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Good Pixels Go Big—Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Genuine Fractals

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III (“1DsM3”) delivers 21 megapixel image files, but to actually exploit that resolution requires using a world-class lens like the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R. How good are the images produced by such a combination? For a blog example see Leica 90/2 APO ASPH on Canon 1DsM3.

Print size

The question on the mind of many photographers will be print size—can technically well-executed images on the EOS 1Ds Mark III scale to really large print sizes?

Let’s assume we want to make a large print, perhaps 36 X 24", a very pleasing “wall size” by my standards. There are many techniques for “uprezzing” an image; this article explores using Genuine Fractals 5.0.4 to perform the scaling operation.

The sample image

The sample image was chosen as an ideal image for fractal up-sizing: a vast amount of detail with well-defined edges. The image was shot at f/5.6 with the focus above the center; depth of field was adequate to render exquisitely crisp detail throughout the frame. The image was shot with mirror lockup of course, but also at ISO 50 to preserve every nuance of detail possible (no digital noise to obscure fine detail). The 1Ds Mark III is subject to fairly strong noise even at ISO 200; ISO 50 is an excellent choice at the cost of some dynamic range.

Whole Frame
(Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III + Leica 90/2 APO ASPH)

Procedure

For this experiment, I used Genuine Fractals (“GF”) 5.0.4 from OnOne Software. The huge amount of edge detail in the test image cried out for quality up-sampling. There might be other equally valid approaches, but GF did a very nice job.

The procedure is as follows*:

  1. Convert the RAW file (Canon’s Digital Photo Professional was used) to a 16-bit TIF.
  2. Scale the image to 400% (linearly) of its original size
  3. Apply Unsharp Mask of {20%, 50, 0} to the scaled image;
  4. Down-sample the image to 200% of its original size. For the sample image, I used “bicubic sharper”.
  5. Apply sharpening to taste.
  6. Apply sharpening for the print.

* Thanks to fine-art photographer Pete Myers for providing this workflow suggestion. Pete regularly processes his images in a similar fashion.

Examples

These crops are 200% of actual pixels of the original image. In other words, they represent actual pixels in the 84 megapixel “uprezzed” image having dimensions 11232 X 7488, sufficient for 300dpi at 36" wide.

The crops of course look a bit soft, but it seems plausible that they could pass as being actual pixels of the original, especially if additional sharpening were applied.

Mouse over and out of the image below to see a further-sharpened variant—the visual impression is of very good sharpness.

Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image

Edge contrast is really very nice. The crops here have intentionally not been sharpened fully; the available edge contrast takes sharpening extremely well.

Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image
Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image
Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image
Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image

The edge rendition is very attractive (see below in particular). Genuine Fractals has done a very nice job here. The “look” is not the same as a bicubic upsampling in Photoshop, offering more character to the way shapes are formed in the enlarged version. The rendition here is amenable to a very pleasing print. Mouse over to see how crisp looking the image becomes with sharpening, and remember that this crop represents actual pixels at 300dpi in a 36" wide print!

Actual pixels of 84 megapixels image

Conclusions

Coupling the world-class Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH to the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III offers image quality that scales beautifully to 84 megapixels. The results speak for themselves. Very large print sizes seem quite feasible with proper processing.

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The future of DSLR resolution

It seems plausible that the resolution of digital SLRs could be advanced to the 40 megapixel range, yielding worthwhile results with stellar optics, though the working aperture range might be limited to f/2.8 - f/4 due to diffraction. To prove this theory in practice, we’ll have to wait a few years for sensor technology to evolve.

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