Camera’s, Picture Quality and Megapixels

  • I have a Canon PowerShot S3is, point and shoot digital.   Next i’d like to buy a dslr camera, which unlike a digicam, uses mirrors and pentaprism to let light into the lens.  Digital single lens reflex camera’s also show an accurate preview of depth of field.
  • MEGAPIXELS!!!  The more megapixels you have the higher resolution means you have more image detail.  Great for professional photographers and extra extra large prints.  My camera only has 6.1 megapixels.  It’s bulky, but I love that!  I’ve had friends nearly scoff at me because my megapixel count was low compared to theirs and i’d bought mine in 2007  for $350 (originally around 500-600 dollars in ’05).  I really did not believe what they were telling me, because my camera was taking way better pictures than their tiny new 12 megapixel camera that cost only $200!  Color and clarity were most important to me in photography.  Cramming so many megapixels into a tiny little camera and you lose true picture quality and coloring is off.  So why not spend a little extra on a larger camera with more megapixels or spending less on a small camera with less megapixels?   I have learned by experience and come to find out, megapixel size does not really matter that much unless you plan to make a super huge print.. you won’t get that with a 6.1 megapixel camera, you can only print about 30 inches wide on a 6mp,  but how many people print out pictures that big?   The quality of the picture is largely due to the photographers skill and ability to properly use the functions on their camera and lighting.  Clear, crisp pictures really do not have much to do with megapixels!  Clear pictures are from using a tripod or holding your camera very steady!   Accurate color is largely due to setting your camera on the proper lighting mode, using or not using a flash etc.  Constantly increasing megapixel size every 6 months is just a marketing ploy used by camera companies to sell camera’s.

Here is a list of properties you should consider when purchasing a camera.  This is from wikipedia.

  • Sharpness determines the amount of detail an image can convey. System sharpness is affected by the lens (design and manufacturing quality, focal length, aperture, and distance from the image center) and sensor (pixel count and anti-aliasing filter). In the field, sharpness is affected by camera shake (a good tripod can be helpful), focus accuracy, and atmospheric disturbances (thermal effects and aerosols). Lost sharpness can be restored by sharpening, but sharpening has limits. Oversharpening, can degrade image quality by causing “halos” to appear near contrast boundaries. Images from many compact digital cameras are oversharpened.
  • Noise is a random variation of image density, visible as grain in film and pixel level variations in digital images. It arises from the effects of basic physics— the photon nature of light and the thermal energy of heat— inside image sensors. Typical noise reduction (NR) software reduces the visibility of noise by smoothing the image, excluding areas near contrast boundaries. This technique works well, but it can obscure fine, low contrast detail.
  • Dynamic range (or exposure range) is the range of light levels a camera can capture, usually measured in f-stops, EV (exposure value), or zones (all factors of two in exposure). It is closely related to noise: high noise implies low dynamic range.
  • Contrast, also known as gamma, is the slope of the tone reproduction curve in a log-log space. High contrast usually involves loss of dynamic range — loss of detail, or clipping, in highlights or shadows.
  • Color accuracy is an important but ambiguous image quality factor. Many viewers prefer enhanced color saturation; the most accurate color isn’t necessarily the most pleasing. Nevertheless it is important to measure a camera’s color response: its color shifts, saturation, and the effectiveness of its white balance algorithms.
  • Distortion is an aberration that causes straight lines to curve near the edges of images. It can be troublesome for architectural photography and metrology (photographic applications involving measurement). Distortion is worst in wide angle, telephoto, and zoom lenses. It often worse for close-up images than for images at a distance. It can be easily corrected in software.
  • Vignetting, or light falloff, darkens images near the corners. It can be significant with wide angle lenses.
  • Exposure accuracy can be an issue with fully automatic cameras and with video cameras where there is little or no opportunity for post-exposure tonal adjustment. Some even have exposure memory: exposure may change after very bright or dark objects appear in a scene.
  • Lateral chromatic aberration (LCA), also called “color fringing”, including purple fringing, is a lens aberration that causes colors to focus at different distances from the image center. It is most visible near corners of images. LCA is worst with asymmetrical lenses, including ultrawides, true telephotos and zooms. It is strongly affected by demosaicing.
  • Lens flare, including “veiling glare” is stray light in lenses and optical systems caused by reflections between lens elements and the inside barrel of the lens. It can cause image fogging (loss of shadow detail and color) as well as “ghost” images that can occur in the presence of bright light sources in or near the field of view.
  • Color moiré is artificial color banding that can appear in images with repetitive patterns of high spatial frequencies, like fabrics or picket fences. It is affected by lens sharpness, the anti-aliasing (lowpass) filter (which softens the image), and demosaicing software. It tends to be worst with the sharpest lenses.
  • Artifacts – software (especially operations performed during RAW conversion) can cause significant visual artifacts, including Data compression and transmission losses (e.g. Low quality JPEG), oversharpening “halos” and loss of fine, low-contrast detail.

So if you plan to invest in a camera do your research thoroughly. has a camera finder tool , where you can choose the model of camera you want to see and it will pull up pictures only taken by that model camera, it’s popularity on a chart with flickr users, basic camera specs, etc.  There are groups on flickr dedicated to only your camera and you can read through the posts to see tips on how to use it best.    Read online reviews from sites like  Shop around prices,  look at Amazon.   I bought my camera in 2007, it was the floor model, but it was in perfect condition, came with it’s warranty, and was not missing any pieces, such as the manual or instructions.  I even got the original box.  Buying it like that knocked $75 off the price and so far i’ve had no problems at all with it.  However, you need rechargeable Nimh batteries for it, regular batteries will only last you a few dozen shots, while you can get several hundred out of one charge of the Nimh.  The power cord for my camera is sold separately.

Alot of photo quality is just the photographers ability to utilize the features, steadiness, lighting, and having a good eye for a shot.  I’m not a professional by any means and i’ve seen some amazing shots by talented people.  I’m constantly researching better ways to take a picture.  It’s neverending as every situation is different.

I will keep practising on my camera until it breaks I suppose, since I still haven’t fully utilized all the different settings.


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