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Beyond Megapixels

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the you-mean-gigapixels dept.

Toys 438

TheTechLounge points to this "first of a three-part series of editorial articles examining current digital photography hardware, as well as the author's views of what is to come." It boils down to the excellent point that pixel count alone is not the way to evaluate digital camera capabilities.

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how many pixels (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966872)

in my first post?

Re:how many pixels (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966935)

yer moms a slut

Yeah, it's time for (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966879)


Re:Yeah, it's time for (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966884)

I got mad terrapixels, bitch.

Re:Yeah, it's time for (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966969)

where's the gnaa???

Re:Yeah, it's time for (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967000)

Wow mods, gigapixel is redundant, but terapixel is funny?
Then the EXAPIXEL I throw into this discussion must be MEGAFUNNY!

Re:Yeah, it's time for (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967058)

OMGLOLz +5 teh funney!!11

we've got... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966880)

big balls!!

Well no shit Maynard! (-1, Offtopic)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966887)

I asked /. this very same thing a month or two back and it was rejected..

2004-03-14 23:17:04 It ain't all just about megapixels! (askslashdot,hardware) (rejected)

Who's ass do you have to kiss around here??

Re:Well no shit Maynard! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966904)

You should have sent CowboyNeal an ultra megapixel camera.

Maybe if you use English (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966905)

Ain't ain't a word.

Troll? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966919)

"Ain't" is not a word. It's not a valid contraction. It's horrible slang.

Re:Troll? (1)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966977)

I know it's not a word. But sometimes people sometimes use it when being sarcastic,

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=ain%27t&r =67 [reference.com]
"But despite all the attempts to ban it, ain't continues to enjoy extensive use in speech. Even educated and upper-class speakers see no substitute in folksy expressions such as Say it ain't so and You ain't seen nothin' yet. "

I was using it in such a manner. I know it's no only poor English, it's not even horrible English, it's just not English. But people still use it none the less...

Re:Well no shit Maynard! (0, Offtopic)

Jayfar (630313) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966955)

"Who's ass do you have to kiss around here??"

The goatse man's perhaps? Hehe.

Re:Well no shit Maynard! (0, Offtopic)

Deraj DeZine (726641) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967043)

Make sure it doesn't consume the whole of your being while you do so.

Why were MP ever such a big deal? (4, Interesting)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966891)

Most people didn't care about resolution in the analog world. The fact that many people considered APS cameras to be better than 35mm is simple proof of this.

This seems analogous to consumer computer makers moving away from advertising GHz and MB.

It's what you (can) do with it that counts.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (5, Insightful)

mgscheue (21096) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966928)

I agree that there's much more to it than megapixels. Excellent images can be produced with the 4 MP Nikon D2h, for example. That said, I still prefer film to digital. And I can't think of anyone who prefers APS to 35 mm. People certainly do care about resolution in the analog world. It's why people use medium and large format cameras.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (0, Offtopic)

Apreche (239272) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966941)

Yup. I remember when I was at CompUSA once and some stupid guy was buying a computer. He was interested in only a few things. Will I be able to burn cds with this? Can I do e-mail? Can I plug my camera into it? etc. You just need enough power to be able to get the functionality you desire. Excess power is money wasted.

This is the problem I'm having buying a laptop. I want something small and cheap that just has a wireless card, a little hard drive, a nice slow cpu, a stick of ram, a usb hole and a vga hole. All I want is to browse the web on the go. Nobody makes a lite enough laptop for me. Features are more important than power.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (-1, Offtopic)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967025)

Sounds like me, i never really saw the advantage to a laptop, had a nice powerfull desktop, laptops were more expensive, less powerfull and to bulky. That was until my boss picked up some laptops at a university sale, i dell Latitude LT from him for $150. I dont know what you mean by slow CPU, but its got a P266, 64mb of ram, a 4gb hard drive. and its less than 3 pounds and less than an inch thick. More than enough to run windows 98 and a linksys 802.11g wireless card. Only problems are 1 USB port and no onboard NIC, and i've never been able to get the wired card i picked up for it to work. You can find complete packages (it has an extra battery pack, external pcmcia cd-rom and en external floppy/port replicator) for less than $200 on e-bay if your lucky.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (5, Insightful)

dokebi (624663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967052)

Yup. I remember when I was at CompUSA once and some stupid guy was buying a computer. He was interested in only a few things. Will I be able to burn cds with this? Can I do e-mail? Can I plug my camera into it? etc. You just need enough power to be able to get the functionality you desire. Excess power is money wasted.

How was this guy stupid? He knew what he wanted to do with a PC and wanted the salesman to recommend a basic system for his tasks. Sounds like an average consumer with reasonable expectations. He seems much smarter than some guy who wants a 4GigaHurts machine with 2 GigaBites of RAM and 200 Gig hard drive so he can "surf the web faster" on his dialup and "print photos faster" on his ink jet.

Going back to cameras, 4 megapixels are good enough for most people to replace their 35mm cameras. Since 4MP cameras are still expensive, there is the perception more is better. But soon 4MP cameras will be $100, and people will realize 12MP cameras are not worth their dollars for what they use. Just give it some time.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (4, Insightful)

Morgahastu (522162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966961)

Because APS was as good for small as prints as 35mm was.

