So how many pixels are enough?

spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,349Moderator
There is a discussion which keeps popping up in other threads about how many pixels are enough?

I can see both sides of the argument having shot pin-sharp racing motorcycles with a manual focus lens on an Olympus OM1 film camera nearly 40 years ago and more recently exploited the 24mp of a D7100 using a 60mm D micro so that cell-level detail is clear in my close-ups of butterflies.

Is there a minimum amount of pixels which are essential, or are we just gear-heads,lusting after more and more capability?

Always learning.
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Comments

  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,276Member
    edited March 14
    Combination of gear heads, who long to have the best, and in some cases, it about presenting social/finical status. It's like buying a BMW or a Toyota. Cameras with 24MP or under are the Toyota, they get the job done and without a fuss, the 36+MP cameras are the fancy model. More expensive the camera, the more important the person must be right?

    I learned over the years that pouring more money into that latest camera, more pixels and fancy glass has a law of diminishing returns. I didn't find that unending cycle giving me more creative talent or ability. Some upgrades are worth it, others not so much. I find most of the cameras over 24MP just don't have the all around performance that the 24MP cameras have. Will it improve with time? Sure, but just as 12MP was before, 24MP cameras really are the sweet spot for a balance of image sharpness, noise at high ISO, and value for the money. Guess that's my perspective of more pixels. I do have a 36MP camera, but unless I'm shooting in controlled lighting, or for long exposures, I don't like using it. I'm not printing on billboards, and I stopped bothering taking shots I have to crop heavily enough for it to matter, just ended up wasting drive space. I don't earn a living as a photographer anymore, and enjoy what I do now far more.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,433Member
    I will take as many megapixels as the lens I am shooting will deliver. For a superzoom, I figure anything over about 16mp is waisted. For my AIS primes, with the possible exception of my 28mm 2.8, I would say that is 24. For my 85 1.4G, 135 DC2.0 or 200 4.0D, I would say that is 36. For my 58 1.4G, I would say that is 46. For my 28 1.4E or 105 1.4E, I would say that is 60.

    I suspect that for the Z-mount 1.8s, it is 100.
  • snakebunksnakebunk Posts: 936Member
    Even if the lens is responsible for most of the image degradation, the pixel resolution always contribute. So there is theoretically no uppger limit, but I would think that something like 500 mp would be considered more than enough for full frame sensors and maximum resolution by most people even with the best lenses. Given most practical uses a lot less is needed of course.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,433Member
    I think you are correct Snakebunk. Pardon my over simplification in the name of brevity.

    But I think that only goes so far. I cannot tell any difference on my AIS lenses between my D800 and D860. I could detect some difference, though minimal, on my 85. The difference on the 105 was significant. But even that was not huge. The difference between 46 and 36mp is only a linear resolution increase of 12-15%. While I will take the improvement and even pay extra for it, I will not compromise on a lot of other benefits to get it.
  • snakebunksnakebunk Posts: 936Member
    edited March 15
    I think there are different ways to interpret the question. I tried to answer the question "how many pixels are more than enough for any possible use?".

    If I should answer the question "how many pixels are enough for me?", the answer would be that I am almost always happy with the pixel count of the D810, but for some cases of heavy cropping more pixels could be of some use.

    In other words, I would like more pixels but it is far from the top of the what-I-want-list. I rarely think about it.

