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Author Topic: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond  (Read 8377 times)

awinphoto

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Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« on: April 22, 2011, 10:33:55 AM »
There has been quite a lot of talk lately regarding bodies and where they are going, especially with MP, Diffraction, and image quality.  Given the length of time within this profession, I thought I would give my 2 cents regarding these issues...

Ever since Canon and Nikon started making digital DSLR's with the D30, D60, and 10D for canon and Nikon's first digital DSLR (that I'm aware of), the D1x, the D30 was 3 MP and the D60, 10D, and D1x were all 6 MP.  At that time photographers criticized the cameras and MP and resolution because it maxed out at just under an 8"x10" print resolution.  Keep in mind photo printers needed and required at that time 300dpi to get anything photo quality, so photographers lived and died by that resolution.  It was determined by people much more technical that me that the resolution of the top slide film was in the low to mid 20mp's and so Canon took notice and slowly started edging up the MP to reach that holy grail. 

Now that the 1Ds and 5D mII has reached that holy grail, canon is thinking on how they can push the limits beyond film and produce something within the medium format realm which I would welcome as long as the image quality doesn't suffer from where it is already.  Nikon hasn't been so aggressive in the MP race and has suffered in the early stages of digital photography because of that.  Nikon has recently started playing the same game with canon regarding MP however they have a slightly different approach with only umping the top tier cameras of each class leaving plenty of room for upgrades and division between classes of photographers.  Canon on the other hand tries to save money by having fewer sensor option trickling down sensors (1Ds to 5D mII, 7D to 60D to Rebel T2I, etc... )  I'm sure they would trickle down the 1D sensor if they made another camera that format size.

There are photographers who say "I dont need X amount of MP!  Nikon only makes 12 Mp and that's all I need"  Well congratulations, you find yourself in the majority of all photographers in the world.  While I have my 5D and 7D, it is not often I print larger than 11x14 and not too often I print 11x14's at that unless there is a reason such as someone is buying it or I'm shooting a commercial shoot for a client.  Back in the days of film, with full frame 35mm's, most people printed 4x6's, 5x7's, and the occasional 8x10's.  Photographers rarely ever printed 11x14's with film negatives because the quality would be slightly compromised.  Lab technicians at film labs would question the photographer to make sure they wanted that size.  Not much has changed from now to then in that regards except even fewer prints are printed and instead put of digital picture frames, facebook, flickr, and email.  You hear the argument that the difference between a 70-200 2.8 lens and the 70-200 F4 lens is that the F4 can never go to F2.8 if and when you need it.  Same goes to MP... you may rarely need to use the sensor at full resolution and down-sample in post production everything you shoot, however if you have a low MP camera, it will never quite be the same upsampled as if it was shot with a higher resolution camera.  It is really as simple as that. 

Lastly, diffraction.  Yes, that is a pain in the butt.  With that said, lens, especially entry level lenses, have not changed dramatically from the film days in regards to quality.  The common rule of thumb with film was you should spend twice the amount on lenses than the body.  This wasn't hard because bodies were so simple and relatively cheap.  With digital, lenses, for the most part minus inflation, have remained pretty stable in pricing with bodies double, tripling, and in some cameras, skyrocketing compared to their film counterparts, so people now try to skimp on lenses because of the high prices of cameras.  Earlier I said in the film days, people rarely printed 11x14's let alone anything bigger cause of image quality issues.  If you take a 11x14 printed from a film camera 35mm, hold a lupe up to it, you would see the exact same diffraction limits as a 7D at full resolution at 100% with an entry level lens.  The difference between now and then because people used to not dare print at that size and now since things are so cheap and its quite easy to throw images in photoshop and zoom to 100%, it's much much easier to notice now.  This falls in the same realm of you get what you pay for.  This isn't anything new.  This isn't something that magically appeared because light hits a sensor rather than a slightly curved plane of film.  Its just much easier to dissect an image now than it was 10 years ago.  Plus I would also dare to say there is double to triple the quantity of "professional photographers" than in the film days because it's easier than in the film days.  The technique and prices have overall lowered with the lack of dark room, and it is easier to learn.  The limitations are there and will not be going away so we as photographers need to raise the bar, learn to compensate, overcome, and enjoy photography.  People who complain about current cameras are the same who complained about the D30, D60, and 10D.  Some people will never be happy, however they are also important because if it wasn't for them, there would be no need for Canon and Nikon to improve. 

   
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

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Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« on: April 22, 2011, 10:33:55 AM »

motorhead

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2011, 01:24:10 PM »
I remember reading a very interesting article on just this subject in Amateur Photographer written by Geoffrey Crawley -sadly now deceased.