Some digital camera still don't product pictures that look as good as 3x5 film prints, so they are still chasing higher megapixels for that perfect image quality that they desire.

And with APS or 35mm, people didn't have the capability to crop and enlarge from the comfort of their own home, now resolution matters to them if it means being apple to crop grand ma out of a wide shot and print out a perfect looking picture at home.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (4, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967204)

Some digital camera still don't product pictures that look as good as 3x5 film prints, so they are still chasing higher megapixels for that perfect image quality that they desire.

.... and print out a perfect looking picture at home.

I think that demonstrates the problem here perfectly. People are chasing bigger MP, not because 2 or 3 MP wasn't sufficient to give decent looking snapshots, but because they are trying to print those snapshots at home and then comparing them to professionally printed photos from film.

Send your photos off to a professional company, and pay them 20c per photo to print them on their $10,000+ professional laser printer instead of pissing about with your $100 inkjet that is probably costing you more than 20c per picture in overpriced ink cartridges anyway. Then you will see that even 2MP gives at least as good results as a compact film camera, and 3MP with a decent lens probably comes close to a 35mm SLR.

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (3, Insightful)

dizee (143832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966984)

to tell you the truth, i've not taken a picture with a digital camera that i've not resized to something smaller than 640x480. even that's pretty large, i usually size them down to 320x240 so they look like pictures and not overly magnified illustrator documents.

i mean, 1600x1200 is only 2MP, and that's freakin' huge. the only reason i'd need something like 8MP (~3200x2400) would be if i was taking pictures of blueprints, bond-style, or needed a picture to be blown up to letter-sized proportions or larger. and, truthfully, if i was going to take a picture of something i needed to blow up to large proportions, i sure as hell wouldn't be using a digital camera.

interesting to note: 3200x2400 @ 300 dpi yields an image about the size of standard letter-sized paper. sorry, if i want prints, i'll use 35mm. no reason to print pictures out if i have a digital camera. i'll keep my 640x480 pictures.


Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (5, Interesting)

tzanger (1575) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967041)

I have a Canon PowerShot A60 -- I chose it over other brands because I really like how my Canon Rebel EOS works and the A60 is very similar. 2.2MP isn't a hell of a lot, but it's enough to get 5x7 prints and have a chance in hell of it looking close to what I can get with a regular camera.

I completely disagree with your statement that digital cameras aren't used for prints -- I take a bazillion pictures, throw them up in 720x480 for the web for grandma and grandpa and then they tell me specifically which pictures they'd like prints of. I take the original 2.2MP JPEGs and give them to my film guy -- he touches them up and makes real 4x6 or 5x7 prints for me. They look fantastic and everyone's happy.

True, the bulk of my pictures stay in 720x480 but it's really nice to be able to get a 5x7 out of it should I want it. The amount of time I want 8x10s is next to nil; I go to the same photographer and get really good digital pictures taken in that case. (He's all but completely moved to a full digital studio.)

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (1)

dizee (143832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967114)

so it's all about the quickness, right? ie, you can take the picture and *immediately* have it available on your computer for scrutinizing, etc...

do you feel that the only reason you have prints made is because your grandparents still like to keep a tangible photo album?

in my case, i don't see the need to keep prints anymore. i do, because i don't own a digital camera and haven't really had the wild hair up my ass to buy one, but i'll freely give away my prints, since i scan my negatives in with a negative scanner. i like my 35mm and it serves me well. paying for development sucks, but i don't take an excessive amount of pictures.


Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (0, Redundant)

andy666 (666062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967142)

Here is a reason why MP are obviously not the only parameter of interest - I say "hey I invented a 100 Gigapixel camera! Its great. Most of the pixels are broken though."

Re:Why were MP ever such a big deal? (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967170)

The APS format is a failure of legendary porportions. Ask anyone who bought a $250,000 APS minilab from Kodak.

The hottest selling point and click was the Olypus Stylus - a 35mm Camera.


Stating the obvious... (-1, Redundant)

Rat's_ass_donor (455429) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966893)

...about an article that stated the obvious.

Although this series of articles may yet become meaningful and/or useful, Part I was not.

It always... (5, Insightful)

soul_cmd (654552) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966900)

comes down to the lens. No matter how many billions of pixels you fit behind it, the lens is going to determine the first determining factor of the photo quality. It's certainly not the last (thus we move to 3 CCD systems etc. for better color reproduction) but the lens.. is always going to be the biggest factor.

Re:It always... (2, Insightful)

junkymailbox (731309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966920)

Well .. in this case .. it's not the lens that make the most difference .. it's the size of the photosite ..
simply stated .. the current 6mp - 14mp DSLR on the market has a larger photosite .. giving the current DSLR higher signal to noise ratio compared to the 8mp consumer digicams.

Re:It always... (2, Interesting)

krosk (690269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967079)

I think he was referring more to the general consumer cameras with 3 or 4 megapixels. Digital cameras these days are getting smaller and smaller and consequently the lens is getting smaller and smaller also. My dad has a pretty compact 4-MP camera by Kodak and while it takes great pictures, if you zoom-in in Photoshop, you can tell the individual pixel quality is terrible. On the other hand, if you zoom-in on a photo taken by a DSLR, the pixel quality is excellent. This is mostly caused because the DSL are a much bigger lens, allowing much more light to get to the sensor, while the compact lens greatly reduces the amount of light getting the sensor.

