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What to Fight Over After Megapixels?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the just-create-a-new-buzzword dept.

Graphics 596

NewScientist has a quick look at where the digital image crowd is headed now that the megapixel wars are drawing to a close. Looks like an emphasis on low-light performance and color accuracy in addition to fun software tools are the new hotness. "For years, consumers have been sold digital cameras largely on the basis of one number - the megapixels crammed onto its image sensor. But recently an industry bigwig admitted that squeezing in ever more resolution has become meaningless. Akira Watanabe, head of Olympus' SLR planning department, said that 12 megapixels is plenty for most photography purposes and that his company will henceforth be focusing on improving color accuracy and low-light performance."

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Maybe not. (5, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212711)

The megapixel wars may be drawing to a close, but they sure aren't doing it at 12 mp. Canon's 50D prvides 15mp in an APS-C sensor size, which is pretty tight, but users are achieving excellent results at that density... it just takes decent lenses, of which there are plenty in the Canon line.

15mp in APS-C format is a square sensel of about 4.6 m.

Canon's 5DmkII, on the other hand, is a full frame sensor, and it sports a whopping 21 mp... and does so by only going to 6.4 m, so there's quite a bit of room left there.

The 50D's got some noise issues, but the 5DmkII is a quiet design and they've clearly got some room to go.

So I think Olympus is actually saying that they can't, or don't want to, compete in the remaining space in the megapixel wars; withdrawal, if you will, rather than an actual end.

Re:Maybe not. (3, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212753)

BTW, that blank before the 'm' after the sensel size was the special 'u' used for microns; Slashdot's lame filtering cut it out. Sorry.

Re:Maybe not. (4, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212965)

the special 'u' used for microns;

Its name is mu [wikipedia.org] (a lower case Greek letter).

In response to your original post, I think that they're saying that, although the megapixel count is still increasing, it's becoming less important than other aspects of the camera. A 12 megapixel camera with good low-level-light capabilities may be more attractive to a consumer than a 21 megapixel camera with problems in that arena. Still, I don't totally believe that the mass market will stop just buying the camera with the biggest number. It amazes me how many people will drop $1k+ without bothering to do some basic research on what they're buying. Ignorance is bliss I guess - The handful of people I know that have done this are very happy with what they've got despite the fact that they could have possibly done much better if they'd done their homework.

Re:Maybe not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213399)

"The megapixel wars may be drawing to a close"

... for static images yes... for video, no. Plus beyond video is stereo 3d video, where the video (through glasses I guess) would look exactly like we were there viewing the world. Thats video data rates far higher than current cameras. Also it'll take a lot of storage capacity to deal with say, 4k * 60Hz * Stereo and thats before we add higher dynamic range image sampling than 8 bits.

For example,
1. Say 48 bits for RGB (6 bytes)
2. Res of 4k x 4k = 16M pixels per frame
3. Stereo video
4. Frame rate of say 60Hz
That's 6 * 16M * 2 * 60 = 11.52Gb per second of raw data, than then needs to be compressed. That'll take a lot of processing power and a lot of memory bandwidth, and a lot of storage space to deal with it all.

I think cameras have a few more years to evolve! :)

Compression (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213483)

although the megapixel count is still increasing, it's becoming less important than other aspects of the camera

For me compression is an issue.

The statement that 12 mega pixels is enough for general use has an information theoretic interpretation. namely for the standard lens fields of view and typical range of distance to target that there is no added information in having finer resolution. Or at least the amount of information useful to humans is diminshing.

Assuming this statement is true then it ought to be that the ideal photo compression algorithm produces the same size image file no matter how many pixels went into it. That is to say a lossy compression algorithm would only be discarding detail of no human interest.

This is not true, the compression does not seem to be getting better. This suggests that the compression algorithms in use are not scaling properly for increased pixels.

Hence more research is needed to find compression algorithms with this property.

I dislike high mega pixel cameras because they are increasing in stored picture size faster than my hard drives are keeping up. e.g. when I went from a 4 mega pixel camera to an 8 mega pixel camera my file sizes became 4 times larger. My internal disk drive did not become 4 times larger in that time so I had to start using external storage. It became harder to squeeze these onto ipods.

But you end up buying these 8 mega pixels ones because even though you might be happy with fewer megapixels, the 8 mega pixel ones take better pictures simply because they have better light sensors, greater sensitivity, anti-shake, and so-forth that the cheap 4 mega pixel cams lack.

Re:Maybe not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213273)

I was going to say, 4.6 meters? That's, um, pretty big ;-)

Re:Maybe not. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212887)

The problem is that it's mostly pixel peepers that benefit from more mpix. There are people that benefit, it looks like for most people, the benefit is more psychological. And if you're shooting for the web, you're throwing most of the information away. You need to print pretty large or crop pretty aggressively to get a significant benefit from extra pixels.

Olympus actually has some pretty good optics, though their noise certainly isn't where the 5DII is. Their sensor is pretty small, a 12mpix sensor is roughly equivalent to a 48mpix 35mm sensor in terms of pixel pitch. It's all kind of a trade-off, I crunch the numbers and replacing what I have for a full frame replacement of my camera & lenses with equivalent effective focal lengths is a lot more expensive, less portable and a lot heavier.

