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Old Nov 15, 2009, 11:07 AM   #1
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Default Where Next With DSLRs?

I ran across this interesting piece at the Zone-10 Web site today. It discusses some avenues camera manufacturers may take for the next generation of improvements to DSLRs. This article is not brand-specific (although the author uses Canon in one case for illustrative purposes). Just a warning, the piece gets technical after the first page. But I think most may find it interesting:

http://zone-10.com/cmsm/index.php?op...d=461&Itemid=1

Personally I tend to agree with the author. For me, I think we've reached the point of diminishing returns with pixel counts. For APS-C cameras, I see no benefit in going beyond the 14-15mp level. Look at the results reviewers have been getting with the Canon 7D. This is a fine camera... but with 18mp, does one get real-world results better than other quality DSLRs offering 12-15mp? And then there's the issue of file size. Even at 14-15mp, I begin to question the space I'm using on my hard drive.

Of course, the very advancements in sensor technology discussed in this article may also change the resolution question. Any thoughts?
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 11:57 AM   #2
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I remember, years ago, that the pundits were saying that 64K of memory was all that was necessary. (Yes, I go back that far. Wanna make something of it?) Not long after that, pundits said that 640K of memory was more than anyone would ever need. Soon after that, pundits laughed at the idea of IBM making a 40MB hard disk drive the smallest drive available for the IBM PC AT. They couldn't imagine that anyone would ever need that much storage space. Then, in an effort to support even larger Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets, Lotus, Intel and Microsoft developed the Expanded Memory Specification. Pundits praised the Expanded Memory's upper limit of 32MB as more memory than anyone would ever need.

Blah, blah, blah.

I could go on about political punditry too, but I'll spare you.

We don't know what we will need until we have all there is. ... and it turns out not to be enough.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 12:32 PM   #3
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I use to work at a printing plant and pre-press file size was 500MB+ for each photo, they used a drum scanner to make them and that was ten years ago!
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 1:03 PM   #4
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sorry - I'm with Biro to a large degree. I'd take the images out of the 12mp Nikon D3/D700 any day over any of the 15-18mp cameras out there. There will always be a minority that will truly gain from more MP. But the vast majority of photographers simply don't benefit from so many pixels. AND, what is more important is R&D money spent at cramming more MP into same size sensors could better be spent in other areas where the photographer DOES benefit.

Case in point - for the sports shooting I do. I'll be happy to stack up the results I get our of my 10mp camera against anything out there short of the D3/D700 mentioned (assuming same photographer or same level of skill using both setups). Again, more MP isn't necessarily bad, but it does take money away from other areas.

Personally I think you'll see the biggest gains in DSLRs in a couple areas:
1) High ISO - this has become the latest version of the megapixel race.
2) video - it's only in the last generation of DSLRs where video has hit. We have a lot of ground to cover for video to maiximize it's potential. And I think this is one area where the market will push for better. Personally I wish it were different, but I can understand and appreciate that a large portion of the DSLR market wants the benefit of video they had in their digicam and on their phone at a higher quality level in their DSLR. 3 years ago people said it would never happen in a DSLR.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 1:43 PM   #5
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The difference between a 12MP image sensor and a 15MP image sensor isn't that much. And the difference between a 15MP image sensor and an 18MP image sensor isn't that much. So long as you do most of your shooting at lower ISO settings, where's the harm?

And when you take into account the Bayer Filter, every four pixels are already averaged to make a single image pixel anyway; everything else is the result of the anti-aliasing filter and other in-camera processing, RAW or not.

The JPEG specification uses sRGB, possibly AdobeRGB. The author is talking about supplimenting the current Bayer Filter with additional CMY filters. How will all that additional data be digested in post processing, if not the in-camera processing to produce JPEG files? If we don't go with more pixels, we'll surely need cameras with faster processors.

Clearly the author is knowledgeable, but he's taking his own senario down the path of doom. There are other senarios and other paths.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 2:15 PM   #6
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As the article points out, there is still plenty of room. APS-C and FF sensors would have >100Mp and >200Mp respectively at P&S pixel pitches.

The camera manufacturers are able to keep on improving the sensors and at a given output/print size and state of sensor technology there is no penalty in increasing the pixel count. The numbers at DXOMark show this pretty conclusively.

So why not add more pixels? You can always down-res if you don't need them. As the pixel pitch gets smaller you can dispense with the AA filters too.

