Why pixel peeping and megapixels matter to me.

Janis

Regular
Location
Central Texas
Good post, SoundImage. I've been a so-called pixel-peeper for going on nine years now. I'm not a pro, but I want to know if equipment I spend a fortune on is working as advertised. I also want to know if one body or lens works better for me than another, and in what ways. To me it's just a way of knowing my equipment intimately. Also, I want to see if I messed up somehow and if so, change my settings next time. And close examination helps me winnow out the keepers and delete the rest. I do get tired of all the scrutiny, though, and I'm proud of myself for loosening up enough to use some lenses that introduce quite a bit of blur, such as a CCTV lens on the NEX. I may even get a Lensbaby. Ironically, I increasingly prefer photography by others that is not straight, sharp photorealism -- but I still want to know that my equipment and I are capable of sharp, clean images.
Choosing the number of megapixels you need and whether to closely examine your digital files are just individual preferences, and not a mark of superiority whatever you choose to do. I certainly don't think pixel-peeping precludes being artistic. I took some courses years ago at betterphoto.com and PPSOP with well-known photographers and believe me, they pixel-peep bigtime!
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
Some interesting posts, but somewhat straying from the original point I was making which is about how the very act of testing, checking and comparing results from sensors and lenses is regarded as irrelevant by many. I use a lot of musical analogies and I think many musicians would find the notion that you just use something thats merely "good enough" as somewhat strange. "Yes I use this guitar, its only got two strings but thats enough for me."

The very phrase "pixel-peeping" is not meant to be a compliment and seems to imply somehow that you can't be concerned about what your camera is producing and be focused on creating interesting content at the same time. This isn't whats being said here in the responses, but it is often said elsewhere. "You're just pixel-peeping" has become one of the most damning phrases on photographic forums. I've also seen people apologise for comparing the quality of image produced by two different cameras. "Sorry I realise I'm pixel-peeping but......"

How the simple act of seeking to obtain an idea of how one sensor / lens performs compared to another has become so reviled strikes me as strange. I cannot explain it or understand it. Do the people who claim never to do it, or think it unimportant apply this attitude to eveything else they buy? Their car, their house, their food? To me its fundemental to know how my camera and/or sensor and/or lens is going to perform and to get some kind of an idea as to how it might produce pictures. Thats after all what 'pixel-peeping" is. To get criticised for seeking to optimise your budget and get the best results you can by checking one cameras files against another seems to me common sense. But somehow its been catergorised as a fetish or an obsession by some and that seems neither accurate or reasonable to me.
 
Nikkor 10.5cm F2.5, Wide-Open on the Leica M9.



I pixel-peeped a few shots after going out, found the lens was slightly off on the M9, and adjusted the RF cam of the lens while out.

Same with the 50/1.1 Nokton. Adjusted the RF cam to be Spot-On with the M9. Required 0.02mm change to the RF Cam.



That's why I pixel Peep.
 

Country Parson

Top Veteran
Location
North Carolina
Real Name
Dan
Soundimageplus, I agree with the importance of the kind of testing you are defending. It is clearly very important. However, everything said (or written) is in some context. Sometimes when an apparently negative statement is made about pixel peeping it is in a different context than concern for testing equipment. In these cases people are interested in what we might call the big picture. They are interested perhaps in the impact the photo has on them, or its composition, or rendition of colors, or overall IQ. But all of this is in terms of individual impressions that do not need to take into account the careful results of testing and pixel peeping. All of us who are serious about our photographic work either do testing of equipment or read the results of others tests. But then we move on and become concerned with other things and pixel peeping drifts into the background. I am not convinced, therefore, that all negative sounding references to pixel peeping are intended as a blanket criticism. I think it is all a matter of context, just as the interpretations and responses to photographs are always contextual.
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Location
Brisbane, Australia
Real Name
Nic
I think the spectre of the internet forum "gear freak" has made pixel peeping into the black sheep of photography. It conjures up thoughts of someone who shoots pictures of test charts and brick walls for enjoyment. I'm sure that everyone does it to an extent - who doesn't want to know that their images are as detailed as they can make them even if there is no commercial requirement to do so? In this regard I am quite happy with my current selection of cameras and have started to reach the ceiling of wanting anything newer/better, but that won't stop me from zooming in to 100% from time to time :) . By no means am I ruling out trying something new (especially since I just did!) but the motivation is not really hoping for some fractional improvement in IQ but instead just wanting to try something different. This thread could be very therapeutic;

My name is Nic and I have/do/will continue to pixel peep.
 
