TECHTALK: How Much MegaPixels Will Do?

It's never enough-is it? IMHO the near future we may see 30-60MP entry-level full-frame DSLRs. Unbelievable? Maybe. Will the megapixel progression end here? It depends on the needs and wants of the markets then. But until such time I've contented myself with 6-12 MP meanwhile. The technique is to optimalize pixel sharpness. In early 2000 when 3MP was the rage (Fuji S1 comes to mind) yours truly was working in a Makati-based advertising photo studio. Here are some of my tech tips on how we “made-do” with any 3MP DSLR:

1. Use base ISO only
2. Shoot in TIFF format (S1 didn’t have RAW)
3. Fixed, pro lenses only (with hood)
4. Optimum aperature (check MTF ratings)
5. Camera settings: CWB, Neutral, low sharpening, etc.
6. Sturdy tripod (IS / VR on fixed lenses was nil then)
7. Finalize cropping / orientation on-camera
8. Proper lighting / posing (within field of focus)
9. Skills with Adobe Photoshop and Genuine Fractals
10. Perfect focus!

Only the best graphic designer-then-knew how to skillfully interpolate and sharpen an image (for a huge printout) with Genuine Fractals used in tandem with Photoshop. Everything was new tech then: the film vs. digital war was at its height. But we made lots of printads, gigantic tarpolins and a billboard with just the S1 back then! Did the general public complained back then? Nope!

Here’s an old anecdote: around 2006 Filipino wedding photographer Andy Samaniego was holding a bridal fair booth when a prospective client inquired on how many megapixels his Nikon DSLR was. Andy immediately pointed out that his dramatic 40”x30” bridal portraite behind him was done by just his 4MP Nikon! Personally I’m yet to experience a client who can tell me exactly (and in fact) what DSLR megapixel was used for any given photo-just by eyeballing!

I spoke to senior art director Amaricus Afable of Summit Media. He implied on how convenient the extra pixels are should he apply croppings without loosing details. Last minute revisions in publication design occur at the will of editors, hence, the prospect of reshooting is out of the question.

Higher megapixels maimed the art of previsualization regarding cropping, composition, orientation, etcetera on-camera. This I witness: a famous retail fashion company had their models photographed at full length all the time and will decide later if they need the image(s) at half-body or only 3/4ths for their prints! This “new school” of laziness is the child of convenience. The downshot of this bad habit is that you waterdown any ad concept (if any) plus loose pixels (details)-should they decide to apply extreme cropping on their final image for a huge printout! I dare say that there is nothing superior than finalizing an idea prior to actual shooting. Concept is primacy over pixels and photo gears-anytime!

Today the megapixel war rages. Low ISO 35mm film can temporarily out-res any DSLRs by up to 40+ megapixels in a controlled shooting environment (with professional drum-scanning). But young technology like the Foveon “holy grail of digital” sensor can still mature and potentially exceed film resolution-if it survives long enough in the market, because presently it’s the inferior Bayer technology that dominates our industry.

TBYS. Think before you shoot...especially with low megapixelled cameras. Good photogs do this. With 20-and-up MP cameras you have to work, thrice as hard. Those extra pixels will magnify all dramas (and even tiny mistakes) you made with your focus, clutter and composition for example-for the world to see!