Debunking the megapixel myth

6 05 2011

It’s something that camera buyers see all the time and it’s something where it’s higher the better. It’s megapixels. Those little numbers that are next to every digital camera out there. For many people it’s believed that the more megapixels the better the camera.

The better the image quality and the larger you can print photos. It’s also something that amateur photographers tend to take into consideration more than other camera aspects. Does a 6 megapixel camera produce an image that is inferior to a 12 megapixel camera? Is it really worth it to buy the bigger expensive camera based on the megapixel count and what do they even do?

As I discussed earlier, digital cameras have sensors instead of film. Sensors come in either Charged Coupled Device (CCD) or Complimentary Metal Oxide (CMOS). Irregardless of the kind, they both have pixels on the surface that take the image and convert it into a digital format. The term “megapixels” refers to how many pixels the sensor has and they are measured in millions. So a 12 megapixel camera has 12,000,000 pixels on it’s sensor.

“The first DSLR to hit the marked was the Nikon D1 and it had 2.1 megapixels and it shot eight frames per second,” said Jeff Beach, lead sales associate at Kohne Photo in Perrysburg and professional photographer. Although the resolution capabilites are atrocious by today’s standards, the main appeal was the eight frames per second that the D1 had making it an ideal choice for photojournalists working for newspapers, according to Beach.

“Customers shouldn’t be concerned with the number of megapixels,” said Beach.

“For me, I would choose a camera with higher megapixels. Because as an artist you want those big files,” said Dan Moosman, an art education major. The allure of higher megapixels would allow Moosman to capture more detail in his images. Details such as, tone, gradiation, and all the minor details. Using a camera with lower megapixels would be counterproductive for Moosman too because he would not be able to get all the details and tones.

“I would keep a camera with lower megapixels as a travel camera, because if I lost it or it broke I wouldn’t be too upset about it,” said Moosman.

However, it’s not the megapixel count that consumers are looking for now in their cameras. According to Beach, customers are now looking for cameras with better low light capabilities and having a camera with high megapixels can lower the low light capabilities and make images more grainy when shot at high ISO.

“The number of megapixels a camera has is not a determining factor for me,” said Kyle Lenderman, a physical therapy major. Instead Lenderman shops for cameras based on price, features and what people are saying about them. Lenderman shops for cameras by looking up reviews on photography websites, and by looking at sample images on the web.

“I feel that cameras have reached the optimal amount (of megapixels) that it doesn’t matter,” said Lenderman.

“In the end, the lens quality and the exposure are going to affect the image quality,” said Beach “If you have a poorly exposed image, or one that has flaws when you blow it up those flaws are going to magnified.”

Photographers prospects

5 05 2011

In 2008 there were 152,00 employed photographers in the United States. Across the next seven years the numbers are expected to climb to 169,00 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. With more than half of them being self employed, either working for advertising agencies, magazines or own their own studio, according to the BLS website.

Photography is a tough business to break into. There are always new photographers cropping up and charging less, or non-professional photographers taking the work away from professionals. It’s easy to call yourself a photographer, all you really need is a camera either a 35mm or a DSLR and maybe access to editing software but just because you own a camera doesn’t qualify yourself.

It also helps when you have some sort of education, mainly a degree. While the University does not have a dedicated photography, or photojournalism major or minor students can still take photo classes either in visual communications technology (VCT) or fine arts photography.

Yet no class can teach you photography, they just give you the knowledge on how to make photos. Making great pictures is a learning process, that students and professionals are going through. Being a student photographer myself, I wondered how others are trying to get into the field and how they handle photography.

Junior Sara Fouts

For Sara Fouts, photography started as an interest in junior high. Describing herself as an “artsy” person Fouts, now a junior at the University, made a decision to continue to photograph and become better at it.

“I was really drawn by National Geographic to travel the world and using photography to get to know other people,” Fouts said.

