The consumer is constantly being bombarded with newer cameras that feature more and more pixels. How many are really enough? How much of the quality of the image is dependent upon: the firmware, lens, paper and printer?
You better get used to an ever increasing pixel count in digital cameras; there is no end in sight. And how important it really is for an individual depends on what is done after the shutter is released. My wife's 3 year old Canon A20 2MP compact (antique by today's standards) allows great 5x7" prints. My Nikon D70 6MP dSLR makes great 13x19" prints without interpolation. I've never put much value on interpolation anyway; information that isn't there cannot be magically created; interpolation will get the jaggies less prominent, but if you can see the jaggies without interpolation, than, in my opinion, you are printing too large a print for the file size you have.
Like I said, D70 6MP images yield great 13x19" prints, but if I have to crop any serious amount, acceptable print size goes down proportionally, so I wouldn't mind having more pixels for that reason alone. Larger prints will require more pixels, plain and simple. So, it all depends.
Of course the quality of the lens has a big impact, as do the printer/ink/paper combination. And let us not forget the user skills; RAW conversions and image editing will give vastly different results depending on user skills. And then there is the artistic angle as well, but that is a little harder to describe and put a value/number on.
The good part in the ever increasing pixel war is the fact that prices keep coming down for higher pixel count cameras with improved features.
Very likely the pixel count is getting close to reaching a plateau of diminishing returns, so I think you should not expect anything more than the current maximum relative to sensor area size. But of course that leaves a lot of room for the intermediate guys to up the ante to that maximum.
By diminishing returns the factor is due to the fact for a given sensor area size the more pixels the smaller each sensor site must be. If smaller it gathers less light and generates less current to record a reading. This becomes critical in parts of an image in shadow. If the sensors gather too little light because they are small they become prone to error which results in pixel color noise.
On the other hand larger full frame sensor chips remain expensive in part because the manufacturers obtain fewer sensor from an 8" wafer. So it is unlikely most camera brands will not offer them because they are dependent on just a few prime sensor manufacturers who also make similar sensor chips for high-end video cameras, and video cameras do not use 24x36mm sensor chips. Currently the 12 MP full frame chip has a sensor site size about the same as an APS size sensor that is 8 MP. So a full frame chip can go to about 18 MP. Even printing with the image set at 300dpi that still makes a pretty large print.
I agree with Dave..I see no reason why sensor size would get to ridiculous levels for consumer cameras. Even if a camera could produce a native 16x24" image at 300dpi ( about 35Mp) it would be a complete waste of sensor size for the vast majority of users (99%+) . How many 16x20's does the average person print in a lifetime....at the consumer level. You cant even print anything bigger than 13x19 at home unless you spend the big bucks on a large format printer. Even if you could, would you have the wallspace, or desire to do so.
And the 35MP camera is overkill even for the person doing 16x20's since a camera in the 13x19 range ( 22MP) could easily produce a high quality 16x20 with only minor interpolation.
Lets face it....if all you ever print is the occasional 8x10 or 11x14 the cameras are already solidly at that point.
there will always be those people that want more more more
but i really honestly think that the next round of cameras from Nikon and Canon will likely start the beginning of the end in terms of the MP wars.
Ive already dumped all my medium format gear because i can get the same end result with a D2X for a lot less money and a HUGE amount less time spent. I keep the large format more for the camera movements than the film size. I only pull it out when i have to, or a client demands it.
If MP goes beyond a point where it is utterly useless to the vast majority of users then i think it makes perfect sense that only niche cameras...and very high end backs designed for commercial use will ever produce that kind of resolution.
it makes a lot more sense that a semi-"standardized" sensor resolution will develop...perhaps there will be two...one for regular cams, one for prosumer ones. I think prices will fall like crazy and features will become king. Just look at what the D200 did to the Nikon lineup. Its essentially a D2x for 2/3 less money. Things like huge buffers, better D/A converters, stronger firmware, faster write times, better construction quality, lower noise etc will become the defining factors in DSLR's
Then we can all good old days when it was all about the glass....and the backs all shot the same film, just some did it with more finesse..
You're basing your projections on current technology not taking into consideration that technology is constantly changing.
In a few years there might be sensors the size of a pin head in 50 to 100 megapixel cameras that blow away anything available today. And they might cost under $500.