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dixeyk

Guest
I have been struggling with how best to reply to this thread...on one hand I agree that you (soundimageplus) need to pixel peep. It is what is required for the client base you serve. You sell stock images and images for other applications where high resolution clean images are the standard.

I may not have your credential as a photographer but I have nearly thirty years in digital imaging (pre-press, design, production and new media). During that time my client list included a number of Fortune 100 companies such as AT&T, Microsoft and Boeing so I know a little bit about demanding clients. My clients paid my bills so they indirectly dictated the kinds of equipment I used. It was a business decision pure and simple. I understand your position. You do what you need to do based on your needs. The fact that it is seen as somehow irrelevant to some folks is not your concern. No need to apologize. I can see where it would be irritating.

I also agree that the term pixel peeping has become a bit of a derogatory term. It's not surprising that it has either. Take a trip to the forums at drpreview and you'll see a lot of folks getting wrapped around the axle over stuff that is not relevant to their situation. For most folks (and I think you would agree) they kind of attention to detail and close examination of their work isn't warranted. My father-in-law is a prime example. He is forever wanting to buy a new camera (despite the closet full he already has) because he is convinced the new model will somehow give him something he thinks he lacks in what he currently has. I am always having to figure out ways to keep him from putting $1000 he can't afford on his Visa for something that he doesn't need.
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
I also agree that the term pixel peeping has become a bit of a derogatory term. It's not surprising that it has either. Take a trip to the forums at drpreview and you'll see a lot of folks getting wrapped around the axle over stuff that is not relevant to their situation.

I think the spectre of the internet forum "gear freak" has made pixel peeping into the black sheep of photography. It conjures up thoughts of someone who shoots pictures of test charts and brick walls for enjoyment.

But then we move on and become concerned with other things and pixel peeping drifts into the background.

It is exactly these kinds of reaction that I don't understand. I know a fine art photographer who photographs the post it notes on his fridge door at every aperture and every ISO on every camera he owns every time he buys a new lens. He then feels that he has a knowledge of how that lens will respond when he's out taking photographs and therefore he won't get unexpected results. He does this once and he's done.

I do a lot of architectural photography. Photographing a brick wall is a very handy and easy way to check how a lens distorts and therefore gives a good idea as to how its going to perform when I photograph buildings in the real world.

Dpreview and Imaging Resource are internet sites who publish test charts. Imaging resource have a strict and repeatable test regime for each piece of equipment they test. As do DxO.

Whether we find this useful or not is a matter of choice, and certainly I prefer my own methods of real world testing rather than using two dimensional test charts. But I do have a repeatable routine and therefore a useful method of comparing one piece of equipment against another. I've always done this, both before I made my living from photography and afterwards.

Its not as though it takes a long time. The two sets of comparisons I did on the Fuji X100 compared to the Olympus E-PL2 with two different lenses, took about an hour for each lens. It was extremely useful in making up my mind about which lens to keep, which to sell and for what purpose I would use them. It also gave me an excellent idea of what I could expect in terms of files from each of those cameras.

Doing this then frees me up to concentrate on what's really important, which is going out and creating photographs, without me getting any nasty surprises and making sure that I come back with a set of images I'm pleased with.

Having talked to a lot of photographers over the years, what I do is commonplace. None of us would regard ourselves as "gear freaks" or think that we were doing anything unusual. Its not a particularly enjoyable experience, though by using a location I do try and make my testing procedures as pleasant as possible, and I do enjoy the experience of seeing the results from a good piece of gear, anticipating what it might produce in the future.

I have taken the quotes above out of context, and I apologise for that. I'm well aware that there was more to your posts than I have indicated, but the phrases used and sentiments expressed are commonplace in forums and I quote them because I am genuinely surprised by how the process of testing and evaluating is often regarded.

Many of the worlds best known photographers are known for their rigorous testing procedures and indeed many have written extensively on technique. Ansel Adams and the Zone System is an obvious example. For many this testing and yes "pixel-peeping" helps us create better images, and in many ways gets us to a position whereby we are controlling the equipment we use rather than letting it control us. Just because some of us make a living from photography, doesn't make it different. All professional photographers were amateurs once, and concern about quality isn't restricted to those who charge for what they do, is it?

