February 17, 2006
David Pogue recently posted some interesting insight from a reader regarding just how many Megapixels we need in a camera. In a previous column Pogue quoted Chuck Westfall of Canon’s camera marketing group as saying, “Seven- and eight-megapixel cameras seem to be more than adequate. We can easily go up to a 13-by-19 print and see very, very clear detail.”
His reader wrote in to agree, stating that, “Round about 6 megapixels was always going to be a tipping point, because at that density, the average person won’t see any difference in quality when using a standard lens and printing at reasonable size.” This agrees with what Ken Rockwell has been saying for some time. In fact Rockwell goes so far as to say that for the average person, “a 3 MP camera pretty much looks the same as a 6 MP camera, even when blown up to 12 x 18!”
So why would we want more pixels?
As Pogue’s reader points out, quadrupling the number of pixels is effectively doubling the zoom of the camera. With light sensitivity and resolution doubling every two years, there is a doubling of the zoom factor every four years. We could be seeing the gradual replacement of mechanical zooming on even high quality cameras.
The whole idea of digital zoom will take on new significance. Where cameras now use smoothing algorithms to interpolate pixels that are not there when they use digital zoom, in the future a 24 megapixel camera will be able to “boast” a 2x digital zoom at the equivalent of 6 megapixels. Right now such a camera would have no place in a Low End DSLR site. However, it might not be too long before such a camera is the low end.