Round Up: Who's driving this bus?

Discussion in 'Digital Camera News' started by David Rasnake, Jul 19, 2008.

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  1. David Rasnake

    David Rasnake News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    In my editorial last Saturday, I suggested that no one would be too surprised if we see a 15-megapixel compact camera in at least one manufacturer's second-term offerings. Like clockwork, Samsung delivered the latest high-resolution leader, the TL34HD, on Tuesday morning, more or less confirming the direction we're heading this fall.

    [​IMG]

    In fairness, no, the TL34HD is not quite 15 megapixels (a mere 14.7, in fact), but it's definitely treading heavily in the direction I had in mind – making a pretty sizable jump from the highest-res models currently available.

    Before you put two and two together and report me to Samsung for implicitly violating some non-disclosure agreement, let me say for the record that I had no insider knowledge of what our Korean friends were planning. Nor do I yet have any information on any other 15-megapixel compact. What I know even less about, however, is exactly who thinks more resolution in small cameras is necessary, beneficial, or a good idea.

    In the not so distant past, megapixel wars were the natural course: the talk back then was about bringing digicams to the level of detail capture offered by 35mm film. Though the best way of measuring such things continues to be debated, I think most of us would agree that we got there – about ten megapixels ago.

    By late last year, it seemed like things were cooling off somewhat. Many felt that small sensors had hit a "sweet spot" around eight megapixels, nicely balancing resolution, dynamic range, and high-sensitivity performance. Ten to twelve megapixel offerings tended to fall victim to the law of diminishing returns – providing a little more resolution that, in truth, few users needed anyway in exchange for less low-light flexibility and messier shots.

    So who's driving the megapixel bus forward? Manufacturers, obviously, who feel undeniable pressure to stay competitive in a “herd mentality” market. The fading but resilient idea that more megapixels equals more image quality plays a role as well. And unquestionably a few consumers – including a handful of our forum members – like the idea of being able to shoot first, crop for composition later, and still have plenty of resolution for large prints. Given how much we've traditionally had to give up in terms of image quality to get to the outrageously high resolution numbers currently enjoyed by the top-tier compacts, however, I find this justification uncompelling: having tried both approaches, I'd argue that clean ISO 400 shots that have to be “up-resed” to get to print size after cropping usually look better, if upscaled carefully, than messy ones with enough image data intact to print straight from the crop.

    I'm eager to get my hands on a TL34HD, and I'm honestly hopeful that Samsung can change my mind on the benefits of serious resolution in a casual camera. Better processing and new sensor technologies give clean images a fighting chance at least, but just the same I for one won't be surprised if image quality all around takes another step backwards in the name of more resolution.

    Although it seems to be hard to find consumers itching for more megapixels from small cameras, it looks like we're again headed full-steam in that direction. With little hope of changing the course of things to come, the best I can come up with is a tongue-in-cheek response to the latest manuevering on the resolution front:

    "As compact camera consumers, we've been the real victims of the megapixel war for too long, but perhaps there's still hope that we can again take charge in a market poised to spiral out of control. With the specter of 15 megpixels crammed onto too-tiny sensors looming larger than ever after this week, however, the time for action is now. To this end, I'm accepting new members for my recently formed activist organization: 'Save the Megapixels (for Someone Else!)'."

    So who's with me?


    Round Up is a regular editorial column published weekly on DigitalCameraReview.com.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2015
  2. Preknur

    Preknur New Member

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    Who is with you? I regret that I must answer, "Not I."

    Pixel wars are good for us. Witness the G9 in my pocket. Excepting the "glass," this advanced "pocket camera" does a better job than many of the SLRs of a few years past. Pixel wars accelerated the advance from 3MP to 12MP and beyond. The market place will determine when the pixel wars come to an end. Product development and marketing decisions are made on sales projections not image quality alone.

    Restructure your analysis and tell us what is wrong with the advances caused by pixel wars.
     
  3. bTaryag

    bTaryag Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry to say but it seems that you did not read the article. You basically read the headlines and proceeded to argue.

    As far as what I feel, I think DR already knows ;) , but I do agree that IQ is more important. I just think that if they can keep IQ the same they should make cameras with more MP.
     
  4. Arlene

    Arlene New Member

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    I'll take a solid six over a messy 15 any day of the week.

    Count me in.
     
  5. David Rasnake

    David Rasnake News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    The G9's a fine camera, but I'd love to know which recent SLRs you believe it does a better job than, especially as regards low-light/high-ISO performance. I tend to agree with the consensus view on this one: the G9 could have been a superior camera with an 8 megapixel sensor. Instead, Canon opted for a higher-density 12 megapixel sensor, making the noise at ISO 400 and above simply too much for many particular shooters. The fact that we have too much of a hang-up about noise aside for the moment, the G9 is still not as good as it could have been.

    At 300 dpi print, a 12 megapixel image is roughly 13.3 by 10 inches. When was the last time you printed something that large? More importantly, when was the last time your average compact camera user printed something that large? All the stats I've seen on printing trends suggest that we're talking about a tiny percentage of compact camera users who look to print larger than 8x10. So why not focus on building a compact with an excellent 6 or 8 megapixel sensor capable of taking superior 4x6 shots, instead of spending so much effort designing sensors capable of messy 11x14s?

    dr
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  6. David Rasnake

    David Rasnake News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    Yeah, I've got a sense of where you're standing on this one, bTaryag. ;)

    dr
     
  7. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator News/Review Writer

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    Megapixels are such a minor portion of what equates to "image quality" nowadays. The lens, in-camera image processing, and post processing have SO MUCH MORE impact than megapixels. Sure, back before the first 4 megapixel DSLRs megapixels mattered more because the resolving capabilities of older sensors were horrible.

    I have two 16" x 20" prints in my office at home that I keep on display for the occasional wedding client that I still shoot from time to time. Those two 16" x 20" prints came from an image file generated by a 4-megapixel DSLR.

    More importantly, those images are CROPS of a 4-megapixel image file.

    Even more importantly, none of my clients can identify that the prints came from a digital camera until I tell them ... and most don't believe me when I tell them that those giant prints came from a 4-megapixel camera.

    The lenses and post processing I used to create those images had far more impact than the number of pixels in the camera.

    I'm not going to tell camera companies to stop developing new image sensors, but it's time to put more work into the lenses (particularly those on fixed-lens compacts) and spend less time counting megapixels.
     
  8. usapatriot

    usapatriot Well-Known Member

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    I'm definitely in agreement here with David and Jerry. I don't have much to say because they've pretty much summed up my sentiments about the megapixel race.
     
  9. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    I'm guessing the new 14.7 megapixel Samsung will not have a sensor that's 2/3 inch or larger. If that's the case, it's hard for me to believe that it will have decent low light ability. If I want a point and shoot camera with fair to poor low light ability there are plenty available - I don't need the new Samsung if that's all it's going to bring to the table.
     
  10. leaftye

    leaftye Well-Known Member

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    David, the best thing we can do is to make pixel density a major specification. I'd personally like for reviews to include it in their specifications. If reviewers like you care about pixel density, comment on it in your review, and do a couple pixel density articles, and make a webpage that allow cameras to be compared and ranked by pixel density.
     
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