High ISO, noise, megapixels and etc.

Andrewteee

All-Pro
Jul 8, 2010
I remember being very impressed with the 6 megapixel Nikon D40. My wife has my old Canon SD700 P&S that takes wonderful pictures; subsequent P&Ss I've used rarely attain that level of IQ. Kirk Tuck often talks about his decade old Kodak digital camera that has quirks but at base ISO is an amazing camera.

I would like to add one thing... yes, people obsess over cameras and their IQ, but I've come to realize that often it comes down to lenses. I will pay for a high quality lens and I will hold on to them even if I sell the camera. I have a Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm that I dearly love, and since quitting film I'm still searching for a camera to use it with. A Leica is my only current option (I want to use it at the 50mm focal length, not cropped), but I'm so far unwilling to pay that much just to use one lens.
 
D

dixeyk

Guest
I used one camera for a year (actually it turned out quite a bit longer in the end, one way and another) PAD project at mu-43, and I noticed myself getting happier with my photography over the period. Knowing exactly what you can (and can't) do with a particular camera is invaluable. I said in another thread that I couldn't understand how people who constantly change cameras could achieve consistency.

And of course, in the last 18 months I seem to have acquired another dozen cameras (all film) and I'm less happy with my consistency with every day that passes ... If I had to earn my living from pictures (as opposed to being a happy snapper), I expect I'd be living in a cardboard box under a bridge

There is definitely something to be said for Don's (Streetshooter) dictum about not letting a camera interrupt your vision ...
I agree that there is much to be said for the intangibles of your experience with the tool you use. Resolution, noise etc. are all useful benefits of new technology but I believe that skill is a much greater determining factor in the quality of an image than the technology behind it. My initial comment came as a reaction to a post (on an unrelated photo site) where a fellow was going on about how a particular camera (I forget the model) was UNACCEPTABLE (with emphasis) and I felt like that was a very narrow way to look at a process like photography that is so much more than the technology behind it. You may or may not like the way a tool works. Everyone has the things that they feel are important to what they are trying to achieve but UNACCEPTABLE just struck me as a rather short sighted and entitled way of looking at things.

I have spent twenty five years as a swordsman. I have as much experience in that as many of you have in photography and I feel I can speak with a certain level of authority on it. I have very specific things I like in a sword (be it a live blade or a wooden practice weapon). I like the handle a certain way, I prefer a certain length of blade, in wooden weapons I like the way certain woods feel...you get the idea. If someone handed me a sword and it was not to my liking I would not cast it away and deem it unacceptable. I can still use it. I may not like things about it but I wouldn't act like a petulant child about it either. I have some students that try and blame the fact that their practice sword is too this or too that (heavy, long, short what-have-you) and I always try to explain that a good swordsman can adapt to any weapon and any situation. The art of it is internal and the sword is merely an extension of you. If you get hung up on the tool you're never going to master it.

I think is the same is true here.
 

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Oct 5, 2010
Casey County, KY
Good enough?

My favorite photography is nature, close-up, and some marginal macro. In this, I want the best detail possible. I can't afford the best equipment available today. So I have to make do with what I can afford. That means working to better my skill and care in the actual action of capturing the subject.

I also use salvaged parts of old lenses etc, to get the close-up desired, without buying some very expensive macro lens. But I will buy the best that I can. Sometimes "making do" is much of the satisfaction. Being disabled (heart), does give me the time to putter, at my chosen hobby.

I enjoy watching what is coming down the road. Gives me a hint at what my equipment might be in a couple years.

Here is one (not "wild" nature:)) from my current user. E-p2 and Sigma 30mm 2.8. We think it's "good enough", for family memories.

 

EasyEd

Regular
Dec 22, 2010
Hey All,

In the latest Outdoor Photography Canada a columnist photographer John Marriott (landscape, wildlife, long lens photographer) states that for him a camera must be capable of a sharp (especially eyes) image sized 18x12 at 300 dpi and viewed at 50% at a minimum (for a 2 page magazine spread). How many megapixels is that ? Is a 16 megapixel E-M5 satisfactory? Probably not. He uses a 5D Mark III at 22 megapixels. Liz Carmel will sell you a 90+ inch by 55 inch print for a tad over $3000. How many megapixels are needed for that?

