So how many pixels are enough?



  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    Shouldn't we have a separate thread for the discussion of what fine art is, rather than having it here?
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    Doesn't matter to me. Can be changed if moderator so desires. I put it here because each of the possible examples I posted, and other can post their own additional examples, can be clicked through to flickr and the number of megapixels in the image can be found. Thus, if anyone thinks an image qualifies as "fine art" they can discovery "how many pixels are enough" for that purpose in that image, what camera body was used (one image I think it "art" is from the Nikon 1 "baby camera," and what lens was used. I used examples relative to pixel count and didn't start a discussion of generic text on that issue. Thus, I see a linkage between "enough pixels" and WEF's position that "fine art" needs as many pixels as possible and as sharp lenses as possible. My position, for the sake of counter argument, would be that number of pixels doesn't determine the "artness" of the image, only the size that image can be printed.
  • snakebunksnakebunk Posts: 971Member
    edited March 2020
    As far as I know there is no direct relation between the artistic quality and the number of pixels. If you have the talent I think that art can be created with one pixel only, and there is definitely no upper limit.

    I usually try to stay away from adding artistic expressions to my images, and rather let the beauty of nature speek for itself. But as an artistic experiment it would (maybe) be fun to photograph with super low resolution, like 1 mp or lower.
    Post edited by snakebunk on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    edited March 2020
    @donaldejose , I think PB_PM has a point about discussing your images on this thread, but for sure they are relevant in so far as the number of pixels and size of sensor are largely irrelevant to whether you have achieved what you set out to acheive. Clearly you have. My friend took a shot of a proession of three swans walking towards the camera at large aperture so the two trailing swans were very blurred. She found it humourous but most importantly spotted the colours were what she wanted to go in a guest bedroom. That degree of thought process probably drives the purchase of more photos than them being 'fine art'!

    FWIW I liked all of your shots.

    How many pixels does it take to do fine art? Good question. I think it depends on what the subject is and the effect you are trying for but I would suggest it isn't necessary to have max pixels for every shot.
    Post edited by spraynpray on
    Always learning.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    edited March 2020
    A humorous and painful example of how many pixels are enough. My wife's yoga group class and studio is closed for the duration of the coronavirus problem. So she wanted a picture of her doing yoga at home to post on facebook for her yoga class friends. The problem is she is 63 now and always complains about my photos being to sharp. She wants blurry photos to hide the signs of aging. To me that's funny. So I had to put a diffusion filter over my Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 lens and shoot at f1.4 to satisfy her. To me it is very painful to put a diffusion filter over a sharp lens, but I try to produce the effect the "client" wants. I used my 24 mp Z6 body and ftn adapter. I set picture controls to portrait because that has little sharpening. I set image size to medium and image quality to jpeg basic. All camera and lens setting are contrary to achieving best image quality with that camera/lens combination. That is both funny and painful at the same time. The first picture is of her yoga position.


    The second picture is me trying to add some artistic elements into the photo of her position by adding out of focus foreground and background elements.


    I think the second photo is much better than the first photo. The pictures come out to about 3 megabytes, far too low but enough for the "clients" desires, and could have been taken with a 12 mp sensor and a cheap lens. She posted them on her facebook page 5 hours ago and has 85 likes at this time. High megapixels and sharp lenses? No, both deliberately degraded to satisfy the client. Fine Art? No. But perhaps the second photo is more "artistic" than the first while also showing the yoga position.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,530Member
    I think that it would be rare that pixels are correlated with artistic expression, success or whatever. However, art is timeless. And it doesn't hurt to have enough pixels to ensure that the art is not unfavorably judged in the future, and could be beneficial.

    How would many of Ansel Adams photos be judged if they were shot with the 35mm equivalent camera of its day. Ansel's pictures were often shot with a 4 by 5 view camera and even though almost 100 years old, are sharp by even today's standards. The sharpness of Ansel's work, in my view, has certainly allowed the art to continue to be popular today.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    edited March 2020
    Good point WEF.

    Just some data below for those here too young to know much about Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell who worked before digital bodies.