If it was me, I would take a 3 MP DSL over a 5MP compact consumer camera....


Re:It always... (2, Informative)

slabbe (736852) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967036)

And even with a sharp lens its easy to screw it up by not holding the camera steady. I.e. a good old tripod can be rather useful.

Re:It always... (2, Interesting)

S.Lemmon (147743) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967044)

The article seems to be making the argument that a smaller format sensor won't be as sensitive as a larger sensor, but I'm not sure I buy this.

The example he gives of buckets of water is flawed, since falling rain isn't *focused* like light is. Light entering a lens is just being focused on a smaller area. Sure the area is smaller, but it's also brighter.

A larger sensor just requires the projected image to be spread out further. Of course, maybe if you got too small, you'd run into the same limits optical microscopes do, but I don't know that it's near that point yet.

Maybe the author was thinking of regular film cameras where a larger format negative captures more detail? Still, this is because the level of detail film can capture would be about the same per sq inch (so larger format, more detail). What I'd really like to see are some actual tests, and not just some author's wild speculation.

Re:It always... (4, Informative)

fearlessfreddy (468996) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967131)

Actually, it is important to match the quality of the lens to the resolution of the CCD. Too fine a lens will cause aliasing artifacts. This can be understood by the Nyquist Theorem.

Once an aliased image is captured by the CCD, no amount of image processing can remove the artifacts. That is why high end digital cameras like the Nikon D1 contain an optical low-pass filter between the lens and the CCD that purposefully degrades the quality of the lens assembly.

Duh (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966917)

As am an amature photographer.
It's the lens, lens, lens!


wait wait... (2, Insightful)

toast0 (63707) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966922)

more isn't better?

at least it looks like bigger is still better, the sensors the author likes are physically larger.

Well, duh... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8966929)

There are lots of different technologies from different companies and more megapixels don't always mean better quality. All you really have to do is look at some samples of various cameras to figure that out. I thought this was something that everyone knew. Or at least the people who know what it means to buy a 17" CRT with (15.1" viewable area) or a 120GB harddrive that is actually 114.6 when formated, guess people around here aren't that smart.

The Megapixel illusion (2, Informative)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966931)

People buy megapixels instead of quality for the same reason they buy gigahertz instead of performance: it's a simple quantity (number) and it's very easy to compare two products by this number (although sometimes it's meaningless)

With digicams, megapixels only matter (these days) for large prints, especially since most monitors these days are used at 1024x768, which is ... 768 kPixels :).

How about using SNR ? I know it's difficult to compute, but reviewers could use VHQ analog film, film-scan it and compare the output to digital output.

Re:The Megapixel illusion (4, Insightful)

Morgahastu (522162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966997)

It's not just for large prints, it's for creative freedom.

With a high megapixel camera I can take a picture of a statue from far away, get home and crap 3/4 of the picture out and still be left with a picture that's high quality enough for a print.

I have a 2 megapixel camera and it's good (not great) for 3x5 prints but I am not able to crop any of my picture or the quality loss is evident in prints.

Re:The Megapixel illusion (5, Funny)

lorian69 (150342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967120)

With a high megapixel camera I can take a picture of a statue from far away, get home and crap 3/4 of the picture out and still be left with a picture that's high quality enough for a print.
I believe you'll find that images retain their quality much more effectively when they're not ingested.

Re:The Megapixel illusion (1)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967179)

It's times like this I wish I'd ticked the box 'Willing to Moderate'.

you assume digicam pixels are RGB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967194)

Your LCD display has full RGB pixels. However, digicam pixels don't have full RGB info at each location. So, if you want an image that captures the full color resolution your display can show, you need to have about 4X as many pixels on your camera as on your LCD.

Tell that to the average person... (5, Funny)

MacFury (659201) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966938)

I work in retail and occasionally sell digital cameras. People come in talking about how bad they want an 8 megapixel camera. When I ask them why they want 8 megapixels they respond usually, "because it's better than 5 megapixels" the they proceed to tell me it's going to make their 4x6 prints really nice...

I hate people

Consumer ignorance is one thing... (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967071)

...wait until you meet your colleagues that actively try to push 8 MP cameras on consumers that want 5 MP, because they're higher profit. That's one of the reasons I like to review products online rather than ask salesmen for help. Granted, most are trying to be helpful but I've definately overheard advice that makes my stomach cringe.


Re:Tell that to the average person... (3, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967175)

If you were making an optical print, it would take 8.6 megapixels to equal the effective resolution of the emulsion on a 4x6" sheet of photographic paper. There ARE inkjet printers out there that will reproduce in excess of 2000dpi, but most people don't spend the $2-10k necessary to have that capability.

So, yeah, knowing they have a at best a crappy 600dpi printer on their desk, they're being idiots, but not complete idiots as in both theory and practice, an 8MP image would look almost as good as a 35mm print... of course, their idea of "35mm print" is also "using a 3mm lens on a $10 disposable camera using $2 film" so, suffice it to say, their idea of "film quality" is already pretty sad.


