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16MP Cameras?

  1. Jun 26, 2012 #1


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    16MP Cameras?!?!

    I've been in the market for a new digital camera and I've noticed something odd. Back when I last even looked at digital cameras, everything was 6MP-8MP at the most. People said that sensors over 6MP were useless because the standard sensors at the time were so small that some sort of optical resolution limit made packing extra pixels in a useless task. Now I see cameras with 16 megapixels and I've been wondering have people just gone nuts or have they started using different types of sensors or larger sensors in the cameras?

    What's the scoops? What's the lowdown PF! TELL MEEEEEEE
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  3. Jun 26, 2012 #2
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    Well, for marketing reasons the number of MP can only go one way, and that is up. It is just too simple to quote a single number and claim revolutionary progress.

    For most DSLRs you are still below the diffraction limit at all reasonable apertures, especially full frame DSLRs which are becoming more common.


    For compact cameras on the other hand ...

    You should also consider the secondary problems: File size, memory needed to process the photos, data transfer time (unless you save the processed pic at lower res) and so on. Smaller pixels also mean less photons/pixel, so the low-light performance is not helped by higher pixel density either.
  4. Jun 26, 2012 #3
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    I bought a 14.2 mp camera a couple years back. I was underwhelmed with the image quality. On the other hand, it was amazingly superior to the 5 mp camera it replaced when it came to cropping out a section and blowing it up, which I do all the time.

    I hunted up an in-depth review of my camera and found out the sensor was the same size as a 10 mp sensor, it was the same smaller area divided up into 14.2 million pixels instead of 10 million. That's one reason the image quality wasn't such a great improvement.

    The other, probably more important factor was that the lens that comes standard with my camera is mediocre. Image quality is highly dependent on the lens, regardless of the MP. I wish I'd gotten a 10MP Canon, because their standard lens is pretty darned good.

    Still, the advantage of being able to blow up a small section of a shot without it starting to break down into a collection of squares is a big plus for me. I like to shoot wide and crop later. The more MP the better in that regard, but generally a good lens is the more important consideration.
  5. Jun 26, 2012 #4
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    I have a handful of digital cameras and my Sony HX-100v(16Mp) takes by far the best images(more crisp and definitely more details), though it has a smaller sensor than some other cameras(e.g. my Kodak z1085 with 1/1.7 vs Sony's 1/2.3).

    I prefer practice over theory.
  6. Jun 26, 2012 #5


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    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    The more MP the more difficult it is to make full use of them. It is not difficult to take a decent picture with EOS-7D, but to take a picture where "every pixel counts" takes an effort, as it gets very sensitive to small variations in focus, to even the slightest motion of the camera and to mediocre lenses.
  7. Jun 26, 2012 #6
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    Nokia 808 with a 41MP camera and Carl Zeiss optics!
  8. Jun 26, 2012 #7
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    lol. 2 points for assuming the actual count.
  9. Jun 26, 2012 #8
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    Yeah, but you're 16MP Sony costs more than twice as much as the other two and is a bridge camera.

    Long story short, high MP count is mainly just a sales gimmick when it comes to compact cameras. People respond more to bigger numbers than smaller ones. I think this is why AMD has never been as popular as Intel.
  10. Jun 26, 2012 #9


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    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    I wonder how much mileage I'll get out of a 16MP camera if I have a tripod that can get rid of most of the shakyness. Since it seems like I won't be paying much more for a higher MP count, I might as well try. It helps when I want to crop out a lot of a picture and have that higher pixel density to help leave the resulting picture better looking.
  11. Jun 26, 2012 #10


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    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    A tripod is a must, especially if you plan on taking photos in low lighting situations. I've also learned that pressing the shutter button to take a picture can introduce enough camera shake to blur certain pictures, no matter how careful you try to be. To avoid this, I use the camera's timer when taking sensitive shots.
  12. Jun 26, 2012 #11


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    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    I always try to do that when possible.

    I bought this camera: https://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-Sensitivity-Digital-Camera-Optical/dp/B00728ZBA2

    It was a bit above my price range but I think it will be worth it :)
  13. Jun 27, 2012 #12
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    Very interesting camera. I googled a review.

    It has a touch screen. One feature of this is that you can touch a part of the screen, the camera will focus on what's there, and then snap a shot. If you don't touch the screen too hard and make the camera shake, this will be better than using the timer for tripod shots.

    Additionally, it has a manual exposure option, which is excellent. I don't know how many compact cameras have this now, but the lack of it is what induced me to buy a DSLR.

    I wonder about the extreme range of the optical zoom. More range usually means no part of the range is as good as it could be. Which is why Pro photographers use dedicated lenses.
  14. Jun 27, 2012 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    I'm late to the party, but since my camera is in the shop I've actually gotten some work done :)

    Anyhow, there's some excellent comments already. From my perspective, pixel count is useless at the first or even second approximation. What is *far* more important is the sensor size and pixel size- the first is well defined, the second less so. Because we are considering the sensor characteristics, let's first simplify to 'perfect imaging' and a monochrome sensor.

    Keeping the print size constant, increasing the sensor size will provide better quality images. Thus, a poster-size print from a cell phone camera is silly, from a 35mm sensor borderline silly, but looks good from a medium format (2" x 3") and great from a large-format negative. This is because less magnification is needed to get to the final print. There are other benefits to larger image formats: decreased depth of field, for example. In the extreme, large format cameras (technical or view cameras) give you complete freedom to locate and orient the plane of best focus. When reasonably priced medium format digital backs come out, I'm getting one.

    Larger pixels are beneficial for low-light imaging, but don't have the best spatial resolution. Thus, camera phones can get away with 1-micron pixels (since there's a ton of light at daytime), while my EMCCD camera has 15 micron sized pixels. Pixel count has been increasing over time because the manufacturers have improved the electronic noise characteristics of the amplifiers, thus allowing the pixel size to decrease while keeping amplifier noise to acceptable levels. Obviously, pixel size and pixel count are related...

    The twist is that color sensors are totally different from monochrome sensors due to the Bayer filter- the idea of 'pixel size' is greatly complicated. As others mention, even the notion of pixel count is questionable for sensors with a Bayer filter.

    In terms of lens performance, the smaller the sensor size, the smaller and more easily corrected the lens. Discussing 'resolution limits' of a lens is fairly straightforward, but the Bayer filter complicates the reality- as a rule of thumb, the lens is matched to the sensor size, not the pixel size. While the tiny lens on a camera phone works great with the tiny sensor, trying to use that lens with a 35mm format sensor is folly. Likewise, using a Schneider super angulon lens with a 35mm sensor is a waste of good glass. I have seen lots of claims that operating lenses at f-numbers less than 5.6 means the overall image is limited by the pixel size not lens performance, and that may be true- except for depth of field considerations.

    In the end, for me, the primary consideration (other than price) is sensor size. Larger sensors give me wider fields of view and more room to crop. As for what is the 'best camera', the best camera for you is the one you use all the time. Saying "you don't need anything more than X pixels" is a lot like saying "you don't need more than 64 kB of RAM"- if you are old enough to remember *that*.
  15. Jun 28, 2012 #14
    Re: 16MP Cameras?!?!

    Excellent, detailed summary, André.

    Just one little point of no consequence where I disagree: The progress in "hiding" the noise post processing has been far greater than the progress in avoiding the noise in analog electronics.

    In an ideal world larger sensors are better than smaller ones. In the real world larger sensors usally mean larger lenses, so there is a compromise to be made between your eyes and your back.
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