Here we are in a new year with all of its connotations, and all of its potential pitfalls. As I talked about in my last post, change is always looming on the horizon. For some it's a good thing, for others it's fraught with fear, and sometimes loathing. I for one like to think that change is good, but only when it serves a beneficial purpose. For example, our techno toys and 'tethered' lifestyle can only get us so far and should be taken for what they can do for us as tools, not taken for granted. Imagine doing without some of them!
We have seen such rapid changes in camera technology in the past decade that it can make one's head spin. Some of it has been good, and a real boon to us as photographers. Other aspects maybe not so good, as in the camera manufacturer's lastest mantra, "With this camera you too can shoot like a pro!". Most of these cameras have high mega-pixel counts, and many of them can do 1080p video.
As a landscape photographer, I find that most of these features are designed with other photographers in mind. I come from the film school, where all I needed was a camera that I could use in manual mode, and occasionally aperture priority. When ditgital came along, I waited for quite a few years before jumping in. When I did, I bought a Nikon D200 with a 10.1 mega-pixel sensor. Even this camera could produce better prints than those produced from Fuji Velvia film. With the exception of Cibachrome prints, which in most cases were as good as prints made from digital, my images looked sharper and showed no grain, or pixelation whatsoever. I was pleased with the end result I achieved with digital. The only time that the D200 failed in this respect was when I needed a really large print, such as a 24 x 36.
The point that I am trying to make here is that you don't need a high mega-pixel camera, unless you routinely make really large prints. For most photographers, anything from 10 to 16 MP is more than adequate. If you are shooting a full frame sensor camera, the prints get even better (both in pixels and print size). FX sensors have a larger pixel size than DX sensors, but the larger pixel size yields a better photograph because the larger pixels can store more information than the smaller DX pixels. Huh?!!! Never mind. It's not that important that you know the difference, just that you understand the limitations of your camera.
The end of this last year, I finally upgraded to the FX format because of the demands of my business. I immediately noticed the difference in my images, especially when processing them. There were details in shadows that were not evident before, and those details were SHARP! There were other noticeable differences as well, such as how much smoother and crisper the images looked. The camera I upgraded to was a Nikon D700. Obviously, this was a used camera as this model is no longer made. And this camera is only 12.3 MP! The difference was like night and day. Another not so obvious fact is that I did not have to upgrade my computer (which is only 2 years old) to handle larger files, which would have been necessary had I say gone to a 20+ MP FX camera. Larger files use more hard drive space and require faster computing power to handle these files.
Now, all that being said, most of the newer DX cameras have high MP count sensors. And in most cases, these cameras can make images that look as good as an image generated by the D700. The point I am driving at here is that if you cannot afford to buy an FX camera (they are still quite expensive even used), by all means go with the newer DX cameras, but only if you DO NOT intend to make large prints! But keep in mind, a 10 MP camera can be had for less than $300.00, and many of them are weather sealed and include many pro features, such as the Nikon D200.
Thus, I finally get to the main point - again. You don't need a high MP camera to make good photographs. Yes, some are better than others MP to MP, but in the end the final questions are "Do you like them, and are they good enough for your intended use?". In other words, you don't need a 20+ MP camera if your only intention is to post images to Facebook or Google+, or to share 8x10's with family and friends. If you want to make prints larger than 18 x 24 that look superb, then by all means get as many mega-pixels as you can afford.
I hope that I have helped to clarify some of the mis-conceptions tied to MP count and quality.
I will end this post with a recent image that I created one afternoon while wandering around in Red Rock Canyon SP with my "new" camera. The park this time of the year has that typical Winter look to it. Trees devoid of leaves (except for the evergreens) with their stark branches reaching for the sky are all around. Trying to find a composition that satisfies that inner voice can be a challenge under these conditions. I stopped and set down tripod with camera attached and just looked about me. Surely there was something here. The time of sunset was nearing, when I noticed some wispy clouds in the sky that were moving fast. Looking at the time, I felt that they would be long gone before the Sun set. I turned around and noticed this one tree in particular, and thought about how I might create something with this as the central focus of the frame. I re-set the legs of my tripod to knee level and dialed in my wide angle zoom to 17 mm. It suddenly hit me, that the surrounding tree branches would curve into the sides of the scene and 'frame' the tree of interest. From this point on, it was just a matter of getting the framing right. I set the composition and waited. Thanks to Mother Nature, I was not disappointed. Yes, it's another silhouette, but I believe that there is a power in images like this to evoke an emotional response. I hope you like this one titled "THE TREES".
THE TREES - Nikon D700 / Tamron SP 17-35/2.8 LD ASPH @ 17 mm. ISO 640 @ f11 @ 1/20 second. Processed entirely in Lightroom 5.
Until next time, may you all experience good light.