Re:Maybe not. (4, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212913)

The megapixel market isn't running to a close at all.

All this means is "we want to extort people more putting the same CCD into a product and adding new features, maybe adding a megapixel here and there"

Be on the watch for a federal price fixing lawsuit as there are a lot of under the table agreements on price here.

The real "megapixel war" end is around 22 megapixels after which it currently becomes more expensive exponentially, with current technology. Up until that point, don't believe a word about this stuff. By next year for example, that megapixel threshold will go up a megapixel or two. Not that this means they'll try to extort people any less for the same 9-10MP cameras.

I do agree better quality CCD's and soforth are far more important than megapixel, but this "slowdown" by makers of cameras is voluntary.

Re:Maybe not. (5, Interesting)

cabjf (710106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213261)

This isn't much different than the Megahertz wars. Chips were getting faster, but at a cost of ignoring just about everything else (plus other bottlenecks prevented the speed from being effective past a point). Now we have plenty of Megapixels (at least enough to be better than consumer grade film was) but the demand has shifted to actually being capable of taking decent pictures.

Re:Maybe not. (4, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213453)

The megapixel market isn't running to a close at all.

But it is getting asymptotic to a maximum. In the DSLR field you have the 20+ megapixel cameras (Nikon D3x, Sony A900, Canon ID Mark III). These are all high end machines which require excellent optics and, more important, excellent techniques to get the most out of the camera. Yeah, you go on the DP reviews [dpreview.com] forums and folks will whine about wanting more (although nobody seems to want to pay more...). But like most high end things, you're out of the sweet spot. You end up paying a lot of money for a limited increase in performance. For some, that will be worth it but for the consumer market, 10-12 megapixels is more than enough.

Dynamic range (the ability to hold shadows and highlights in a high contrast scene without a lot of fiddling) has lots of room to grow. That seems to be a tough nut to crack, especially in the smaller sensors.

Re:Maybe not. (4, Interesting)

The Phantom Mensch (52436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213017)

I'll agree that the war isn't over yet in the DSLR world, but in the point&shoot world there really is no point in going any higher than they have achieved. If you shove 12 megapixels into a sensor that is 1/4 the surface area of an APS-C sensor you should really couple it with a lens system that is 4 times more precise than the one used on your APS-C camera to get equivalent resolution. But the camera makers aren't doing anything like that. They're putting out junk lenses and big sensors because that's what marketing tells them to do.

Re:Maybe not. (4, Interesting)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213153)

You're right, my 50D does have some noise. I thought my 40D would become my backup body, but it hasn't. I still like the image quality coming off the 40 better than the 50.

I'd say from here, DSLR designers should start working on noise issues. The pixel density of a 15mpxl APS-C sensor is adequate for almost everything I do, and I'd much rather have lower noise. I've been scanning a bit of old Kodachrome over the weekend, and it's remarkable how quiet, smooth, and colorful K25 really was. If the practical increase in resolution can be shown, working on eliminating Bayer-pattern sensors in favor of sensors capable of RGB at every detector site might be another path of progress (such as Foveon's part).

On the "me specific" feature list, integrated GPS for geocoding would be darn handy, too. Not sure how many photographers would use it, but for those of us who spend a good amount of time out hiking through the mountains with our cameras, it would be easier than juggling a separate GPS and keeping notes (or post-processing everything together).

Re:Maybe not. (4, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213163)

What about the Red Epic 617 [red.com] that will deliver 261.4 megapixels at 30fps, that's supposed to be available for $53k next spring?

I had thought that Japan's 4320p HDTV [wikipedia.org] (33 megapixels) cameras were nuts, but Red's sensors are pushing far far past that.

Cameras and displays are getting to the point that they push more data than any network we've built [kvmsansv.com] (and so are obviously many orders of magnitude faster than the human optic nerve).

Re:Maybe not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213347)

What? Do you work for Canon?

Gahh! (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213479)

but users are achieving excellent results at that density

This is magical thinking. Making a 1:1 association between megapixels and the perception of "better" results is wrong, wrong, wrong. No amount of jargon helps your case.

"Resolution" is a decades-old optical problem. To prove my point and provide another reference, the Mars rover captured images with a "gigantic" 1 megapixel sensor. http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/pancam_techwed_040114.html [space.com]

I acknowledge that gear geeks need some way to justify the new gear and I'm not going to change their behavior.

For those that don't know better, disregard the parent's jargon and go take pictures.

Not surprising (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27212751)

Akira Watanabe, head of Olympus' SLR planning department, said that 12 megapixels is plenty for most photography purposes and that his company will henceforth be focusing on improving color accuracy and low-light performance."

That not surprising. Look at the Amazon reviews for any camera with a huge megapixel count, like the Canon G-10 [amazon.com] , and you'll see dozens of people complaining that, yes, the megapixels are nice, but the sensor may be noisy or the colours may be off. Too bad the industry didn't give more attention to accuracy earlier. I'd be happy to have a mere 7 megapixels if noise is seriously minimized.

