Why Megapixels Are More Important Than You Think

I was going to post a rant on a different thread, but I decided to open a new one since it really was unrelated. Also, there was an old thread on this topic, but it contained a lot of no longer relevant information due to its age. This thread is also directed at newer members who may have been told by some wise mentor that they don't need more than 6mp.

.. so onto the rant.

The more megapixels I have, the better. I'll take as many as you can give me *up to* the resolving power of the very best lens that is theoretically possible, and that's why I always just want to choke chickens any time anyone says "but you don't neeeeeeeeeeeed that many megapixels." This tiresome argument is still repeated ad nauseam is predicated on the assumption that what your camera spits out is perfectly framed, that all you care about is some final printed image, and that you're not going to print billboards. All of these arguments are just wrongheaded.

Main point: megapixels + ultrasharp lens = crop for days = better final image.

The truth is, *most* of the times, having a lot of MP and an ultrasharp lens has the potential to make your final images a lot better. Consider that the Canon 5Ds resolution is 8688 x 5792. Now, assuming that my lens resolves that kind of resolution, I could chop away a full 2/3 of that image and STILL have more than enough for most clients and large enough to send to most magazines for printing. Think about it: 66% of what you shot gone, and yet the final image is perfect.

The creative possibilities this opens up are tremendous, and to me it's all about creativity and all about the final image. I absolute DO NOT CARE about what my photo looks like coming out of the camera as long as it gets me to where I want to go. Indeed, I often shoot "wrong" because I know that will take me to my happy place in post. This includes not just framing, but also exposure.

An example that I will reiterate: I used to shoot beauty (basically super closeup shots of the face, or parts of the face, showing off makeup) with a 105/2.8 micro lens at about ƒ11-ƒ16 because getting in super close means you're killing your depth of field. A few weeks ago, though, I decided to shoot beauty with my 85, stand back, shoot ƒ6.3, and just chop the hell out of the files. And yet, I was still able to give files that were twice as big as what the client required. Bonus, I could make the picture tall, wide, square, whatever—I wasn't constrained by the original composition. It just didn't matter because the files were just that robust.

Thus, another bonus of megapixels is that you can save a bunch of money on lenses because the robustness of your files allows you to achieve equivalent final images with fewer lenses.

Imagine if you had a 60mp camera that shot 14fps. If you had an ultrasharp long zoom lens, you could shoot that bird as widely as you wanted, or that quarterback as widely as you wanted, make sure you had as much of the scene as you wanted, hack and slash in post, and still have great images. Heck, maybe you see something in post that's off to the side that you suddenly realize is super cool. Win!

As a corollary, pairing an unsharp lens with a high megapixel camera truly is just a waste. I have a good friend who owns (and loves) the 58mm/1.4g from Nikon. It produces *very* pretty pictures, but is not anywhere near sharp wide open. I used one for a couple of different photo shoots when it just came out and I thought that there was some kind of problem with the focus fine tuning because when I looked at the photos, they weren't at all sharp, and in post I couldn't crop much without ending up with a blurry image. Sure the photos were pretty, but I was trapped to nearly my original composition. Add to this the fact that if you're shooting at ƒ1.4, you need to catch an eye in focus, and to catch an eye in focus, sometimes the highly centralized focus points require you to compose for a crop in post. It's a catch-22. Point is, if you're shooting an unsharp lens, you might as well use a Dƒ because high resolution sensors really *are* a waste.

If you have a high megapixel camera, you *need* ultrasharp lenses to take advantage of them.

My goal right now is to end up with a final image of at least 5120 × 2880, because that's the resolution of a 5k monitor, but yeah, that's a bit overboard. I'm more than happy with 3840 x 2160, which is 4k, though. With a D810, I can almost about chop a file in half and still have a 4k image, but most clients are just fine with 3000 on the long end, and that's all I usually submit for magazine publication

Megapixels are a game changer, it's just many people are still thinking about them in the wrong way.


