Professional Photographer Technical Editor Ellis Vener helps The New York Times' David Pogue bust the megapixel myth
Pro photographers have known for years that megapixels alone do not make the image, but most casual consumers and many enthusiasts make the assumption that more is always better. Still, it's difficult to explain to a client or friend that not only the number of pixels, but the sensor quality and construction, the size of the sensor pixels, the camera's image processor, lens optics and other contributing factors all work together to construct the technical quality of a digital image.
David Pogue, the technology columnist for The New York Times and host of an upcoming TV series "It's All Geek to Me" [beginning in April on Discovery HD and Science Channel], had attempted to bust the myth for his show. But when he described how he conducted the test on his New York Times blog, many readers pointed out the flaw of his methodology. He had used Adobe Photoshop to down-res the images that he used for the lower-resolution comparison. The test effectively said more about Photoshop than camera sensors.
Ellis Vener, who along with Andrew Rodney serves as a technical editor for Professional Photographer magazine, wrote to Pogue with his suggestion for a test that could isolate the variables to only the number of pixels in the file. Pogue describes Vener's proposed test in the February 8 column: "Using a professional camera (the 16.7-megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II) in his studio, he would take three photos of the same subject, zooming out each time. Then, by cropping out the background until the subject filled the same amount of the frame in each shot, he would wind up with nearly identical photos at three different resolutions: 7 megapixels, 10 and 16.7."