Quoted in history (5, Funny)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212767)

"12 megapixels should be enough for anybody." - Akira Watanabe

Re:Quoted in history (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213009)

Mod parent up (+funny/+insightful/+informative for future references)

Re:Quoted in history (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213125)

i don't know why .. but when i read that i read the name as

Ikea Want'a Be

and was wondering why anyone would want to be cheap prefab furniture *scraths head*

Re:Quoted in history (2, Funny)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213615)

MY first thought was "TETSUOOOOOO!!", but that may just be movie indoctrination.

More dynamic range, and in-camera scan stiching. (2, Interesting)

kimgkimg (957949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213275)

I'd like to see more dynamic range being captured and also outside visible spectrum. You could do some really cool stuff with being able to merge in stuff from an infrared channel (would be great for smoothing skin tones for example.) Also I'd like to see something akin to Sony's panshot mode, but implemented at a larger resolution (Sony's images top out at 1000 pixels of vertical resolution.)

I want... (1)

telchine (719345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212791)

I want the following from a digital camera...

1. Small phyiscal size (I wanna slip it in my pocket).

2. Good image quality

3. Good telephoto lens.

4. ???

5. Profit (sorry, couldn't resist)

Currently I use a Canon G9, but I'm sure they can do better!

Re:I want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27212989)

wow, you must have some really big pockets if fitting a telephoto lens in your pocket is a dealbreaker for a camera for you.

Re:I want... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213095)

It's for the ladies

Re:I want... (2, Insightful)

neurovish (315867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213087)

I want the following from a digital camera...

1. Small phyiscal size (I wanna slip it in my pocket).

2. Good image quality

3. Good telephoto lens.

4. ???

5. Profit (sorry, couldn't resist)

Currently I use a Canon G9, but I'm sure they can do better!

Pick 2...and small physical size isn't an option yet

Re:I want... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213209)

small physical size isn't an option yet

Eh? The consumer digital cameras are smaller than I've ever seen before. For example, I just picked up an Olympus FE-20 with 8MP of resolution for my wife. The thing is smaller and lighter than a deck of playing cards! In fact, finding a travel case for it was interesting because all the cases are designed for larger cameras.

So small physical size is most certainly an option. It just happens to be incompatible with the request for a telephoto lens. (Telephoto lenses are obviously bounded by the material science behind the optics more than the electronics.)

Re:I want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213091)

Is that a telephoto lens in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Re:I want... (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213097)

1. Small phyiscal size (I wanna slip it in my pocket).

3. Good telephoto lens.

I think those two are mutually exclusive.

Re:I want... (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213259)

Not completely. You could make the sensor tiny, so that a "long" lens was about 10mm long.

Small body+big sensor+good telephoto is what is impossible.

Re:I want... (1, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213601)

It's fundamentally a physics issue. Light decreases at the square of the distance. The further away you are, the more light you need to gather, and so the larger your lens has to be. Sensor size doesn't matter.

If you don't collect enough light, the only way to make pictures bright is to take looooong exposures, which means you can't capture motion. (and many things you want to capture at a distance — sports shots, skittish animals — are in motion)

Re:I want... (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213475)

When the market desires a solution so strongly, sometimes engineering companies figure out a clever solution, physics constraints be damned. (fit thousands of phonograph records in your pocket, no way!)

Is there any equivalent to retinal displays [wikipedia.org] that could be used to create a sort of "projected lens"? Maybe heat up the air with a laser in a careful way to create a temporary optic? No, that's probably too far out.

Perhaps, like the retinal display, the military will have the incentive to eventually research this, and find some far-out solution that industry can then produce?

Re:I want... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213119)

Your wants are self-contradictory. You can't have both pocket-size and interchangeable lenses, which is what you would need to do good telephoto. (There is currently no such thing as single lens that works well for extreme closeups and telephoto, although I suspect it could be done with active optics.) To get good image quality, you've got to pay around $1000 for a Nikon or Canon body that is threaded for standard lenses (I'd go with the Canon because I've heard the lenses are cheaper.) But yes, I think you can take professional-quality digital photos with about a $1000 camera now. (Ok, go ahead and tell me a Canon Rebel is only $329 now; that's only a 6 megapixel CMOS sensor.)

HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (2, Interesting)

boeroboy (1501771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212833)

To make the cameras of the future, you gotta have three things (any threebrain fans out there?): 1. HDR - floating point color channels to allow the adjustment of exposure in post. 2. Depth channel - either with stereoscopic setup or range finder. Allows depth of field focus in post. 3. Optical SVG - the ultimate! Forget pixels. Have cameras sketch accurate SVGs of a scene with the ability to show or print at any resolution.

Re:HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213035)

Optical SVG - the ultimate! Forget pixels. Have cameras sketch accurate SVGs of a scene with the ability to show or print at any resolution.

Good luck with that one. It's a lot harder than it sounds. Try tracing a simple 2-color bitmap in Inkscape sometime and zoom in real close. Now try tracing a full-color, full page photograph in the maximum number of colors possible.

Oh, BTW, hope you got lots of RAM and time to wait....

Re:HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (1)

boeroboy (1501771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213109)

Oh yeah - 4. Liquid cooling in every camera. Don't bump the radiator with your finger when you take those pictures.

