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(Short List)   When megapixels were nothing - an illustrated history of photographic cameras   ( ) divider line
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2893 clicks; posted to Geek » on 09 May 2014 at 2:12 PM (2 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2014-05-09 07:00:39 PM  
1 vote:

Slaxl: Thanks for the response. So am I just getting confused because in my experience with only phone cameras, it just so happens that in those particular instances more megapixels did make them better, but that's not always the case?

What's more likely is that your first camera phone was a total dog, and then phone makers realized the camera could be a selling tool instead of a bonus feature, so they invested more money in better internals and a lens that's more than just the bare minimum to be called functional. Internals get better over time, too. So the tech in a camera phone evolved and manufacturers started paying attention to it. The quality, though, almost certainly comes down to the lens, software, and how nice of a chip they paid to put in there. It's not a purely MP thing.

Think of it like this: megapixels in a picture is like decibels in sound. Would you buy one stereo over another just because it could reach 300 decibels when the other only did 250? No, because at either volume you're gonna be deaf. You'll never need that amount of noise. And going by decibels, you have no idea how good the thing would sound. Very nice electronics and speakers can easily make the quieter system sound a lot better. That's what's up with megapixels -- they're a rating that's not directly related to quality, only capacity, and more is often worse.
2014-05-09 05:59:22 PM  
1 vote:

Slaxl: Scrotastic Method: Megapixels are nothing. They're maybe the single worst metric to evaluate a digital camera, and the more you have -- generally -- the worse your image will be.

/still shoots on a first-gen 5D

I've never understood this, but I'm very much not an expert in photography, but I'd like to understand.

There are two reasons the MP war is silly.

The first is simple practicality: you can take a picture that will print at 4x6 at film-quality on something like a 3 megapixel camera. A film-quality 8x10 is a little over 7MP. Larger images are really unnecessary for 99% of users. If you're shooting for print, or a billboard, then yeah, you want a huge file. But for digital-only stuff that never leaves your PC, or for printing a photo the size of a photo, everything on the market is overkill.

The second reason is more scientific and is what I mentioned above. The "megapixel" rating describes the camera's sensor, the chip behind the lens that records light data. Each "pixel" in this regard is itself a very small sensor, and just like bytes, "mega" here roughly means a million. So there are millions upon millions of sensors packed on these chips...and the more of these sensors you try to pack on to a chip the smaller they need to be, so they don't perform as well as they should.

For example, I shoot a first-gen Canon 5D, like I mentioned. One of the reasons I chose that camera is its full-frame sensor, which is physically larger than any consumer-targeted camera, which means the sensors are a bit larger and therefore work with less noise and less bad data being generated...which helps make a better quality of image when compared to a camera with a smaller sensor, even at a comparable megapixel rating.

I may have gotten some verbiage or science a bit off up there, but it's all broken down pretty well here -- you'll note their chart of relative sensor sizes. And here's a less scientific article. Bigger is better when it comes to the sensor, just not the sensor's MP rating!

So, since MP is an easy thing to associate -- "hey this one has more of this stuff and it's written in big letters across the box, so it must be better" -- we ended up with a digital camera pixel arms race, where everyone's getting bigger and bigger. But the actual photos these cameras are creating contain much more data than is necessary, and the data they do create isn't as clean as it could be.

/sure there are a lot of advancements in cameras since my 5D, autofocusing and video and stuff, but I'm fine with what I have. I'm not writing off all digital camera tech, just the desire to inflate MP ratings when that actively contributes to poor image quality.
2014-05-09 04:40:10 PM  
1 vote:
Megapixels are nothing. They're maybe the single worst metric to evaluate a digital camera, and the more you have -- generally -- the worse your image will be.

/still shoots on a first-gen 5D
2014-05-09 03:39:09 PM  
1 vote:
How is there not a Pentax K-1000 on that graphic?
2014-05-09 03:15:36 PM  
1 vote:
They stopped making cameras in 1981?
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