Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What resolution differences mean, with examples.

Digital cameras are marketed with such a heavy emphasis on resolution and megapixels that I thought it might be educational to see what the difference in resolution actually looks like.

With this in mind, we pulled together a collection of Nikon cameras spanning more than ten years, and we shot a few examples. Read on for samples.
At the low-res end we have Nikon's 1999 D1, a 2.7 megapixel pro model that sells today for a shocking fraction of its original $6000-ish price; at the high-res end, the modern D90, a 12mp model which sells brand-new for 1/5th of the D1's original price and shoots video, too.

Each image is taken with a 45mm f2.8 GN Nikkor lens @ f8, with a shutter speed of 1/200s and an ISO of 200. Cameras were set for automatic white balance. RAW images imported into Apple Aperture 2.1.4 and left pretty much alone, except for minor levels tweaks. Have a look:

D1 - 2.7mp
The Nikon D1 was Nikon's first digital SLR, featuring a 2.7 megapixel sensor. That's enough for 200dpi in an 8x10 print. Click here for full resolution

D2H - 4mp

The Nikon D2H is a fairly recent professional SLR, Nikon's high-speed 4mp bruiser. It provides roughly 240dpi for an 8x10 print. Click here for full resolution.

D40 - 6mp
The Nikon D40 is a compact 6mp DSLR, which produces 300dpi in an 8x10 print. Click here for full resolution.

D90 - 12mp
The Nikon D90 is a modern 12 megapixel DSLR. It will produce an 8x10 with a resolution of about 429dpi. Click here for full resolution.

Check out the full-res images on-screen and decide for yourself what the difference in resolution really looks like. Better yet, print out the pictures and see if you can tell them apart: a lot of times it's more difficult than you might expect.

A camera's megapixel resolution is just a specification, and it's not even the most important one. If you're shopping for a digital SLR camera, find yourself one that you enjoy holding, one that works with the kinds of lenses that you want to use, one that has the dynamic range and colour that you enjoy. Keep the resolution in mind, but don't let it be the only thing you consider. You'll be a lot better off for it in the end.


JJ Lee said...

great post. makes me want to run out and by a 2 megapixel camera. really.

Jebby said...

Are you sure those aren't all taken with the same camera? Interesting results!