I'm perfectly happy with the fact that people are unconcerned about testing, but I'm not happy about how people who are concerned about it are often portrayed. I've personally never met or read about anyone who photographs test charts and brick walls for fun. If you have then please convey to them my wishes for a speedy recovery! I'm also very reluctant to make judgements about people based on a few words they write on an internet forum, and the notion of me giving advice as to what they should do and think strikes me as innapropriate.

Formula One drivers test their cars to destruction, musicians test and become familiar with their instruments, fishermen spend time getting familiar with a new rod. When a photographer does a similar thing, how do they then become a nerd or a gear head or a "pixel-peeper"? I'm not trying to be provocative here, I really don't understand it
 

pictor

All-Pro
It is exactly these kinds of reaction that I don't understand. I know a fine art photographer who photographs the post it notes on his fridge door at every aperture and every ISO on every camera he owns every time he buys a new lens. He then feels that he has a knowledge of how that lens will respond when he's out taking photographs and therefore he won't get unexpected results. He does this once and he's done.

David, I test my lenses thoroughly, too, and if I can, I will do that before buying the specific exemplar I test. You are completely right with what you write. But unless I misunderstood something, I think that you may do injustice to at least one of those you cited. Explaining why pixel peeping has a negative connotation to many does not imply that one condemns pixel peeping. We both pixel peep (and I pixel peep at each shot I do), but I assume that none of us would say that pixel peeping is the real thing. Photography is the real thing. Pixel peeping is just an important tool.
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
I think that you may do injustice to at least one of those you cited. Explaining why pixel peeping has a negative connotation to many does not imply that one condemns pixel peeping.

If I did that then I apologise, it wasn't meant. I did say that I took the quotes out of context, and was talking about a general rather than a specific attitude.

but I assume that none of us would say that pixel peeping is the real thing. Photography is the real thing. Pixel peeping is just an important tool.

Of course.
 

BBW

Legend
Location
betwixt and between
Real Name
BB
As I keep up with everyone's responses and reactions, I think there may well be more agreement here than anything else when one gets down to it. Christian (AKA pictor), you've said it very well.
but I assume that none of us would say that pixel peeping is the real thing. Photography is the real thing. Pixel peeping is just an important tool.
- and that is something I believe we can all whole heartedly agree with.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the start of my day with this, from you, David.
I've personally never met or read about anyone who photographs test charts and brick walls for fun. If you have then please convey to them my wishes for a speedy recovery!

The one thing about many Internet forums, and the "marketplace" in general (thinking here of the classical marketplace...over the ages), is that everyone's got an opinion and some people really like to generalize an awful lot. Here is to context and thoughtfulness - with attention to detail and aesthetics! And avoiding generalizations, at all costs.
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Location
Brisbane, Australia
Real Name
Nic
I have taken the quotes above out of context, and I apologise for that.

LOL, just a little!

I'm well aware that there was more to your posts than I have indicated, but the phrases used and sentiments expressed are commonplace in forums and I quote them because I am genuinely surprised by how the process of testing and evaluating is often regarded.

No issues here. I think the problem is that pixel-peeper is a title given to some whose favourite pastime is not testing equipment but instead explaining to others that "my camera is better than your camera because..."
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
I think the problem is that pixel-peeper is a title given to some whose favourite pastime is not testing equipment but instead explaining to others that "my camera is better than your camera because..."

Agreed. Thats something I would never defend. My concern is that we don't all get lumped together into the same catergory, and that doing something that many of us find useful becomes a source of abuse.

The one thing about many Internet forums, and the "marketplace" in general (thinking here of the classical marketplace...over the ages), is that everyone's got an opinion and some people really like to generalize an awful lot.

Indeed that's true, unfortunately. And those "opinions" seem to get repeated endlessly, usually as a means of attempting to assert some kind of superority as Nic says.

Here is to context and thoughtfulness - with attention to detail and aesthetics! And avoiding generalizations, at all costs.

Couldn't agree more, though I must say I'm not that hopeful. Outside of this oasis of good sense there's an awful lot of non sense flying about.
 

BBW

Legend
Location
betwixt and between
Real Name
BB
I hear you, David.