My point is a photographer should probably define - rightly or wrongly - his/her needs and match a camera system to that. If you do that some systems probably are unacceptable. That does not mean they are bad systems just not a match for the photographer in question.

If you simply chase technology with no defined criteria - how do you know if you ever reach an endpoint? Maybe for many all they really want to do is chase gear and the photography aspect is incidental and if honest about it - irrelevant.

The much harder challenge is to know yourself and your needs - that is the real issue here.

-Ed-
 

flash

Veteran
May 6, 2011
Gordon
I did side by side tests shooting at 8, 12, 16 and 24 megapixels and printing at A4, A3 and A2. An A3 print (the size you're talking about) is easy at less than 16MP in most cases. However in a few cases 24MP wouldn't be enough. Very few. But I've actually done the tests. Made the prints. How many arguments between people on forums are from those whove done the actual tests.

Plus what's 50% on screen, anyway. How big is the screen? What's the screen resolution? Viewing distance? Bit depth? It's only relevant if you know all the information. Other than that the 50% or 100% thing is a daft concept except for the single person doing the viewing. Especially as megapickles keep increasing exponentially. At 100% images from a 12MP DSLR will usually look sharper than ones from a 24MP DSLR. When theres less actual detail, edges look smoother and things look sharper. To see a real difference we need to look at the image size, not the image resolution. We need to rely less on others comparisons and do it on our on screens. Our own printers. If you really want to compare things, buy a printer.

Gordon
 

flash

Veteran
May 6, 2011
Gordon
And while I'm here... another counterpoint.

Too much choice stiffles creativity.

It's the old go out with one camera and one lens thing. After a while you learn to see. See how that lens responds to a scene. Do it for long enough and you start to see the shot before lifting the camera to your eye.

But carry a bag of zooms and every accessory known to man and you may still see nothing. Too much choice.

Technology can do this too. If you owned a camera that could be set at a single ISO and then had to be left there for the day. Would that help you to "see"? Or how about fewer options in metering or focusing? Or dynamic range?

I'd argue that we NEED limitations in technology if we are going to be have vision. And that the less restrictions we have the more difficult it becomes to see. (Sharp image/fuzzy concept and all that). Having limitations allows us to focus and to concentrate. Having limitations (and accepting them and learning what they are) actually enhances the creative process and will lead to better images.

Gordon
 

EasyEd

Regular
Dec 22, 2010
Hey All,

I was just saying what he said in the magazine. I am well aware of the impact of viewing distance and yes the 50% thing is kind of weird and yes more information is better but you also have to remember John Marriott is predominantly a wildlife/landscape photographer and Liz Carmel writes for Outdoor Photographer and is primarily a landscape photographer. As a result they are typically looking to see every feather every eyelash every texture change in a landscape. That kind of resolution when combined with close viewing of larger images requires megapixels - and then there is the issue of crop space. And you are right - there are cases in which 24 isn't enough hence 36 or go medium. The point is each individual needs to think seriously about what his/her requirements are and of course recognize that they may change over time which is fine. But don't handicap yourself right off the bat - the most important thing is to actually learn to seriously think about it. The needs for street and sports/action and portrait are different from each other and different than those for landscape.

Your point about too much technology is a very good one however I would not hunt that dog too long - as I think you can then limit your vision. Are we talking about a beginner here or somebody who already has some ability to "see"?

So once again know yourself and let that dictate your needs.

