Friday, January 26, 2007
Today's camera manufacturers are thinking about more than pixels
To understand what's happening, we spoke to several representatives from the leading manufacturers for their insight into where digital technology is now and where it's going.
About Those Megapixels
Less than a decade ago, a 2-megapixel digital SLR cost more than $40,000. Now, digital SLRs with three times the resolution are available for less than $1,000. That's a remarkable change in less than 10 years. The top-of-the-line cameras now offer resolutions of 12, 16 and even 22 megapixels (with the Mamiya ZD). Yet as these higher-resolution cameras become available, a photographer wonders how high will it go and how many megapixels does one actually need?
"There will be technology improvements that will increase resolution," says John Knaur, senior marketing manager for digital SLRs for Olympus Imaging America. "But we'll also meet a point of diminishing returns, the key point being how much resolution do you actually need to create a 4x6 print or an 8x10 print? In reality, I think we've gotten pretty close to that point with most people."
Resolution is related primarily to the intended print size and not exclusively to overall image quality. Four- to 6-megapixel cameras provide more than adequate resolution to create excellent-quality 8x10 prints. For photographers who prefer making enlargements up to 16x20, digital cameras boasting up to 8 megapixels are both available and affordable. While resolution is important, consumers and manufacturers are focusing on the other attributes that lead to successful photography.
"Resolution will continue to climb as manufacturers innovate, but I have a feeling that the industry is starting to pay attention to other things," comments Steve Heiner, Nikon's general manager for digital SLR systems and Nikkor lenses. "For example, on the professional end of the business, there are a myriad of cameras that provide photographers with the resolution necessary to do the things that they need to do. Many can argue that they can do things now with digital that they couldn't do with film."
As photographers' experiences with digital cameras have grown, so has their awareness of what ultimately makes a difference in a camera.
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