Sunday, July 19, 2009

Time for the Megapixel Wars to End?

I have owned a large number of digital cameras, all the way from when 640 x 480 was state of the art to a new 12 megapixel Canon camera that I picked up to shoot a wedding in the Spring. And something has become obvious as megapixels have multiplied like rabbits - the number of megapixels in a camera has very little to do with the quality of pictures you get. It is not just that we've exceeded the human eye, but rather that after a point the expanding number of megapixels simply shows up the flaws in the lens. Consumer Reports has noticed the same thing and is finally calling for an end to the magapixel race.

The problem isn't the sensor. It's the glass. Writer Ray Maxwell points out that lenses will at some point reach a limit and that simply adding more pixels to a sensor will not result in more detail or better images. So, while and laptop and desktop computers may continue to follow Moore's Law, cameras with glass lenses will not. And that limitation is why the writer ends the article with "If someone produces a 35mm full frame camera with 100 Megapixels, beware. Given the limitations of the wavelength of light, no lens can live up to that resolution."
We're already seeing this transformation in the computer industry, which used to focus on CPU speed. Now, they are shifting to multiple threads, power efficiency, and other measures of excellence.


Sean said...

The problem is that everyone needs a number to hold on to when comparing a camera. Megapixels, was for a while, a great number to hold on to. Unfortunately we've gotten to the point where the number of pixels isn't as important as the quality of the pixels. For instance I used a 4MP top of the line Nikon (D2H) that produced far better images than any of the 10MP consumer level DSLR cameras they make. Even when blown up to 10 x 12 images the 4MP was better than the 10MP - because of the sensor and the way it constructed the data.

So the question is what number will be used to compare cameras if we drop megapixels. I'd suggest we use a noise level number, but that may be a little to geeky - even though it is all that matters any more.

BH said...

and "megapixels" isn't geeky :-)