Re:HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213213)

Agreed (at least, I think I do since I don't know what any of that means), but the camera has to do all of it without the user ever knowing. That will be the camera of the future.

Re:HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213283)

"3. Optical SVG - the ultimate! Forget pixels. Have cameras sketch accurate SVGs of a scene with the ability to show or print at any resolution."

It's a fascinating idea. But where are you going to get enough imps to do the drawing [wikipedia.org] these days?

Re:tone mapping (HDR) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213359)

I want my camera to do what my brain does, in a high dynamic range setting: automatic tone mapping, so I can see both the bright parts (~sky) and the dark parts (~people) simultaneously and clearly, from a single shot. I've been waiting for this to be built into digital cameras for years, and am surprised it's still not there.

Camera-designer people in camera-designer land: How about having the camera snap two photos immediately back-to-back (...or save off a copy of the data during mid-shutter?), a quick one (for the foreground), and then a longer one (~4-16X) for the background, and then have some software that intelligently lerps between the two (variably at each pixel) and saves the final image.

My suspicion is that the only reason this hasn't already been done is because it might require some kind of flood-filling and, hence, be prone to error. (Any image misalignment, however, could be mostly remedied via a very fast, 8x8-pixel alignment performed at half-dozen locations on the screen.)

With this, the only photos my grandma could mess up would be due to motion blur, which (I believe) is just a physical limitation of lens size anyway.

Re:HDR? Depth channel? Optical SVG? (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213585)

You could do this with a little bit of user interaction. The user would just have to paint onto the touchscreen with the stylus to mark the areas to blend together.

No more megapixels? (4, Insightful)

mhn (1501223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212841)

I suspect there will be a need for quite some time, for some purposes, to keep increasing the resolution. Usage (at least in some subset of people) will adapt and innovate. After all, if all the digital camera was for was to replace those 4x6 prints you all have in your photo albums, 3 MP would have been the end of it.

Re:No more megapixels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213425)

Sure, but Olympus is mostly a consumer-level brand, and for 99+% of the consumer market, 12MP is plenty. As you go higher than that, the portion of the market where it actually makes a difference to anyone is smaller and smaller.

12MP replaces projected slides at home-theater sizes. That's enough for even a large portion of professionals, and replaces the standard usages of 35mm film that digital cameras have replaced.

300dpi photo quality. (3, Interesting)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213565)

If you want to print at 300 dpi, which is photo quality and what publishers want, you would need at least 8 MP to do an 8x10" print at 300dpi - minimum for most publications. Now if you want to submit something to a poster company, they want a 20x30" print at 300dpi - which you'd need the $50,000, 50MP Hasselblad H3DII-50 [luminous-landscape.com] which might be enough. You'd probably better off with film (120 at least) at that size and resolution.

Here's a chart [design215.com] to see how many MPs you need for photo quality digital prints.

Of course, that doesn't take into consideration noise, dynamic range, or color accuracy of the sensor.

Battery life (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212885)

Olympus needs to focus on battery life. With flash on, my Olympus camera gets about three shots per charge on a new battery.

Re:Battery life (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213323)

[Citation Needed]

Re:Battery life (1)

Hanyin (1301045) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213469)

Olympus needs to focus on battery life. With flash on, my Olympus camera gets about three shots per charge on a new battery.

It's possible your battery is just old or a defect but if you tried framing your pictures by using the peephole and turn off the screen, you'd definitely get more pictures from each charge.

I'd like to see (1)

seanellis (302682) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212889)

- Lower noise figures at various resolutions/speeds.
- Better performance in low light (i.e. indoors without flash, to avoid that overexposed-lightbulb-head look in so many of my snaps).
- Longer exposures

16 Megapixels is point of diminishing returns (5, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212893)

The accuracy of the human eye is such that you can only distinguish ~4000 pixels in a line while still being able to see the whole picture. 4000x4000=16 megapixels for a square image, or 12 megapixels for a 4:3 aspect ratio picture. Having more resolution than that is only useful if you are going to take part of the image and blow it up or otherwise focus on just a part of the image. So yes, once they achieve 12 megapixels CCDs, they should focus on something else, like speed for example. I have several pictures of "the couch where my daughter was a second ago" because my Nikon Coolpix inserts a huge delay between the time I push the button and the time the picture is actually recorded. Color accuracy would be nice too, or perhaps doing something about the graininess the CCDs seem to exhibit in low light conditions.

Re:16 Megapixels is point of diminishing returns (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213159)

I have cybernetically enhanced eyes you insensitive clod.

Re:16 Megapixels is point of diminishing returns (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213251)

I have several pictures of "the couch where my daughter was a second ago" because my Nikon Coolpix inserts a huge delay between the time I push the button and the time the picture is actually recorded.

What you want is a cheap DSLR. Even the lower end ones (D-40 / D-90, heck even the ancient D-70) have much more responsive shutters. Digicams are for still lifes. The better DLSR's (like the Nikon D-300) have really stunning low light capability. Of course, it could get better, but compared to film and the older digitals it's truly amazing.

I'm sure the manufacturers will try to stuff all of these things into the digicams, but if you can spend the money and deal with a slightly larger camera, the future is here.