For me, its the optical zoom ability (5, Informative)

dexterpexter (733748) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966939)

The biggest determining factor to me in buying a good digital camera is the optical zoom. With so much focus put on the number of megapixels and digital zoom (which, in my opinion, is better done in Photoshop anyways), the optical zoom is too often forgotten and hard to find in most "affordable" digital cameras. Without the optical zoom, one is limited to the same twelve-foot-away pictures that is great for people who only want to take pictures of friends and family standing in front of things, but is really useless if you want to get a good close up.

For example, this picture I took with my decent megapixel digital camera, my first time using it [utulsa.edu] was a terrible disappointment because it was a great shot ruined just based on my not having the proper optical zoom capabilities.
(And my mistake in buying a camera that I thought would be top of the line, and stupidly didn't notice the difference between digital and optical zoom, this being my first move off of traditional cameras.)

Digital Zoom (1)

neonstz (79215) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966968)

The only reason to use the built-in digital zoom instead of zooming in photoshop is when you're using JPEG. If you use lossless compression or no compression at all photoshop is (probably) better.

the results you aren't pleased with.. (2, Informative)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966983)

this picture, your first time using this camera.

although most cameras are purchased prior to an impending expected use, is it fair to blame a camera the first time you used it? most photogs know they need to use a camera for a while before they can expect the best the camera can produce.

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (2, Insightful)

dizee (143832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967007)

i agree with you.

unfortunately, i haven't seen many (if any) cameras with an optical zoom capability higher than 3X. they'll advertise the "859869X digital zoom" all day long, but digital zoom is an absolutely worthless feature, in my opinion.

i imagine they make such a big deal of it in order to attract the dolts that number-shop.


Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (4, Insightful)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967151)

unfortunately, i haven't seen many (if any) cameras with an optical zoom capability higher than 3X.

Anything longer than 3x optical zoom requires some optical tirickery, which results in a) higher price if done right or b) lower quality if it's done cheaply. And beyond that, the more glass = slower lens f-stop, means more need to use flash (and shorter flash when you do) or it means having to use a higher IS) equivalent, which means more noise on your pictures (think gain-up).

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (2, Informative)

rkaa (162066) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967223)

There are dozens of digital cameras with higher optical zoom - here just a handful, and some of them are outright cheap:

Olympus Camedia C-730 Ultra Zoom, 3MP, 10x optical zoom
Hewlet Packard Photosmart 850, 4MP, 8x optical
Nikon Coolpix 5700, 5MP, 8x optical zoom
Panasonic Lumix FZ-1, 2MP, 12x optical zoom(!)
Olympus C-8080 WZ, 8MP, 5x optical zoom

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (3, Informative)

giminy (94188) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967059)

This photo looks more like your lens just didn't let in enough light, so your camera automatically dropped the shutter speed. Probably you couldn't hold it perfectly still during the longer exposure and schlorp, blurred photo. Having an optical zoom would only make things worse, as the lens lets in less light when zoomed in.

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967121)

agreed. it looks like there's a fair amount of camera shake in your image - which looks pretty dark. in addition to letting in less light, any shaking of your hands is magnified by an optical zoom as well. most long zoom professional lenses have image stabilization capabilities to compensate for this.

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (1)

dexterpexter (733748) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967132)

It doesn't help to be able to hold the camera still when one has to hold the camera out and up to the subject because of a lack of zoom ability. This is especially true when you are dealing with wild animals.

I agree, though, that alot of the problem was mine, but I never have this difficulty with non-digital cameras, and frankly, cameras with a good zoom. I feel like I have to be a circus acrobat to get some of the closeups, and most of the time that just puts me too close and everything goes out of focus.

It should also be noted that the camera, while carrying claims of lots of megapixels, has hardly any additional features except for an on/off button, and digital zoom. This was my mistake in buying it because, when buying a digital camera, I was rather ignorant on the features and have been sucked in (stupidly) by the idea of big numbers.

LOL. I suppose I should have posed an "Ask Slashdot" beforehand. :)

Zooming demands a tripod (1)

rkaa (162066) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967094)

That pic isn't blurred because of a bad lens or low res CCD: It's obviously blurred because the camera wasn't still as the shot was taken. 10x or 20x zoom is only fit to make photos unsharp, unless you use a tripod. To really avoid any movement during the shot, in addition use a delay or a remote shutter.

Re:Zooming demands a tripod (1)

dexterpexter (733748) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967182)

I refer you to the response I gave to another poster. I agree that alot (most) of the poor quality of the photo was my own problem. But it is quite difficult to hold a camera still when having to perform absolute acrobatics to get in close enough for the shot which, as you quite correctly pointed out, only makes the shot blurry. Unfortunately, a tripod was not an option in this case, but I would have been able to hold the camera a bit more still if I weren't having to go through what I was to get the pictures.

It was my fault in buying this camera. It is featureless except for the on/off button and digital zoom. Having more experience with non-digital cameras (which *never* give me poor shots like this), I didn't understand much about digital cameras at the time (lesson well learned) and will be buying one that gives me more control over the images in the future. And yes, it will have a super optical zoom. Perhaps then I can get far enough back to use a tripod and hold the camera still while capturing my wild life shots.

