Sensors start to take center stage

The end user of your photograph doesn’t care whether you shot it with an 8×10 view camera, Nikon D3, plastic Holga, or pinhole camera. The viewer (or consumer) of your photograph really only cares about the content.
And, if the image content is compelling enough most viewers will accept a great number of technical flaws in an image. Robert Capa’s blurry, grainy image of a soldier at the moment of death comes to mind. It’s the story the photo tells that grabs the viewer.

So, why the constant rumination over file size and megapixels? Several things.

First, format size has traditionally had an impact on image quality (ie, the larger the film size the larger, sharper the prints). But that doesn’t necessarily translate to the digital world…especially once you get past a certain sweet spot in file size (some have pegged this at 10-12 megapixels.

Some things I think deserve more attention but you’ll need to delve into specs and camera reviews to get the information. Take low light, for example. This has always been the achilles heel of digital photography especially at the low end of the price spectrum in cameras. A large percentage of the images we shoot (pro and amateur) are in low, indoor light. Being able to shoot flash free in this environment and produce noise free files should be at the top of every shooters wish list.
Another is sensor size relative to megapixels. Squeezing more and more megapixels from the same sensor size can have a degrading affect on image quality (especially in low light). How the camera handles color and tone often play bigger roles than megapixel size.
The knowledge that larger sensors (rather than sheer megapixels) can produce better images is starting to work its way through a range of cameras starting with Sigma’s new DP1 http://www.sigma-dp1.com/ up to Nikon’s pro-grade, year-old Nikon D3.
What all this means is that the argument will continue to shift away from megapixels and focus on sensors.
But all of this is moot if you ignore rule number one…put something interesting in front of the camera.

For more see:
David Pogue’s excellent review of the DP1
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/07/24/technology/personaltech/20080724_POGUE_SLIDESHOW_index.html
Also
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel

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~ by keithphilpott on September 8, 2008.

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