His argument was that "popular thinking" was wrong on so many points. He had no time for those who claimed "12 mp is enough............" and instead argued that difraction is not as much of a problem as some would have us believe and resolution is a moving target  - always getting better, if at a price. He claimed that lens designers have known how to improve their products for a long time, but that it has not been financially justified. 

 As an example he referred to a decision made by the BBC in the 1950's to spend very large sums of cash on extremely high quality German lenses, but the results were extremely disappointing to say the least. The glassware was not at fault, but no amount of superb glass could improve things when the camera and film technology was the limiting factor at the time. Geoffrey claimed that this was exactly the situation with dSLR lens designs until now, with lens design having been carefully matched to the bodies being offered. He said newer, better glassware would appear as the camera sensor and processing justified it, until then there was no point.

We are certainly witnessing Canon in particular upgrading their range right now, ready for the next generation large mp cameras I for one  fully expect to be using. 

"Popularist thinking" seems to forget that ever higher mp's will give us ever smoother images as we have to stress the basic data less. It assumes we will never have more powerful computers or printers that will print at high ppi's than at present. Both these assumptions are obviously flawed.

One further point:  I can print at A3+ provided I got the framing right in camera, any cropping at all  the A3+ print exposes the flaws. If nothing else, the upcoming 50-100 mp images should give me more flexibility to crop.

NotABunny

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2011, 03:02:29 PM »
While your neutral tone motivates most photographers to enjoy the cameras, some may want far more (I'm not interested in resolution either way).

Have a look at http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php/topic,863.msg11322.html#msg11322

(Sure, the photo was taken with a sensor that's 2.5 times larger than a full frame, but look at the entire photo and then at the close-up. I'm sure lots of people are salivating, even if they don't usually need that. Hm, you know, I could even take a guess at the number from the plate.)

Neuffy

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2011, 04:39:58 PM »
Anybody looking at the future of high-MP bodies should have a look at this:
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/02/why-80-megapixels-just-wont-be-enough.html

With proper processing, diffraction is much less of a problem that it has been (see: LightRoom 3 processing vs LightRoom 2 processing when it comes to diffraction-softened images). All indications are that it will continue to be improved upon.

If nothing else, a 40MP DSLR would give us really easy options: 40MP for those who want resolution, 10MP 2x2 binned for those who don't want the filesize/processing overhead/etc.

J. McCabe

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2011, 01:07:07 AM »
You hear the argument that the difference between a 70-200 2.8 lens and the 70-200 F4 lens is that the F4 can never go to F2.8 if and when you need it.  Same goes to MP... you may rarely need to use the sensor at full resolution and down-sample in post production everything you shoot, however if you have a low MP camera, it will never quite be the same upsampled as if it was shot with a higher resolution camera.  It is really as simple as that.

No, it isn't.

High resolution costs good money in larger & faster memory cards, in disk space, and in RAM & processing power required to handle the photos on a computer. I'd rather save on all of those and settle on A4 size prints, rather than pay for it so I would have the option of printing A3 or larger @ 300 DPI.

I have no objections to Canon making high resolution cameras for those who do want to print that large. I do criticize Canon for making all it's DSLRs high resolution, with the exception of the bottom end body.

awinphoto

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2011, 10:25:56 AM »
Sure it is...  memory cards are cheap to come by and with external hd's even cheaper. You can even get external drives you can plus your cards into for extra room. You can also pick up ram as well cheap enough. While I do not want to be flippant but assuming your computer is under 5 years old, i would assume your computer can handle any pictures the newest cameras can pump out. Computers shouldn't be the limiting factors to your photography.


You hear the argument that the difference between a 70-200 2.8 lens and the 70-200 F4 lens is that the F4 can never go to F2.8 if and when you need it.  Same goes to MP... you may rarely need to use the sensor at full resolution and down-sample in post production everything you shoot, however if you have a low MP camera, it will never quite be the same upsampled as if it was shot with a higher resolution camera.  It is really as simple as that.

No, it isn't.

High resolution costs good money in larger & faster memory cards, in disk space, and in RAM & processing power required to handle the photos on a computer. I'd rather save on all of those and settle on A4 size prints, rather than pay for it so I would have the option of printing A3 or larger @ 300 DPI.

I have no objections to Canon making high resolution cameras for those who do want to print that large. I do criticize Canon for making all it's DSLRs high resolution, with the exception of the bottom end body.
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

awinphoto

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2011, 11:38:48 AM »
Another way to think of the "more computer power/space needed for more MP, if your willing to spend/invest thousands in new lenses/camera then you should be willing to invest in your computer as well. While brand new computers will process images quicker, older computers can still handle the images with patience. It's money but still a total investment in your photography. Having a computer that can't handle your photography would be like buying a sports car and putting bad gas in the engine.
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2011, 11:38:48 AM »

smeggy

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2011, 12:22:01 PM »
There is merit in the argument of having more MPs. Of course doing so will increase processing overhead, but as another poster has said, this can be overcome with (on sensor) pixel binning if desired.