Of course, I am a great believer in my own little world of common sense, too....though I often find myself expounding with at least mild expletives in "retaliation" to what I hear on the TV news...and sometimes while reading camera reviews.:wink:
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
I hear you, David.
Of course, I am a great believer in my own little world of common sense, too....though I often find myself expounding with at least mild expletives in "retaliation" to what I hear on the TV news...and sometimes while reading camera reviews.:wink:

I don't know whether reasoned debate and the ability to discuss ideas in timespans longer than a 10 second soundbite, has died out, but it feels like it has to me. I don't know if you've ever seen a film called IDIOCRACY which is one of the funniest films I've ever seen, and also one of the most disturbing. It imagines a world a few hundred years hence when "dumbing-down" has reached such proportions that the human race is incapable of carrying out even the most basic tasks, and language and intelligence has all but died out.

The internet can be a wonderful thing and dispiriting at the same time. My main objection is how it often tries to turn everything into a form of shorthand. I've seen posts that are a series of acronyms and symbols, with no actual words at all. As someone who loves language, in all its forms, I do feel like I'm swimming against a very strong current sometimes and I may get swept away. I posted my first ever "smiley" the other day. I think I'm lost!
 

BBW

Legend
Location
betwixt and between
Real Name
BB
As someone who loves language, in all its forms, I do feel like I'm swimming against a very strong current sometimes and I may get swept away. I posted my first ever "smiley" the other day. I think I'm lost!
OK, now I am laughing out loud, however I will try to control myself by not posting the rolling on the floor little smiley!

I have heard of that movie, but haven't seen it - yet. :wink: Oops, sorry about that little wink.
 
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dixeyk

Guest
It is exactly these kinds of reaction that I don't understand. I know a fine art photographer who photographs the post it notes on his fridge door at every aperture and every ISO on every camera he owns every time he buys a new lens. He then feels that he has a knowledge of how that lens will respond when he's out taking photographs and therefore he won't get unexpected results. He does this once and he's done.

Yes but that example is an art photographer for whom that level of knowledge is needed. Not everyone needs to know that and there are good many folks that become obsessed with it even though it is not something that will every be an issue for them. You are a professional and as such you have certain things you expect/need out of your images. Most folks have become gear centric thinking that the gear is what makes them a photographer (or painter, writer, etc.). That is a result of 20 plus years of the makers of gear (and software) pushing that idea. Good gear is only part of the equation. The rest of it is skill and for the majority of the folks on these forums they can have a bigger effect on their images by taking a class or practicing then by switching to a camera with a better sensor or more megapixels.
 

Djarum

All-Pro
Location
Huntsville, AL
Real Name
Jason
A couple of things I'm taking away from what I've read so far.

I understand that if we are talking about the context of making money, that there are certain expectations and requirements from the customer. When it comes to specifically to the number of pixels, I wonder how much a customer allways needs a large file or a certain number of megapixels. For large prints, this is completly understandable. If a customer just wants it when they really don't need it, then qualifying the customer becomes more important.

The convenience factor only plays a part for the average buyer, not the professional making money off using the gear.

I think that the average user who pixel peeps is really doing it just for that "just in case I need it" mentality or of the "my gear is better than yours" mentality.
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
Not everyone needs to know that and there are good many folks that become obsessed with it even though it is not something that will every be an issue for them.........Most folks have become gear centric thinking that the gear is what makes them a photographer (or painter, writer, etc.)...........The rest of it is skill and for the majority of the folks on these forums they can have a bigger effect on their images by taking a class or practicing then by switching to a camera with a better sensor or more megapixels.

This is what I'm talking about. You make all these generalisations that you can't possibly justify. "Most folks have become gear centric thinking that the gear is what makes them a photographer" How can you possibly say that? Most folks?? You don't even say that its your opinion, you just state it as fact. Are we just supposed to take this as a universal truth? If you said something like - "In my opinion there are many people who seem to become so focused on the gear, that they think that is what makes them a photographer. I think that if they took more time to learn about photography and shoot more images then that would benefit them more than buying a better camera" then thats perfectly valid.

None of us can speak for others surely, and neither should we attempt to do so. I write about what I know and that is my experiences and my motivation and practices. I also write about what I know of the way other photographers work either by what they have told me or what they write. I am careful not to lecture or sermonise or say this is the way to do things. Firstly I am in no position to do so, and secondly I have no right to do that anyway.

You can disagree with me and say that is not the way you see or do things, but to imply that you can speak for "Most folks" is somewhat overstated surely, to say the least.
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
I wonder how much a customer allways needs a large file or a certain number of megapixels. For large prints, this is completly understandable. If a customer just wants it when they really don't need it, then qualifying the customer becomes more important

I'm not quite sure if I've understood this correctly but are you saying that I should attempt to tell a customer what they need?
 

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