aberration. It's basically the lens not focusing all the colours in the exact same place on the sensor.

Chromatic aberration - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_aberration)

MacDoc
Sep 9th, 2009, 01:56 PM
Yeah it's a small lens on the mini FX - and that rail was a tricky bit of reflection..too bad I did not know what the setting was....oh well makes it even more worthwhile to take with me riding.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m269/macdoc/Picture45.jpg

iMatt
Sep 10th, 2009, 09:50 AM
The GF1 needs in-body image stabilization and it would be almost perfect.

That would be nice to have, for sure, though it isn't a deal-breaker for me.

By the time I have enough pennies saved there should be a new Olympus model. If it has good AF speed and a better LCD and/or a decent built-in EVF, I'll definitely consider it -- I'm a Panasonic fan, but not quite a fanboy.

Max
Sep 10th, 2009, 10:09 AM
Big fan of the Panny G series here, but from what I've seen based on the samples up on the web, Oly has the edge on colours, especially right out of the box. Seems the Panny cameras can get results but you have to massage them in RAW quite a bit. Always did like Oly's punchy colour.

However, since I'm used to massaging pix anyway I think I'll get whatever eventually comes along to replace the G1. I expect that won't take too long, given that the G1 had been announced almost a full year ago now. Hopefully they'll tweak the colour parameters a bit. And if not, it's still a great camera with a small but growing list of good lenses. Really love the fully articulating LCD and general responsiveness.