That, or I will just go back to my non-digital counterparts...

Re:For me, its the optical zoom ability (1)

UpLateDrinkingCoffee (605179) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967174)

I noticed in some of your other work (great stuff by the way!) you used Photoshop. Have you tried to run an unsharp mask on this picture? Try just sharpening a single channel (green maybe) if you get too many jaggies. Also, if you wanted to go to even more trouble, mask off the alligator's head and just sharpen that... the background looks pretty good the way it is. Photoshop has made a bunch of my bad pictures into decent if not good ones.

Identify a standard (2, Insightful)

theAmazing10.t (770643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966947)

It definitely not about the megapixel, but how else do you do a quick little statement that identifies the quality of a digital camera. When you deal with a digital as aposed to a analog camera it is like talking about the film as well as the hardware.

Maybe we could translate it into ISO instead?

Re:Identify a standard (3, Interesting)

srivatsanm (732361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966998)

If we can't use just one metric to identify the quality of a digicam, we'd have to do with something like a (megapixel,sensor size,optical zoom) triplet. Most of us already know to look for more than one feature while buying PC's. It would be nice if somebody well-versed in the mysteries of digital camera technology would standardize the set of features that I should be looking for as a consumer....

Mars PanCam (2, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966948)

Isn't Spirit's PanCam using this same idea to capture images?

something I don't understand (2, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966960)

Sonys new touted digital cameras are RGBe or emerald, every 4 pixles are Red Green Blue and Emerald, purportedly because our eyes are twice as sensitive to green, and this makes better pictures (according to sony).

if we are so 'green aware' why don't inkjet printers ever have green ink?

Re:something I don't understand (1)

dizee (143832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967028)

inkjet printers don't have red or blue inks, either...

you're forgetting that light and pigments combine differently to produce certain colors.


Additive vs. subtractive color (2, Informative)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967039)

There are different ways to produce color; you can start with black and add red, green, (maybe emerald), and blue, or you can start with white and subtract cyan, yellow, magenta (and optionally black). Cameras and monitors use additive color while printers use subtractive color. More info. [rgbworld.com]

Re:something I don't understand (2, Informative)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967082)

if we are so 'green aware' why don't inkjet printers ever have green ink?

Well, some of the more specialist photo printers that contain more than five colours of ink do now include a greenish shade of ink. The main reason though is that most hues of light can be simulated by mixing varying intensities of red, green and blue. This is an additive model where 100% of red, green and blue is white.

For prints however, a subtractive model is used - what you are actually seeing when you look at a print is a the light being reflected from it. You generally start with a white background and the cyan, magenta and yellow pigments block certain hues in the reflection. 100% saturation of all three pigments creates black (in theory at least), which is perceived as an absence of colour.

Re:something I don't understand (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967198)

human eyes are indeed much more green aware. the reason for this is evolutionary. More of the sun's visible light emitted is in the yellow-green wavelengths than any other wavelength. Also a reason why plants tend to be green to green yellow.

In fact, the shade that is the most visible is the one used on airport fire trucks, and for that very reason.

Practice (1)

rf0 (159958) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966963)

Of course you have to remeber that a camera is only good as the person behind it so no point in spend $1000's on a camera if you aren't accomplished


MP matters to a point (3, Interesting)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966966)

When you're dealing with digital you quite simply need pixels. You need to decide what size pictures you intend to print or whatnot and get an MP count to match. You can't get a 1.0MP camera and do large prints of any quality.

Of course you also need picture quality. But it really doesn't matter how good the colors are if you're only getting a postage stamp image.

I have a 2.0 megapixel camera which I intend to replace eventually. Not because of the pixel count, but because of the image quality. I have a few pictures where a small branch got just a bit into the frame. The camera focused on that little branch and blurred the rest of the picture. There's no manual focus so all I can do is watch what's in the view carefully.

It also doesn't react intelligently to low light. Although with a bit of modification I can turn that into a feature as I can take time lapse photos to get good pictures in very low light.

As with all things, you need to pick the versions with the features you need.


2 things to look for before MP (3, Insightful)

enrico_suave (179651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966986)

CCD size/quality
Quality of Glass

Then look at MP and other features (including price/battery life other doodads)


1 mp camera on Spirit (5, Informative)

isny (681711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8966996)

Check out this link [space.com] . It details a bit on how the spirit rover only has a 1 megapixel camera on board, yet delivers IMAX quality images.
From the article: "NASA's Spirit Rover is providing a lesson to aspiring digital photographers: Spend your money on the lens, not the pixels. Anyone who has ever agonized over whether to buy a 3-megapixel or 4-megapixel digital camera might be surprised to learn that Spirit's stunningly detailed images of Mars are made with a 1-megapixel model, a palm-sized 9-ounce marvel that would be coveted in any geek's shirt pocket. Spirit's images are IMAX quality, mission managers say. "

spatial resolution vs. temporal resolution (3, Informative)

poptones (653660) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967157)

The rover also has the luxury of having very few moving objects to contend with, and being able to remain in a very precise location for extended periods of time. It would not be so easy for me to take 100 pictures of grandma from the exact same position with different dithers applied to the image over a period of hours - she's not likely to sit still for that, unless grandma's finally done her last moving around.

