Since the early days of digital technology, there’s been one simple rule of product design and marketing: More is better. Computers (more processing power), hard drives (more capacity), printers (more colors, more nozzles, more dots per inch)—the list goes on. When digital cameras came out, the key spec in the “if some is good, more is better” model, was the number of megapixels. Of course, there was a good reason for so much attention being lavished upon the megapixel specification. Early cameras suffered from a fundamental lack of resolution to the degree that the other aspects of image quality never really even came into play. For example, without adequate resolution, it just didn’t matter how much dynamic range a sensor could deliver.
In a relatively short time, resolution climbed dramatically, and with it, camera marketing executives found the photo industry’s version of horsepower: a reasonable, simple-to-understand spec that was assigned a single number that could be printed in large type on the box and in an ad. Resolution specs even found their way onto the bodies of many consumer-level point-and-shoot-style cameras. Pull out a compact camera at a cocktail party, and I guarantee someone will come up to you and ask how many megapixels it has. It’s not an exaggeration to say that in the camera-buying public, including professionals, no other specification even gets more than momentary attention.
When it comes to the needs of most professionals working today, megapixels are something of a red herring. Of course a camera’s resolution is important, but when you step back and look at all aspects of how a camera makes an image, considering the whole of the system is far more important than basing a decision on the megapixel count. In fact, there’s a point at which more megapixels actually results in decreased image quality! If some is good and more is better, too much is still too much.
In this issue of DPP, we welcome Tim Grey’s byline back to the magazine in an article about image-sensor science and the myth of greater megapixels. Grey takes us through various aspects of image-sensor design and technology, as well as general camera design and technology, to help us all get a better grip on how to evaluate whether a camera is right for you. We’ve said it plenty of times before—we don’t expect manufacturers to stop producing higher- and higher-resolution cameras, but we’re hopeful that any increase in resolution will result in a corresponding increase in other components for an overall tangible increase in image quality.
As we approach the autumn, we get into the trade-show season. In the realm of digital cameras and photography, the autumn of 2008 will be particularly interesting because even-numbered years are Photokina years. Photokina, for the uninitiated, is the biannual photography trade show in Cologne, Germany, and it’s billed as one of the largest trade shows in the world. We’re eager to see what surprises the industry has for us this year, and we’ll be excited to share the best and most important announcements with you just as soon as we get them. DPP will be doing a daily Photokina update on our website (www.digitalphotopro.com), where you can see video and get information from the show as it’s happening. Photokina starts on September 23 and runs through September 28, 2008.
On a personal note, this issue marks DPP’s fifth birthday. Our premier issue hit the newsstands in 2003 with a cover by Howard Schatz. Over the last few years, we’ve worked hard to bring you the kind of content and information that you can’t get anywhere else. As we move forward into the second half of our first decade of publishing DPP, we’ll endeavor to bring you a magazine that you’ll enjoy and one that will help you with your photography, your equipment and your business.