Yes there is always someone who will build something because it can be done, and someone will buy it. But there is a point of diminishing returns in going beyond practical usefulness. And there are only so many Donald Trumps whose ego's demand excess beyond imagination.
It is pointless to dream of designing a better mouse trap if few people have a problem with mice.
Define practical usefulness.
Current DSLRs haven't reached the resolving power of a 4x5 yet. Just because a DSLR looks like a 35mm camera doesn't mean it shouldn't resolve like a 4x5 camera does.
Or in-camera interpolation will reach the point where it surpasses optical resolution and then a single lens will give you any focal length you dial in, at any maximum aperture.
Eventually we're see changes in photography that reflect things we can't even begin to imagine yet.
I won't dispute there will be changes. If you or I could really foresee what those changes would be, which would succeed and which would not, we could both be on the same road as Bill Gates. But who really wants to bet much on which way the future will go?
I remember just after the 2nd world War, It was a time of hope and expectations after years of shortages and sacrifice, and there were many articles in Life and Time magazines by futurists about the bright and shiny times that were ahead, even elaborate pictures of how the future would look. Almost nothing imagined then came to be in the years since, the way the futurists thought it would.
What people are buying today gives us a much better sense of what will be offered for sale tomorrow. And, people now are buying more cell phones that take stills and video than high megapixel digital cameras. We as photography enthusiasts are the very end of the tail, and we are not wagging this dog.
I agree that digital cameras have not reached the resolving power of 4x5's....no question. They havent technically reached the reslving power of medium format....but that gets to be a debate. I think its fair to say that in practical terms it has at least reached the realm of 645 even to the most critical user....and 6x7 for the average user...even the average commercial user.
but i would counter that by asking 2 questions
1. how often is the resolution of the 4x5 the primary reason for using the camera? in my business the primary reason i use a 4x5 is building interiors where the final outpud size is often only 11x14 ish.... I use it for the movements and the fact that often the client wants 4x5 becuase they THINK they need it. I used to have a client who insisted on large format not because it was necessary, but because the $50,000 scanner he used was old and only had enough resolution to create 16x20's from, 4x5 stock!!!
2. for the times when you do need the resolution...standees...huge display pieces etc, that use is SO tiny in my business I think its fair that i am not alone in noticing that it is RARE RARE RARE and that kind of a digital camera back will certainly made, but it will also certainly be some 645 design and will certainly NOT be a 35mm sized SLR designed for consumer use.
High end professional backs are already in the 40MP range and there's no particular reason they couldn't go to 60MP or higher. Your average Joe consumer not only doesn't need this kind of resolution....he wouldnt know what to do with it and the cameras its attached to are large, unweildy and reserved largery from niche enthusiasts and high end commercial use.
the vast majority of people that i know that still use 4x5...and ALL of the ones i know who use larger cameras above 4x5 are enthusiasts.... not commercial photographers. And they are a TINY group in relation to the rest of us. I daresay there are more Holga enthusiasts and pinhole camera enthusiats in the world. Hardly motivation for the companies to develop products specifically for them
the debate was never about "how far will it go" since there will alsways be niche users spending $$$$$ to get what they NEED ( in the business world...NEED is the proper word...not WANT). The debate was more centered on where the MP wars will end in terms of equipment that can concievably be bought and used by everyday consumers.(specifically 35mm sized cameras)..and the vast majority of pros and enthusiast amatures.
20 years ago..... you shot 35mm so long as you were looking for 8x10's you shot medium format in itsd many forms if you wanted to go up to about 16x20 for critical prints. The digital age is not ENTIRELY at that point yet...but i do feel that the next round of cams will get us there. Once we've covered the medium format arena then all thats left is large format.....and that has been a niche since the 40's. Margaret Burke White was the only staff photographer shooting the format when she helped found Life Magazine.
As David pointed out....in order for 35mm sized sensors to think about resolving at that level....whole new technologies will need to be developed... because the technology is starting to find real physical and optical limits to just how dense the sensors can be before you get serious optical problems.
the obvious solution is to use a larger sensor. Well they already make a larger sensor. Its 645 and it costs more than your car. So yes, you will be able to buy that kind of equipment, but rightfully so you will have to spend more money than most people spend on their cars to own it. Only people who NEED it will invest. The rest will reasses their WANTS and convert them to NEEDS...or else get a second job to pay for their desires.