Photos taken with my 5DII don’t go noticeably soft (at the pixel level) until f11-13.
So in theory, the sensor could use pixels only ¼ of the current size when using an f2.8 lens (and I’m sure many of us have lenses much wider than that); so yielding 16x the pixel density. Crunching the numbers: 21MP * 16 = 340MP !!
OF course pixel noise would be a considerably greater issue, but only at the pixel level. Because the pixels would be smaller, any additional pixel noise would be counteracted by every noise element being smaller too – so that effect could well cancel out when looking at the photo as a whole.

Perhaps a more significant problem will be the fill factor. Today’s sensors already waste a lot of light due to the colour filters in front of each pixel. Having a pixel width of 1.6u (340MP for a FF sensor) will result with considerable losses around each pixel element (even when using micro-lenses). If camera manufacturers are able to solve that issue, then they should be able to eliminate the Bayer filters (to achieve overlapping R&G&B per pixel), as well as creating a lossless, non-rolling electronic shutter (thus eliminating the shutter mechanism and all the technical complication resulting from it, such as HSS).

Given the shallow depths of fields that huge MP cameras would necessitate, and the focus errors that would still invariably result, people could end up being more frustrated as it would become more evident that their focus plane wasn’t exactly where they wanted it.
As for the more artistic among us: do we need more pixels when trying to get smooth bokeh?

I think I would greatly prefer for manufacturers to focus their design effort towards eliminating the Bayer filter and the mechanical shutter; workarounds already exist. IMO, the implementation of these would make for a much better camera, more so than simply having more MPs.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 12:26:09 PM by smeggy »

J. McCabe

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2011, 12:48:51 PM »
Another way to think of the "more computer power/space needed for more MP, if your willing to spend/invest thousands in new lenses/camera then you should be willing to invest in your computer as well.

May I invest your money for you as well ?

J. McCabe

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2011, 12:55:27 PM »
Sure it is...  memory cards are cheap to come by and with external hd's even cheaper. You can even get external drives you can plus your cards into for extra room. You can also pick up ram as well cheap enough. While I do not want to be flippant but assuming your computer is under 5 years old, i would assume your computer can handle any pictures the newest cameras can pump out. Computers shouldn't be the limiting factors to your photography.

I don't want to buy a new 64bit operating system (which I don't need), more RAM (which I don't need), more hard disk space (which I don't need), more backup space (which I don't need), etc just so I could handle the extra pixels (which I don't need).

I do want to use the money for purposes like paying the bills and upgrading my camera body & lenses.

So, if Canon cares about my opinion (and it might very well not), I'd rather not have a camera with more pixels.

dilbert

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2011, 01:06:29 PM »
*yawn*

this topic has been covered in depth in numerous other places by those far more knowledgable on the topic.

the sky is not falling.

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2011, 03:48:14 PM »
J. McCabe:
Quote
I don't want to buy a new 64bit operating system (which I don't need), more RAM (which I don't need), more hard disk space (which I don't need), more backup space (which I don't need), etc just so I could handle the extra pixels (which I don't need).

This is an understandable sentiment, and I think few of us amateurs have the cash to be nonchalant about computer upgrades.  However, the way I think of it is this: back in the film days, you had to use chemicals to develop your film.  Some chemicals could be used only once; other could be used a few times before their effectiveness diminished to the point where they had to be thrown out.  It doesn't matter that you want to keep re-using your chemicals: after a while they just won't do the job.

Computers are similar: you can try to squeeze extra years out of an old computer, but eventually you must upgrade, if for no other reason than the OS vendor stops supplying security updates, or you can't get anti-virus to run on it.  In my professional experience, working with computers for over 20 years, you should not expect to get more than four years out of a computer without serious upgrades.  Sure, some people do run their computers longer than that, but they risk leaving themselves "incompatible."  I have spent many (painful, uncompensated) hours helping friends squeeze another few months out of a computer that should have been "put to sleep."

I guess where I'm going with this is that, while I sympathize with your feeling that things are fine for you with fewer pixels, the problem is that the rest of the world doesn't seem to agree.  Based on the recent post regarding Canon's DSLR market share, Canon seems to be making the right marketing decisions.  I.e. Canon doesn't care about what you or I want as individuals: they care about the overall market.  You can accept this, and do your best to balance your computer expenditures against your other costs, or you can buy a succession of used 40D's and 5D1's, and keep using old versions of photo software.

Just out of curiosity, what computer equipment do you have now?  CPU, RAM, HD, OS?

Orangutan

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2011, 05:53:27 PM »
So, if Canon cares about my opinion (and it might very well not),

They don't.  They care about the opinion of the market in aggregate, which in general, disagrees with you.