What about an XRay camera (2, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212921)

god damnit, I'm tired of having to risk getting arrested just to get a blurry up-skirt shot, I want to be able to have my camera see through anything!

Re:What about an XRay camera (2, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213053)

Oh baby, let me see that pelvic bone.

Re:What about an XRay camera (1)

Hanyin (1301045) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213593)

Why don't you try modding your camera for IR [geektechnique.org] yourself? On a hot day these things can supposedly see through clothing... though it's a pretty damn sleazy (and probably illegal) thing to do ;-)

Olympus (1)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212941)

This is coming from Olympus so they should sure as hell be focussing on low light performance. Simply because it's the weakness of the smaller 4/3 format they use. I expect that Cannon and Nikkon will have other priorities. However, I agree; at this point more megapixels is meaningless.

Good! (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27212959)

Low light performance has been a major sticking point for me on lots of digital cameras. My old 3.3 Megapixel Panasonic that wrote to LS-120's has outperformed most of the camera's that have replaced it in nearly every area except for Megapixels.

It's all about the optics again. (5, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213011)

As was the case in the 35mm film days, the cameras that are best are the ones with the good lenses and good auto focus mechanisms. Secondary are good light meters. The pixel density is definitely high enough at 12M. At the start of digital photography, the CCD was definitely the primary bottleneck for picture quality. But those days are definitively over.

Re:It's all about the optics again. (1)

andy19 (1250844) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213523)

I agree completely. Lens clarity and overall quality is possible one of the most important aspects in photography. You can have 100 megapixels, but if your lens is cheaply made and doesn't allow accurate lighting through, then it's useless.

Mega-* No! Its the lens... (1)

billsf (34378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213031)

The single most important part of any camera is the lens. My old Cannon is better with 2.2MP than the modern 'snapshot machines' with up to 16MP. Its got a decent lens, no snapshot thing or phone, for that matter does.
 

How about a focus that WORKS? (1)

solios (53048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213093)

I have a Canon Powershot A95. It's getting long in the tooth and is due for replacement whenever I can afford something better*.... over its service life, I've had one GLARING problem with it - with the flash off, under the camera's idea of low-light conditions, I have to take five, ten, two dozen pictures using various auto-mode settings to get something that's even moderately focused. It's fine for broad daylight outdoors, but indoors or starting at dusk outside, it's extremely frustrating to use.

Half that is, admittedly, dumbassery on my part. The other half has hopefully been fixed with newer camera technology.

I'd like to take one picture, in focus, and move on. Failing that, I'd like the response time to be fast enough that I can switch through modes and take pictures of moving objects while they're still in range!

* I can get "better" in almost every respect for much less than I paid for the A95. But if I want the Killer Feature - the flippy LCD screen - then a new camera is going to cost me about the same as the old one ($300+).

0.64 megapixels (1)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213131)

I thought nobody would need anything better than a 0.64 megapixel camera.

Re:0.64 megapixels (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213405)

I had one of these... KB Gear JamCam 2.0. It was ungodly horrid. Held 16 pictures internally at 640x480 and the shutter speed was.. i kid you not.. 5 seconds. No screen to see the picture you took, so it was point, click and pray it came out decent. WORST camera ever.

Megapixel wars? Were they? (3, Interesting)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213133)

"Fighting over megapixels" -- for someone who knows basics of photography, this is like fighting over which laptop comes with more preinstalled software tools, or number of features a text editor has. Like, there is *some* point of the discussion up to a certain level, and not much after that, and definitely nowadays this is not the most important factor for a decision which laptop to buy. The "megapixel wars" have ceased a long, long time ago in most of photography-related forums.

Except for professionals, 10MP and more is something like audiophily. And definitely an overkill for a pocket camera, where you are much more likely to hit the resolution boundary of the optical system itself (this is why professional cameras tend to be rather large...). Even 3MP (which was standard years ago) is sufficient for many purposes (given a high quality of the lens).

For photographers, the main fetish was and remains The Lens. A good lens may cost an order of magnitude more than your camera body. In the times of analog film, people often referred to the camera body as "film box", disrespecting its features and extras, compared to the importance of selecting the right lens.

I think the whole "megapixel war" issue started because photography became very popular with digital cameras, however people were not yet aware of the more important points -- and started to project what they knew about image quality (i.e. resolution) to what cameras they buy.

Now the knowledge starts to slowly infiltrate the "casual" photographer community. Having a few cameras, they start to notice other things: quality of the lens, haptics (how the camera "feels" in your hands), stabiliser, reaction time (time between pressing the button and the camera making the photo) etc.

j.

640k was supposed to be enough, too (1)

turbotroll (1378271) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213169)

Statement that N megapixels ought to be enough is no different than a similar one made by a certain Mr. Gates a while ago. Shortsightedness at its best.

Having said that, I've never been a megapixel chaser. Factors such as lens quality, maximum aperture and others are of much bigger importance for me. When it comes to sensors specifically, I would always trade one with 15Mp for another which can shoot at ISO6400 with less noise, for example.

Another indication that megapixel wars no longer make much sense is the fact that nowadays even mobile phones compete with SLRs on megapixel scale. But do they really outperform SLRs in general?

