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Megapixels - how many do I need?Some say try

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Bazarchie, Oct 13, 2017.

  1. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    Like most, I want good IQ. As much as I like new technology, I struggle to see the difference between a new a FF camera and an old one in reasonable conditions. Some say larger pixels are better but new sensors have more megapixels hence lower size pixels.Is a Canon 5DS that much better than say a 5D and if so why? What am I missing?
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  2. Snorri

    Snorri Well-Known Member

    You are missing the hype of the marketing department... I think we have reached the ammount of pixels neede few years ago so if the ony reason for buying a new body is more pixels you might find that there is not much difference in IQ. That said faster prosessors, better focusing points and in many cases improved low light performance might be worth the extra if you need it.
  3. peterba

    peterba Well-Known Member

    I don't see that there's much difference, except at higher ISO settings - where you would certainly see a difference in the presence of digital noise.

    However, does it matter? Almost anything produced during the last (say) five years, will give reasonable image quality. Here's a small test that I've tried on some people: ask yourself when you last viewed a good photograph (good = you enjoyed or admired the content, composition etc.), and then went on to notice a lack of image quality. If the photo is good, you won't even bother about technical IQ. I would venture to suggest that if the only thing that's catching one's attention in a photograph is the technical image quality, the image has failed anyway.

    Last year, I obtained a copy of a book by Elliott Erwitt... produced 30+years ago (film, of course), and by today's standards, the technical image quality is relatively low, but I find many/most of the photographs simply captivating. I'd far rather peruse these, than a bunch of technically perfect oh-so-boring images. I accept that I'm in something of a minority, but for the past few years I have been finding that the undoubted technical near-perfection of the modern digital camera actually detracts from the end result. Perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, perfection somehow just fails to be... errrr, well... perfect. :confused:

    Just MHO, of course... ;)
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
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  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I traded my 5D for a 5Ds during a promotion and don't regret it. As it happened the 5Div turned up with a big price tag so It proved to have been a cheaper option. As far as I can tell from reviews it is the same as the 5Div save for burst speed and max iso and of course pixel count. It is a bit lighter than my old 5D.

    The only thing I dislike is the electronic overlay in the viewfinder. In the old camera when manually focussing a TSE you could turn on all the focus points and those in focus would go red. So a top one and a bottom one both red marked the focus plane using tilt This doesn't happen with the overlay. Reading it up this seems to be true of recent Canons - 5Diii onward. On the plus side you can overlay a grid and add a 2-axis inclinometer to help keep level and straight. I'd got used to the one on my Fuji which is just one axis (horizontal).

    It gets the whole range of focus options so the AF is probably superior to that of my IDiv.

    It hasn't replaced my 1Div for telephoto work as much as I thought it would, being better able to crop. The full frame viewfinder isn't so much help if you after something the size of the focussing spot!

    The megapixels are great. It is just staggering the amount of detail you can see in landscape shots. Images downsize well, even to the 800 pixel I use for my Flickr index/record. They print very well, even as small as 6x4 although I usually print to 600 ppi rather than sending the lot when doing so.

    The ISO performance is useable to the max of 6400 which is cleaner than the 5D at 3200 but both cameras need exposure to be correct. You cannot push further in raw without a lot of noise.

    File sizes are of course larger. I still use the 8GB CF card from my 5D which is usually more than enough for me but I put a 32 GB SD card in as reserve for the few times I am at an event.

    The only issue I had with it is battery drain. Looking at forums it seems that a few examples of almost every Canon model suffer battery drain when not used. In use it is fine but leave it in the cupboard for a month and the battery goes flat. My 1D lasts forever. My 5D battery was 9 years old so although it would also go flat if left a long time I put this down to age.
    Bazarchie likes this.
  5. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Agreed, I too find that the technically perfect, grain free images, can be boring. In my case it's probably an age thing. ;)
    peterba likes this.
  6. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    If you want it and can afford it then get it. If you don't want it or can't afford it don't worry about it. If the pictures tell the story you want to tell then your camera is good enough.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
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  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    As usual, the answer is a firm, unequivocal "it depends".

    For hand-held photography, 16 megapixels is probably about the limit in many circumstances. On a tripod, under optimum conditions, with a big sensor (less amplification at a given ISO), the sky's the limit.

    For comparison, top-quality fine-grain colour 35mm slides, shot with a good lens at the optimum aperture, and with the camera on a tripod, equate to about 20-30 megapixels: "about" because (a) you can't really compare a random array of dye molecules with the regular array of a digital sensor and (b) it depends on how you measure it: a Vernier-type discontinuity in a straight line is the most demanding test.

    Again, hand-hold the camera and there is unlikely to be any difference between the slide and 16 megapixels.


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  8. peterba

    peterba Well-Known Member

    I must admit, that's probably it!
  9. dangie

    dangie Senior Knobhead

    I read once "Your best lens is a tripod".
    It's surprising just how good modern lower specification cameras and lenses can be when used at their optimum settings.
  10. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the responses.

