Saturday Shout: Innovation or More Megapixels?

April 29, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Saturday Shout | 17 Comments | |

Saturday ShoutEarlier this week Casio announced the 10.1 megapixel EX-Z1000 compact digital camera. The day before that, Kodak unveiled the 6 megapixel V610. These two new cameras typify the differing approaches of camera manufacturers. Whilst Casio grabbed all the headlines with the largest megapixel count ever for a compact digital camera (although Vivitar actually beat them earlier this year), Kodak made the news by using its dual-lens technology to squeeze a 38-380mm focal length into a camera just 19mm thick. So which approach do you think is the right one - expansion or innovation? Is the megapixel war still relevant? What is the “best” number of megapixels for a compact digicam? Should the manufacturers concentrate on real photographic features instead? Shout out now…

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I am definitely for innovation; however, I consider higher megapixels
to be innovative, as well, especially from Panasonic, and now Casio,
where they allow you to trade off megapixels for "extra optical zoom"
(which is really digital zoom, but without the pixilation effect).

1:48 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#2 Mario

Additional megapixels is ok if you want to print out posters, but extra zoom is better. I'd rather have a 3 megapixel camera with 10x zoom than a 10 megapixel camera with 3x zoom. Maybe a 200 megapixel camera with 3x zoom would offer the same detail when digitally zoomed in? There's a 100million light cones in the tiny space of your eye, which put megapixels to shame.

So I believe innovation is what will make the difference, not megapixels.. unless we're talking 100s of megapixels which I dont see happening anytime soon.

4:10 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#3 zuikoku

Megapixel is not everything. Main concern is how every manufacturers to give innovation for better pixel qualities.

4:51 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#4 Bruce McL

Sensitivity: being able to take photos in low light and have them come out well.
Dynamic range: being able to take a photo (for example) of a snowy mountain scene and having detail in the snow and in the shadows of the peaks.
These are areas that I think need improvement. If it takes "Innovation" to improve these areas than I'm all for Innovation. I think it takes better optics and better sensors. I think both already exist. The only innovation necessary is economic, making better components at the same or lower price as current components.

5:26 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#5 Rob

I should know how to figure this out, but I can't. Is there some point at which adding megapixels to a camera does no good because the lens does not focus the image on the CCD that accurately?

I assume, from the way this is discussed, it's much easier to make a "high resolution" lens than a high resolution CCD, and so this really isn't a problem. Is this correct?

6:08 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#6 Steve Kern

Once they got to 5MP, the ISO performance of these cameras started to suffer due to the small sensor size. In addition, trying to resolve that many MP with these very small lenses (and relatively inexpensive lenses) is the other limitation. A camera is only as good as the lens you have in front of that sensor.
I like the idea of a dual lens system. It basically is an attempt to give a little of the SLR advantage to a pocket camera.

6:32 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#7 Roger Johnson

Beyond 7 megapixels in a small compact camera, I believe we're dealing with marketing rather than innovation. I have a very good 7mp camera with an excellent 28-100mm lens that produces unexceptable results at ISO 400, and considering how slow the lens is at the 100mm focal length (f5.3), the camera is of very limited use. So, to me, the most important innovation camera manufacturers could come up with would be a small camera (it doesn't have to fit in my shirt pocket)that would produce sharp, noise-free - or at least acceptably low-noise - images at least at ISO 400, and preferably at ISO 800.

8:08 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#8 Alan Tobey

It's actually a 3-way optimization issue -- zoom at the lens, megapixels on the sensor, and bit depth in the file (no consumer digital yet offers a 12- or 16-bit option). The goal is to get enough captured pixels with enough dynamic range to accurately capture the picture (whether full camera frame or partial frame) that you want to deliver to a particular end use (print or screen).
That should allow cameras that are optimized for any one of several "sweet spots," but we haven't yet reached that degree of marketing sophistication. Getting there may require the invention of a single agreed measurement that tells us more than just MP -- perhaps MP x optical zoom x bit depth or something equally simple-minded.