  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    I cannot find any holes in your argument Pitchblack. I do prefer to get it right in camera, but that is because I enjoy doing that and sometimes I am shooting with a so so lens. There are times where I have deliberately shot in your style because I knew I could crop.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    It is also an excellent reason to buy as large a format size as possible. While there are fabulous and crappy lenses in every format size, all things being equal, the larger the format, the more the lens resolves. For anything serious, FX is as small as I am going. While my DX Coolpix A and my wife's D5500 with her 35 1.8 have produced some very fine images, I would prefer to have my D800 when the rubber hits the road.
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    edited January 2017
    Well, while true that all things being equal you want to maximize the number of megapixels available, but not all things are equal. There are practical reasons to not shoot MF for instance; chief among them are the terrible AFs and more importantly, the less sophisticated lighting that's generally available. Both of those are more important to me than the extra megapixels. If all I had access to was 18mp, I'd probably be shooting MF, but luckily I have twice that, and soon maybe thrice.

    I also understand that there's some sense of satisfaction and pride that one gets when the image that's shot comes out perfectly right from the camera. I get that. But here are a couple of things.

    First, if that's your goal, and if that's the reason you take pictures, then YOU don't need megapixels. You are obviously not shooting with the idea of maximizing the probability of getting to the final image that you want; rather, you're shooting because you love the challenge and satisfaction of getting a great image straight from the camera. But don't be telling me that just because you enjoy a style of taking photos that everyone should shoot this way, and that somehow megapixels are useless.

    Secondly, when you're working for a client, you leave your warm-fuzzies at the door. You do whatever you can to do the best job that you possibly can, and lots of megapixels makes that job a lot easier.
    Post edited by PeachBlack on
  • Capt_SpauldingCapt_Spaulding Posts: 735Member
    I can't find fault with either of your perspectives. That said, I think you guys live in a bit of a rarefied atmosphere. I keep up with both of your work and find it both inspirational and aspirational. Now that I've booty smooched enough. I think that for some number of us tyros out here, mega- megapixels have the potential to be a source of frustration and disillusionment.

    You can get away with what Peach is doing if a) you are very, very good, and b) you have the ability to accurately judge the quality of your lenses (and, perhaps to a lesser extent bodies) and wherewith all to acquire them. To be sure, lenses have a lot to do with sharp images, but the technique to use them plays a large role as well. I can see someone (and have seen people - as, I suspect have we all) become consumed with the latest tech and find that their results don't measure up. So, what would you advise a relative neophyte or journeyman photographer?
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    I would join a camera club, enroll in a program or both. I did both.

    And for most people, an APS-C camera with interchangeable lenses is enough. Fuji is a good choice.
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    I almost always tell someone who is just starting out to buy a 2 generations old used camera and a nifty-fifty. That way you can learn about photography, practice taking lots of photos, not spend a lot of money, and still have great results. You can get a D90 from a reputable dealer on eBay, plus a nifty fifty for less than three hundred bucks. There are so many people who buy a D3xxx and kit lens who use it twice and then put it in the closet. Plus, you can't really learn as much about depth of field with a kit lens. Nikon loves that people do this, of course, but it's not the most efficient use of funds.

    I assume by journeyman, you mean a relatively advanced hobbyist who takes photos mostly for fun, right? Well, for this it's all about the kind of pictures that you plan on taking. Do you like to take pictures of animals? landscapes? people? football games? concerts? Do you want to occasionally try to publish a photo or two? There are just so many variables involved, including the depth of your pockets, that it really is impossible to say.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,690Member
    The more megapixels, the better. Maybe someday a photo like this one can be taken in one shot with a high mp sensor and an astonishingly sharp lens. http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/01/politics/trump-inauguration-gigapixel/
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    That lens would have to be incredibly wide open to deal with diffraction (limiting resolution) and then you would lose your depth of field. You might be running up against the laws of physics using conventional technology - ie. an upgraded D810.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,494Member
    Megapixels are nice, but not be all and end all of the world. At first I was bothered by stepping down from the D800 to the D750, but I got used to it quickly. One things for sure, the photos don't take up as much HDD/SSD space and much faster to batch edit.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • NikoniserNikoniser Posts: 100Member
    More pixels is better - but the quality of those pixels really counts. This is where the D810 has really shone for me - it give a high pixel count and they were *quality* pixels with good color depth and noise and DR -

    To this day nobody has come out with a camera with more pixels than the D810 and with better quality of pixels. The 5Dsr's 50 million pixels are junk, they are last generation APSC pixels. The 42mpix Sony gives you more pixels but no quality increase.
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    Nikoniser said:

    More pixels is betterThe 42mpix Sony gives you more pixels but no quality increase.

