Copyright Scott Bourne 2006 - All Rights Reserved
Okay this is a rant but it’s an important one in my mind. I just saw that one of the camera manufactures is releasing a 16 MP compact point-and-shoot camera. 16 MEGAPIXELS IS TOO MANY ON A COMPACT! Period.
This is nuts. The marketing departments at the camera companies need to take an ethics class or a photo class or both. There is no good reason to release a 16 MP compact camera other than: 1) The manufacturers are so cynical and unethical as to think that selling people on the MORE idea is the only way to go when they know that MORE doesn’t equal better or 2) They are not educated enough to know that MORE doesn’t equal better. Either way, it has to stop. Here’s why that it’s not necessary.
Panasonic sold the lovely LX3 as a 10mp compact camera at a time when it’s competition was pushing 12mp and higher. The result? The LX3 took off amongst serious photo enthusiasts because they knew the LX3 image quality was superior to the images from the higher megapixel cameras. I personally bought one and used it as my exclusive compact carry around camera for two years. They convinced me with
LESS fewer (sorry the grammar police pulled me over) megapixels and better image quality. This is proof that you can have a successful camera launch without cramming a zillion pixels onto a wafer smaller than a dime.
We know by now that if you keep cramming smaller and smaller light gathering cells onto a sensor that noise, banding, CA and other artifacts are the result. Sure, you can invent fancy on-board computers to try to process this garbage out, but it never looks as good as it does if the image is just clean right from the start.
Unless you are increasing the sensor size (and most camera manufacturers are not) then you are making the pixels smaller and closer together. This increases static and reduces sensitivity. This is why the LX3 images looked cleaner than many competing cameras. There were fewer pixels, so they were larger and had more space between them. This led to higher image quality. It isn’t rocket science. Anyone who’s done any sort of research knows this.
Another example of this is the brilliant Nikon D3s. There’s a reason I bought a bunch of these cameras for my shop. At roughly 12 MP, this body comes with up to one third less megapixels than some of its competitors. Yet, it’s image quality is at least as good, (in my mind often better) and the prints I can make from it look better than they do coming off cameras with more megapixels. I can shoot with between one and two full stops less light than I can with competing camera bodies, and not get noise because Nikon decided to go for quality rather than quantity.
Some of us get it. It’s time for the camera manufacturers to get it.
The marketers think that by convincing you that more is always better, they can just keep cramming more pixels onto small sensors and that you will take the bait. My hope is that you aren’t going to put up with this for very long.
Unless you’re going medium format – i.e., a Mamiya RZ-22 or something similar, you don’t need and cannot take proper advantage of many more pixels than you already have. In fact, almost everyone reading this has more megapixels than they need to produce a salable image. Here’s how I know that.
Way back in May of 2000, Canon announced the D30 (not the 30D.) It was a superb camera. I had played with many previous digital models, but this is the camera that got me to “go digital.” I bought several of them. I used them for all sorts of work and during that camera’s run I sold hundreds of images to clients made with a 3.1 megapixel camera. Yep, just 3.1 megapixels. I sold images that were used on television, in books, magazine and newspapers. I sold prints. You name it, I sold it and all from a 3.1 megapixel camera. Now I am not saying that 3.1mp was enough. But it was enough to get by. When we got to 12mp I stopped worrying about having enough. I knew the sensors were getting packed to their limits.
I understand the urge to go bigger. I am about to start making some very large prints for a project I’ll be unveiling next year. In this case, I may need more megapixels. How will I get them? Simple…I’ll shoot medium format. With larger sensors, 22 or 33 or even 40 megapixels makes sense. More megapixels on a 35mm formatted sensor doesn’t make ANY sense. More megapixels on a compact camera with a very tiny sensor not only doesn’t make sense – it’s silly.
If we as photographers/consumers put our collective feet down and say “ENOUGH ALREADY!” Then and only then will the camera manufacturers start to listen. They have only one goal. They want to make more money. We have only one goal. We want to make better photographs. By saying STOP to the megapixel race, we might be able to bring those goals in line with each other.
I implore you. Please do NOT buy your next camera simply because it has more megapixels unless you are moving up from 35mm formatted cameras to something in the medium or large format range. Buy that next camera for any other reason, but NOT because it has more megapixels.
If you’re like most of the people I hang out with, you buy the next camera IN SPITE of the fact that it has more megapixels – not BECAUSE of it. Maybe the camera manufacturers will figure that out one day.
Thanks for listening. I feel better now.
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