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MMiller

Megapixels and sharpness

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Just when I thought I understood the relationship between megapixels and sharpness and resolution, I am having second doubts.

 

My perspective has come from large format vs 35mm film cameras, LF and MF results are superior because the captures are larger, 35mm glass was always much sharper, but the critical difference in final qualtity related to the limitations of film resolution. If you made, say an 11 by 14 print, or it was published on a calendar page, even at that small size, the resolution quality is noticeable better with the reproduction from the larger format original slide. Theoretically, 35 mm had the potential to rival large format because of the difference in glass, but the film resolution never allowed this.

 

Now I am a bit confused with  megapixel captures with 35 mm cameras. If all things for a capture are equal- same lense, same f stop, same lighting, etc- except the megapixel count of the capture, will the final results, also be noticeably different? That is, will one be able to look at a 11 by 14 print, or a calendar page, and immediately be able to tell the difference from a lower megapixel capture vs a higher megapixel capture (when pixelation is not an issue)?

 

Of course with very low megapixel captures, enlargements suffer because of pixelation, But let's assume reasonably large  megapixel counts of original captures, such as 20 mp 35mm sensor vs Nikon's D810 35mp sensor, in say reproductions up to 16 by 20 ? That is, if pixelation is not noticeable, will sharpness be more obvious with a larger mp count, or is there any difference at all?

 

In summary, will the larger megapixel original 35 captures appear to have same larger format film camera characteristics of sharpness with englargements  where pixelation is not an issue?

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In simple terms and from personal experience, a raw image shot with a good sharp lens (say a 50mm prime Nikkor) on a D700 (12MP) and a D800 or D800E, unsharpened and viewed at the same size on screen (i.e. the D800E image downsized to 12MP), the D800(E) image will be significantly sharper. Printed at A4 size, there is not much in the difference as far as I can tell and I've not printed bigger but I would be happy to bet that there will be definite differences visible at A3 and bigger. 

 

I should add that A4 prints from the D800(E) do have an incredible amount of detail and have that larger format look but A4 size doesn't really take advantage of the amount of detail.

Edited by MDM

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More angels dancing on the head of a pin means the angels tend to bump into each other. Result is digital noise. Larger sensor chips, like larger film, give them more room to dance. Pixel pitch is as important as total pixel count. Of course, constant advances in technology change the equation, as does the presence or absence of an anti-alias filter.

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I am mostly using a D700 and 800 with the same glass.

I would say that for Portraits of humans, the 800 is too

sharp. I have started doing a lot of my portraits with the

700 because they have a nicer look.

 

Keep in mind that I am lighting everything with 5ft and 7ft

Octadomes, 22inch beauty dishes and grids and spots with

diffusers.

 

The largest I've outputted to is 36 X 52

Edited by Chuck Nacke

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Thanks.

Chuck, so you're observing the larger sensors do indeed produce more detailed reproductions at any given reproduction size?

 

Thus, say I want to shoot landscapes exclusively for calendars, about 11x14 inch output, and I use the best glass and follow all the essentials to properly to produce the finest results, my choice of a higher megapixel camera like a 800D will be noticeably better? 

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The question really is not whether the image would contain more detail (it unquestionably would), but whether the human eye could tell the difference. 

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The human eye can perceive noise, which is why I think pixel pitch is more important than megapixels.

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