    Remember all of those endless debates about number vs. quality of megapixels? Remember how people would say that there was always a tradeoff between one or the other? Yeah, the D800 pretty much kicked that debate in the teeth. It turns out you can have your cake and eat it too. I mean sure there are some people who insist that they want to shoot the Dƒ because they can take pictures in the dark, but, you know, whatever.

    To be fair, the Sony A7RII is the highest scoring 35mm sensor camera in the DxO Mark database, and the low light performance is noticeably better. Add to this the fact that Nikon does have a way of tweaking Sony sensors to get the most out of them and I'm sure it would be a solid upgrade for the D810. It's just a "oh that's nice" upgrade, not something that would turn heads.

    And maybe megapixels are the be all and end all for you @PB_PM, but they are for me they are super important. If you'd rather have more hard drive space and a zippier time in post instead of maximum leverage, that's cool. I just hate being told that I don't need them.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,494Member

    And maybe megapixels are the be all and end all for you @PB_PM, but they are for me they are super important. If you'd rather have more hard drive space and a zippier time in post instead of maximum leverage, that's cool. I just hate being told that I don't need them.

    Oddly enough I hate being told I need more. :) Each person had different needs, I don't shoot for commercial use anymore, so MP don't matter as much these days. Shooting for pleasure takes all the pressure off. As long as I can get some nice 16x24 inch prints of of light crops it's fine with me.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    I do believe that I explicitly stated above that if you want to engage in a more relaxed style of shooting, more power to you, and you always have that option. Your priorities clearly don't include maximizing your chances of getting the best image possible at all costs. Saying that more megapixels increases the potential quality of your final image is a simple fact. Your desire to emphasize ease of editing and minimizing storage space is a choice. I'm not telling you that you need to choose maximizing leverage. If you take away my megapixels, however, that choice disappears.
  • decentristdecentrist Posts: 33Member
    what a load of self therapy
  • I think it was Miles Davis who implored more than one of his associate musicians to drift off and start their own group and genre when the time was right.

    PB has hit a stride with his stylistic images and his imposing manifestos such that I invite him to start his own blog and Facebook account where he will have full control of content including bringing controversy where none be created.
    It's one thing to invite others to mimic their style or technique; quite another to challenge others thinking for choosing not to follow their well determined directives.

    For some it is important to be right and superior. For me, images alone speak for who we are as artists.

    PB, you have my attention, but not for the right reasons. Show us by your continued efforts in image making, and bring your rhetoric to your site (maybe you can develop one like Steve Huff's or Ming Thein's, expanding your following by insisting os using Sigma art lenses and greater MPs.)

    I look forward to checking your new blog with instructive examples of your work. Obviously not all of us buy into your overbearing diatribes.

    I also invite you to check out the website of York Hovest, a fine fashion and nude photographer who showed his expansive photo skills by bringing back exceptional images from 100 days in Tibet. This shows depth of sensitivity to what imaging can bring.

    And it was a Leica S2, not Sigma or Nikons that rendered these images. It's not the price of the tool (or the size for that matter) , but how one uses it.