I know that in my business. I picked up a couple of Leaf Backs and they are nice but to be honest, its cheaper to take it on film and scan it for as little as i NEED to use them. Also, the small 645 sensor size really is impractical on a view camera because you cant properly adjust movements on a film plane that small.
And that brings up the main reason why they wont make a 35mm slr that resolves that large.... the 4x5 is not only about film size. I daresay that the 4x5 is 90% about MOVEMENTS. You can barely adjust movements properly on a 4x5 sized ground glass. I cant imagine doing it properly on a 645 size back and a 35mm sized sensor would be impossible....not without a tethered video preview that would only be practical in the studio. And what a pain that would be, Just let me take it in film in 1/3 the time and scan it if I have to go thru that hassle.
the honest truth is that for the vast majority of photographers (90%) the cameras already exceed their needs. The next round of cams will solidly cover all the ground that medium format used to control and then we will be at what percent? 97%? 98%? higher?
a few niche companies will make the product for the rest...and they will cost more than an arm and a leg
You're missing the point. It's not about 4x5 resolving cameras. It's about self imposed limitations on technology that's constantly changing and the standards we go by today might be out the window tomorrow. Open your mind and start thinking outside of the box. Tomorrows beginner camera may be 20 megapixels and Canon's 1DX MarkII may be 100DX Mark II and provide 100 megapixel files. You can't say that we're at a practical limit now, or will be next year, because you don't know what five years from now holds.
i do see what your saying....
but photography has not been fundamentally changed...at least in terms of how we print and view our images. People have the same preferences for print sizes as they always have had...
CONSUMERS dont have the desire or wallspace for 16x20 and larger imagery. At least not enough desire or wallspace to justify HAVING to own a camera that can do any of that. The only users who routinely need anything like this are businesses... and their needs for this kind of imagery can easily be filled by the handful of commercial photogs in each city who will invest in the extremely expensive equipment required to make it happen.
unless we fundamentally change the way we view our images...there is no need whatsoever in making the resolution so high.
Even the worst photographer can take a 16x24file and crop 3/4 of it out because hes "composing after the shot was taken" and still get a critically good 8x12
i cant view a 16x20 on my computer monitor.... even if i owned a high def TV and looked at my images on a wall sized display the file would still contain more pixels than displayed
the only anyone is going to invest the huge cash outlays to invent new technology to allow 100MP sensors the size of 35mm ( if its even possible) would be if someone could show a need for such a camera....and only then if there were enough of a need to justify the cost.
the fact is that only high end commercial users will ever even think of needing somehting like that...and they already have a platform that can satisfy that need without reinenting the way these things are manufactured.
i guess i would ask...why do you feel you need such resolution? what uses do you see that would justify such a camera? How much wallspace do you have....and even if 20x30" digital frames became all the rage i still question, how much wallspace do you have? If you are in the commercial end then id ask where are the clients for this kind of work. I dont see them in my area. I would purchase the equipment if i got enough demand to justify the cost. The fact is that the resolution is not needed. I see Billboards and standees routinely made from APS digital files....store displays and POP displays are almost exclusively done in APS digital...at least for my customers and they love the PRICE POINT and for the most point dont notice the subtle quality loss. They certainly wouldnt pay for the difference...
like i said.... I do see what you are saying...wouldnt it be cool? but.. i wonder if its more a desire, than a need.
id LIKE 20x24" banquet camera because i think it would be cool to make contact prints of incredible resolution....but i recognize that i will never bother to get one because the costs are astronomical and i have no NEED for the images....and i cant imagine a client would want one. Most clients are woefully ignorant of the realities of photography. The only ones who really "care" are the photogs. The professional photogs produce what the client wants, not what they want. The amature makes what he wants, but has no outlet for the images outside his friends and family. The VAST MAJORITY of consumers just want pictures...they dont even know what good photography looks like....they certainly dont care about any of this.. Those 3 groups represent almost all the consumers for this kind of gear. The niche groups are so small as to be commercially insignificant and will only be catered to by small companies.
