It has become pretty common these days to say that “we don’t need no more stinking megapixels”, that __insert_your_preferred_amount_here__ megapixels are sufficient. But it is that so?
Fuji users are especially vocal in this regards, claiming that their 16Mp are more than enough. Some extremists like Ken Rockwell claim that they have been able to make gigantic prints with 3, 4 or 10Mp cameras. BTW, I’d love to see a full-frame or Aps-C Fuji with 50Mp…
Clearly something is not right. The confusion stems mostly from two things:
1) the level at which the various photographers consider a print to be “acceptable”, resolution wise
2) the kind of subject: portraits can get away with much less Mp-power, classical (“sharp”) landscapes demand much much more
So ultimately you should decide for yourself when is “enough” in terms of megapixels.
Probably because my main subjects are landscapes I engaged today in a bit of calculations, to determine what amount would make me so happy as not to change camera for quite a bit, like in the good ol’ film days. Now I’m using a 24Mp Sony Nex 7, but I often resort to multi-row stitching to up the resolution.
My goal is to be able to print with excellent quality up to 1x1m / 40x40in (I often prefer a square crop). This is conceivably the maximum print size I would ever need for “normal” pictures, and I could still multi-stitch if the need should ensue.
The usual answer would be to multiply the print size for the “standard” resolution of 300ppi, but given the extreme acutance and resolution of the digital sensors I feel this to be a wild overestimation: you would need, according to this classical formula, a 144Mp sensor!*
As a matter of fact, a 24Mp image is already pretty good at this print size, even if it is just at slightly more than 140ppi. The problems mostly arise when trying to crop it square, when it is reduced to a measly (sorry Fuji 🙂 ) 16Mp.
So instead of using just the calculator, I tried also various combinations of crops etc. from multi-stitched images.
For MY needs I found that probably the sweet spot will be around 50Mp, that will give me a nice 36Mp square crop.
And given that we almost universally are more visual learners than mathematicians I’ve realized the info-graphic you see above, that shows how much do you gain from each jump in megapixels.
It really looks like the new rumored Sony will make my day.*Still dear Sony/Fuji/whoever, if you can deliver one of this to me for a reasonable price I will not complain!** **…and then I read this on SonyAlphaRumors.com: 1st post: “That tech also allows to make crazy high megapixel sensor. For example if you keep an Sony’s APCS pixel size same as the current Sony A7r 36MP RGB pixel size sensor you could in theory make a 144 Megapixel FF APCS sensor” 2nd post: “The sensor has a native ISO of 5120 and an impressive dynamic range of 127,69DB at that setting” Jeez…I guess nobody will use anymore those nice 0,95 lenses! Don’t worry, send me your Noctilux and I’ll take good care of them 🙂