Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Will The Megapixel Wars End?
As resolution climbs into the stratosphere, pixel counts aren’t necessarily the most important specification in a D-SLR
|When pixel count is more important than shooting speed, medium-format is best. The 56x36mm sensor in Leaf’s AFi-II 10 provides 56 megapixels. The camera can shoot the 9288x6000-pixel images at one per second.|
As pixel counts go up, so does the amount of noise and other quality-damaging artifacts in the image. Also, the ability to capture colors becomes more difficult. The image sensors have more heat (which needs to be dissipated), and power consumption increases dramatically. To assist with these problems, the manufacturers have developed incredibly impressive processing engines. Going by names like DIGIC (Canon), EXPEED (Nikon) and Bionz (Sony), the processing engines do a phenomenal job of mitigating the problems associated with packing ever more pixels onto a sensor. In fact, sensors and processing engines are becoming so good that recent announcements from Canon and Nikon have set the ISO bar above 100,000, which is astounding.
In the automotive industry, there are two key specifications that manufacturers use to differentiate their products: horsepower and miles per gallon. When gas is cheap and times are good, you see no end in horse-power figures in automotive advertising. When gas is expensive and times are more lean, horsepower figures fade away in favor of mpg.
To date, the camera industry has relied primarily on megapixels. It’s analogous to horsepower. With new advancements that enable maximum ISO ratings above 100,000, we’re hopeful that the industry finally has its mpg specification.
It looks like the manufacturers are already making a shift. As of this writing, the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and the Nikon D3S are the only two D-SLRs with an ISO rating above 100,000. We expect to see more models with that capability soon. We also expect to see lower noise, better on-camera image processing and continued advancements in image sensors. The D-SLR is entering its renaissance.
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