    Ansel "future proofed" at the cost of hauling a large and heavy view camera up mountains when a Leica would have been so much less effort. Apparently, while he did use 35mm film, which he called small format, he used it only for portraits. I understand some of his 8x10 images were actually contact prints! Also, he liked to use f stops beyond f22 to obtain ultimate sharpness from foreground to background contrary to the f1.4 bokeh craze of today.

    In contrast, Galen Rowell chose to go light and often ran up and down mountain trails with a Nikon N80 and 20mm f4 AI lens in a belt pouch. His film of choice was Kodachrome 25 or Velvia 50. Imagine working with an ISO range from 25 to 50. Galen has many coffee table books and I suppose a 12 mp digital sensor is good enough for prints that size.

    Galen's fine art prints made from 35mm film can be purchased here in sizes up to 32 by 48 inches. They were produced on film and with lenses that would resolve less detail than we commonly have available today in our 36 and 45 megapixel bodies with sharp lenses.

    Ansel and Galen represent two extremes in the pre-digital world of nature photoghraphy for any readers here too young to know much about their work and photographic techniques.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,274Member
    63 ..looks 23 to me
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    By the end of the year the Z8 with about 60 mp may well be out, along with a few more very sharp Z lenses. We are soon moving to the 50 to 100 mp full frame sensor as the "high megapixel" sensor in Nikon, Canon and Sony bodies. I suppose every few years "how many megapixels are enough" moves higher and higher.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,363Member
    In reality there is no future proofing. Hard copies get destroyed by fire and flood, digital copies degrade from data rot, that without expensive software is undetectable. So good luck with that. Unless your shots somehow become famous, nobody is going to preserve them beyond your life time, if they even last that long.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    "Unless your shots somehow become famous, nobody is going to preserve them beyond your life time, if they even last that long." A sad, sad reality for those of us who put a lot of effort into our photography. Perhaps professionals have a better perspective on the transitory nature of their work product.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    I am under no illusions that the only images of mine which stand any chance of surviving me are those with family members in which may be useful in our family tree.

    Always learning.
  • ggbutcherggbutcher Posts: 322Member
    There are more prosaic considerations. I'd use my Z6 for most subjects, but I'd rent a Z7 if I had to shoot a large group portrait...
  • Just retired, took care of my mother until her recent passing (pre Covid 19), now managing estate matters which finally are under control. I can now breath and talk shop.

    Two things:

    1. I have been rather frustrated since 2008 when I began using digital output with the fact that MPs have never been sufficient to give me the detail and quality I was obtaining with 4x5 Velvia with Nikkor and Schneider lenses. Even when using PC lenses. 60MP DLSR or even 100 MP Medium Format are not close when making prints, at least from my recent experience in using a top rated print lab in NJ. This is corroborated by tests done by the owner of On Landscape UK website (check it out). The other notable, is that film has a bit more punch and color differentiation than digital, and frankly, the luminosity and detail I see on my computer screen from my D810 is not being replicated by current state of the art digital pigment printers. I was extremely disappointed, not that the prints were poor, in fact quite the contrary, but they did not match what I was seeing on the screen (HP 23" screen) as a final product. Some have suggested AI software to enhance enlargements beyond their natural print output assuming 300 dpi. I am not convinced this is a viable option. Others who I trust have stated to realize proper detail from digital 36MP camera, dpi output should be 720 so that maximum print should be10x15. I have not tested this theory, but I prefer at least 18x24 size and larger.

    Curiously, I have some old digital prints from my D300 of closeups of Bluebirds which were quite oversharpened on output while producing incredibly detailed 11x14 prints, this was using a manual focus AIS 400mm 5.6 Nikkor at F8. But you can see the artifacts in the image. Does that matter? To me yes.

    Many have stated just the opposite, that even a 36MP camera with top lenses at say F 5.6-f8 should compare nicely with drum scanned 4x5 film to a print size of 24x30 (24x36). My Durst Lambda and Chromira prints from drum scans are truly incredible, and to address this forum, I am saying that probably 150 MP will not match 4x5. Others who have shot 4x5 say they "are close". That's not to say that print outputs from a 150MP Phase One are not detailed enough, but others are saying that output from these digital cameras does not yet approach 4x5 drum scanned prints.