-Ed-
 

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Oct 5, 2010
Casey County, KY
I started when I was maybe 13/14, now 66. In later years, chased the "latest/greatest, at least as much as I could afford. Better bodies (film), zoom lenses, big bag, tripod, etc. Then digital, several different bodies, different lenses. Now with two bodies (one to be sold) 3 or 4 lenses (varies). I now, carry one body with one lens (prime), and close-up adapter, when I go out and about. I just work harder at getting it right.
Still looking for that ONE just right body/lens combo. I just don't think, I will live long enough, to acquire them. :)
 

Hikari

Veteran
Jan 5, 2013
Maine, USA
I alway find this conversation interesting. It is fascinating to hear people talk about image quality, at least in terms of the type of photography used creatively, in absolute terms. Image quality in applied photography comes down to "making pleasing images." Or, in other words, it is entirely subjective. I think the problem come from the term "quality" as we also associate the idea of "high" and "low" with it like it had some real meaning.

Image quality is the result of a process. Image quality is the flavor imparted to an image based on choices the photographer makes. Part of that is the camera and optics, but there is a lot more than that--exposure, processing, handling, focus, framing, and a whole of other factors that affect the final outcome. But you can make great image from cell phones, Holgas, 8x10 view cameras, wet plates, pinhole cameras and any kind of imaging device. If used well (this is the operator), the image quality will always be high. Making high-quality images has nothing to do with the equipment, but the skill of the operator.

If image quality were actually a technical, objective factor, then most of the worlds great photographs would be bad. Simply taking things like dynamic range and resolving power, then the work by a photographer like Henri Cartier Bresson would be poor as the DR of his film was low, his optics soft, and his exposure not very good in a purely technical sense. The power of his images is not simply a technical criteria. He had a process and he mastered it. Having more DR would not have made any of his work "better."
 

Gary

All-Pro
Aug 19, 2012
Southern California
Gary Ayala
I alway find this conversation interesting. It is fascinating to hear people talk about image quality, at least in terms of the type of photography used creatively, in absolute terms. Image quality in applied photography comes down to "making pleasing images." Or, in other words, it is entirely subjective. I think the problem come from the term "quality" as we also associate the idea of "high" and "low" with it like it had some real meaning.

Image quality is the result of a process. Image quality is the flavor imparted to an image based on choices the photographer makes. Part of that is the camera and optics, but there is a lot more than that--exposure, processing, handling, focus, framing, and a whole of other factors that affect the final outcome. But you can make great image from cell phones, Holgas, 8x10 view cameras, wet plates, pinhole cameras and any kind of imaging device. If used well (this is the operator), the image quality will always be high. Making high-quality images has nothing to do with the equipment, but the skill of the operator.

If image quality were actually a technical, objective factor, then most of the worlds great photographs would be bad. Simply taking things like dynamic range and resolving power, then the work by a photographer like Henri Cartier Bresson would be poor as the DR of his film was low, his optics soft, and his exposure not very good in a purely technical sense. The power of his images is not simply a technical criteria. He had a process and he mastered it. Having more DR would not have made any of his work "better."
I've looked around the internet and did not find any consensus for a singular definition for "Image Quality". Hikari, you choose to use the most subjective definition of Image Quality I could find. I think most photographers in this digital age, tend to use Image Quality as a general description for objective and measurable elements of an image, resolution, noise and dynamic range.

I used the term 'Image Impact' to describe the subjective elements of an image and 'Image Quality' to describe the objective/measurable elements.

Gary
 
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
As much as I like the message in Hikari's post, I have to agree with Gary. "Image Quality" or IQ as I assume most people here use it is meant of what the sensor (or camera) is capable of in a lab, without factoring in the skill level of the photographer.

The quality of the photograph is a separate conversation. Any to say that HCB's photographs wouldn't be better with more dynamic range is pure conjecture. One thing is for sure. He learned his tools because he was constantly out there shooting. He wasn't hanging out discussing the relative merits of different cameras and constantly upgrading.
 

Hikari

Veteran
Jan 5, 2013
Maine, USA
I've looked around the internet and did not find any consensus for a singular definition for "Image Quality". Hikari, you choose to use the most subjective definition of Image Quality I could find. I think most photographers in this digital age, tend to use Image Quality as a general description for objective and measurable elements of an image, resolution, noise and dynamic range.

I used the term 'Image Impact' to describe the subjective elements of an image and 'Image Quality' to describe the objective/measurable elements.

