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





It’s not the camera, it’s you

3 05 2011

For those who feel that an expensive, full-frame camera with an expensive piece of glass on the end is what you need to make great photos think again. It’s not all about the gear, but it’s about the photographer using the gear. To illustrate this point, Digital Rev TV has created a series where they give professional photographers cheap, inexpensive and rather crummy point and shoots to use in place of their expensive gear. The results are rather remarkable as they prove that it’s not about what you’re using, but how you use it. It does my poor college student heart good to see pros cranking out good shots with cheap equipment.

(via fstoppers)

DSLR mirror shake

2 05 2011

Shaky, blurry pictures stink. Especially when shooting in low light without a tripod. Hand holding your DSLR and shooting does contribute to the sharpness of the photo but so does the mirror vibration made from the mirror moving when the shutter fires. To illustrate this point Camera Technica conducted a test to figure out how much mirror vibration there is under certain circumstances. Using a Canon 7D they mounted a laser pointer on the hot shoe and firing the shutter normally, with a finger press, with a remote shutter release and with a remote shutter release and mirror lock up.

I was surprised at how much movement there was from just pressing the shutter with a finger. Which is why I always use a tripod and the timer when shooting low light.


DSLR Mirror Vibration from Camera Technica on Vimeo.



Handling assignments

2 05 2011

I’ve been asked to shoot a variety of subjects while working for the campus magazine. Anything from organization meetings to a Kid Cudi concert and I’ve had different times to prepare. Sometimes a few days and sometimes a couple hours notice, such as the case with Kid Cudi (I had to step on some toes at work that day) but irregardless it’s important to have the appropriate gear for where you’ll be shooting.

Most importantly, make sure your battery is charged. My Nikon D90s battery takes a couple hours to fully charge, so I tend to charge it the night before. Nothing is more frustrating than watching that little bar tick away, until it’s dead and you miss your shot. Not only do you miss your shot, it’s very unprofessional. Even if you don’t have a fancy battery grip like myself, keep a few spares in your pack.

What pack am I using? Up until now I had been using a small Tamrac bag, but since I’ve acquired a battery grip and a few other accessories I’ve been hauling my stuff around in a Lowepro Rover AWII. It’s a good camera backpack, but for dedicated gear hauling you’d be better off with something like a Lowepro Pro Runner 300. It has more space to put your gear for shoots. The Rover is great for hiking, since it has a top section where you can put your coat or beef jerky but for photo shoots it’s rather limited.

Nikon 55-200mm, great if you're on a budget

Make sure you have the right lenses for the situation. Since I’m a poor college student, I don’t have access to all the f/2.8 glass out there, so I have to make do with what I’ve got. Most of the time, I use my 18-105mm that came with my D90. It’s a good lens if you can get over the low light handling, and it covers a wide focal range. Making it an ideal lens for shooting group meetings, or anywhere in a somewhat cramped environment. I also pack my 55-200mm for when I need that extra bit of reach. This lens does poorly in low light, but it gets the job done and is rather cheap, $169 on Amazon. One lens I’ve rarely used is my 50mm f/1.8, surprisingly. While it’s wide aperture would be great for low light situations, I find the lack of zoom to be annoying.

Sure that nice, wide 1.8 aperture would have been fantastic when shooting Kid Cudi, but I only have one camera body and changing lenses in the field is something I like to avoid.

Next, a hot shoe flash. I’ve taken one on assignment, but that’s because I did not own one at the time. Trust me there were plenty of times where a flash would have been a godsend, but you can get by without one. If you’re packing a flash make sure you have spare batteries for it too. I’m using a Nikon SB-600 and four lithium batteries. I haven’t had to replace them yet but that’s not to say they won’t die soon.

Also, make sure you have plenty of memory cards. It really stinks when your shooting a once in a lifetime deal and you run out of memory. I carry three 4G Sandisk Ultra memory cards and they haven’t let me down yet. They’re quick, reliable and they’re reasonably cheap compared to the Sandisk Extreme cards.

If you really want to haul your laptop into the field to download photos more power to you. I don’t just because I do not like the added weight, but having a workstation is rather nice.

Finally, if you have time organize your gear beforehand. It’ll make life a lot easier when it’s game time. There have been plenty of times where I put off setting my gear up and paid for it.

So don’t procrastinate.

Most importantly, what gear you take with you is all up to you and where you’ll be shooting.