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Reader Comment on 16-Shot Sony Pixel Shift: “360 MP images looks terrific... but does this matter?”

re: Sony pixel shift

Regarding Sony A7R V Pixel Shift: 16-Shot vs 4-Shot vs Single-Shot: Dolls, reader Vincent L writes:

360 MP images looks terrific, thanks for highlightingSony’s multi-shot benefits.

But, in the end, does this matter : I mean, If you print this big, like at least 1 meter wide, how does it compare to the naked eye, seen at confortable distance, to the regular 61 MP shot ? Thank for investigating this.

DIGLLOYD: good question. It all comes down to purpose and context. And what of the subjective factors like the uglies of color aliasing, stepping/banding, chroma noise, etc? Most people won’t notice and don’t care. The only metric that matters to you is your own.

Just about anyone (including me) would agree that an HEIC or JPG from a current iPhone looks terrific (usually*)—on the iPhone or iPad. Probably 99.99% of images are viewed on a handheld device these days.

The opposite extreme: an 8K or future 16K television of wall size.... say 9 X 5 feet = 45 square feet. Versus the 0.09 square feet of an iPhone—500 times more area. Does it matter, to you? It will to me, and yet if it’s a family photo, not so much.

Do you perhaps enjoy savoring image details that your eye could not discern even while there? I sometimes enjoy like to explore places I’ve visited, such as the detail of our route up “The Notch” near the Mt Whitney summit, as seen from miles away. There may be other reasons for me and for you.

If it’s buy one get two more free, who refuses that offer? Who says it has to be rational?

Vincent L continues:

Are we sure a photographer like you, viewing the image at reasonable consuming distance, would really see the difference. And also, do we have good enough printer/print shop able you to make a difference with a 360 MP images vs 61 Mp at reasonable cost.

I was in the same boat, however it may come at one expense, time. Sometimes, and I’m sure guilty of that, we’re focussing too much on that great shot, while there’s a better one few yards away, so we may loose too those opportunities. I had several instance were a second though shot, turned out better than the "great shot » but will worse light due to too much time focusing on the first.

Sure 4/16 shots are not that much longer, but they’re longer, especially as while exposure you may want to redo due to wind, mouvement (yes sony compensate but not perfectly).

DIGLLOYD: if the image is compelling, all other aspects tend to fall away. That seems implicit in the comment, and I agree with it.

60MP is 9504 pixels across which is good for 40 inches wide = 102cm at 240 DPI—quite sharp. A more demanding standard is 300 DPI ~= 32 inches = 0.8 meters, perhaps too demanding and unnecessary/not really visible, as Vincent is pointing out.

If we restrict it to technical quality only, and discount the resolution to 2/3 of the 9504*2 of 16-shot (fair if f/8 is used), that gives 12672 very high quality pixels (few to no artifacts) across, which yields a 53 in = 135 cm print at 240 DPI.

On my wall is a 6 X 4 ft = 1.83 meters wide print from a Sigma DP Merrill with its low resolution 4800 X 3200 15.3MP true-color sensor. It looks great, and the impression of detail is strong. How much better would it have been had been shot in 16-shot pixel shift? I don’t know, but I can look at it and feel pleasure, even if the fine details are not really quite there. So I agree that the argument for “more is better” can have its weaknesses in real prints.

Is good good enough?

Many of us feel we need a full-frame mirrorless camera, that an iPhone is not good enough. Which is little different than saying sometimes we need a car, not a bicycle. And sometimes a moving van.

With pro-grade cameras, is there a “good enough” such that anything more is of no practical value?

Some of the elite master photographers go to great lengths for the very best image quality and sharpness, such as a PhaseOne IQ4 150 system costing $75K. And obviously the smallish medium format market (44 X 33mm) sensor has become quite popular, though a niche in the overall market. This is all about wanting more sharpness and better a/b/c/d. Albeit a tiny fraction of the market in terms of pictures taken.

For me, it comes down to realism: if the foliage looks smeared or the granite looks like plastic, degrades my sense of the place, my close direct observations—I do not like the conflict. Cameras like the Fujifilm GFX100S teeter on the edge with getting it right.

For those of use thinking that the $7K range is still an outrageous cost, or those of us who do not want to lug around a clunky PhaseOne system, an option that matches or beats those systems (at least under the right conditions) for $5K feels pretty damn good. We might not need it, but why not?

Value proposition

Some people spend considerable time and money to travel to photograph. I do it on the cheap, but I still spend considerable time and physical effort to photograph.

No matter what camera I make the image with, my expenditure of time and effort is a sunk cost. After all that effort, do I want to take the best possible image, or a pretty good one?

Why would I not use Sony A7R V to 16-shot mode (or at least 4-shot mode) and press one button for a particularly special image, perhaps one I’ve tried for, for a day or a week or longer?

For that stated situation ("special image"), the only reason I can think of is if/when motion correction for 16-shot works poorly in outdoor conditions and/or if variable lighting will make a mess of things. Also and well worth noting: 16-shot can alternately be processed to yield four 4-shot pixel shift frames. If one of those four minimizes subject movement more than others, you can pick the best of the four for your 4-shot frame. In other words, 16-shot never be worse than 4-shot mode, and might be better under iffy conditions.

Why would I press that same button and get an inferior result when I cannot lose—worst case I can use one of the single frames (possibly with Enhance Details), or any of the four 4-shot pixel shift frames, and best case I have a stunningly detailed 16-shot frame.

* Closer examination of all too many iPhone HEIC/JPGimages reveals impressive manipulation of human perception, with poor fine detail rendition (almost none), stepping/banding/smearing, etc. But this is hidden from us at even iPad size, due to the extremely high pixel density and a camera resolution just enough to fill it.

Below, this is an actual pixels crop from a 360-megapixel image made with 16-shot Sony pixel shift (240 megapixels upsampled to 360 megapixels).

Actual pixels crop from 360 megapixel image
f5.6 @ 1/4 sec pixel shift 16, ISO 50; 2023-01-29 15:30:42
Sony A7R V + Voigtlander FE Macro APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2 Aspherical @ 97mm equiv (65mm) RAW: SmartSharpen{45,1.4,20,0}

[low-res image for bot]

Dr S writes:

For the affordability of the A7R5 and for a tad more a 44x33 sensor cam, I would challenge your assertion, "is good good enough," and say, "Is Great, and even Fantastic, good enough?"

Even without Pixel Shift these cams yield superb results, especially in the right hands. We are in a great time for outstanding imagery. It can get better, but current tech is damn good!

DIGLLOYD: indeed, we are in the golden age of photography, so far as cameras go. Except for the garbage grade quality of iPhone images (unless one shoots RAW), but that is an intentionally destructive design choice.

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