Too many pixels?

By Martin Joergensen | December 8, 2008 12:37 AM | Permalink | Comments ( 3)

nikon-775.jpgWith the introduction of the new D3x 24.5 megapixels monster from Nikon I cannot help think that one can get too many megapixels.
Maybe I should rephrase that: I could definitely get too many pixels.
My humble D200 does 10 megapixels, and that has been sufficient for most of my uses. I do get images published in glossy magazines and I have landed a few covers on such magazines. A lot of these shots were actually done with an older 6 megapixels camera, and my favorite example of the sufficiency of pixels is a Nikon CoolPix 775 image, which I had featured as a full page in a fishing magazine. For those not born back in April 2001 when this camera was introduced, we're talking 2 megapixels or a stunning 1600 by 1200 pixels. Personally I'm not mesmerized by the medium format range of megapixels. Here we're talking from the mid twenties and up towards sixty and seventy with the new Phase One 65K camera as a current epoch. Some photographers have the need for these huge image files, but I certainly don't. I can go ooh and ah over images such as Drew Gardner's forest pictures, and be stunned by the fact that little spiders in the edge of the frame are sharp and clearly visible. But unfortunately I will probably not be asked to do a gatefold for Vanity fair, a house size poster for a premiere movie or a full page in Vogue for Prada. These assignments are more likely to call for 25 or 50 megapixels. My assignments don't.

MJ0_1823-01.jpgIt sure is nice to be able to print at 300 dpi in sizes up towards 50 by 30 centimeters or 20 by 13 inches. And with good, sharp images you can easily upsample or decrease the dpi and get stunning results at even much larger sizes.
But the applications for such huge images are few and far between, while the meeker 10 or 12 megapixels, which suffice to do standard magazine and newspaper images are in extremely high demand.

Now all this of course took its outset in the new Nikon D3x flagship, which has stirred a lot of commotion in the photo community. Most people are hassling about the price. Well, 8000.- USD is definitely a lot of money, and way beyond what I would pay for a camera. I make money shooting, but not that much money, and even though 24.5 megapixels could maybe open some doors, I don't think it would justify the expense.
I believe that people, who are interested in a camera such as the D3x don't worry much about 8000 dollars. And by interested, I mean professionally so. Sure I'm interested, and so are most high end amateurs and prosumers. We all dream of cameras like the D3x, but most of the people who currently complain about the Nikon's price are not potential customers.

Do they have a justified need? Nah! They... we... don't have that. We would create larger and sharper images for sure, but apart from that. No, not a need per se.

I do know that there are amateurs who might shell the money. But they shell the money for any new Nikon camera, and do so really not needing more than a D40. And in most cases not able to utilize more than a D40, honestly. But they have the money, and enjoy the bling-factor and the glamor of owning high-end gear. D3's, f1.4 and f2.8 lenses, SB900 flashes. And they shoot about 500 images a year – most of them lousy.

No, the real D3x buyers are probably the professional D3-owners, who might have traded their 21 megapixel Canon 1D for a D3, enjoyed the excellent quality of the D3, but whose customers want large files. Yup, some customers look at file size rather than objective image quality. Some stock agencies require a specific amount of megabytes. If you don't meet their demands, you simply uprez your image to get there. Silly, but true.
Potential D3x buyers could also be Nikon pros who are in the market for a medium format camera. These run in the range from 10,000 USD and up. A 22 megapixel back for a Hasselblad will run you 20,000 USD and that's without any camera or lenses. A Phase One 25+ back can be found at 15.000 USD – refurbished or on sale, and still with no camera or lenses.
I know the comparison may not be fair, and I have no way of saying that the quality of the Nikon and the medium format cameras is the same, but to a buyer with Nikon lenses and Nikon experience, there's a huge difference between shelling 8K for a new body, ready to roll, and spending maybe 40-50K or more on a completely new system.

Seen in that light the Nikon D3x is actually an inexpensive camera.

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3 Comments

Oh my goodness, you are so bang on right. Now for me, it's all about dynamic range. I can tell the difference and now that I can, it's all I care about. I could do just fine with 6MP's, maybe 8. But the dynamic Range and filling those buckets with more shadow and highlight detail means something. It means something to someone else eye but they just don't know what. Give me fatter Photo Phil's, not more of them.

What crap, Martin.

Bob,

Could you maybe expand just a bit on that subtle comment?

It's a little cheap, don't you think?

Martin

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