I've done experiments with my 3MP camera, taking multiple shots from the same angle and layering them in photoshop. The enhanced resolution can be downright breathtaking, but the practice is only practical for still lifes and landscapes. What are you going to do with that 1MP camera when you want a high resolution image of janie's first smile?

Re:1 mp camera on Spirit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967161)

Yeah, but have you noticed the way they get those amazing shots? The large images the rover produces are simply a bunch of small images stitched together. It's great and all that a 1mp CCD can take great pictures, but the fact that it can produce those pictures is irrelevant to most photographers, especially those taking action shots.

Would you like us to go back to the day when people posed and did not move for minutes on end to have a picture taken of them? Because that's how long it would take for someone with a 1mp camera to take an IMAX-quality image of their family. "Hold on guys, I've only taken pictures of your heads. I have to take another 5 sets before you can go. No Jimmy, don't move! Jimmy, get back here!"

Re:1 mp camera on Spirit (3, Informative)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967206)

I wouldn't want this in my pocket. The secret isn't in the camera; it's in the tripod. Being able to hold it still (and the fact that the subjects aren't moving) allows merging different pictures -- to get color resolution (using the color wheels) or spatial resolution (by merging into a panorama).

The lens is nice, and being fixed-focus and fixed-zoom helps with the quality over a consumer-grade camera, but the tripod is more important.

It's the same as in computers in general... (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967013)

...electronics: Cheap ...optics: Expensive

Look at screens. Graphics cards have improved massively (electronics), screens (optics) used to be 1024x768 quite a while back, and typically aren't more than 1600x1200 now. The LCDs will hopefully change that though, since they're much more scalable (make more pixels) than a CRT (move beam faster).

Same with digital camera. The back-end is getting much cheaper, multi-MP CCDs and other electronics, but good optics in the lens is still damn expensive.

I read a piece recently about HDTV cameras. There were rumors that a certain camera would be sub-10.000$. The official comment basicly said "we can't tell you the real price yet, but you're smoking crack. the lens alone is in the 7-9.000$ range".

That being said, most digital cameras today should be just fine, if you don't try to take "impossible" pics. If the sun is saturating the CCD, it won't happen. If there's light casting ugly shadows, fill it in or you'll never get rid of them. There's a lot more bad photography than bad cameras...


It's the lens (2, Insightful)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967019)

Megapixles don't mean shit if the lens the light had to go through is distorted in a bad lens. Nikon cameras are more expensive mainly because of this. Take the camera on the mars rover for example. Not a 10 mp camera, but a 1 mp with a damn good lens. Yeah, they also break the colors up but that's not the point.

Manufacterers like kodak and hp don't have a lot of experience in camera design and that's why they're so cheap compared to a good nikon or canon digital SLR with much much better lenses.

As in anything with computers, you get what you pay for, the problem has been though that most people compare cameras based soley on the number of pixels.

Re:It's the lens (2, Interesting)

the idoru (125059) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967169)

lenses are of course top priority, but at the same time your mars rover example also supports the article's contention. quating from link [space.com] :

A Sony DSC-F717, with a street price of around $600, has 5.2 million sensors (or 5 megapixels) on a chip that is 8.8 by 6.6 millimeters (or .35 by .26 inches). The Pancam has just a million sensors spread across a chip that's 12 by 12 millimeters -- nearly a half-inch square.

Sigma SD10 (5, Informative)

tantalus (466821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967024)

The camera sitting at the extreme of the low megapixel, high quality spectrum is the Sigma SD10, which is the only camera to use Foveon's x3 sensors to capture three colors per pixel. This results in a very high quality image, even though the total pixel output is ~3.4 megapixels. I would like to see some of the other major players put out cameras with Foveon's tech. With competition, we might see further refinement of the design.

Here's a comprehensive review [dpreview.com] of Sigma's camera.

Mars rovers (1)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967027)

Here's [msn.com] a link (MSNBC, yeech!) about the cameras on the Mars rovers. They only have a one megapixel sensor, but damn fine optics (as you would expect.)

Pixel count is less 3rd on my list... at best (5, Insightful)

BitWarrior (692600) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967037)

Having just purchased the new Nikon D70 digital SLR camera I can say that pixel count is definitely not what you should look at. At 6.1 megapixels, the D70 is relatively high but some of my friends derided me for not getting an 8 megapixel non-changeable lens camera. Trying to explain to them the benefit of having a real SLR body, the ablity to change lenses, manually adjust all settings etc. is a lost cause. Many people don't understand that although I spent twice as much for less resolution I can do things with this camera that they could never dream of with a traditional digital camera, regardless of resolution. Light sensitivity, signal to noise and optics all rank above resolution in my book. The ability to manually adjust all settings is right up there too.