How about a no-lag shutter button? (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213201)

Every digital camera I've ever used has had a 100+ ms delay between pressing the shutter button and the picture actually being taken. This sucks compared to the "instant" response of a circa 1980 SLR (well, actually compared to every film camera ever made).

I don't need more pixels--give me a camera that's usable.

Re:How about a no-lag shutter button? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213513)

Most cameras not have a feature where you can press the shutter button half-way so that it can take instantaneous shots when you press down fully.

Like you I wish the whole shutter-lag thing would be something to tell your kids about.

Why don't they just do the pre-processing the instant the finger *touches* the shutter button?

So how much is enough? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213205)

Let's see. 12 megapixels is 4000x3000. Yeah I'd say that's high enough. It's equivalent to what film can do unless you're using a very fine grain.

Now they just need to bring the price down where I can afford it - a $50 35mm camera is still the cheaper option.

Quality over quantity please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213215)

Pros and serious hobbyists aside, who even needs 12 or 16MP? These are going to get printed at 4x6 or 5x7 (people don't keep albums of 10x12s. Who wants to manage 10MB+ files? It's simply not needed.

Optical zoom (3, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213231)

When i last upgraded my camera, the megapixels didnt change much, thats not what i was interested it, but it went from a 3X to a 12X optical zoom, there is alot of stuff out there that is worth taking a picture of, but is too far away to get a decent picture of, obviously if you go much higher you are going to need a tripod, or better image stabalisation, so i wonder how long before people want better zooms for their holiday and wildlife snaps, with better image stabalisation to support it

Re:Optical zoom (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213299)

Truth. I read the topic and Immediately I thought of Optical zoom... Then with that comes the stabilization. Another thing that could be worked on is better pictures in low light situations, Better control over ISO functions...etc.. the list can be endless.

Low Light (4, Interesting)

cpuh0g (839926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213271)

For me the biggest problem in pt-and-shoots, and in DSLRs to a lesser extent, is not lack of megapixels, but the lack of performance in low-light. The latest D-SLRs from Canon and Nikon, the higher-end ones (not the entry level SLRs) are getting much better, but for the most part, low-light performance of the current CCDs sucks.

Re:Low Light (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213519)

Buy faster glass, and a camera with sensor based image stabilization -- neither of which can be had together with Canon or Nikon.

Get a fast lens (1)

xiox (66483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213521)

I got a fast lens for my Sony a200 - a Minolta 50mm f1.7. It has really improved my low light level photography as it lets much more light in than a standard zoom lens. That's the advantage of SLR - you can get a better lens to do a proper job.

The next number to fight over: Dynamic Range (4, Insightful)

david.emery (127135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213311)

That's as good as anything to get a 1-data-point comparison on camera sensors. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_range)

Real -quality- factors, such as low light performance, color accuracy, etc, are a lot harder to quantify.

dave

Scriptability (1)

Skinkie (815924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213325)

My last camera was purely chosen for CHDK support. This means scripting and extra features on a Canon camera. I can imagine that more people want to do more than the basic press button and shoot, ok at least geeks and the industrial sector likes it.

What to Fight Over After Megapixels.....? (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213337)

My dad can beat up your dad.....

After people get tired of that, I expect an uptick in the number of "Double-Dog-Uber-Dares"

What if digital threw away the film conventions? (3, Interesting)

joeflies (529536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213343)

Digital cameras largely carry over the conventions of film, such as ISO film speed. But these notions that higher speed "film" equals noise/grain are going out the window, as newer cameras are able to achiever clean pictures that were impossible to do with film.

Similar notions go that exposure is rated the same way that film cameras did, such as stops above/below aperature+shutter speed.

Suppose if Digital cameras were invented without these notions of what film cameras did. Wouldn't there be a better way to measure aperature, shutter speed, exposure, film speed, etc than the conventions that we have now? Couldn't digital cameras redesign the scales so that they aren't measured in fractions of seconds or tenths of a decimal?

Lack of foresight much? (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213373)

I CANNOT believe the lack of foresight of those writing this article. They might as well say that 640k is enough for anyone. Just look at this graph. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hendys_Law.jpg [wikipedia.org] see how well the points fit on teh logarithmic graph. I have no idea why anyone would ever say such a ridiculous statement which will inevitably be proven wrong. The megapixel march continues. I can't believe anyone these day would say that, knowing that the rate of progress in virtually all areas of computing is exponential.

AI (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213377)

The cameras need built in AIs that talk to you.

"Beep! This image is framed poorly."

"Beep! The subject requires better lighting."

"Beep! The subject needs clothes. Seriously. This is not porn material."

"Beep! The current angle will not sufficiently capture the dark and depressive mood for which you were aiming. I have wirelessly ordered you some Zoloft."

"Beep! Wow, that's just... really... may I suggest a different hobby?"

"Beep! This camera will now self destruct to save your family, friends and the world in general from your mind numbingly boring vacation photography. You have 30 seconds to reach minimum safe distance."

