Do We Want (or Need) a 20+ Megapixel Camera?


So, one of the objects of my desire, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, appears to be a wonderful camera in almost every area... except, it's now 21 megapixels. On its heals, Nikon announces the the 24 megapixel DX3. Wow, big resolution indeed. But is it resolution I need?

I'm seriously asking myself this question. Right now I'm shooting Raw with a Canon 5D that weighs in at 12 megapixels. I'm also testing a new Olympus E-30 DSLR, that also captures at 12 megapixels. When I'm on a shoot, I'm capturing lots of images. And over the course of a year, the tally is in the thousands.

These are pictures that I have to catalog, back up, process, etc. My current post production system can handle 12 megapixel files. But I know that a 20+ megapixel camera will indeed stress my system. The irony is that I rarely make a print bigger than 13"x19", and I just haven't needed more resolution. So the march of more megapixels is actually a barrier to purchase instead of an incentive.

Is it just me?

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I feel the same way -- I'd love the new features and dynamic range, not so crazy about the file size (just think what these cameras could be with all of their improvements but the same file sizes as before)!

Here's my question -- if one uses the new sRaw formats -- do I solve this problem? Or do I give up some image quality?

Personally, it seems to me that we're moving into medium format territory with this generation of high resolution cameras. It's a smaller form factor than we had with film, so that's a big advantage for some.

There have always been those who wanted to create the highest resolution images- I always saw wedding photographers shooting medium format and many big view landscape photographers demanded view cameras and sheet film.

My style works well enough at the 12 megapixel range which to me equals great color films like 35mm Velvia in resolution and beats it by at least 4 stops in speed at this point.

I'd take higher resolution if it came for free, but at this point it's a large cost to up the resolution.

Derrick, I would have to agree that 21 Megapixels (I'm surprised we haven't shortened that by now - 4 syllables is too many) is TOO much for me. I also shoot a 5D (13 MP), and I can barely handle those huge files (especially in PSD), so I am REALLY looking forward to my 5D mkII (pre-ordered) and its sRAW for 5 MP, when I know I don't want to blow it up huge, but I want the exposure range of RAW. There is also a 12 MP sRAW which will make the transition easier. sRAW is a wonderful invention which let's those of us not shooting for billboards have our fun too.

You're absolutely right. First of course is that for most purposes, more resolution does not make a photograph any better. Practically, there is a point of diminishing returns where added resolution only gives you more headaches in processing capability, card space, hard drive space, etc. If you print really large (i.e. 2'x3' or even larger) landscapes though, more resolution can be a good thing.

I'm way behind the the megapixel race, and I don't mind. I thought Nikon had finally come to their senses, and found a really good trade-off between pixel size and sensitivity (or rather signal-to-noise ratio) in the D3 and D700. The ability to shoot at high, very high, or even higher ISO rating is probably more useful to more photographers, under more circumstances. Now they've doubled the pixel count. Of course this is for a particular market segment, and I really think most will be better off with the D3 rather than the DX3.

In other news: in the compact cameras, the megapixel wars are still raging: 14 MPixel and counting. Remember that those sensors are way smaller than these full frame sensors, or even the cropped D-SLR cameras. Those pixels are small, and are noisy like a snowing television. Luckily you can still get cameras with more sensible pixel counts.

I am very happy with my D700. Before that camera was released, there was a fair bit of speculation that it would have higher pixel density than the D3 - and I wasn't particularly happy about it. 12MP, especially with the great low-light performance of the D700/D3, is really all I need (or want, for that matter).

If I were in the market today, I am pretty sure I would still go for the D700 versus the D3X (even if price weren't an issue; which of course it is).

I know there are photographers that truly need all the pixels they can get - but I think there are a lot fewer of them than people who just THINK they need more pixels. Additionally, at 24MP you've really got to wonder if most lenses are really going to have that kind of resolving power across the whole sensor.

The megapixel race on compact cameras makes absolutely no sense at all to me for the same reasons that Maarten cited.

Barry and Chris brought up sRaw, which I am interested in. But I have a couple of questions around these formats. First, will they be supported equally by Adobe, Apple, and others? Is it truly a Raw format? If the answer is yes, then I could see shooting at 10 MP sRaw for general photography, and going to 20+ for those situations where I would want more resolution. But, need to learn more about this.

It's not just you. As much as I'd like resolution that approaches medium format quality, my workflow can't handle all of my images shot at such sizes. If I do add a high resolution camera to my bag, it will almost certainly be a special use camera. Landscape. Architecture. That kind of low-volume thing. Most certainly not events and the like.

After we got to 12 megapixels, most of what I want now is tonality, range, and sensitivity.

Even 12 megapixels is more than I need for most of my shots. I am perfectly happy with a 6.2 megapixel sensor in a DSLR. Anything more than 12 is probably only needed for high-level studio work, but aren't most of these people using digital backs for that type of work?

I completely agree with the above comment, the internet is with a doubt growing into the most important medium of communication across the globe and its due to sites like this that ideas are spreading so quickly.