First off, this isn't another 5DIII vs. D800 debate. It's just that megapixels seems to be a hot topic lately, so I stared pondering the practical advantages of resolution. Perhaps I'm more fortunate than others, because while many have expressed the need to print 30x20 enlargements, I don't. For editorial work, a typical two-page spread measures 16x10, and there are only one or two of those per story layout.
In the early days of digital, resolution was a huge factor. The 8 megapixel 20D was the first affordable body that could be interpolated up to produce file quality sufficient for a two-page spread. The next quantum leap came with the 1DsII, which produced gorgeous 17x11 files at 300 dpi. Since then, however, the 21 mp files from the 1DsIII and 5DII have been somewhat under-utilized in the editorial world. Larger files certainly give art directors more flexibility for layouts and cropping, but the instances where you need to crop excessively or turn a horizontal composition into a vertical (or vice-versa) are few and far between. Uploading 21 mp TIFF files onto a publisher's FTP server when you're on a tight deadline can get quite cumbersome as well. Don't get me wrong. I'll take as many megapixels as a manufacturer will give me, but the current lineup of bodies certainly offer more than enough for my needs.
So, where do camera manufacturers go from here? The market is in an interesting position right now where the megapixel count of point-and-shoots is approaching that of flagship bodies, and a $500 T2i puts out as much resolution as Canon's $6,800 1Dx. How's a first-time DSLR buyer, who equates overall image quality to megapixel count, supposed to make sense of this?
At the prosumer level, I suppose the reception of the 5DIII and D800 will give an indication of the real-world value of ever-increasing resolution. Obviously, the D800 has proven that you can have phenomenal resolution and phenomenally low noise. At the APS-C level, however, I'm curious to see how things pan out. It looks like we're well on our way to having 30-plus mp sensors on crop bodies, primarily for marketing purposes. Are there ever going to be ad campaigns to attempt to educate consumers of the other factors affecting IQ and overall camera useful, or will manufacturers perpetuate the strategy of cramming as many megapixels on a tiny sensor as possible?