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Author Topic: How much quality do you really need?  (Read 42571 times)

myotis

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How much quality do you really need?
« on: February 29, 2016, 03:06:15 am »

Assuming you are limited to a 17" printer, how far can you go in terms of meaningful improvements in quality by upgrading cameras.

I realise that newer sensors usually improve on Dynamic Range, but I still wonder how much of an improvement people have found moving from say a Nikon D700, to a Nikon D800.  Not pixel peeping on the computer, but looking at real prints.

When I used film, I was never happy with prints from 35mm. Roll film was OK, but I tried to use 5x4 whenever I could. With digital there doesn't same to be the same urgency to chase image quality the way there once was, as we now seem to be well past a "threshold" of acceptable quality with digital.  The number of people who have dropped sensor size to use Fuji x cameras may be evidence of this threshold being reached.

I know everyone needs to make their own judgment on print quality, but its still comparative and we all still want to make the best of the tools available.  I well remember all the "grain free"  20x 16s that people used to proudly display, which looked unacceptably grainy to me because I was used to seeing grain from roll film and sheet film.

So, if someone is still plodding along with a D700, making 17" prints that they are happy with, would they want to throw all those prints away once they saw how much better prints from a D800 or sony a7 were, or would it not make any meaningful difference.  Have we really passed a threshold in quality, or are new sensors still giving us important improvements in quality (in terms of the landscape photographer).

I would be very interested to hear what people with first hand experience of this think, as I'm not sure many camera reviewers who comment on quality actually make prints.

Thanks,

Graham
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Petrus

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2016, 03:27:17 am »

I recently had an exhibition of my Tibet photographs ( https://luminous-landscape.com/forgotten-land-defiant-people-tibet/ ) where most of the prints were A3+ size printed by myself with Epson R3000, and a couple of prints 50x70 cm printed by the local art printer. A3+ sizes, about 18" on the longer side, look perfect to me with no "grain", really sharp, and even the bigger prints look terrific at least from the normal viewing distance. Output sharpening was done with NIK sharpener. Camera: 16 Megapixel Fuji X-Pro1 and X100s. I now have two Fujifilm X-T1 bodies with the same 16 MPix sensor and I am fully content with them and have no plans to upgrade to the presumably soon coming X-T2, which supposedly has 24 MPix sensor. Not worth it , at least as long as framing is done while shooting, not in post.
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2016, 08:07:58 am »

I recently had an exhibition of my Tibet photographs ( https://luminous-landscape.com/forgotten-land-defiant-people-tibet/ ) where most of the prints were A3+ size printed by myself with Epson R3000, and a couple of prints 50x70 cm printed by the local art printer. A3+ sizes, about 18" on the longer side, look perfect to me with no "grain", really sharp, and even the bigger prints look terrific at least from the normal viewing distance. Output sharpening was done with NIK sharpener. Camera: 16 Megapixel Fuji X-Pro1 and X100s. I now have two Fujifilm X-T1 bodies with the same 16 MPix sensor and I am fully content with them and have no plans to upgrade to the presumably soon coming X-T2, which supposedly has 24 MPix sensor. Not worth it , at least as long as framing is done while shooting, not in post.

Thanks for this, and thanks for the pointer to the images. Good to hear you are happy Fuji and 16mp, as I suppose that was the sort of answer I was expecting.

Cheers,
Graham



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dwswager

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2016, 08:28:52 am »

Assuming you are limited to a 17" printer, how far can you go in terms of meaningful improvements in quality by upgrading cameras.

So, if someone is still plodding along with a D700, making 17" prints that they are happy with, would they want to throw all those prints away once they saw how much better prints from a D800 or sony a7 were, or would it not make any meaningful difference.  Have we really passed a threshold in quality, or are new sensors still giving us important improvements in quality (in terms of the landscape photographer).

I would be very interested to hear what people with first hand experience of this think, as I'm not sure many camera reviewers who comment on quality actually make prints.

Bottom Line - If you are happy with what you have, enjoy oogling newer cameras, but don't fret over not owning them!  I made some really nice 11x14 inch portraits prints with a 2.1MP Nikon Coolpix 990.  Megapixels, DR, color depth, noise are only issues when they are actually issues.  If you shoot the types of images in the types of lighting conditions that require the elevated performance new sensors provide, then yeah, they are worth it.  I do find the NEF files from newer Nikons easier to work with than those from older bodies.  Can you get to essentially the same place, yes, but the newer files make it easier.

