Digital Camera Resolution

On the next couple of articles that I’ll be writing, I’ll talk about how our eyes see & how the camera tries to mimic our eyes to the best of its ability. No camera today can see exactly how our eyes see things simply because trying to imitate thousands of years of evolution & gods creation can be quite daunting for us humans who have only been into photography & designing camera for oh what… the last 200 years!

So what has evolution done for our eyes?

Being the dominant life form on this planet, it’s no surprise that we have one of the most sophisticated design & complex visual ‘apparatus’ which has evolved from thousands of years even when humans were just primates at one time long ago. So you can say we are a very visual species… & of the 5 senses, our eyesight is one of the most important for perceiving all that is around us.

Just how good is it?

Apparently our eyes have a resolution equivalent to 576 megapixel & we have the capability to distinguish between 10 million shades of colors. Our ISO sensitivity is rather mediocre at only 800… even with that it’s only grayscale. If you haven’t already noticed, we cannot see color in low light! Our aperture is about f3.5 with a focal length of about 20mm. Despite some dismal specs, we do have however a very wide/high dynamic range (yes we actually see HDR), region-adaptable auto ISO to make up for the poor ISO800 performance & auto white balance.

Our eyes see about 1/30sec. Don’t believe me? Move your finger back & forth, you’ll see a blur, right? Now try to take a photo of your moving finger the same way using a camera at 1/30sec. You will see a pretty similar looking blur…well not exactly unless you have photographic memory lol!

The resolution on a camera

Well a state of the art digital camera like the 5Dmk2 has 21 megapixel. The resolution on a 36mm x 24mm frame ISO100 speed ‘film’ has been estimated to contain at the maximum, 20 megapixel. Well depending on the type of film you are referring to, realistically it’s actually more between 4-16 megapixel. Although our eyes can theoretically see 576 megapixel, the human brain will have difficulty differentiating between 4MP vs 21MP. So this megapixel war thing between camera manufacturers is really a myth. More megapixel doesn’t mean sharper images. You still need to factor in sensor size & lens design.

Back before the turn of the century, when cameras were only doing 1-2MP… they probably only mattered if you were printing huge photos. I still remember my old Sony F717 which had like only 5MP. I was asked by my company to take some portrait shots of employees to be put up as posters around the office. They are enlarged to like life size printouts & believe me 5MP was more than sufficient to do it. When you look at a photo on a poster or a billboard, you don’t walk right up to it to view it… you hang back so you can see the big picture!

This megapixel BS was created by camera makers to mislead consumers into thinking that more megapixel somehow relate to the quality of the images that it makes. This BS is so believable because we humans always want a single number to determine what’s good or bad. This is really sad because the number of megapixel on a camera has little to do with the quality of the images it can produce, in fact some lower megapixel cameras outperform poorer cameras that can churn out more megapixel. It really intrigues me to see mobile phone makers these days doing exactly the same thing as when digital cameras pioneered back in the 90’s. It’s all over again, this time on camera phones lol!

Megapixels don’t do squat for the quality of an image. The only reason you would want more megapixels is if you do a lot of cropping in Photoshop during post processing. This too is pointless if you are shooting correctly & framing your shots in such a way that you don’t need to crop the image in the first place.


2 responses to “Digital Camera Resolution”

  1. daniriot says :

    I love this post. I love how you talk of the eye as a piece of kit.

    Really surprised my the greyscale lowlight vision. Gonna be trying this out for a while.

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