of course it COULD change....but i see no particular reason to beleive that the way we fundamentally enjoy images will change... even when we email digital pics to a friend or post them on a website we are looking at SMALL files and small pics. The big stuff is reserved for prints since it cant even be viewed on a monitor all at once anyway...so where it the need...
as for practical limit on sensor size....if you do a few searches on the web you will quickly find many webpages devoted to the issue.... sensors as we know them today simply do not have the capacity for beeing 100MP and beng the size of an APS or even full frame 35mm sensor. There are laws of physics that are getting in the way. Larger sensors are needed ( physically larger) so that the maximum density can be spread out over a larger area. This will require a much larger camera...an impractical camera for most consumers. Can you imagine handing a Hassy H1 to your mom and telling her to take pictures of the kids with it?
There is even serious debate over whether 100MP can be achieved on a 645 sized sensor and no one wants to think about making ANOTHER sensor size since medium format makers are barely staying afloat now. They dont have the capital to have 20 product lines when they cant make money with the one they have now. They are going out of business left and right.
You're basing all your assumptions on photography as wall decor, and I see the size limitations completely different than you do. I've been selling my photography as art for about 30 years and I sell as many 16x20 prints (matted 22x28) as I do 8x10s in the right art shows. I know thousands of photographers who would like to crop and print 16x20 and not have it look like it was taken with ISO 1600 film.
But again, we don't know where technology will take a right turn and change all the rules that we know of.
Why do digital cameras have to look like 35mm film cameras? What if (in the future) you can actually purchase a cell phone with a built in 10 megapixel camera?
One of the features I've always wanted in a digital camera was to be able to dial in the film and ISO and have a high resolution file that had the exact characteristics as that particular film taken at that exact ISO. Or imagine being able to make 8x10 or 11x14 prints that were indistinguishable from contact prints from the finest grain films.
While it might not happen in our lifetimes, I predict that we've just seen the tip of the iceberg of the changes that will happen in photography. I also predict that at some point there won't be any need to shoot film anymore and at some point the only way you'll know that film was used would to actually stand next to the photographer during capture.
Working with raw digital camera files with the better, more sophisticated converter software you do have quite a bit of exposure latitude adjustment. And as I understand with the Phase One software you can use their profiles to apply to a file, that will configure the file data to look like Kodachrome or Ektachrome, etc.
That basic idea of using profiles to apply the "look" of a particular film was incorporated into the color management system for the Premier Kodak processing system at least a decade ago.
to be fair....if my assumptions are based upon photography as wall decor...the 16x20 matted print falls squarely into that category. I would respectfully offer that you can already buy a nice 40MP leaf back and attach it to you Hassy H1 and get 16x20 images that are every bit the equal of anything that ever came out of a medium format film camera
UNLESS you are one of the very few masters of the color darkroom..in which case i absolutely concede that in the darkoom one can ( with mastery) exceed the results with film based systems...
again i offer that it will be the NEEDS and wants of the many that will dictate the technology. If you need that huge resolution, then the technology is already there....in 645 digital backs. Better yet the technology has been there for 200 years in the form of large format film and darkoom manipulation. I still shoot and scan film whenever i need ridiculous output. its way cheaper than thinking about the concept of purchasing a 40MP back..
35mm never was the choice of pros...they always stuck with the bigger gear...it makes logical sense that a person like yourself would get your gear from a supplier to these users. Expect to pay an extreme premium for the product
people switched to medium format in the early 1900's because large format was a pain in the butt and people were more than willing to give up the large print potential for ease of use... they switched again to 35mm because medium format was a hassle to them and the cameras were way too large... then came zoom lenses, better film, in camera metering., auto everything.... but people still stuck with the 35mm size.. I have to beleive that they wanted ease of use way more than they wanted big pictures..
most consumers today do not even have the ability to resize an image for internet display let alone the desire to even learn. most photographers...even the semi serious ones dont even have the understanding of their cameras enough to use them on manual mode let alone massage the images effectively in photoshop... im sure you can backl me on this one....ever client i know who comes in the door tells me about their photography hobby and tells me in graphic detail about their skill, then askes me if i know a trick to keep the pictures from turning yellow or how to keep people from looking blurry in the pictures... and these are the enthusiasts...