I'd rather not have a camera with more pixels.

Then don't upgrade.

Buy, or don't buy, whatever suits your wants and needs.  Whining about it on a forum accomplishes nothing (although we're all guilty of that at some point).  If what Canon offers doesn't align with what you want, perhaps there is some other vendor that is more suitable.  Expecting/demanding that Canon depress it's offerings to the lowest common denominator is as unreasonable as it is unlikely.  Besides, you must surely be aware that nearly every digital camera ever made allows you to capture images at lower than full resolution; so why bother trolling with those same tired old arguments?

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2011, 05:53:27 PM »

J. McCabe

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2011, 01:34:32 AM »
So, if Canon cares about my opinion (and it might very well not),

They don't.  They care about the opinion of the market in aggregate, which in general, disagrees with you.

And you base that statement on ... ?

As another thread in this forum shows, there are plenty of people for whom more MP is not a priority, or at least not the first priority.

I'd rather not have a camera with more pixels.

Then don't upgrade.

Why should I miss on other features ?

I'm not whining, I'm expressing my priorities. I am considering a switch to Nikon. I don't expect / demand that Canon depress it's offering to the lowest common denominator, I wish that Canon also make FF bodies with lower resolution, something which Nikon (I mentioned I consider I switch to Nikon ?) already does.

You must surely be aware that some software packages, e.g. DxO, will not process mRaw and sRaw, so I wonder why you troll the forum with impractical suggestions.

J. McCabe

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2011, 02:05:22 AM »
J. McCabe:
Quote
I don't want to buy a new 64bit operating system (which I don't need), more RAM (which I don't need), more hard disk space (which I don't need), more backup space (which I don't need), etc just so I could handle the extra pixels (which I don't need).

This is an understandable sentiment, and I think few of us amateurs have the cash to be nonchalant about computer upgrades.  However, the way I think of it is this: back in the film days, you had to use chemicals to develop your film.  Some chemicals could be used only once; other could be used a few times before their effectiveness diminished to the point where they had to be thrown out.  It doesn't matter that you want to keep re-using your chemicals: after a while they just won't do the job.

Computers are similar: you can try to squeeze extra years out of an old computer, but eventually you must upgrade, if for no other reason than the OS vendor stops supplying security updates, or you can't get anti-virus to run on it.  In my professional experience, working with computers for over 20 years, you should not expect to get more than four years out of a computer without serious upgrades.  Sure, some people do run their computers longer than that, but they risk leaving themselves "incompatible."  I have spent many (painful, uncompensated) hours helping friends squeeze another few months out of a computer that should have been "put to sleep."

I guess where I'm going with this is that, while I sympathize with your feeling that things are fine for you with fewer pixels, the problem is that the rest of the world doesn't seem to agree.  Based on the recent post regarding Canon's DSLR market share, Canon seems to be making the right marketing decisions.  I.e. Canon doesn't care about what you or I want as individuals: they care about the overall market.  You can accept this, and do your best to balance your computer expenditures against your other costs, or you can buy a succession of used 40D's and 5D1's, and keep using old versions of photo software.

Just out of curiosity, what computer equipment do you have now?  CPU, RAM, HD, OS?

Orangutan

I'm a software engineer for 20+ years, and was sysadmin for 2, so I'm well aware of the points you've raised.

I'll skip the details (using the same 32 bit XP Pro Retail license for a decade, upgraded the computer after six years, etc), because they are all debatable, and go straight to the point that upgrading the computer when it's outdated is more economical than upgrading it every time I upgrade my camera body.

[As example, yes - XP is outdated & I'll probably upgrade to Windows 7 in the near future. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who used the same computer with Windows 9x for a decade before upgrading.]

Not only Nikon has lower resolution FF bodies, it split the D3 into D3S & D3X to cater for both those who want low resolution & those who want high resolution. If you have a doubt - the low res D3S was released *after* the high res D3X. As I wrote above, if Canon doesn't follow suit, I might very well switch to Nikon.


What I have is 32 bit XP Pro SP3, 4GB of RAM, i5 660 @ 3.33GHz, and ~1.5TB of disk. My current limitation is RAM, e.g. for DxO (which doesn't handle mRaw & sRaw, and I voiced my wishes to the manufacturor that future versions supported those formats). If my next camera has more MP, I'll have to upgrade my RAM, and therefore the operating system as well.

The price of 64 bit Windows 7 and more RAM is small next to what the 5Dmk3 would probably cost, but I've already bought a whole new computer when upgrading to the 5Dmk2.

Which is why I'm waiting to see what Canon would do with the 5Dmk3, and what Nikon would do with the D800 (or whatever the D700 replacement would be called). At that point, I might very well switch brands.

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Re: Diffraction, MP and the great beyond
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2011, 02:05:22 AM »