What newer cameras provide is efficiency and options.  You can certainly get more out of a D810 than a D700, but if you are good at post then as long as both can capture the image and you are printing at reasonable sizes for which the D700 can supply data, you will not see a big difference.

I owned the D300 and made the commitment to wait for a full frame camera that would be something I wouldn't mind getting stuck with.  That turned out to be the D810.  I now have a D500 on order to replace the D7100 I sold recently as my main sports/wildlife camera.  While a expect a reasonable increase in sensor performance, it is actually fps, throughput and focus capability I'm looking for in the new camera.
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Herbc

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2016, 08:51:07 am »

Being a formerly serious LF shooter, I can identify with your interest.  May I suggest you take your best
digital effort that is not 'grainy' on your printer, and get a shop to print it larger.
I found that one of my winners, shot with a Nex-7, was very nice on 17x22, got unacceptable at 24x36.
I think with the 36mp or 42mp Sony's or Nikons and Canons, you can go really huge without difficulty.
That is a double edged sword-requires more of the photographer as you can really see the fine details, and also gives some wiggle room if cropping is needed 8)
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2016, 09:22:18 am »

... I'm not sure many camera reviewers who comment on quality actually make prints.

Not too many, but this site does:

https://luminous-landscape.com/kidding/

The result of the duel between prints from a Canon G10 and Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45 back? Indistinguishable.

myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2016, 09:32:18 am »

I do find the NEF files from newer Nikons easier to work with than those from older bodies.  Can you get to essentially the same place, yes, but the newer files make it easier.

What newer cameras provide is efficiency and options.  You can certainly get more out of a D810 than a D700, but if you are good at post then as long as both can capture the image and you are printing at reasonable sizes for which the D700 can supply data, you will not see a big difference.


Good points, and I can see this reflected in my Nikon 1 + 70-300cx images where the 1" sensor can give very good quality in good lighting but you still need perfect exposure and a lot of selective sharpening and noise reduction. Its still a great combination though.

And for something like bird photography, then the technology advances the D500 offers give some real benefits.

Cheers,

Graham
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2016, 09:37:27 am »

Being a formerly serious LF shooter, I can identify with your interest.  May I suggest you take your best
digital effort that is not 'grainy' on your printer, and get a shop to print it larger.
I found that one of my winners, shot with a Nex-7, was very nice on 17x22, got unacceptable at 24x36.
I think with the 36mp or 42mp Sony's or Nikons and Canons, you can go really huge without difficulty.
That is a double edged sword-requires more of the photographer as you can really see the fine details, and also gives some wiggle room if cropping is needed 8)

There are some parallels with sheet film and the high mp sensors in that is all too easy to get poorer results from sheet film than roll film because of difficulties  like keeping the camera properly supported in windy conditions, or giving too much tilt and getting near by treetops out of focus, or using too much movement and getting a bit of vignetting etc.

To your point about print size, I suppose you could argue that you are likely to be viewing the larger print from further away and the difference may not be as important as we think.

Thanks,
Graham
 
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2016, 09:38:38 am »

Not too many, but this site does:

https://luminous-landscape.com/kidding/

The result of the duel between prints from a Canon G10 and Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45 back? Indistinguishable.

Actually, I did think of this after I had posted :-)

Cheers,

Graham
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2016, 09:40:48 am »

I've made and supplied hundreds of files for reproduction and prints for exhibition ranging in size from thumbnail size files to 200cm+(long side) prints using nothing more exotic than an old 22MP back.

When you say 22mp back to you mean medium format ?

If so, that is still fairly exotic for us mere mortals with small sensor cameras.

Cheers,

Graham
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Rob C

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #10 on: February 29, 2016, 10:08:34 am »

I currently own a D200 as well as a D700. I don't foresee buying anything else.

I used to make prints up to A3+ from both, and the D700 was certainly better for available darkness, but not noticeably so anywhere else.

I no longer print because the HP B9180 was made obscenely, obsoletely redundant and I'm not falling into that trap again - I hope. Furthermore, I get enough buzz out of putting my stuff up in my website. I already have large Hahne boxes full of lovely prints in archival sleeves doing nothing in the most delightful way imaginable. Why add more?

Truth to tell, I can't even remember when I last used the D700; the D200 gets pretty much all the use. Possibly a case of first love (relatively, digitally speaking), but that's how it pans out.

