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Resolving To Resist Resolution

  • Feb 10, 2015
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Resolving To Resist Resolution

Just as the market is once again graced with higher resolution cameras, so too is the Internet awash with salivating consumers desperate to lap them up. Surely having a 50-megapixel camera will make them all much better photographers than they were 44 megapixels ago? The extra resolution must be the push they needed to take them from mediocrity to greatness. Well, were it only so. Alas, quite simply, no. Perhaps we all need a rational counterbalance to the frenzy. It never ceases to amaze me how many comments are left on review sites by amateur photographers desperate to acquire the latest gadget, believing that the latest gadget is the Holy Grail they were looking for. Give it a few months; a new grail will be along.There is no doubt that many professionals benefit from high-resolution devices. And limiting our definition of professionals to just photographers may incur an entirely valid rebuke from astronauts, defence contractors, medical technologists and the clandestine services. There are many instances when more resolution is better.But for the vast majority of us, we have to wonder what we will do with all that extra resolution.  Do we have the patience to execute the appropriate shot discipline to make use of those extra pixels? Did we have that discipline at 24 and 36MP? Are we doing critical work that demands medium format levels of resolution? I wonder how many new exponents of these 50MP cameras will think carefully about their composition, while ensuring they have a tripod and the finest glass to make use of all those pixels.And there’s the other consideration; the extra infrastructure you’ll need, especially the lenses capable of using such resolution. I suspect many people balk at the cost of the lenses appropriate to such resolution, to say nothing of the cameras themselves. Extra batteries and perhaps new screen protectors for the rear LCD; more lenses will probably mean more filters, perhaps more cleaning aids, etc. It just goes on.Camera manufacturers are very good at making us feel insecure. Their marketing material has carefully selected verbiage and phraseology to evoke a sense of awe and promote the superiority of their product. They know that when we take the bait, we will eventually reason that we’ll need more gear to go with it, especially big, expensive glass. And unfortunately, many people act on this insecurity to feel better about themselves and in relation to others. I personally know of one guy who loves having the latest camera, but knows very little about how to take a decent photograph. He’ll take one simple portrait shot a hundred times going through every conceivable setting on his expensive gear without a decent result by the end of it. He’s all about the gadgets and he believes it makes him authentic and credible in the eyes of his friends. Sad, really.Conversely, a colleague of mine just recently purchased her first DSLR, second hand on eBay. A perfectly capable machine, she’s absolutely thrilled with it, but wonders if she needs to buy more gear and lenses to compliment it. The self-doubt is slowing creeping up on her. I told her just to get a decent camera bag to carry it and keep it safe; her kit lens will cover 99% of everything she will shoot (which is mostly her little girl scurrying about).There’s a reason that I used the 44MP figure in the first paragraph. All the shots on this page were taken with a mere 6MP camera (50 minus 6).  They may not be great photos but could I really have made better images with more megapixels? I doubt it. I'm perfectly happy with them as they are. Think about why you need to upgrade. Is it really for the benefit of your photography? Or because you think your peers, many of whom are internet strangers, will be impressed? Does your eye frame better shots when you have a 50MP device in your hand compared to 20MP or 6MP? Will you understand form and geometry, or appreciate juxtaposition of colour with more megapixels?I doubt it, and I say this in all humility, because having seen some of the preview examples of shots put out by other review sites recently it’s clear to me that they appreciate the gadget more than the art. Supposedly ‘leaders’ in the review sector, many of their images had no imagination, no clear composition, poor exposure and processing. There are a few exceptions, of course, (Photography Life, for example ), but only a few. The vast majority, and again just my humble opinion, only fuel the mediocre output but with ever more megapixels to help them.Buy whatever you want and whatever makes you happy. If you have a need to collect material things to feel better about yourself then that is your prerogative. But for those of you who are interested in photography please spend a little less time stressing over megapixels and a little more time appreciating what makes an image work and the discipline required to capture it. I am not for one moment professing that I fully understand; that’s what makes photography so interesting and enjoyable to me. I invest my energies in this constant learning process.I may not have the most pixels available to me, and you will forgive my random selection of images here, but I’m willing to bet my pursuit of photography is far more rewarding to me than the camera makers will have you believe. 

Feb 10, 2015
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Resolving To Resist Resolution

This post has 13 photos Feb 10, 2015Comments (5)721 views
Just as the market is once again graced with higher resolution cameras, so too is the Internet awash with salivating consumers desperate to lap them up. Surely having a 50-megapixel camera will make them all much better photographers than they were 44 megapixels ago? The extra resolution must be the push they needed to take them from mediocrity to greatness. 