Of course if you're just taking snapshots to send to grandma then forget everything I've just said :-)

Article... (2, Informative)

TheTechLounge (747081) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967053)

This is Kurtis from TheTechLounge. Just wanted to mention that he will be doing two more articles in this series, if you didn't notice that already. Point is, he will be touching on lenses and other things besides just the CCDs. This is just Part I of III. Also, when all three of the series have been written and posted, he will write a Digital Camera Buyer's Guide and touch on pretty much everything. Thanks for your interest in the article everyone. Feel free to post comments on the article page, or in our forums as well. =)

Better pictures are what's important (1)

Revvy (617529) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967057)

Last night I had a discussion with a friend of mine about his new digital camera. He and his wife rented digital cameras to try them out before buying. As a digital image professional, he was looking to spend over $1000 on a camera, so spending a little money up front wasn't a bad idea.

They tried several cameras in a few days and ended up loving a 5 megapixel Sony over the higher resolution "Pro" cameras because it took consistently better pictures more easily and quickly. Image stabilization was the kicker, as they took pictures from a moving car and none of the high resolution cameras came close, even for lots more money.

It is the LENSES dammit. (3, Interesting)

loraksus (171574) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967061)

An 8 megapixel ccd behind a cheap lens is going to look worse than a 1 megapixel ccd behind a high quality lens. Look at the pictures of mars, they were taken using a 1mp camera.

Of course, the additional detail is nice. But to be really usable to blow images up (which is probably the only reason for going higher than 4-5mp), the following problems have to be solved.

1. Noise has to be reduced. Especially in dark pics. Less of a problem now, but still an issue. Of course, if you're taking a 8mp camera and printing out an 8x10, you probably won't be complaining. Zoom in to 300-400% and you will be easily able to see it (and all the stuck sensors, but that is another story).

2. The lens is good enough to resolve that detail.
No, your made in china $5 lens will not be good enough. There is a reason professional film cameras have "big ass lenses".

Megapixels aren't the end... (3, Funny)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967064)

I personally am waiting for a good Megavoxel camera. If you think pixels are good, imagine the images that can be rendered with voxels! It is incredible! ;)

But MP matters for size! (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967088)

Perhaps somebody could even give me a correct answer, but the number of pixels matter when you are dealing with the size (L x W) of an image.

A camera that can only do 640 x 480 pixels gives you 307k pixels. As we all know, an image of this size will look very crappy if it is blown up eg, to use as desktop background.

What I have been wondering about, is how many Mega Pixels (at what resolution!) is needed to shoot an equivelent 11"x17" image?

(I work with very high-end printers, and I want to start making myself some 11x17 posters.)

Snap (3, Insightful)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967093)

I'd like a digital camera that responds as quickly as a film camera. I hate holding down the button and waiting for the camera to decide if it will take the picture or not. I want a digital camera that will take the picture when I press down the button not 1/2 to 3 seconds later.

I want a lot of pixels because .. (2, Insightful)

klang (27062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967100)

once in a while, I take a picture that is worth enlarging to 70x50cm or bigger and putting on my wall for that I either need 35mm or a lot of pixels.

I have yet to shift totally to digital. The combination of a good SLR (Nikon FE) and a filmscanner (Minolta Dual Scan III) is giving 10.8 MP quality.

The good thing with 35mm is that the medium carries the storrage in itself. With Digital you have to set aside HD/CD/DVD-space .. for ever.

I know, that I can develop fresh pictures from 50 year old negatives .. will I be able to retrieve data from a 50 year old HD/CD/DVD?

As an ex-commercial photographer (4, Insightful)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967112)

Let me just add "Hell-freaking-yeah" to what that article says. My poor old 6 megapixel Phase One back would be sneered upon by all the MegaPixel Nazis. The fact that it kicked out an 18mb TIF and used Hasseblad glass is lost on them.

One thing I hope future articles touch on is ergonomics. Unlike SLR's, which have had the same basic layout since the Exaktaflex, digital cameras are a hodgepodge of knobs, buttons and dials, laid out (apparently) at random at times. And the difference in features between cameras of the same pixel size can be stunning.

When people as me what's the best camera out there, I usually tell them find one that they find first easy to use, is a camera-brand (better glass), and has a decent image size. No amount of features will make up for a missed photo due to fumbling with a camera, and what's important to me (manual controls, accessory shoe, RAW/TIF, etc) may not be important to them.

Re:As an ex-commercial photographer (1)

TheTechLounge (747081) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967186)

One of the things he will touch on in parts 2 and 3 is the actual size/shape/ergonomics of cameras I believe... =)

mod 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967115)

To use the GNAA declined i8 market

Depth (3, Interesting)

slabbe (736852) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967118)

Even with good lenses and modern low noise sensors, digital cameras has a rather narrow exposure range as compared to classical photography. Shooting with negative film you can get something like twice the exposure range, compared to any ordinary digital camera (i.e. you will be able to see more details in both the dark and light areas of your photo)

The Digital Dark Age (2, Informative)

klang (27062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967127)

the digital dark age [shift.com] is an old but still good article..

I'm ambivalent (0, Troll)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967141)

First, what is this "prosumer" thing? With over a million words in the English language, do we really need to invent another one? I'm not even sure whether this brand new buzzword describes hobbyists looking for professional quality, or professionals who happen to buy stuff, or something else entirely.