Gary
Gary, the internet is the best source of information. Even Thomas Jefferson is quoted stating, "A man's words are the most reasonable when posted in the thread."

My background in photography is technical. One of the first things you learn is that when Kodak and those folks where building emulsions and processes, they way they determined the right combinations were to make images and decide if they looked good. Then the reversed engineered the process to find the criteria that produced "the most pleasing" image. I an not making up the term. In my old company, Konica Minolta Photo Imaging, they did the same thing. They actually took pictures and looked at them to judge the output. All of this is purely subjective. It is also why the colors from different camera companies are not the same. If the were some objective measure, all cameras would basically have the same output--that would not be hard are the filters on the sensors are essentially the same and could be mixed the same by by every manufacturer essentially achieving the same result. How many photographers post that they prefer so-and-so manufacturer's colors? It is all subjective coming down to what someone finds "pleasing."

But with most professions, the workings are not usually public knowledge. And you know this. Remember the glamour of being a photographer? it is just as everyone says it is. I certainly know what most photographer say on internet forums. And there is certainly a lot of misinformation posted.
 

Hikari

Veteran
Jan 5, 2013
Maine, USA
As much as I like the message in Hikari's post, I have to agree with Gary. "Image Quality" or IQ as I assume most people here use it is meant of what the sensor (or camera) is capable of in a lab, without factoring in the skill level of the photographer.
I am not "most people." I simply thought to broaden the conversation to add my view.

Any to say that HCB's photographs wouldn't be better with more dynamic range is pure conjecture.
Actually, it is not. More DR would make it different--better would be a personal judgement. HCB, like many other photographers, as part of his skill learned how his system saw the world. He could visualize the results (Adams used "previsualization," which even he later said was a daft term). So it is more than likely that he anticipated what the final image would be because of the limits of the technology and factored that into its creation. As you pointed out, HBC was no gear head. After a while working as a photographer you realize that chasing technical qualities ultimately does not really add to your work--there are still wonderful photographers like Mary Ellen Mark that prefer film systems.

I don't mind folks referring to IQ as Dr, resolution, etc., but it is not really very valuable and mostly comes from a simple idea that more is better. Unfortunately, it is not true. Everyone raves about the images from the Foveon sensor. Part of the great look is the narrower DR. "More" is not "better." And when you rave about IQ of a sensor, what more could it be than a subjective opinion? No one understands what, for example, 13.5EV DR really means in actual use.
 

Gary

All-Pro
Aug 19, 2012
Southern California
Gary Ayala
Gary, the internet is the best source of information. Even Thomas Jefferson is quoted stating, "A man's words are the most reasonable when posted in the thread."

My background in photography is technical. One of the first things you learn is that when Kodak and those folks where building emulsions and processes, they way they determined the right combinations were to make images and decide if they looked good. Then the reversed engineered the process to find the criteria that produced "the most pleasing" image. I an not making up the term. In my old company, Konica Minolta Photo Imaging, they did the same thing. They actually took pictures and looked at them to judge the output. All of this is purely subjective. It is also why the colors from different camera companies are not the same. If the were some objective measure, all cameras would basically have the same output--that would not be hard are the filters on the sensors are essentially the same and could be mixed the same by by every manufacturer essentially achieving the same result. How many photographers post that they prefer so-and-so manufacturer's colors? It is all subjective coming down to what someone finds "pleasing."

But with most professions, the workings are not usually public knowledge. And you know this. Remember the glamour of being a photographer? it is just as everyone says it is. I certainly know what most photographer say on internet forums. And there is certainly a lot of misinformation posted.
Jefferson also said that ... in the marketplace of free ideas, the truth will prevail ... or was that Milton ...

I understand where you're coming from. Some feel that the pinhole lens (sans glass) is the baseline to judge IQ. But, (the big but), I think most/some/a lot of us judge IQ purely on an objective, measurable basis. And, (the big and), while using IQ in this manner may not be technically correct or historically true, it certainly has merit as a working definition for measurable qualities of a sensor and lens.