Well, were it only so. Alas, quite simply, no. Perhaps we all need a rational counterbalance to the frenzy. It never ceases to amaze me how many comments are left on review sites by amateur photographers desperate to acquire the latest gadget, believing that the latest gadget is the Holy Grail they were looking for. Give it a few months; a new grail will be along.

There is no doubt that many professionals benefit from high-resolution devices. And limiting our definition of professionals to just photographers may incur an entirely valid rebuke from astronauts, defence contractors, medical technologists and the clandestine services. There are many instances when more resolution is better.

But for the vast majority of us, we have to wonder what we will do with all that extra resolution.  Do we have the patience to execute the appropriate shot discipline to make use of those extra pixels? Did we have that discipline at 24 and 36MP? Are we doing critical work that demands medium format levels of resolution? I wonder how many new exponents of these 50MP cameras will think carefully about their composition, while ensuring they have a tripod and the finest glass to make use of all those pixels.

And there’s the other consideration; the extra infrastructure you’ll need, especially the lenses capable of using such resolution. I suspect many people balk at the cost of the lenses appropriate to such resolution, to say nothing of the cameras themselves. Extra batteries and perhaps new screen protectors for the rear LCD; more lenses will probably mean more filters, perhaps more cleaning aids, etc. It just goes on.

Camera manufacturers are very good at making us feel insecure. Their marketing material has carefully selected verbiage and phraseology to evoke a sense of awe and promote the superiority of their product. They know that when we take the bait, we will eventually reason that we’ll need more gear to go with it, especially big, expensive glass. And unfortunately, many people act on this insecurity to feel better about themselves and in relation to others. I personally know of one guy who loves having the latest camera, but knows very little about how to take a decent photograph. He’ll take one simple portrait shot a hundred times going through every conceivable setting on his expensive gear without a decent result by the end of it. He’s all about the gadgets and he believes it makes him authentic and credible in the eyes of his friends. Sad, really.

Conversely, a colleague of mine just recently purchased her first DSLR, second hand on eBay. A perfectly capable machine, she’s absolutely thrilled with it, but wonders if she needs to buy more gear and lenses to compliment it. The self-doubt is slowing creeping up on her. I told her just to get a decent camera bag to carry it and keep it safe; her kit lens will cover 99% of everything she will shoot (which is mostly her little girl scurrying about).

There’s a reason that I used the 44MP figure in the first paragraph. All the shots on this page were taken with a mere 6MP camera (50 minus 6).  They may not be great photos but could I really have made better images with more megapixels? I doubt it. I'm perfectly happy with them as they are. 

Think about why you need to upgrade. Is it really for the benefit of your photography? Or because you think your peers, many of whom are internet strangers, will be impressed? Does your eye frame better shots when you have a 50MP device in your hand compared to 20MP or 6MP? Will you understand form and geometry, or appreciate juxtaposition of colour with more megapixels?

I doubt it, and I say this in all humility, because having seen some of the preview examples of shots put out by other review sites recently it’s clear to me that they appreciate the gadget more than the art. Supposedly ‘leaders’ in the review sector, many of their images had no imagination, no clear composition, poor exposure and processing. There are a few exceptions, of course, (Photography Life, for example ), but only a few. The vast majority, and again just my humble opinion, only fuel the mediocre output but with ever more megapixels to help them.

Buy whatever you want and whatever makes you happy. If you have a need to collect material things to feel better about yourself then that is your prerogative. But for those of you who are interested in photography please spend a little less time stressing over megapixels and a little more time appreciating what makes an image work and the discipline required to capture it. I am not for one moment professing that I fully understand; that’s what makes photography so interesting and enjoyable to me. I invest my energies in this constant learning process.

I may not have the most pixels available to me, and you will forgive my random selection of images here, but I’m willing to bet my pursuit of photography is far more rewarding to me than the camera makers will have you believe. 

Bristol Sunshine.
1 Bristol Sun

Bristol Sunshine.

Feb 10, 2015
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1 Bristol Sun Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:42 AM
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Gare Du Nord, Paris.
2 Gare Du Nord

Gare Du Nord, Paris.

Feb 10, 2015
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2 Gare Du Nord Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:42 AM
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Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska.
3 Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska.

Feb 10, 2015
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3 Mendenhall Glacier Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:42 AM
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Arc Du Triomphe, Paris.
4 Arc Du Triomphe

Arc Du Triomphe, Paris.

Feb 10, 2015
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4 Arc Du Triomphe Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:42 AM
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Notting Hill Carnival.
5 Notting Hil Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival.

Feb 10, 2015
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5 Notting Hil Carnival Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:42 AM
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Seagull, Portugal.
6 Portugal Seagull

Seagull, Portugal.

