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Author Topic: Where are we on sensor resolution?  (Read 2292 times)

Dan Wells

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Where are we on sensor resolution?
« on: August 26, 2018, 01:46:01 am »

Apart from one weird 28 MP Samsung, APS-C has been 24 MP for years (the first one I can think of was the Sony NEX-7 in 2011). The next Fuji is supposed to be a tiny bit higher (26 MP?), but that's like Sony's 42.5 and Nikon's 45 MP sensors - they're the same thing. We aren't seeing APS-C sensors in the 30+ MP class, and I haven't heard rumors of such a beast in years (there was some talk that the Sony a6500 might feature a significant resolution jump, but I haven't heard anything since). I'd be very surprised to see one at Photokina/Photo+ this year.

 Could high-res full-frame be settling in in the mid 40s (since 2015) like APS-C did at 24 MP? If not, how much higher will it go? Full-frame is about 2.35 x as large as APS-C (Fuji/Nikon/Sony version) meaning that a 56.3 MP sensor would have the same pixel pitch as the common 24 MP APS-C sensor. That's a little more than 9,000x6,000 pixels (when we already have 8250x5500 or so) - are an extra few hundred pixels each side worth it? Or have we settled on a pitch a tiny bit larger than the APS-C standard to gain a bit more quality per pixel?

 Who's likely to bring out a non medium format camera over 60 MP, which would be the next meaningful jump? Nikon and Sony both just released their resolution leaders in the last year (and actually being able to find one is more recent than that - the D850 is still on backorder). Canon has had the 50 MP 5DS out since 2015, but its image quality isn't as high as the Sony and Nikon options.  I haven't heard of Canon's new FF mirrorless being in the really high resolution range - more of a midrange competitor for the A7III and Z6. Unless someone weird like Leica or Pentax does it, we're a few years from higher resolution (and I wonder if it'll show up, or whether the resolution race has settled down).

Ignoring oddities like the Nikon 1 and Pentax Q sensors (which nobody would call image quality leaders), the one mainstream SLR/mirrorless sensor with a tighter pixel pitch than the standard set by 24 MP APS-C and approached by high-res full-frame is the 20 MP Micro 4/3 sensor. I haven't shot it extensively, but I've played with it, and it isn't close to a modern Fuji (which I'd call the APS-C leader, in part due to nice lenses) in image quality, even with the beautiful Olympus Pro lenses. I actually prefer the old 16 MP Fujis to the much newer 20 MP Micro 4/3 sensor on pure sensor quality (the rest of the camera is no comparison in favor of a newer Olympus or Panasonic). The E-M1 mk II is built like a Sherman Tank, and the IBIS is amazing (sharp at 1/4 second most of the time with the 12-100 f4, and I've actually gotten sharp shots at half a second), but it lags other modern cameras in low ISO dynamic range and high ISO IQ.

That pixel pitch would lead to about 32-34 MP on APS-C, and 80 MP on full-frame, and I'm almost sure it would be a decline in image quality from the 24/45 MP consensus. Can someone make a better sensor with that pitch, or is the fact that the Micro 4/3 sensor is too tight for optimal IQ an indication of where the limits are?

Interestingly, the "small medium format" 33x44 mm sensors are almost exactly 4 times the area of APS-C - a ~100 MP sensor could be produced using the same technology as current APS-C sensors. 

Could we see a "settling out" at ~25/45 or 50/100 MP? That's a nice set of sizes.  At the absolute top end, might Phase One do a back for $50,000+ in their largest "full 645" sensor size that hit 150 MP (again, that's almost exactly a scaled up 24 MP APS-C sensor). 

Dan
« Last Edit: August 26, 2018, 01:52:26 am by Dan Wells »
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davidgp

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2018, 06:25:11 am »

Hi Dan,

So, I will look at new sensors that are going to be released this year for medium format and that they were already announced by Sony: https://photorumors.com/2017/11/11/more-info-on-the-new-sony-100mp-and-150mp-medium-format-back-illuminated-sensors-with-4k-and-8k-video-capabilities/ . It is expected that we are going to have a 150 megapixels digital backs from Phase ONE and Hasselblad and probably an updated version of the Fuji GFX and Hasseldblad X1D of 100 mpx.