IQ is a relatively new term to me. When I was working news, I do not remember lenses being judged by lines or images by dots. The higher the ASA, the greater the grain is all one had to remember. The human element of exposure, development technique (agitation) and chemicals had as much, if not greater, impact on grain than film type. 90%+ of photo journalists used Nikon and back then Nikon only made one level of lenses, the best they could. The 50mm came in a couple of flavors of F-stop's, but the rest of the focal lengths only had one lens in the line-up.

Gary
 

Hikari

Veteran
Jan 5, 2013
Maine, USA
I think most/some/a lot of us judge IQ purely on an objective, measurable basis.
And that is fine, if people really understood those numbers. If you have a sensor with a DR of 13EV, would that be enough for a picture of your garden right now? That of course depends if you or your camera gets the exposure right. And if you lens is high or low contrast, that changes that again.

Now, I use the numbers too, but as a simple gauge. EV13.5 and EV14, is that difference something really to worry about? Is the difference in the EV coming from the shadows or the highlights (it does make a difference). I imagine you do something I do, I learn how my camera sees. I recognize the situation where I need to change my exposure and decide whether I lose the shadows or highlights or lose them for effect. I also understand how far I can push my processing.The DR values has nothing to do with it, at least after I buy my camera.

I have also had folks write that this objective data like DxO mark scores are wrong--they have taken an picture with such and such camera and they "know" it is wrong! So much for objectivity.

I remember when the D800 was released. Folks were saying the lenses would not have enough resolution for the sensor. It would be a disaster! But why? Objectively, it is not hard to calculate that the D800 sensor has a resolution of about 100 l/mm. Optically speaking, that is not a tough target. But you still get folks saying that the lenses have to be made of Kriptonite and forges by elves in Mordor. And here is the kicker. I get an optical report that states my lens can resolve 200 l/mm. But it only does that with a high-contrast target. I go out on an overcast day and my lens is resolving less.

People look at noise, but at 100%. At 100%, if it looks the same, then the sensors are judged the same. But a given amount of noise on a 12MP sensor is not really the same as the same noise on a 24MP sensor.

We both have done a great deal of photography without the need for the technical minutia. I certainly look at that stuff, but like many of the engineers I knew, they are indicators of problems, not of "goodness."

I can agree that objectives numbers are good to have, but you need to know what their relevance is. If you have an incomplete picture, the following false conclusion can be made (which are also widely published over the internet):

Print size is limited by pixel resolution

DoF decreases with pixel resolution

Diffraction limit is based on pixel pitch

All of these are false. Not because there is not a number associated with these ideas, but rather people think there is an objective, absolute frame in which to judge them. The problem is they need to judged based on a subjective, relative one--which has always been true.

The stress on the numbers is far too great. How many people actually choose a camera based on pretty pictures they see on the net rather than DxOmark scores? Pretty picture sell more cameras. Camera ultimately are sold because the buyer thinks they are in someway cool. So much for objectivity.

I don't think we are really disagreeing. I think in many ways we chose and use gear the same way. I just find the emphasis on measured values is not very useful if people cannot place them in context. And when placed in context, they really are not very important at all.
 

Gary

All-Pro
Aug 19, 2012
Southern California
Gary Ayala
... All of these are false. ...
Whew ... I am glad you added that. My head was spinning for a while there. (Doesn't take much to spin my head.)

I don't think we are arguing. In fact my most over-used, ad nauseam, words on these forums are "significant" and "the only thing that matters is the final image". In my opening post I stated I feel compelled to respond but really don't know how I should respond. What your posts have crystalized for me is that with the equipment I now possess, "IQ", (the measurable side of IQ), and increases in measurable IQ really doesn't matter much to me. Any significant increases or betterment of "IQ" (the subjective, total, all-encompassing impact of the image), will be operator driven not hardware driven.

I had a Canon 1D-X, but I got rid of it. My final images from the $7,000 Canon were not significantly better than with the OM-D. I shot the same with the Canon as I did with the Olympus, same subjects, same focal lengths, et cetera. The Canon was not significantly more capable of capturing and delivering my vision than the Olympus. (Except for sports/action stuff.)

Gary
 

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