As I moved from my 5D to my 5DMkII I realised that I really don't need 22Mp most of the time, but the only downside is longer processing time.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 2:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic View Post
So why not add more pixels? .
Because the money spent on doing so could be spent in other areas. Some would argue there are other areas which would provide more benefit than more pixels. Imagine if those same $$ went to technology similar to micro 4/3 making everything smaller. Or better wireless capability - built in wi-fi transmission maybe. Better dynamic range. Or money spent on the optics / lenses instead of the bodies. The downside to more MP is it's lost opportunity in other areas which could benefit from those $$$ of R&D money.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 4:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Because the money spent on doing so could be spent in other areas. Some would argue there are other areas which would provide more benefit than more pixels. Imagine if those same $$ went to technology similar to micro 4/3 making everything smaller. Or better wireless capability - built in wi-fi transmission maybe. Better dynamic range. Or money spent on the optics / lenses instead of the bodies. The downside to more MP is it's lost opportunity in other areas which could benefit from those $$$ of R&D money.
This is all true, but as Peripatetic and TCav point out, it's not as if technological advance is limited to one aspect of the equipment. When Olympus developed the L600, I was absolutely thrilled at being able to have a camera with one meg...

I'm about to start a thread on Juvenile Turkey vultures, quite a good series of shots, and all done with a 5 Meg Camera. Man, do I wish I had my present 12, better, I wish I had 40.

If you notice, Nikon just released a camera with a useable ISO of 104,000(?), so it's not as if we're sacrificing one aspect of shooting at the expense of another.

Ten years from now, we're going to be talking about the incredible lenses being developed to match the megs. Heh, he, he,

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Old Nov 15, 2009, 5:23 PM   #9
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It's true... technical development isn't limited to any one given area of DSLRs. But I'm with John when he says he'd prefer more of the R&D dollars going toward areas that clearly need it - namely dynamic range and high ISO performance - rather than toward more pixels, which only professionals shooting images for posters and/or billboards really need.

I'm a Pentax shooter right now and as great a camera as the new 14mp K-7 is, I'm just as impressed (albeit in different ways) with the new 12mp K-x, which offers a bit less resolution but superior high ISO performance. That takes nothing away from the great photographic tool that the K-7 is. But the ability to shoot with confidence at ISO 3200 (and maybe even 6400) is very important to me. I imagine anyone who shoots sports might feel the same way.

That's why, while I had intended to buy the K-7 this Christmas or early next year, I may pick up a K-x body instead - or wait to see if Pentax introduces a replacement for the K200D with the sensor, burst mode and AF enhancements of the K-x and the weather resistance and viewfinder flashing AF points of the K200D. Pixel count is at the bottom of my list of priorities. The K-7 (or more likely its replacement) can come later.

Video? It's not even factor for me in a DSLR. I'll probably never use it. But... I suspect the technology upgrades required to improve video ability may end up giving still photographers incredible burst modes. A breakthrough in compression technology that might allow high-res images to take up less space with no loss in quality also ranks high on my personal list.
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Old Nov 15, 2009, 5:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
Because the money spent on doing so could be spent in other areas. Some would argue there are other areas which would provide more benefit than more pixels. Imagine if those same $$ went to technology similar to micro 4/3 making everything smaller. Or better wireless capability - built in wi-fi transmission maybe. Better dynamic range. Or money spent on the optics / lenses instead of the bodies. The downside to more MP is it's lost opportunity in other areas which could benefit from those $$$ of R&D money.
The size of a dSLR is dictated by the size of the mirror box. The size of the mirror box is dictated by the size of the image sensor. Micro 4/3 isn't a techological advance. They just left out the mirror box.

Canon and Nikon don't need to spend money to find out how to make cameras smaller. They already know how to do that. They used to do it. They used to make rangefinder cameras. Of course, with autofocus, a camera doesn't need a rangefinder any more. In fact, with a digital image sensor, a camera doesn't need an optical viewfinder at all. Micro 4/3 cameras are just P&S digicams with interchangeable lenses. Nobody needs to spend a lot of money to figure out how to do that. They already know how.

At the same time they've been making digital images wth more photoreceptors, they've also been increasing the dynamic range and reducing the noise.

Built-in WiFi? What for? So someone can steal your images right out of your camera? Do you want to configure WiFi security with control dials? Not me.

Newer better optics? I'm all for that. Canon has 3 lenses labeled NEW on the website. They're all IS lenses, one is a macro lens, and the other two have a significant zoom range. They've all been tested, and two fo the three seem to have gooten pretty good reviews. If Canon hadn't spent so much money on squeezing photoreceptors onto image sensors, do you think they could have done a better job with the 18-138 IS? But then they wouldn't be able to sell it for $450.

R&D tells us what's possible. Why give up any single area of research?

Some people think we should stop sending probes into space until we cure cancer. Some people think we should stop building particle accelerators until we feed the hungry and provide homes for the homeless. At the very least, shouldn't we stop developing new lenses until we cure AIDS?
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Last edited by TCav; Nov 15, 2009 at 5:56 PM.
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