Huge megapixel is something of an annoyance to me (1)

kkrajewski (1459331) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213419)

Now, certainly I'm not a professional photographer, and I don't ever print pictures on dead tree, so my primary concern is how pictures look on screen. And if the camera's lowest setting is 3200x2400, I end up throwing away most of that information anyway so that it fits on the screen.

Of course, I do keep the original too for down the road when we're using 320,000 by 200,000 pixel screens.

Low-light performance (2, Insightful)

Mister Furious (413397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213443)

As someone who shoots weddings as a side business, I don't need any more megapixels. For me, it's all about low-light performance. I'd like to be able to shoot in a dim church without having to resort to flash. I currently shoot a Nikon D200, which is 10 megapixels. That is plenty for everything I do, even enlargements. I'm saving up for a D700 which has incredible low-light performance. I've seen shots taken with the D700 (or D3, which has the same sensor) at absurd ISOs like 3200 or 6400 that have as much noise as my D200 has at ISO 800.

More megapixels actually introduces the (relatively small) problem of storage. More megapixels = larger filesize = I need to buy more compact flash cards and long-term storage. But, this isn't a huge problem since storage is relatively inexpensive.

Definitely low light performance (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213445)

I got a digital camera when I was going on a trip and didn't really have any experience with one before that.

One thing that struck me is how incredibly better the human eye handles brightness than a not very cheap camera. Out in the sun, for the most part it'd be no problem. But in intense sun, white t-shirts nearly always came out as overexposed, as the sensor reached its limit. The result is a pure white blotch on the image. And inside a building, in normal light, the image often came out all grainy and required a flash to get anything decent.

My priority list for a camera:

1. Good lens, with optical zoom, 10X or so, with image stabilization. This seems the upper range for taking a photo without a tripod.
2. Good sensor: good low light performance, low noise, good color perception
2. Interchangeable lenses
3. Better flash. Why is it that it can't charge up for multiple shots? It's very frustrating when flash is required, I miss the right moment on the first try and have wait for it to charge. If the flash could charge in advance for 2 or 3 uses it'd almost eliminate this problem.
4. Non-crippled video capture. Pretty much every consumer camera on the market can capture video in a decent quality, but with either absolutely terrible sound (something like 11KHz), or stopping after a few minutes.

What else? (5, Funny)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213465)

What to Fight Over After Megapixels?

Simple. Gigapixels.

pixel density and optics (2, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213485)

At the risk of being quoted out of context, for the size of CCD that most cameras use and the optics available, 8 megapixel is plenty big. For bigger prints using an SLR camera, 10-15 megapixels is useful. This will give reasonable output up to the point where one might want a medium format camera to do better.

The megapixel size, like the battery life, the clock speed on a CPU, the amount of memory, etc, is mostly used in ad copy to make people think they are getting a better product. In most cases what has in fact happened is that designers put in a badly integrated laundry list of features so that even though the components sound good, it end up being a cheaply made crap product. We see this, for instance, in computer with fast processors but slow front side buses.

The point where it is going to make sense to go to a higher megapixel count is when we move to a full size 35X24mm CCD. What is happening right now is that the pixel density is getting so tight, we are not seeing appreciable quality. Additionally, I don't think the current CCDs utilize the full field of the lens. Right now cameras like the D3X is relatively expensive, but as production ramps up we may see cameras that use the full size CCD appear in the 2000 price range. At that point the 25-30 megapixel will actually be useful. The density will drop from 4000 pixels per square mm to 3000 pixels per square mm. I have seen no definitive answer on this, but some have suggested that the CCD goes as high as 4000, the noise can become a big issue.

Which is just to say, the megapixel war for the past couple years has been a gimmick, and what we might be asking for instead is larger CCD and better optics, even if the number of pixels does not change.

Better low-light performance and dynamic range (1)

aabernathy (13669) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213487)

With respect to digital sensors, at least:

1. Better low-light / high-ISO performance.
2. Better dynamic range.

#1 is getting pretty good with the mid-range and better SLRs; to the point where I think dynamic range is a very close second at this point, although I don't think the general public currently has an appreciation for its utility. There is enough visibility of HDR photography that I'm hopeful it will get more attention.

Plenty of room for improvement in many areas, of course (better location management, lower weight, better battery life, faster performance, quieter shutters, better video, better white balance, etc. - and I'd _love_ to see biometric sensor on the shutter button such that the camera could mark a photo as taken by me vs taken by a friend or a family member on my camera), but in terms of really enabling photography, I think those two are easily the biggest wins (and many of the other things have little to do with actual image capture).

-andrew

Bladerunner Megapixels (1)

freshmayka (1043432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213497)

Remember the scene in Bladerunner where Deckard scans a photo and then zooms in to find the ladies tatoo in a reflection from the bathroom mirror? Is detailed zooming like that a product of higher Megapixels? Would monumental increases in megapixel resolution allow for one to find small details in the background of photos that would be impossible to find today. Imagine taking a shot from the twenty-fifth floor of a building on Broadway, and being able to read the label on someones clothing sixty blocks away???

Or, pardon my ignorance, is this simply a factor of the lenses used? My thinking here is that with almost unlimited resolution you could just take distance shots and use the computer to zoom.

Light sensitivity? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213501)

In other words, ASA rating?