    Long story, I am looking for the ability to produce as detailed prints from digital in the aforementioned sizes as I was able to with film. From my vantage point, I don't think we will get there without computational imagery. At my age, I do not want to carry 20-25 lbs of 4x5 equipment with severely arthritic shoulders from years of abuse from the same, nor do I want to pay upwards of $10 per image including processing (not many labs left who will process e6).

    Since I frequently shoot between F11 and F18 for most of my images (landscape and closeups) I can see that perhaps diffraction is partly to blame.

    2. As to whether images are fine art, I would say that it depends on what price you can get for large prints (think Black and White only) and how meticulous those prints are to the trained eye. Eliot Porter may be one of the few whose color work fell into that category, but his prints were dye transfer which chemicals are no longer available.To me that term is purely market driven, not what romantic notion we wish to assign to an image because we like it. Since demand for fine prints has really cratered over the years, I am not sure who there is out there whose images fall squarely into that category. I am sure there are few left. Hans Strand, a friend, has noted that print sales have fallen precipitously with the advent of digital cameras for everyone, as most want to take their own images and view them on the screen now. I guess they get bored with seeing the same print every day on the wall.

    It's good to be back in the saddle again.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,274Member
    edited March 2020
    GG butcher Quote

    I'd use my Z6 for most subjects, but I'd rent a Z7 if I had to shoot a large group portrait...

    So there we have it from the horse's mouth that 24 MP is not enough.
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    flip: Great contribution to the topic, thanks! Question: Do you think FF sensors will ever be able to equal 4x5 film quality or do you think digital medium format is the only format which has a chance of doing so? I have often heard that about 100 mp is the limit for FF sensors and lenses. Phase One cost is beyond the reach of most of us here. FF isn't and it seems Nikon is not going to go the way of Fujifilm GFX medium format so it seems we will be stuck with the FF format unless we switch from Nikon to Fuji.
  • snakebunksnakebunk Posts: 971Member
    My third attempt to answer the question: For me the number of pixels is enough when a teleconverter never adds any resolution to the image and I always achieve the same or a higher resolution by cropping.
  • mhedgesmhedges Posts: 2,031Member
    edited March 2020
    I think expecting FF digital to ever equal 4x5 film is probably not realistic. 4x5 has over 14 times the imaging area available. Digital can make more efficient use of image area, sure, but it's not 14 times better. More like 3-4 times better, maybe. Even DMF like phase one is still only 1/6th the image size - closer, sure, but I still think 4x5 has the edge.

    I will say I am a bit surprised you can see much difference on a 20x30 print. And I don't know about the recommendation to print at 720 DPI - that seems like way overkill. Can printers even support that? @flip where do you see the most difference in the prints? Detail? Color? Dynamic range?
    Post edited by mhedges on
  • Donaldjose.

    If you look at the M10 Monochrome, it def appears to approach medium format IMO, and 42MP without bayer or color filters allows quality print sizes larger than what can be achieved normally. So filters are partly to blame for not achieving higher quality prints. Some have experimented with using filters post facto on a modified monochrome D850 (Diggloyd) and the results appear more natural in tone with improved acuity.

    So if Fuji, Leica or Phase were to produce a monochrome 100-150 megapixel camera (very unlikely) without bayer or color filters, we are closer to the goal from a print acuity standpoint.

    But most of us want color not B&W. I know of no new technology which would allow color images without the existing filters, which again reduces potential output.

    Additionally, the more resolution you try to obtain within the same pixel size, the more noise is generated. So resolution increases and image quality may not.

    I read that Leica has either purchased or started a joint venture with a company in the US which is invested in computational imaging. I think they realize that there is a real limit to image quality in FF and even Medium Format given the best lenses they can produce (and at their own admission, they are at the upper limit of superior resolving lenses with their SL and recent M APO series, albeit at superior prices). Yes someone can increase the size of the sensor beyond Phase One/Hasselblad's and pack more resolution in larger pixels, but if this was market feasible, it would already have occurred it seems to me.

