Megapixel Madness! Is 12 Enough?
by Fred Bonilla
While the PMA show in Vegas yielded some nice gear goodies, as Photoinduced highlighted last month, It seems that the biggest news made there was a seemingly innocuous statement made by Olympusâ€™ Akira Watanabe, their head of SLR planning.
In gearing up for the future of their E- series cameras, he declared that â€œTwelve megapixels is, I think, enough for covering most applications most customers need.â€
While also saying that he planned to stop at that megapixel number for their E series SLRâ€™s, he also stated that had â€œno intention to compete in the megapixel warsâ€. A correction of sorts was later issued saying that he meant the figure is more like 20 megapixels, and that 12 would be enough for the casual user and amateur.
But not before the firestorm of comments both praising Watanabe for his insights or lambasting his lack of vision for the future on photo blogs and websites ( Just Google â€œ Is 12 megapixels enough to see what I meanâ€¦).
As a photographer whose day job has been selling cameras for over 20 years, hereâ€™s my take on the matter; Heâ€™s probably right, butâ€¦
Watanabeâ€™s intent on concentrating on other factors of a cameraâ€™s performance such as higher dynamic range, better ISO range for low light shooting, and improved image sensor based autofocusing is commendable, and is necessary for taking digital cameras to the next level. But camera companies, as well as their ad agencies are guilty of using megapixels as their magic buzzword, an easily measurable level to gauge sharpness; hence itâ€™s overall quality. For every customer who comes to me having done their homework, Consumer Reports in hand with extensive notes & 3 part questions with follow-up, I get an equal amount whose ONLY concern is the megapixels.
For those folks, whipping out the latest dot packed beauty while grunting like Tim Allen in Home Improvement will usually close the sale.
By picking 12 mp as an arbitrary number, and drawing a line in the sand, Watanabe is saying that other factors need to come into play in creating a quality image, and in that sense, heâ€™s correct. Educating the general public is another matterâ€¦
Articles written as early as 2006 have pointed out the so called â€œmegapixel mythâ€, including David Pogue of The New York Times whose 2007 article with his own unscientific test made some (forgive the pun) noise of itâ€™s own.
But when the words come comes from inside the camp of camera manufacturers, it carries itâ€™s own resonance. The camera companies should put up and resolve to prominently feature the improvements that ultimately result in what everyone wants, a good picture. Not just the pixels. Sensor size and compression aside, the number of pixels seems to be the lightning rod. And the more the camera manufacturers want to top themselves without further education of what else makes a good camera, a disservice is done to all.
Thank Fred, for a little front line insight!