    Here is an example of a heavily croped image that would have benefited from more pixels (an arctic fox in Svalbard): http://www.snakebunk.com/animalia/mammalia/carnivora/vulpes_lagopus_3823.jpg
    Post edited by snakebunk on
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,189Member
    edited March 15
    Enough for what? It a bit like an undefined post on Ugly Hedgehog. Its horses for courses. 5MP is enough for my granddaughter to take on her school trip. For weddings, I like the D810 best ,enough MP and its quiet but rubbish for wildlife ,the D7200 is so much better. The D850 is better again.
    As for lenses I had a Tamron 150-600 and it was rubbish, Almost never gave a sharp picture so sold for a Nikon 200-500 which was fantastic but heavy. Sold that for a pair of Tamron 100-400 and the quality on the D850 is as good and its light and cheap.
    (You need the tap in console. You would not believe the fine focus variations and the two lenses are totally different.)
    The camera internal processing needs to be accounted for . The D7200 has a higher pixel density than the D850 but with the same lens the D850 gives better IQ.
    Does it have a low pass filter ? Without add 20% to the IQ.
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    For internet posting you don't need more than about 2 megapixels as that is all your monitor will likely be able to display. Thus, a digital camera with 12 megapixels is more than enough for that use. Same for cell phone photo sharing. For printing it all depends upon how large you print. Most people only want a print no larger than 8x10 inches (or typing paper size) to set or hang around. Once again 12 mp is enough. BUT most of us (rightly or wrongly) think our work is ART not snapshots and we desire to see our photos printed poster size and larger on display in an art gallery. We fear that we will take that outstanding shot on too few megapixels for best blowing up when our our work is displayed in an art gallery. Such wishful thinking drives a lot of high megapixel new camera sales! In that case it is best to have as many megapixels as your lens can use. Typically that seems to be around 50 megapixels currently. Soon it will be around 100 megapixels. Perhaps the most accurate "sweet spot" for all around use is the wedding photographer who is doing some cropping, doing albums, doing smaller prints and doing a few large framed poster size prints. They seem to find 24 to 36 megapixels adequate for their work. We are extremely fortunate these days to have full frame cameras readily available from 12 mp to 36 mp for under about $1,000.00. It wasn't too long ago that people said no full frame camera could be marketed under $2,000. On e-bay a 12 mp D700 can be purchased for about $300 (10% of its original price), a 24 mp D610 can be purchased for about $550 (one forth its original price) and a 36 mp D800 can be purchased for about $700 (one fourth its original price). These are for "still" photography. If one wants to do fast action sports and wildlife a 16 mp D4 can be found on e-bay for about $1,000 (one fifth its original price). Of course, these bodies lack some of the features on current bodies but those features often don't make much difference in noticeable image quality. They are often better seen as desirable "features" rather than needed improvement in image quality. Today we have affordable access to whatever level of megapixel we need or want for the purpose at hand. I enjoy using my old D700 when I know that is all the megapixels I will need and if I used my modern D850 for that task I know most of its 45 megapixels would just be thrown away in downsizing the image for its final use. Sometimes we should follow the concept of using "the right size" camera for the job rather than the "best" camera available which may be way overkill for the job at hand. I know that is not popular to say because people like to make us think we need "the latest and greatest" every time we pick up a camera. I don't always need "the latest and greatest" and I admit it.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,349Moderator
    Personally I agree with @PB_PM on most of the points he made, and @donaldejose because his points about final image use and size are highly relevant.

    Considering everything, my ideal camera is 24mp - DX and FX. It would be a D850 body with D750/760 sensor and ideally too, a 3/4 size DX version. As that will not happen, I'll have to stick with my D850 and its massive files.

    I just did a pano which was 7 frames wide each being a 5 frame HDR - it stopped my PC dead!
    Always learning.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,433Member

    Personally I agree with @PB_PM on most of the points he made, and @donaldejose because his points about final image use and size are highly relevant.

    Considering everything, my ideal camera is 24mp - DX and FX. It would be a D850 body with D750/760 sensor and ideally too, a 3/4 size DX version. As that will not happen, I'll have to stick with my D850 and its massive files.

    I just did a pano which was 7 frames wide each being a 5 frame HDR - it stopped my PC dead!

    You need a new computer Spraynpray.

    One thing that drives me to have as many pixels as possible and as sharp a lens as possible is future proofing my work. As far as I am concerned, the work that I am shooting today is art and I want it to be appreciated 20 years from now when anything below 500 mp might be considered a joke and 16k monitors will be everyday. It will still be art in 20 plus years, even if it is bad art.