as for camera phones that take 100MP images...nothing is impossible...id be a fool to suggest that it could never happen. My point is that with existing technology there is no way that will happen...dont take my word on it...DPreview and dozens of other sites will explain in gory detail all the details of how and why pixel density cannot exceed a certain level before serious degredation of the image occurs
most argue that we are at or near the limits of what you can get from APS and 36mm full frame sensors... i think 20mp is a nice approximation...
want or need more? they make 40MP backs already for 645 and theres no reason that EXISTING technology will not allow that to go to 60MP+... there you go...borderline 4x5 resolution...without having to reinvent the wheel...
the future ( 10+ years) is of course anyone's guess.... but i do stick by my feelings that unless there is a fundamental difference in the way we enjoy images...then people will be more than pleased with being able to make critical 8x10's... lets face it...35mm was at its limits for 8x10's...... most 6mp cameras can exceed or at least equel the results. In the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and understand how to make it all happen from capture to print....
if we all get wall sized hi def tvs to look at our images...the near future tech 13x19" @300 dpi cameras ( about 20MP)will STILL produce images that will be measured in FEET without requiring interpolation..
want to project them? well if a 35mm slide was awesome on a projector..it wont take much of a stetch of the imagination that the same 20MP camera will blow it away with digital projection.
want to hang them on your wall? it comes down to the same problem of wall space...sure you might have 1 or 2 or even 3 pics that big...but unless you are an art collector you dont have the room,. If your like the vast majority of Americans you have a few 8x10's and the rest are in albums..
even in the commercial world....where a 16x20 is par for the course...these images are more commonly being created with existing tech..and if you want better it already exists in the form of 645 backs... I would absolutely shoot large format all day and all night for my clients if they insisted on it....but increasingly they are not only satisfied with the digital capture, they are increasingly requesting it because of the INSTANT turnaround time and the low cost...this is with existing tech...
the 35mm sized backs are already causing medium format to almost disappear...as evidenced by the complete shift of medium format to the 645 design and interchangeable digital backs... if they couldnt do the job well enough to satify commercial clients then id still be shooting with my RZ...
are there going to be people who want more? of course... you have the choice...you can shoot film and scan it...probably the most cost effective and high quality solution out there.. or you can buy equipment designed for commercial applications.
there are still people who shoot Polaroids for art...but i dont think they expect Polaroid to make them any more press cameras.
There are people who shoot banquet cameras and make 20x24" contact prints but i dont think anyone expects Toyo to make them a new lightweight version. Or expect them to do it cheaply even if they did.
There are still people who shoot Super 8 film..and Kodak even recently came out with a new emulsion for them despite the fact that the cameras are all 20 years old. no one expects Kodak to make a new super 8...
if 99%+ of consumers ( and i stress the plus sign) can get MORE than they need with existing tech....to the point that even the pros are using 35mm sized gear for the first time.to replace their med format gear.. then i dont think there is any reason to beleive that anyone is going to invest the time or money to invent a new technology to allow for 100MP pen cameras for the 1000 people who might want one. Especially when the tech to get that kind of resolution already exisists elsewhere.
in the SHORT TERM...
if your 16x20's look like they were shot with 1600 ISO film then i would argue that something is very wrong. Since i do a lot of work for clients who ask me to come back and reshoot the same things year after year i have had the direct opportunity to see the results of my work...in 6x7 film vs D2X digital...and the 16x20's i get from my studio printer exceed the quality of the custom prints i was getting from 6x7 film only last year....of course i will totally concede that every photographer has his own right to look at his own prints with a magnifying glass and make his own comparisons and conclusions......
and on the issue of low light performance. I shoot 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO film all the time.... because it give me the kind of golf balls you DONT see in digital at the same ISO. My D70 and my D2X's both have better low light performance than I ever achieved with medium format film.
Im sorry for the long diatribe...i know im long winded... I do respect your opinion....i disagree...but I do see where you are coming from. I want more more more too...and i want to pay very little for it :-)..
passion is a great thing...and its obvious you have great passion for the art...or else you wouldnt be so adamant about your position. Passion is never bad !
North Coast Photo Arts
It's been an interesting discussion. I'm just speculating things are going to happen in the future that will change even what we now consider to be the standards in digital photography.