Feb 10, 2015
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6 Portugal Seagull Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Dragonfly, Sudeley Garden.
7 Dragonfly

Dragonfly, Sudeley Garden.

Feb 10, 2015
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7 Dragonfly Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Flamingo. 
8 Flamingo

Flamingo. 

Feb 10, 2015
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8 Flamingo Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Admiral Butterfly.
9 Admiral Butterfly

Admiral Butterfly.

Feb 10, 2015
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9 Admiral Butterfly Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Blue Tit.
9a-Bue-Tit

Blue Tit.

Feb 10, 2015
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9a-Bue-Tit Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Old Severn Bridge.
9b-Severn-Bridge

Old Severn Bridge.

Feb 10, 2015
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9b-Severn-Bridge Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Fisherman, Alaska.
10 Alaskan Fisherman

Fisherman, Alaska.

Feb 10, 2015
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10 Alaskan Fisherman Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Apache Helicopter.
11 Apache Gunship

Apache Helicopter.

Feb 10, 2015
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11 Apache Gunship Capture Date: Feb 10, 2015 02:43 AM
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Comments

ParrishFeb 10, 2015 10:05 AM

Hello Alpha
Firstly for those unaware Alpha introduced me to low light photography a few years ago now and he will know i speak as i find.
While i think of my wording i can only assume that Alpha is talking about 6Mp , and that's his trusty Nikon D40 :-).
We both had this camera and yes it certainly served extremely well and is of course a more than capable camera no matter what lens is used.
However, i managed to burn mine out and upgraded accordingly to the Nikon D90 ,again a great camera with double the resolution at 12Mp, some of best work has been with that camera.
Moving on, i was fortunate enough to be offered a used Nikon D7000 for a fraction of the cost and with only 1000 clicks of the shutter.This was another upgrade and certainly a viable one at the time, now im up to 16Mp. Today i still have and use the 7000 ,its a remarkable camera, but ! ..now i have a Nikon D750 and its just amazing.
Does this make me a better photographer ?....Hell NO !, but what it does make me, is that my use of those extra pixels and awareness to the scene is now more crucial.
My upgrades have been warranted in my photography journey, as i progress, my work has progressed but not always necessarily because of those pixels. I only have to look back over my time with a camera to look at some of the quality i have produced, and some has been back when i first started with the Nikon D40.... so in response to Alpha, do we need those extra pixels, yes i think we do, but 50Mp no of course not.
If your a pro shooter i can see why you would want them, but as a hobbyist or enthusiast 24Mp is plenty and probably more than you can ever used.
These days i have a couple of magazines who occasionally ask for images, the D750 and its higher resolution is the answer for finer detail these mags require, but do not think for one minute that you have to have a high end camera.My best cover to date was shot on the Nikon D90 12Mp.

Lets not forget, 50Mp = new computer :-)

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyFeb 10, 2015 11:26 AM

Well said, Parrish! Of course, resolution has its merits, and my article does state that, but I wouldn't want anyone to think it was the sole reason to upgrade, believing that it would automatically make them a better photographer.
Someone of your skill level will produce great output however many pixels you have in hand :) Your upgrades have probably given you better AF and noise performance, better viewfinders and LCDs and better ergonomics. Lots more valid reason to upgrade as they complement your skill set. :)

PhotogenicsFeb 22, 2015 02:31 PM

Totally agree Alpha Whiskey. I remember in the old days of lusting for a Leica M3. It was going to lift my photos, overnight, to the pro level I dreamed about. The camera didnt. But the lenses I eventually got, certainly helped.
Modern cameras have reached a level of 'capture' quality that is more than adequate for the average user.
Today, with only a small percentage of photos being printed, (the majority viewed on a device), megapixels, IQ etc are almost irrelevant.
I wouldnt say the same for lenses though. I still use an old 2.8 80-200 Nikkor and a newer 24-70 2.8, and while some kit lenses are pretty good, I can usually tell the difference.
Which brings me to the point of my comment.
Rather than concentrating on the latest and greatest camera, I think the 2 factors in presenting a better than average photo today come down to just good glass and judicious editing.
Just like the old days :)
Cheers and thanks for the thought provoking article.

John DixonMar 29, 2015 04:31 AM

It's a blue tit, not a great tit ;-) Good article btw: I agree whole-heartedly. Do you sometimes think people attribute improvements in their photography to the more expensive gear they have acquired as time goes on, when it is really due to their increasing experience and skill? If you gave them back their first camera they would find they are making better images than when they first owned it...

MarkSep 25, 2016 01:31 PM

Only just came across this, but I think your label on the old severn bridge is wrong. It looks like the 'new' one to me.

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