As ever, the two big questions are: why do I photograph, and for whom?

I know my personal answers to those two.

Playing status games is silly; there's also a certain pleasure in doing something better with a 'cheap' tool than badly with an expensive one.

Rob C
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 10:15:25 am by Rob C »
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Quentin

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #11 on: February 29, 2016, 10:20:49 am »

Not too many, but this site does:

https://luminous-landscape.com/kidding/

The result of the duel between prints from a Canon G10 and Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45 back? Indistinguishable.

I took that test in Michael's studio a few years ago and failed miserably to distinguish between the cameras, as did everyone else who has tried.

Interestingly, the P45 pixel count is now matched or exceeded by cameras like the Sony A7RII.  Makes you wonder why we fuss so.  Enough already!
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #12 on: February 29, 2016, 10:36:14 am »

I currently own a D200 as well as a D700. I don't foresee buying anything else.

I used to make prints up to A3+ from both, and the D700 was certainly better for available darkness, but not noticeably so anywhere else.

Truth to tell, I can't even remember when I last used the D700; the D200 gets pretty much all the use. Possibly a case of first love (relatively, digitally speaking), but that's how it pans out.

Rob C

Although I was interested in moving upwards from d700 quality, still interesting to compare with the D200, and there does seem to be a bit of a consensus. I rather like using "old friends"  and can understand your feelings towards your D200.

Graham 
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #13 on: February 29, 2016, 10:40:13 am »

I took that test in Michael's studio a few years ago and failed miserably to distinguish between the cameras, as did everyone else who has tried.

Interestingly, the P45 pixel count is now matched or exceeded by cameras like the Sony A7RII.  Makes you wonder why we fuss so.  Enough already!

Interesting isn't it, but we well into pixel counts that far exceed the resolution of the prints most people make.  So its more to do with colour and tonal gradation, but then that didn't seem to be a factor this test.

Graham
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dwswager

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #14 on: February 29, 2016, 11:12:34 am »

And for something like bird photography, then the technology advances the D500 offers give some real benefits.

Yes, the D500 would, in most respects, be a better choice for birds (wildlife and sports) than the D700.  The DX reach advantage and focus speed should be enough to get you for birds.  Putting a good FX lens on a DX body can turn it into a great lens if the lens suffers from corner softness or vingnetting. I find it bizarre that people seem to want to compare the D500 and D750 because they are somewhat comparable in price.  But they are in no way comparable in functionality.  The real comparisons in Nikon are D500/D7200 and D810/D750/D610.

As to pixel counts, just because you don't print them, doesn't mean they aren't usable.  Down sampling to alleviate some noise, or cropping to get a closer view are just a few of the ways I use the 36MP of the D810 even when I'm not using them to print larger!  I also use them to allow more printing options like shooting a vertical that later ends up printed more square or even horizontal.  Or I can frame a little looser for panos or other perspective correction times.  Just because you don't always need all the extra performance and functionality, doesn't mean you don't need some of it some of the time!

And to your original question in the subject, it is always possible to make a less demanding output from a high quality file, but is essentially impossible to make a very demanding output from a lesser quality file! 
 
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 11:19:48 am by dwswager »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #15 on: February 29, 2016, 11:17:01 am »

Thomas Mangelsen, a nature and landscape photographer with several galleries across the U.S., reportedly generating millions of dollars each year from sale of prints, has several large images on display (say 50"x75"), done with early generation crop-sensor Nikons that contain chroma noise the size of a saucer. And some equally large prints from film that are not only grainy, but also less sharp at that size.

The point? It is not technical perfection that sells. It is emotional impact.

The bottom line, as Rob mentioned, who do you shoot for? For you? And you are as picky as you say you are? Then by all means get the latest and greatest, the most megapixels and dynamic range you can afford. The public, however, doesn't give the slightest damn about technical perfection, as long as it is not grotesquely mishandled.

In the meantime, I've made 24"x36" from an 8 mpx crop-sensor camera, and 36"x54" from an 18 mpx crop camera...nobody noticed any technical deficiencies. Even my (reasonable) perfectionism was pleased. I doubt you'd notice a difference in a 16"x24" print.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 07:58:38 pm by Slobodan Blagojevic »
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NancyP

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #16 on: February 29, 2016, 11:29:09 am »

Well yes. 20 MP (6D) is plenty for small prints. And if a print is meant to be viewed from a distance, 18 MP crop sensor (60D) can make an acceptable 24" x 36" print. It's not so hot close up, but I made these prints for a situation where the recipient was going to be 6 feet from the print. Normally I would hold print size down to 11 x 17 or less.

