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Old Jun 15, 2008, 3:17 PM   #1
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I'm one of those photographers who, as I made the switch from film to digital photography, never got caught up in the megapixel race. I always felt that as long as I could get a good A3 print or fill my 17-inch computer screen with an image and still enjoy good quality, that was all I needed. Generally, I thought the sweet spot - particularly with point-and-shoots and megazooms with smaller sensors - was in the 6-8 megapixel range. Of course, that didn't stop the camera makers from cramming ever more megapixels down the proverbial throats of their small sensors and driving up noise levels. DSLRs with their larger sensors and better lenses, of course, don't have that problem and larger images give you the freedom the crop without worrying about noise all that much.

I still feel this way when it comes to photographic prints. But my purchase of a couple of HDTVs earlier this year may cause me to change my mind on this subject when it comes to the "big picture" (pun intended). About a year and a half ago, I purchased a Canon S3 IS before a vacation trip to Europe. I wanted the flexibility offered by its zoom lens and carrying around a DSLR was simply not practical. It's been a great camera that, despite the compromises involved with the zoom lens and small sensor, has produced more-than-acceptable images for most applications.

But when I burned my photos from the European trip to DVD and photo CD, I discovered the 6 megapixels offered by the S3 didn't hold up well when viewed on either of my HDTVs. Now, I don't have a home theatre. My living room set is a 720p 32-inch Panasonic and my bedroom set is a 720p 26-inch Panasonic. So, don't view the images on those sets, right? Well, yes - I guess. But I enjoy sharing vacation photos with friends and relatives, and viewing them on my old analog TV used to be a great way to do so.

I've owned plenty of film SLRs in the past. But I'm now in the market for a DSLR (for reasons unrelated to my post today) and my shopping and research causes me to wonder if megapixel count will become even more important to many (or at least some) of us than it's been up to now. I'm not just talking about viewing images on today's HDTVs. I'm considering HDTV advances that may be made in the next decade or two. Will it make that much of a difference if any of us pushes for one of the few 14 megapixel DSLRs that have just come on the market, or will 10 megapixels be enough?

And how about those point-and-shoots? Will the average camera consumer be forced to opt for ever-higher pixel counts and increased noise levels in order to view his or her photos on their home sets? It seems to me that 10-12 megapixels is a minimum for the size of my HDTVs today. Larger sets might require a lot more. It's possible that breakthroughs in camera sensors might take care of this down the line. But what about the images we shoot today? It would be nice to be able to view them on our HDTV's - or whatever devices we use for such purposes - years down the road. Maybe we need to scratch for every last megapixel we can get - or resign ourselves to viewing our images on smaller computer screens and/or with traditional prints.

Has anyone else on these boards experienced a similar situation or even thought about this?
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Old Jun 15, 2008, 4:08 PM   #2
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The problem isn't the camera(s), but the resolution of photo CD/DVD. Uness you burn to HD DVD with compatible software, you are reducing the resolution to something like half what your HD TV or monitor can display. If you are able, try displaying the pictures from your computer via HDMI cable to your HDTV. You will see a huge difference.

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Old Jun 15, 2008, 7:04 PM   #3
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I'll try that. But somehow, while I didn't think my images would look like something off a Blu-ray disc, I did expect something roughly the quality of my standard DVDs upconverted to 720p. (I have upconverting DVD players). But it's not nearly that good. I'll give your suggestion a try.
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Old Jun 15, 2008, 8:46 PM   #4
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CDs, DVDs, HD DVDs and Blu-Ray disks don't actually have a 'resolution'. They have a capacity. You can store a widescreen Hi-Def movie on a CD and it will play just fine, as long as it is short enough to fit on a 650MB CD.

The problem you're describing could, however, be the result of the limited capability of your DVD player to display JPEG images.

I just copied a photo at full resolution (3008x2000), 1024x768, 960x720, 800x600, and 640x480 onto a CD. The photos looked great whichever resolution I chose to view, but once I zoomed in, the higher resolution copies took longer to display, but were worth the wait. The lower resolution images were highly pixelated when zoomed, though they appearedsimilar to thehigher resolutionimagesat full size (though I didn't spend a lot of time critiquing them.)
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Old Jun 15, 2008, 9:58 PM   #5
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Well, I just tried a variation of VTphotg's suggestion by plugging my S3 directly into the video component input of one of my sets. And he's right, there was a very big improvement.

I also believe, separate from that solution, that if I was working with a much larger image to begin with - say, a 10 megapixel jpg instead of 6 megapixels - the results would have been better still. Just as with a traditional print, if you're enlarging an image to something roughly 27x16 inches, it helps to start with a larger negative or file. I think you know what I mean.

So the culprit is the CD, DVD (I tried both) or my DVD player. It's certainly not the connection to the set, as I use a high-quality HDMI cable. It still kind of makes me scratch my head, because my player is able to upconvert standard DVDs to 720p, 1080i or 1080p - with very good results. My next step will be to find someone I know with a Blu-ray DVD player - all of which can also upconvert older, non-high def DVDs - and see what that looks like.

If the solution is a better disc player, I can live with that. Even if it takes me a while to make the purchase (I am, after all, still in the market for a DSLR), at least I'll know that backing up all the photos on my computer to CD or DVD is still a workable option that isn't downgrading the quality of the source information.

And, BTW, I feel like an idiot because I didn't think to plug my camera in directly to the TV on my own. 30 years and radio and television and I overlooked that obvious test. Maybe I need a vacation.

Thanks to both of you.
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Old Jun 16, 2008, 6:50 AM   #6
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Try making a CD or DVD with photos at various resolutions, and take it to your local BB, CC, or WallyWorld, and try it out in the DVD players on display.
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Old Jun 19, 2008, 8:19 AM   #7
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Biro wrote:
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I also believe, separate from that solution, that if I was working with a much larger image to begin with - say, a 10 megapixel jpg instead of 6 megapixels - the results would have been better still. Just as with a traditional print, if you're enlarging an image to something roughly 27x16 inches, it helps to start with a larger negative or file. I think you know what I mean.
Should have gotten back to this sooner. Full HDTV is 1920x1080 pixels resolution - or 2 megapixels. Since the aspect ratio doesn't exactly match your camera, you may need a bit more than that for best quality, but not much. My guess is that you would lose more resolution in the downconversion from the larger size than you would gain from the initial higher pixel count.

Of course, if you are working on convincing a spouse that you need a new camera to go with the new TV, ignore the above comments.:-)

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