22 February, 2015

50 megapixels?

After the rain, Rockhampton, Queensland [click to enlarge]

Sony's A7r and the Nikon 800/810 series cameras are the current pixel count kings at 36 megapixels. Canon, however, has announced a 50mp, "full-frame" sensor for release later this year; and Sony is expected to do the same. Studio, landscape, macro photographers, and those who print very, very large, will all be over the moon at the news.

Most of us publish our work on the web. I publish to this blog, for example. A smaller proportion of us print larger than 4x6; and fewer still print large format. So, what makes 36mp so popular? Is it just the belief (or hope) that more pixels are better? Is it like having a Ferrari to drive to the supermarket?

Better to have megapixels and not need them, than need them and not have them?

Olympus and Panasonic get it. They strike a balance between pixel count (16 mp) and sensor size (Micro Four-Thirds). Olympus delivers outstanding five-axis stabilisation based on that reasonably sized sensor. At the same time, however, Olympus has introduced a way to use sensor shift to derive a 40mp image. (Hasselblad has a multi-shot technology in their H5D-200c.)

Sony gets it, but has a bet each way. With their A7 series they have 12mp, 24mp and 36mp versions – the most expensive is the 12mp.

One day I might try my hand at serious landscape photography, and think about many more pixels. But for the moment, 24mp works just fine for me.

I suspect that in the future, stabilisation technology, both physical and electronic, in combination with higher usable ISOs and improved dynamic range will make this discussion irrelevant. But not today and not tomorrow.

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