So, right now my equipment desire is the mythical photo backpack that actually fits well and carries well over a full day hike. I have narrowed it down to "a camping backpack with panel access, plus an insert compartment with foam dividers". An eight mile hike with the most recent "photo backpack" candidate convinced me to give up on purpose-made photo packs. 

How's that for a boring G.A.S.?   ;D
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #17 on: February 29, 2016, 11:34:28 am »

Yes, the D500 would, in most respects, be a better choice for birds (wildlife and sports) than the D700.  The DX reach advantage and focus speed should be enough to get you for birds.  Putting a good FX lens on a DX body can turn it into a great lens if the lens suffers from corner softness or vingnetting. I find it bizarre that people seem to want to compare the D500 and D750 because they are somewhat comparable in price.  But they are in no way comparable in functionality.  The real comparisons in Nikon are D500/D7200 and D810/D750/D610.

As to pixel counts, just because you don't print them, doesn't mean they aren't usable.  Down sampling to alleviate some noise, or cropping to get a closer view are just a few of the ways I use the 36MP of the D810 even when I'm not using them to print larger!  I also use them to allow more printing options like shooting a vertical that later ends up printed more square or even horizontal.  Or I can frame a little looser for panos or other perspective correction times.  Just because you don't always need all the extra performance and functionality, doesn't mean you don't need some of it some of the time!

And to your original question in the subject, it is always possible to make a less demanding output from a high quality file, but is essentially impossible to make a very demanding output from a lesser quality file! 
 


Yes never understood the price comparison rather than the spec comparison and  I can see the flexibility that the spare pixels brings.

I actually like square prints, so that is one of the things I have in the back of my mind when thinking about sensor resolution.

Cheers,

Graham
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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #18 on: February 29, 2016, 11:49:36 am »

Thomas Mangelsen, a nature and landscape photographer with several galleries across the U.S., reportedly generating millions of dollars each year from sale of prints, has several large images on display (say 50"x75"), done with early generation crop-sensor Nikons that contain chroma noise the size of a saucer. And some equally large prints from film that are not only grainy, but also less sharp at that size.

The point? It is not technical perfection that sells. It is emotional impact.

The bottom line, as Rob mentioned, who do you shoot for? For you? And you are as picky as you say you are? Then by all means get the latest and greatest, the most megapixels and dynamic range you can afford. The public, however, doesn't give the slightest damn about technical perfection, long as it is not grotesquely mishandled.

In the meantime, I've made 24"x36" from an 8 mpx crop-sensor camera, and 36"x54" from an 18 mpx crop camera...nobody noticed any technical deficiencies. Even my (reasonable) perfectionism was pleased. I doubt you'd notice a difference in a 16"x24" print.

I think you slightly misunderstand the rationale behind my questions, which was premised on the idea that once you reach a threshold in technical quality there doesn't seem to be much point in chasing after more.  My question on where people felt that threshold was in terms of 17" prints, or whether my premise was wrong and that each generation of sensor was still bringing meaningful improvements and we hadn't reached that threshold, which I suggested might have been the D700.   

I have had some useful answers and things to think about and your comments have contributed to this.

Cheers,

Graham

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myotis

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Re: How much quality do you really need?
« Reply #19 on: February 29, 2016, 12:00:17 pm »

Well yes. 20 MP (6D) is plenty for small prints. And if a print is meant to be viewed from a distance, 18 MP crop sensor (60D) can make an acceptable 24" x 36" print. It's not so hot close up, but I made these prints for a situation where the recipient was going to be 6 feet from the print. Normally I would hold print size down to 11 x 17 or less.

So, right now my equipment desire is the mythical photo backpack that actually fits well and carries well over a full day hike. I have narrowed it down to "a camping backpack with panel access, plus an insert compartment with foam dividers". An eight mile hike with the most recent "photo backpack" candidate convinced me to give up on purpose-made photo packs. 

How's that for a boring G.A.S.?   ;D

Interesting. You seem to be a slight variance with the other comments in suggesting fairly high MP counts.

As for backpacks, I have gone the other way and bought an f-stop bag after 45 years of modified climbing/backpacking sacks.

Cheers,
Graham
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