Latest or all posts or last 15, 30, 90 or 180 days.
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Is 12 megapixels enough?

The new Nikon D700 offers “only” 12 megapixels, allegedly with the same image quality as the D3. Is that enough, or must we long for more (and more)? Get the Nikon D700 at B&H Photo.

The conventional game of more pixels is over (or should be). Only a tiny fraction of photographers actually need more than 12 megapixels, even for 24X16" prints, a size beyond which most users are unlikely to ever go. No coffee-table photography book is going to look better going beyond 12 top-quality megapixels. The “way more than good enough” resolution+pixel quality barrier has now been crossed at a reasonable price point.

Pixel quality has a huge bearing on perceived image quality. The D700 will offer the highest pixel quality on the market. A technically excellent Nikon D700 image made with top-quality optics just isn’t going to afford many limitations to the vast, vast majority of shooters out there—even professionals—when those 12 million pixels of very low noise with highly accurate color and smooth tonal gradations are viewed or printed. We humans perceive all of those things—not just “resolution”.

Many subjects can benefit from higher resolution (for really large prints), but most of what we respond to in a photograph is not about absolute detail; it’s about capturing the mood or moment, the realism of the original scene, accurate or pleasing color, etc. For example, my recent sunflower pictures would not benefit from more than 12 megapixels; they’re about motion, shape and form, and color.


Sunflower Dreams
Nikon D3 + Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar (composite image)

Setting the resolution issue aside, how do we actually make photographs successfully? The fact that I can shoot the Nikon D700 or D3 at ISO 1600 or ISO 3200 knowing that the results will not just be usable, but of excellent quality is a major advantage which encourages greater exploration. Future developments will eliminate other nagging issues: depth of field, bayer-pattern interpolation issues, dynamic range, lens aberrations, stitching, etc. All of these will become the camera’s job to fix. This is what I mean by “the conventional game is over”: the market needs to move to solving these issues which now limit image quality more than resolution. And we have yet to see a monochrome sensor DSLR (D3m?), which would offer sensational quality in a 12MP sensor.

Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to have a 24MP Nikon D3x or a 36MP Nikon D4 as a specialized tool, but exploiting such cameras to their limits will be very challenging, and of dubious value for a wide variety of subjects. Yes, if the same pixel quality could be achieved at 36MP we would all be delighted, but that’s unlikely to happen soon. For that matter, exploiting such cameras will demand lenses that are diffraction limited by f/2.8, also unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Wither Canon? The EOS 1Ds Mark III stakes out the high-resolution area, albeit at a very high price. My guess is that Canon will produce a 16-17MP EOS 5D Mark III. That would be a reasonable compromise, but most photographers would be better served by seeing pixel quality raised as high as possible at the same resolution as the existing 5D.


Buckeye and Crows at Sunset
Nikon D3 + Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar (composite image)

Our trusted photo rental store
B&H Deal ZoneDeals by Brand/Category/Savings
Deals expire in 16 hours unless noted. Certain deals may last longer.

diglloyd Inc. | FTC Disclosure | PRIVACY POLICY | Trademarks | Terms of Use
Contact | About Lloyd Chambers | Consulting | Photo Tours
RSS Feeds | Twitter
Copyright © 2019 diglloyd Inc, all rights reserved.