Sorry, but I had to get that out of my system. I've had experience with two digital cameras, both Sony Cybershots (a 2.1 and a 5.0 megapixel model). The 2.1 model feels rugged, the pictures are very colorful and sharp, and a 64MB stick will last you pretty much all day. But of course, the resolution sucks.

The 5.0 model has a more fragile feel to it, and doesn't do nearly as well in low light. Nor is it fun to swap sticks every twenty pictures. Finally, you have to hold the camera reeeeeeally still if you want it to come out crisp. I use a tripod whenever possible.

I never expected to use the 2.1 again, and I'm surprised how much I still use it.

Re:I'm ambivalent (2, Funny)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967152)

First, what is this "prosumer" thing?

Wedding photographers.

Re:I'm ambivalent (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967168)

It's only funny 'cause it's true... :-)

Actually, we can add "99.9% of budiour/glamor photographers" to that as well.

No, really?! (1, Insightful)

Fefe (6964) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967155)

What an excellent point to make!

And how non-obvious!

I mean, who would have thought that whether blue actually looks blue might be a teeny weeny little bit important as well?

Sheesh. And I thought Slashdot was inane before.

Britney Spears concert? (-1, Troll)

McCrapDeluxe (626840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967162)

Who the hell would want to take photographs of such a heinous thing?

MP are important for printing and cropping (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8967171)

People who go all digital really do need high MP. I have a 4MP, but I'm worried that if I get a really unbelievable shot, I won't be able to blow it up as big as I want. At least with 35mm, I always had the option of making it poster size if I were so inclined. I agree with what the article says, but if you're actually replacing film, you might as well get as close to the capabilities of film as possible.

Also, with the near ubiquitousness of photo editing software, almost everyone has the ability to crop and edit images. Not only would you rather have more pixels for any kind of editing, but with high MP, you can crop even a small portion of a picture and still get a decent 4x6.

Obvious (5, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967184)

The most important part of any camera is the lens. There are two main problems with lenses. Chromatic aberration causes colour fringing due to the focal length of the lens being different at different wavelengths. It can be corrected by using compound lenses {one positively-dispersing lens and one negatively-dispersing lens} or low-dispersivity materials. Spherical aberration causes distortion of the image due to the lens surface not being perfectly spherical, and thus the focal length varying over the surface. It can only be corrected by grinding lenses well.

A bad lens will produce a bad image regardless of the image sensor. Sometimes an image sensor will not have enough resolution to detect the distortion due to chromatic and spherical aberrations. But when the same manufacturer slaps a new sensor on last year's lens, the new sensor can pick up better on the aberration and the pictures end up looking lousy.

Another feature to bear in mind is hardware {optical} zoom. Don't buy a camera without it and don't reject a camera for not having software {digital} zoom -- your favourite graphics editor can do this for you.

Cheap image sensors are invariably noisy. Big pixels can hold more initial charge, therefore can accept more light in the course of an exposure. The sensor will only be saturated in really bright light, and the amount of charge remaining on the pixel {which is a measure of how much light didn't hit it} can be measured more accurately: one "unit" on the ubiquitous 0-255 scale represents many electrons. But more silicon costs more money. Small pixels don't have the same capacitance, so can't accept as much light before becoming saturated -- you have to run a shorter exposure. And the number of electrons per ADC count is smaller. The net result of having a higher density in the image sensor is that even in bright light, the resulting pictures will look a little bit as though they were taken in poor light. Of course, you can remove the noise by downsampling, but then you lose the benefit of the higher-res sensor.

And what's with the confusing term "digital SLR" ? As far as I can see, all digital cameras with LCD viewfinders are by definition SLRs, since the same lens is used for viewing and taking the picture.

Summary (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967187)

Tiny sensor (9mm vs 23mm) = less light, increased noise or longer shutter time, and increased blur.
Seperate color elements = roughly 1/2 effective resolution.

The result is an image with effectively half the resolution advertised, and less information per pixel due to the signal to noise ratio.

Personally, 2 megapixels with the cheaper sensor is adequate for my non-professional needs.

The lens and depth of field / focus (2, Insightful)

rabs (208464) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967193)

I think that in additional to the light gathering capability of a good lens, the most valuable factor in getting a good photo is depth of field. There are certain areas of a photo where I just dont *want* detail to show. Once newcomers understand how depth of field allows you to isolate their subjects, a whole new world opens up.

- rabs

Dynamic Range and the SIZE of the CCD!! (3, Interesting)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8967207)

First of all, no one has mentioned DYNAMIC RANGE yet. This is the range between absolute black and absolute white. Whether you are using film or digital, this range is crushed compared to the human eye. Digital dynamic range tends to be worse than film, which is one reason film isn't going to go completely away any time soon.

Greater dynamic range will give you better details in your shadows and highlights. This is very important for the serious photog, although probably not important for snaps of your kid's Bar Mitzvah.

The other thing that matters is the actual size of the CCD. Manufacturers are using various technical tricks to squeeze out more pixels from the same size CCD, and the results are sometimes pretty bad. The worst problem I've seen was purple fringing in bright red objects that were backlit. Totally ruined an otherwise beautiful photograph.

The bigger the CCD the better.
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