    Consider 35mm film back in the 90s. You don't see much of that on the internet today because the IQ is poor. Even famous photos often have poor IQ. Some of the film based famous photos were taken on medium format, which is that day's equivalent to the 60mp plus sensor. If I was shooting film in the 90s, I would probably be shooting my Mamiya RZ67 almost exclusively.
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 537Member
    PB_PM said:

    Hate to break it to you, but a 16k monitor is still less than 24MP. ;) For 16k, a D4 would do the trick just fine.

    Is that true? :smile: 2k is 2MP. So 16k will be 2 x 8 x 8 = 128MP.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,276Member
    edited March 16
    Correct, bit of a brain freeze on my part. It's actually 132MP.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 2,189Member
    Stopped my computer

    Ever used Large Basic JPEG ?
  • Ton14Ton14 Posts: 582Member
    edited March 16

    Stopped my computer

    Ever used Large Basic JPEG ?

    Yes, but I don't use .JPG settings in the camera for a long time. I have a very fast computer, for photo- and even video editing, it could easy edit the 36mp from the D810, but the 24mp from the Z6 are more then enough for me.

    Just RAW and after post I output my selections only, with one click to .JPG for prints or web.

    My basic .JPG resolution is 1680 x 1020px automatic via Snapbridge to my phone or tablet, more then enough, but I could not use these and the basic 8-bit .JPG from camera for large prints (120cm x 90cm and bigger).
    Post edited by Ton14 on
    User Ton changed to Ton14, Google sign in did not work anymore
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,349Moderator

    Stopped my computer

    Ever used Large Basic JPEG ?

    Not using RAW is just not something I would do as my options are too limited if I did.

    As far as I am concerned, the work that I am shooting today is art and I want it to be appreciated 20 years from now when anything below 500 mp might be considered a joke and 16k monitors will be everyday. It will still be art in 20 plus years, even if it is bad art.

    Consider 35mm film back in the 90s. You don't see much of that on the internet today because the IQ is poor. Even famous photos often have poor IQ. Some of the film based famous photos were taken on medium format, which is that day's equivalent to the 60mp plus sensor. If I was shooting film in the 90s, I would probably be shooting my Mamiya RZ67 almost exclusively.

    Please don't take offense WEF, but it isn't your place to call your work art, that is for others to say. With reference to the IQ of the 90's, great photo's are still great photo's. Good art is still good art and that has little to do with technical excellence IMHO.
    Always learning.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,433Member
    I think a lot of artists, including My Photographic Fine Art instructor, would be offended by and disagree with your comments Spraynpray, and I would agree with them.

    Not saying that there were not great photos taken in the 90s. I am also not saying that IQ is a pre-requisite for great photos. But I would say that most photons taken with 35mm film cameras in the 90’s have mediocre IQ at best. Medium format, even from the 30s, is better.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    "it isn't your place to call your work art, that is for others to say" Question: What is photographic fine art and how many pixels do you need to produce a piece of photographic fine art?
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    Since we are all home for weeks now and probably will soon be getting bored I will post some examples to discuss for those who are interested. Is this fine art or just an ordinary portrait? Z50_0826_RembrandtStyle
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    edited March 16
    How about this one, it is fine art or an ordinary portrait? 850_3732_43901092850_o
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    edited March 16
    Does it make it more fine art if the above photo is in black and white? kitchenhelper_39642505073_o
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    How about something like this attempt to be more artistic with the budding trees in spring? Fine art or not? DSC_1047a
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    How about this addition of a painterly effect to a photo? Is it fine art or not? I should tell you my oil painter friends po-po this technique and call it just a computer altered photo. FrenchCountrySunroom1
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    How about something like this? Art or not? DON_9095
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    edited March 16
    How about this one? Fine Art or just a picture of a dog? This was taken with a 14 mp 1 inch sensor Nikon 1 V2 and kit lens. It was then run through Topaz Impression. HeidiOilPainting1
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    Just some things to talk about for those who are getting bored staying home during the coronavirus pandemic. Feel free to criticize, you won't hut my feelings. You can click through to flicker and see how many megapixels were used in each photo.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,368Member
    Art or just something strange shot with a 16 mp D5100 and kit lens. DSC_0652
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