8:38 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#9 nitpick

> (no consumer digital yet offers a 12- or
> 16-bit option).

Maybe you mean 14- or 16-bit? No consumer digital yet offers 16-bit. Minolta's DiMAGE A1 offered 14-bit A/D conversion 3 years ago.
Returned to 12-bits for the A2.

9:09 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#10 Bruce McL

Bit depth of a file does not determine dynamic range. My understanding is that the color profile determines dynamic range. If a camera is set up to use ProPhoto RGB and saves to a JPEG, the JPEG can have a wide dynamic range. It would be a good idea to switch to 16 bits before editing though.

5:06 pm - Sunday, April 30, 2006

#11 Mountain343

I've always thought it'd be nice to have a body like the canon EOS-1 series with multiple built in lenses that give you 18-500mm, with minimal to no tradeoffs that you normally find in such a wide range "zoom" lens. Wouldnt it be nice if it was a 2.8 or 4 the whole way through and still weighed less then with a bigma attached? Then innovate to find a way to increase the dynamic range without having to use Photoshops HDR. Megapixels are fine and all, but the things that really matter most is can I take the picture I want and will it look the way I want it to? Low noise, good dynamic range, good zoom, and NO sensor dust!!! are the things we all want. I have yet to hear anyone say, "man... if I only had 2 more megapixels this would have been a great shot."

12:53 am - Monday, May 1, 2006

#12 Olivier_G

I believe some digicams are already Diffraction limited even at large aperture (Sony W50?). There is little gain increasing Definition past that point...

I much prefer: lower Noise, unlimited Dynamic Range, fast Lens+Sensor combo, IS, optical quality, tilt&swivel; LCD, good OVF/EVFs, Build quality, etc...

10:46 am - Monday, May 1, 2006

#13 Anonymous

Rather have a 6 Mpixel with very low noise at ISO 800, a very good optical lens (28 - 200 focal range 2.8 - 3.5 max aperture) than a 10 Mpixel so noisy that ay 6 Mpixl will beat it for image quality.

9:32 pm - Monday, May 1, 2006

#14 Daivd Brown

For the professional photographer, the race to equality between digital and film is important. For that reason, the camera companies must continue research and development to eventually level the playing field.

But for the consumer, and even the semi-pro, megapixels become less important as you go above the 5mpx + range. There are numerous quality cameras available between 5-8mpx today, any of which will provide excellent results.

I believe that innovations with lenses such as Kodak's innovative zoom technology are the most relavant advances. I applaud Kodak for taking this direction and proving that they are still innovators in photography!

4:29 pm - Friday, May 5, 2006

#15 Wholesale

Hi, does anyone know where I can buy digital camera wholesale, Im opening a camera shop in New York and need to find a wholesale supplier.

1:26 am - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

#16 Wholesale website

Hi I fund a good wholesale site with lots of listings for wholesale digital camera's.. although its just for USA..are you in USA?


8:07 pm - Thursday, May 25, 2006

#17 Zoltan

In a recent article by Michael Reichmann he states that "to my eyes images from the 16Mp Canon 1Ds MKII are awfully close to those from drum scanned 645 format Velvia". NOT 35mm Velvia, but 645 format (medium-format!) Velvia. You can see for yourself if you look at the samples linked from the article. Now of course, most amateur photographers don't require anywhere near the resoulution one can get from a Hassy loaded with 645 format film - it's perfectly enough if the resolution of digital matches 35mm film.

So what does that mean? To me, it means that unless you earn a living by photographing double-page or fold-out ads for glossy magazines, you really don't need more than 8 megapixels, even if you consider yourself a serious amateur. And as far as compact digicams are concerned, anything past 4-5 megapixels is wholly unnecessary.

To me, the most exciting recent piece of news is that two researchers at the University of Rochester have developed some entirely new sensor circuitry and image processing algorithms, which promise less power consumption, hence less heating, lower noise levels, wider dynamic range and dramatically lengthened battery life. Now THAT's what we need and not extra pixels!

12:18 pm - Friday, May 26, 2006