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Old Oct 2, 2005, 12:08 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378

Look at the image samples in this model's review here, and I think you'll have your answer.

More megapixels does not necessarily equal better image quality, *especially* when you're trying to stuff that many photosites into a tiny sensor. The opposite is often the case (more megapixels can equal lower image quality).

In order to get more and more megapixels into a sensor, the manufacturers have to make each photosite smaller. So, the more photosites, the more light needed for them to generate a strong enough signal (because you have less surface area for photons to hit for each individual photosite).

That means more amplification of the signal for equivalent ISO speed sensitivity (which can be like trying to turn up the volume on a weak radio station, only instead of hum, static and hiss, you get image noise).

Manufacturers have been making some advances in things like microlens design (a tiny lens over each photosite, optimized to try and amplify the light hitting each photosite so that it can generate a stronger signal). But, the angle of the light hitting these tiny photosites can be more critical (reflections/refraction problems), and places even greater demand on the camera's main lens design.

Also, since the camera needs to use what it "sees" from the sensor for focusing, the quality of the image generated by it can impact Autofocusperformance and reliability.

So, guess what happens when you try to stuff 8 Million Photosites into a sensor the size of a fingernail, with a tiny zoom lens in front of it? ;-)

Sure, some sensors are a better than others. But, I personally thinkthis Megapixel race (trying to stuff more and more megapixels into smaller and smaller cameras) is getting to be a little ridiculous.

Most consumers don't need larger prints anyway. Heck, for prints up to 8x10 inches, 3 Megapixels produces good quality, and 2 Megapixels will do in a pinch.

I'veseen 8x10 inchprints made from a 2 Megapixel camera that look every bit as good (IMHO) at typical viewing distances,as those taken with35mm film.

I'm reminded of this every time I visit my parents home and look at aportraitof myselfand my wife (taken using a self timer with a 2 Megapixel Nikon Coolpoix 950). It's hanging on the wall by a portrait ofmy sister and brother-in-law taken professionally using film.

I'd rather manufacturers took all of that "know how", and instead of improving microlens, CCD and supporting chipset design so this megapixel race continues,put it to use on lower resolution sensors. Or, at least stop the race until the other image chacteristics improve more. I'd rather have 3 Megapixels with higher ISO speeds, lower noise, and better dynamic range.

But, apparently, the "more is better" phenomena sells cameras. After all, you wouldn't want anybody saying "you only have 3 Megapixels, I've got 8" :-)

Take a look at the sample images from this old 2 Megapixel Kodak Pro DCS-720X DSLR (where you have a larger sensor as found in a DSLR, with only 2 Megapixels). It had a 9 stop dynamic range (and that was using older technology and algorithms for image processing than available today)!

Look at the ability to holdcolor and highlight detail in areas like a a bright sky, while still digging into the shadows to pull out detail there, too (even though the images were processed with the contrast a bit high).

This thing started out at ISO 400, and could be used at up to ISO 6400 (although it was only calibrated to ISO 4000, with 6400 "pushing it" a bit). But, even the ISO 6400 images clean up very nicely with modern tools like Noiseware (we've come a long ways with software and image processing since this model was introduced).

Yet, despite the older image processing algorithms and software used, this sensor's quality shines through. Every time I look at these old 2 Megapixel images, I think "wow".

The sensors you see in most newer non-DSLRmodels (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Konica-Minolta, Olympus, etc.)are manufacturered by mostly by Sony, Panasonic or Sharp.

Fuji and Kodakmake their own.

Do you really need 8 megapixels in a camera this small?

Steve isn't as tough on cameras as some reviewers.

But, when you see him suggesting other models instead of one he reviews, make sure you look at the sample photos closely.

You'll even find some of the same subjects in the sample photos of each model reviewed, to help you compare image quality between cameras you are considering.

Also, pay close attention to a camera's review conclusion section (last page before the sample images in each model's review).

His X1 review ended this way:

"...we feel you should take a look at some other manufactures models in this price range like Canon's Powershot SD500, Nikon's Coolpix 7900, or Sony's Cyber-Shot P200, just to name a few. Even though they might have less resolution, the quality of their images and speedy performance make up for it."

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote