Is the resolution war over?

It seems the megapixel wars may be drawing to a close, at least in the upper strata of the market. With the exception of the 36 MP Nikon D800, the digital SLR market has more or less settled in the 16 to 22 MP range- and this number is no longer prominently featured on every flyer. This is good; it's a sign that the digital market is maturing and moving away from the ill-advised marketing metrics of its early years.

Nobody's clamouring for more resolution anymore- indeed, folks with D800s occasionally complain that the thing's enormous files bog down the workflow and are a pain to store. The small handful of folks who really do need more detail are either shooting medium format digital, or large format film.

We already know that, beyond about 4-6 MP (for small-lens cameras) or 12-16 MP (for SLRs), differences in resolution are usually irrelevant. The picture quality I get from my Nikon D7000 is never limited by the number of pixels; rather, it's my ability to get a clear focus lock and hold the thing steady that limits the real resolution I can coax out of it.

There's no point in saving more data than can actually be used. Indeed, the $80,000 PerkinElmer sensor I use in my computed tomography research has a native resolution of just 1.05 MP- and for over 80% of the work, I can downsample it to a quarter of that resolution with no actual loss of quality.

Technical specs only matter once all the important bits- composition, lighting, focus, stability- are taken care of.



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