Photography, for Fouts is a way to learn more about people and a way to preserve memories. Talking to people while she is taking their picture opens them up allowing another side to be captured.

“It puts people in a vulnerable spot. It opens up conversation and sometimes when I shoot, I talk to them while I’m taking their picture,” Fouts said “some of the best pictures are of them answering a question that pulls on an emotional string.”

Part of Fouts inspiration came from her aunt, who gave her an old Pentax SLR. Fouts has yet to bring it out, but she plans to in the future.

” My mom, is a photographer so I’ve always had a camera in my face and I hated it. I wanted to get on the other side of the camera,” Hannah Sparling said.

Senior Hannah Sparling, photo provided by Hannah Sparling

When she came to the University her freshman year Sparling mostly did writing, up until this year when her interest in photography grew.

“I prefer photojournalism because it’s more real to me. I’m not a fan of posed photos,” Sparling said. While photography will never be her main job, Sparling will continue to shoot. Whether it’s recreational, or for stories.

“It’s kinda a new thing for me, but I like it a lot” Sparling said.


The full Sara Fouts interview





What it’s like to focus a rangefinder

26 04 2011

Rangefinder cameras are cameras that have been fitted with a rangefinder, which allows the photographer to calculate subject distance allowing for sharp photographs. They’re generally small, much like a point and shoot but unlike point and shoots rangefinders have interchangeable lenses. Unlike an SLR or DSLR rangefinders do not have a reflex lens. Instead you look through the viewfinder and have to compensate for the distance between the lens and viewfinder when framing a shot.

To illustrate this point, here is a nifty video that shows how to focus a rangefinder camera.

(via Petapixel)


DX and FX formats

20 04 2011

In the realm of digital photography there are two kind of sensor formats: DX and FX. What does that mean? It relates to the size of the sensor that’s in your camera. DX sensors are also called “crop sensors” because they’re smaller than an FX which is the digital equalivant of 35mm film.

It affects your camera in two ways. First, it affects the price. DX sensor cameras are much cheaper than an FX. As an example, the Nikon D5000, which is an entry level DSLR, uses a CMOS DX style sensor, and it costs $629.99 USD. Now lets go over to the big boy playground and check out the professional-grade Nikon D3S. This puppy packs in an FX CMOS sensor along with a slew of other features, and totals over 5k.

Bear in mind that there are several distinguishing features between the two cameras that also affects price, such as weather-sealing on the D3s and a 51 point autofocus. So that’s also bumping up the price.

Second it affects how the camera performs. DX sensors tend to not handle higher ISOs very well, with image quality and noise problems due to the smaller sensor. FX sensors, since it’s a bigger, can handle high ISOs with little quality loss. The D3s has an ISO up to 12,800 according to Nikon’s website.

There is also a difference in image quality depending on the sensor. DX are smaller, and can’t fit a lot of data onto the sensor, whereas an FX can cram more detail into its bigger sensor.

I shoot with a Nikon D90 which has a DX sensor in it, and yes it does get noisy in the higher ISOs but software can greatly reduce the effects of noise.

Nikon hits the 60 million mark

6 04 2011

After 52 years Nikon finally produced 60 million Nikkor lenses yesterday, just two months after Canon’s 60 millionth EF lens rolled off the line, according to a press release.

The road to 60 million lenses started in 1959 when Nikon, Nippon Kogaku K.K at the time, released their first SLR the Nikon F. Which at the same time, Nikon released the first Nikkor lens. Canon wouldn’t release their first EF lens until 1987.

Nikkor comes from adding an “R” to Nikko. At the time Nikko was the Romanized version of Nippon Kogaku K.K. and adding “R” was common practice when it came to branding photographic lenses, according to Nikon’s website. In 1933, Nikon released the Aero-Nikkor, a lens used for large-format aerial photography.

The current Nikkor selection has 60 lenses ranging from fish-eye to super-telephoto.

What’s your favorite Nikkor lens?