    May you find a better way of spending your inexhaustible energy than offering condescending remarks on this site. I look forward to you reaching a greater degree of personal maturity and with it purely altruistic motivations.
  • vtc2002vtc2002 Posts: 364Member
    @Peachblack. I agree with you the more the MP the better. I do have a question for you though. According to DXO Mark there are only a few lens that can resolve more than 36 MP (not one of them Nikon). Is the lens the limiting factor? If it is according to DXO Mark the highest lens can resolve 45 MP. What would be the benefit of having more MP in camera than the lens can resolve? I know it not that straight forward but I would like to know your thoughts.
    I will rant a little and that is on "right out of the camera". The statement thrown around a lot and it can and depending on the person does have a different meaning. To the purist 'right out of the camera" would mean that they would not do any post processing. I know a purists and I hear this from him all the time. I have never taken a shot that I did not post process, granted some more than others but according to the purist I have never produced a "right out of the camera" shot and I honestly don't care. To me "right out of the camera" means that you have capture the image that you visualize when you took it. It also depends on your style if you like shooting tight and do not want to crop and you capture that image then you have been successful. If your style is to shoot with some extra space around the subject and you capture the image you visualized and you have the room you need to crop you were successful. Unfortunately, I have seen to many examples of the tight shots that get tossed because the photographer missed something when taking the shot and it is obvious in the image and cannot be fixed. I exclusively shoot with the extra space and crop as needed. I am not a big believer of the rules or maybe it is that I like breaking them but having the ability to crop or move you subject can have dramatic effects. Being able to move you subject to one of the rule of thirds points/planes can make the subject stand out more than the original image. If you do not have the space to make that change you never know what you could have created. I take losing a few MP to get a better image. Having more MP makes that possible.

    What does "right out of the camera" mean to you? Thoughts anyone?
  • vtc2002vtc2002 Posts: 364Member
    @flip You can not single out Mark when there are others on this site that may be a little more passive but do the same things that you have said about Mark.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    I do not find this thread to be an overbearing diatribe. Is the author dominating the thread? Sure, but it is his thread. Do I agree with everything he says? No, but his views force me to look carefully at my own and that is never a bad thing.
  • PB's illustrative output is mostly excellent, he uses equipment that I use, therefore deserves my attention and has garnered my interest. I am not here to monitor but to follow talent. Unfortunately, his capabilties do not extend to his rhetoric - too much verbal DOF, poor bokeh, and purple fringing which needs editing. Humility frequently exhibits with the finest of creative artists.

    I wish him continued success with his career and challenge him to raise his own creative bar.
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 537Member
    flip, actually I found your posts to be more overbearing. While you wrote a bunch in your postings, they had nothing to do with the topic of this thread, and did not contribute anything other than trying to force someone clearly better than you off the forum. You don't need to agree with PB, but at least debate on the technical side instead of on your "moral high horse". PB's tone may not be perfect, but your posts are clearly much worse.
  • You can check out my images on large format photo forum under various sharing threads if you need to make image "comparisons"'.
    PB knows what I am talking about. He's capable of responding. His images speak for themselves.

    This has nothing to do with morals but the audacity of overselling everything he does. In my book self promotion tis not.

    Enough said.
  • snakebunksnakebunk Posts: 993Member
    I like megapixels, but I think the general trend of slowly increasing the resolution is ok as it is. It is a balance between mp, price, fps, computer power and lens development (and things I don't know about), and I think Nikon is doing ok, at least for my purpose. I have a feeling that the D810 successor will have more pixels, so hopefully it will be nice for you PeachBlack.
  • paulrpaulr Posts: 1,176Member
    Sadly there are elements of red mist creeping into this discussion. If there was the perfect Camera/lens/format made, we would all buy it. Fortunately that product will never be made. Competition between manufactures is the basis of future development.and thankfully, photographers strive to be different. If you find the perfect tools to meet your particular criteria, then you have achieved your own utopia.
    I do find it disappointing that PeachBlack does seem to be sometimes negative about Nikon products, however, the same criticism is put on other manufactures forums by other people. So it evens out in the end.

    Is that not the object of the forums.
    Camera, Lens and Tripod and a few other Bits
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,545Moderator
    Keep discussions civil gents, name calling is the wrong side of the line. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, you don't have to agree or even respond to posts you don't like.
    Always learning.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,443Member
    I don't see any problems with this thread ( I also like the fat man) ..Give me more MP ....Large basic JPEG compression sorts that out but 48 will not be enough.. I want at least 54 so my DX lenses will give 24. 72 would be brilliant for the birds.
    Lenses are a problem my Samyang 14mm uses 27 of the 36 but the 28-300 only 11.
    Lenses are a bigger problem than sensors unless you like changing lenses.
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