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04-01-2011, 11:38 PM   #1
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Megapixels and Sensor size ??

I read in Popular Science Magazine that from way back to the 6mp point and shoot camera that anything over that is only a sales gimmick for a point and shoot camera until Sony and others came out with a P/S with a large sensor. In fact, the article claims that the 12mp ability of my camera produces a less clear photo to older lower capacity cameras. They claim that the packing of that many pixels onto the sensor takes up room for other components that keep light in check.

So, does that mean one should be more concerned about the width of the sensor of a camera than the megapixel amount? The article was touting the introduction of big sensor point and shoots and mini DSLR's the size of point and shoots.

One thing PopSci failed to do was give printed examples of the differences between all cameras reviewed. I guess the lack of resolution on a magazine page would not produce enough detail to see the difference or they simply wanted to give only verbiage to what they deemed as a sales scam to get buyers to go for the big mp cameras by not mentioning what that does to a small sensor.

I do understand the benefit of larger mp cameras in cropping and in printing large photos but have I made a mistake in buying a 12mp camera with a small sensor and never will be able to get the clarity of a lesser mp size camera? That was their statement.

Anyone with an opinion, knowledge of sensor size vs. megapixel capacity? Whew..just when I thought I had something figured out, PopSci magazine throws this on me.

04-02-2011, 12:07 AM   #2
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The main difference is in noise control and sensitivity. The resolution is still higher, though, and I'd say that the modern 12-14mp P&S sensors are better than their 5-year-old 6MP counterparts.

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04-02-2011, 02:18 AM   #3
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Sensor size matters since the effective focal range decreases, so you would use the larger physical focal range lens for the same subject. Larger physical focal range means greater magnification and thus greater details.
04-02-2011, 05:19 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by ejbpesca Quote
In fact, the article claims that the 12mp ability of my camera produces a less clear photo to older lower capacity cameras.
Often the lenses in such cameras do not have the resolution that warrant 12MP. Having this many pixels still has advantages since the noise will be finer grained and in the limit one can forgo the use of an AA filter as the sensor outresolves the lens. Just don't think 12MP from a compact are equivalent to 12MP from a DSLR since the respective lenses will differ quite a bit in quality.

Once 12MP are scaled down to say 6MP, they should look at least as good as 6MP from a 6MP sensor.

QuoteOriginally posted by ejbpesca Quote
They claim that the packing of that many pixels onto the sensor takes up room for other components that keep light in check.
With modern sensors the fill factor is typically not a problem, so typically more pixels don't mean a reduction in light gathering ability.

QuoteOriginally posted by ejbpesca Quote
So, does that mean one should be more concerned about the width of the sensor of a camera than the megapixel amount?
Only in the sense that the lens choices available for the bigger sensor will typically include options for more light gathering. You simply won't be able to find the equivalent of an 50/1.4 lens on APS-C for a compact camera.

If you don't use faster lenses on the bigger sensor then the increased sensor size only gets you a higher dynamic range.

Noise levels and sensitivity are independent of sensor size and pixel density (low vs high MP).

Note that the relevant comparison has to be made on the image level, e.g. by comparing two prints with the same output size. A 100% view of an 12MP will show noisier pixels compared to a 100% view of a 6MP image, but the pixels in the 12MP image will average to the same image noise when printed/viewed at the same size as the 6MP image.


Last edited by Class A; 04-02-2011 at 05:27 AM.
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