    If Sony and others could have produced sensors for FF that approached 4x5 quality, they would have done it. The Fuji GFX-100 may be closer to what I want, reasonable pricing and higher res, but having used Fuji cameras extensively, their color is distinctive but rather unnatural and raw files are difficult to work with. Fuji does not offer tilt/shift lenses so you are stuck with using stacking etc, just as you would with a D850. And their lenses from some of the comments I have read are IQ inconsistent with AF problems from time to time. I have had to return one Fuji camera for serious defects.

    There is no magic bullet other than taking the upper limit of quality that can be produced and enhancing with software for larger detailed prints it seems to me. Apple and Leica(Huahwei) are incorporating software manipulation in their phone cameras. So we are moving away from digital analogue to a representation of what manufacturers think we want. So they are increasingly providing their sense of reality. For 99.9% of the world population, noone will care or know the difference).

    As a general proposition I would say 24MP for prints up to 13x19 are sufficient if you can be satisfied with the output, and the recent Ephotozine evaluation of the D780 finds that this is the best FF sensor presently on the market. Images look great on screen.

    As to photography as art, I am a firm believer that it is illustration not art, with creative possibilities. For me personally, the closest photography comes to art is some of the images by Jacob Aue Sobol for his keen vision, unique approach to image making and his intuitive senses. His images are generally of people. One of his images from Mongolia of boys on a basketball court looks to me so much like a Breugal (art history degree along with others).

    Think about what it takes to create a painting, watercolor, oil, etc, and tell me whether we have the same control of the output in photography. I think the answer is obvious.

    I am now exhausted and going to take a morning nap :).

  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,530Member
    If you want to match the resolution of 4 by 5 film, don’t even bother trying unless you have access Phase One.
  • photobunnyphotobunny Posts: 375Member
    I never once felt like I was limited by 18MP and have done exceptionally well with 22MP for about a decade. Never did I feel the print was missing something, nor did I ever feel like I wanted more to work with or crop. It is also telling that both top end cameras from Nikon and Canon have stuck around 20MP in their latest versions, it creates files that are really easy to edit on todays computers(even on my iPad).
  • Sorry, that was a long nap (not).

    MHedges, I am no expert on Chromira prints, but it is Ming Thein who suggested the higher ppi output on prints with his ultraprint - check out his website. As to how the printers manage that is not clear to me other than through downsampling.

    If you look up 2 separate articles @ On Landscape UK on the subject (comparing various film outputs to digital - same scene) and also the website of LF photographer Charles Cramer, where the latter compares 4x5 drum scanned prints to I believe an Aptus 45mp back, the fine details are very clear, i.e. the 4x5 scans have more color differentiation (higher bit depth in effect), better sense of depth in the image, and the actual details are a bit clearer. The color palette is quite a bit different as well. At this pixel level your impression might be that they are close, but in reality when applied on all pixels, the final side by side is that 4x5 has more color punch, greater sense of depth, and better overall detail. My own results suggest that the difference is much greater than what you might see in the on-line comparisons.

    Regarding DR, I can only say that film is known to be limited to 6-8 stops (chrome, more for negative film like Portia) vs what you can obtain with digital in reality. This is why film is better generally in lower light in capturing details (less loss of details in highlights and shadows due to limited DR), while digital has the DR advantage with greater range of light in a scene.

    Thank you.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,274Member
    When we printed for weddings usually not over 9x6 I was always surprised how soft the prints were compared to the screen images. It was so poor that I always thought the prints would come back and put it down to the printers using the old film days technology for the photo printing. Was I right?
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,427Moderator
    Do you mean 24Mp files? I printed 16mp DX shots 16" square and found them to be very sharp indeed.
    Always learning.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,274Member
    24,36, always in my opinion Rubbish. Friend doing wedding photography bought two DFs against my advice . Used them for a month, Sold not enough MP. Looked like D7000 quality to me .
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