SPEED SPEED SPEED SPEED (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213517)

I still hate digital cameras because by the time it takes the damn picture, my subject has changed.

Give me fast response and a good lens. I don't care if I have 6 megapixels or 16 megapixels.

Lossless storage format and better optics (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213531)

That's all I want. And, at least for the first item, you don't need supr-pro-plus cameras!

Dynamic Range (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213537)

Many cameras still have somewhat poor dynamic range - people can fix that with HDR but it's better to get it right on the sensor.

More megapixels needed (1)

chenjeru (916013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213543)

Once the sensors are large enough and have enough density, we can start seeing plenoptic cameras (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plenoptic_camera) with decent resolving power.

With the current approach (at Stanford), a 16mp sensor only resolves to a 90kp image.

Plenoptic camera technology captures a 4D light field, allowing you to adjust focus and exposure after the shutter is released. This can be used for either photography or videography.

Stability/sharpness (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213551)

I have a several year old 7MP camera.
I'd happily take a 5MP camera that I can shoot freehand and not have to hold it rock solid to avoid blurring.

On the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213567)

...those of us in the machine vision world desperately want larger sensors, both in physical size for noise reduction and in resolution. The larger the resolution, the better accuracy I have to measure things and detect textures, and lenses do not help that beyond a certain point. Sony's 24.8MP, 35mm sensor is a good start, but I want to see something around 100MP or so for certain applications.

Resolution for Professional & Stereoscopic Sl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27213577)

A decade ago I was involved in digitising professional 35mm slides of wildlife. We used a resolution of 3000 by 5000; there was no point in a higher resolution since all we would have been doing was digitising the grain structure.

So, 12MPixel is probably sufficient for most purposes.

As someone that takes stereoscopic slides, I'll note that they require more resolution than you might think. I always use 64ASA slides, since the 100ASA slides are sufficiently grainy that the eye perceives the grain structure as depth variations.

Old Old Old News (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213583)

Enthusiasts have been looking for low light low noise performance and largely ignoring resolution since about 2003. Higher resolution is sometimes nice, but the actual resolvable feature hasn't been growing nearly as well as the number of detected pixels, thanks to optics, an generally 6 megapixel images have been enough to be indistinguishable from higher resolutions for the vast majority of compositions.

And for those referencing Gates claim of 640k being enough for anybody, you know that statement is a myth, right?

Time to focus on dynamic range (1)

JavaArtisan (1017106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213591)

Beyond pixel resolution, the largest thing digital lacks is dynamic range (range between the brightest areas and the darkest). What film still does better than most dSLRs is capture more details in the highlights while preserving detail in the shadows. This is critical to better reproducing what our eyes see. Digital tricks in post to mimic dynamic range (like HDR photography) usually just look awkward and incorrect.

My list... (1)

FellowConspirator (882908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213621)

1. low-light performance
2. better optics (even my Canon has noticeable chromatic aberration)
3. better color fidelity (why doesn't a digital camera correct for the color of the flash?)
4. depth-of-field focus (like EOS, but it should be a common feature)
5. exposure bracketing
6. low-latency ... the LAST thing I want is software specific to the brand or model of the camera.

New battlegrounds (2, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213625)

Low light performance is great, but a battleground will be fought over something they can market:

Startup time to first shot. Expect to see lots of fudged numbers there, where they'll do start up to LCD screen on, or to first shot in "super crappy mode", or fast first shot, but massive reload times.

Battery life. It'll be marketed as "Get X thousand shots from a single battery" (in super crappy mode writing to a propritary format on a low-energy drain SD card using nucluar powered batteries that the end user does not have access to)

UI. Roll out the bells and whistles that let you wipe out Granny's redeye right on the preview screen. Omit the fifteen button presses it takes and the five minutes of camera-cpu processing time. I'm sure the words "warm" and "natural" will be used somewhere.

Interconnectivity. Snap a shot, have it instantly wifi 2.0'd to you faceblog picturebucket. 3G service fee extra.

Thinness. Our camera is thinner than our competitor. Oh, snap! (With snap being the sound your camera makes after parts warranty expires)

16x20 print at 300dpi requires 28 megapixels (2, Informative)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213631)

16*20*300*300 = 28.8 megapixels.

I agree that 12 megapixels is fine for most people who never make big enlargements (or for those who do, do not care about viewing detail in these prints from a couple feet away).

Heck, I still shoot 4x5" large format simply because the quality is amazing even in a 8x10 print. They say the eye can only resolve 400dpi or so, but my prints say otherwise. 4x5" sheet film scanned at a modest 2000dpi gives (4*5*2000*2000) 80 megapixels.

nyquist rate (1)

tyler_larson (558763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213645)

Id be interested in a camera that samples at 24+ megapixels but records at 12. The math suggests that you could eliminate some of the sampling artifacts that way.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist_rate [wikipedia.org]

My 2 cents (1)

careysb (566113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213647)

I want built in GPS.

More dynamic range.

Less noise.

Regarding more M pixels - There are times when I want to crop an image to bring out that "image within an image", and wish I had more M pixels. On the other hand, I'm going through hard drive space fast enough with the 12.7M pix I already have.

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