    I fully agree with Peterba, if a picture grabs your attention then IQ is secondary. I went to wildlife photographer of the year exhibition a couple of years ago and just enjoyed the pictures, which were excellent. I then went around again to see if I could guess the camera manufacturer and the model before reading the technical specs. No chance! There did seem to be a number of teenagers with top end cameras, but that is another discussion.

    PeteRob detailed post was most appreciated, particularly the point about the amount of detail. I'll have to try a high megapixel camera to find out if I can see the difference.

    "The best lens is your tripod" is a great comment. I do have tripods, just don't like carrying one.
  11. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Very few photographers ever achieve any thing like the quality their cameras are capable of on a regular basis.
    In most cases the image content is more important than the pixel count or the sharpness.
    Also in most cases the lighting, texture, tonality, colour and form come way ahead of any other attributes, apart from the subjet matter itself.

    That being said I would rather have a sufficient quality in every area of performance, than have to put up with equipment that is not up to my needs.
    In those terms 12 megapixes is as much as I need. At best I have 17 available. So I am satisfied on that count at least, and the rest is more up to me....
  12. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    After many years using Kodachrome 200 and having some 24 x 36 inch Cibachrome prints done by Jessops, I went digital and got a Pentax 10 megapixel APS-C DSLR in 2007 (when I could no longer buy Kodachrome). I had some 20 x 30 inch digital 'poster' prints done by Jessops (when using 200 ASA on the DSLR to allow a valid comparison), and I realised that the sharpness and contrast was as good as the large Cibachrome prints from Kodachrome 200. I later upgraded to a Pentax 16 megapixel APS-C DSLR with the then 'industry-standard' Sony sensor (when it has just been replaced with the 24 megapixel model and was being sold off 'cheap'). I have has some 16 x 24 inch prints done from both cameras, and the difference was less dramatic than I expected, so I cannot see why I would need more than 16 megapixels in future.

    I do not believe that AP serves its (less wealthy) readers well by constantly raving about sensor megapixels, although some recent issues have been more sensible about this in reviews. Spend your money on the best lenses you can afford - there is so much good stuff available secondhand.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  13. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    In the not too distant future you may find it difficult to buy a camera with as few as 16 megapixels. ;)
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  14. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    You mean buy new, of course. Personally, leave buying new equipment to those with deep pockets.

    There alots of wonderful used 16 megapixel DSLRs on the market because their original owners fell for the 'hype of the marketing department' (see above), when they could have invested in some really good used lenses instead (same comment about hype).
  15. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    Fully agree. Perhaps I am just a cheapskate but I would rather buy a camera that is a few or not so few years out of date, which at the time of release was deemed to be the bees knees, rather than pay a premium for a new camera which may be better but not worth the premium. If I was a pro or had deep I might have a different view.
  16. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Nikon has pulled back from 24 Mpixels to about 20 Mpixies for its top DX models. I approve and use D500. For most purposes the 12 Mpixels of the old D300 was fine. The greatest useful improvements in new models are in dynamic range, noise, and AF.
  17. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Whether buying new is economically sensible depends on your buying pattern... Those who insist on upgrading to the latest model as soon as it comes out are the least wise I'd say since they are then locking themselves into the highest depreciation cycle, better by far to wait and skip a model generation before upgrading which spreads the depreciation over a longer period plus you get lots of use out of the camera. Beyond that the longer you keep a camera before replacing it the better the value for money it becomes.

    My first Nikon (an FM) was brand new and cost something like half my monthly salary (at the time) which was a lot of money so replacing it after a couple of years was financially not an option. Now, some 305 years later, I still have it and it still works - I'd call that a cost effective new purchase...

    My first Digital camera on the other hand was a two or three year old used EOS D30 which cots me about £300. The new price at the time would have been about £2K so the original owner appears to have sacrificed at least £1700 in a very short space of time - a rather less cost effective purchase I reckon. That said the spec improvements from model to model were generally greater then than they are now.
    Bazarchie likes this.
  18. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    I presume you taught Mr Fox-Talbot everything he needed to know..:rolleyes:
  19. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    So he's the bloke who gave Thomas Wedgwood all that bad advice :(
    spinno likes this.
  20. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    The idea that larger pixels give better results is rather a myth except when you’re pixel peeping. When viewed at the same scale, the noise from four pixels from a Nikon D850, Canon 5DS or Sony A7Rii will be similar to that from a single pixel on the 12 MPx A7Sii.

    For shots taken in good light, I don’t notice much difference between the 36 MPx from my Nikon D800 and the 12 MPx from my D90 or Panasonic LX100 (but in poor light the larger sensor scores). But for sharp shots taken with a good lens, I value the ability to crop from the D800, or just dive into the detail on screen, so for me it’s worth the large file sizes.

    According to http://www.sensorgen.info/ the best current sensors detect more than 50% of photons, and have a read noise of less than 2 electrons. To me this suggests that there isn’t much scope for further improvement in sensor performance, at least hand-held, without better technology than current Foveon sensors that detects all colours across all of the sensor, rather than excluding about ⅔ of the photons with a Bayer filter. But I’ve read that digital imaging has gained more from better noise reduction algorithms than from better sensors.


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