Now, if you take that sensor of 100 mpx and size of 43,8 mm x 32.9 mm, if I did my math correctly, if we cut that in sizes of 36x24mm (35mm format), that will be around a 60 mpx sensor.

I would expect that something in the order of 60 megapixeles could be released in the future (it does not need to be an exact scale... I suspect that Sony will like something that allows a good full sensor readout for video in 6k or 8k... ).

Now, if it looks like they have the technology ready to be released by the end of the year in medium format? Would that mean that they release the equivalents in FF? I think we need to consider other factors. Each sensor design cost a lot of money. Look at the 42 megapixel sensor of Sony, they released already in three different cameras (A7r II, R1X II and A7r III), the III is an updated version, but probably an small evolution of the original one, so they can save money recycling the initial design investment. Nikon looks like they are doing the same, D850 sensor is recycled in the Z7 sensor (updated, but I wouldn't expect that are going to have that big differences). In ASP-C it is quite common, the 24 megapixel sensor shared between Nikon, Fuji and Sony cameras, or the 20 megapixel one in m43 shared by the latests Olympus and Panasonic cameras, so the initial design costs are payed by everybody.

If next year or in 2020 we see a FF sensor in the order of 60 or more megapixeles, I will expect that design to be kept for the next 4 or 5 years. Again, to recover the investment.

Of course they are special cases, like the sensors in Nikon D5 or Sony A9 (although I suspect that part of the design is the same in A7 III, just slower) that make the cameras more expensive, just to pay the costs of the special design that can not be as recycled as the other ones.

Now, both rumors for Fuji and Sony new ASP-C cameras point to a 2x something sensor. For what I read, I will expect they are going more for the speed than increase of resolution. They are focusing more in the 20 fps than other characteristic. That will make a very appealing camera for wildlife and casual sports photographers. I think they will expect to sell more to those crowds  (like the Nikon D500) than an increased in resolution.

Ok, I think I went sideways in my comments... my main conclusion, they are milking the sensor design for several years to get the maximum return of investment before the next jump that will make people more interesting into buying new cameras.

P.D.: I left Canon a bit out of my comments, because their sensors are used in their own cameras, but they are doing similar things, the 80D sensor was also used in the latests EOS-M cameras for example.

rdonson

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2018, 11:24:55 am »

Why the fascination with sensor resolution?  Why not dynamic range?  Why not noise?  Why not color rendition?

How many megapixels are needed?  How many lenses are capable of resolving a target for a 60-150 MP sensor?  Is there a market for wall sized prints that is driving this?

I love my Fuji X-T2 and 24 MP serves me well.  When I feel the need for more pixels I just shoot panos.  I know, that doesn't serve everyone but how many people will really be served by 60-150 MP sensors?  What portion of the camera market is that?  Is the fascination simply that its easy to judge something by the number of MP?

Like many, the bulk of my money in photography is tied up in lenses, computers and a printer.  I rarely print beyond 17x25 (16x24).

In some ways this thirst for more MP reminds me of the car enthusiasts who lust for more horsepower to use on roads with a 65 mph speed limit.  They gush that they now have a car that can go 0-60 mph in under 3 secs. 
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Ron

Telecaster

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2018, 04:30:59 pm »

In some ways this thirst for more MP reminds me of the car enthusiasts who lust for more horsepower to use on roads with a 65 mph speed limit.

Or the widespread ownership of off-road vehicles by people who define "off-road" as "my driveway."  :)

-Dave-
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BJL

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2018, 10:46:22 pm »

I agree with about everything in this thread (including the bits about horsepower and SUVs). On one hand, most of us could do very well with a multi-year freeze on pixel count increases, to focus R&D in other directions. On the other hand, the new Sony 100MP 44x33mm and 150MP 54x40mm sensors have higher resolution (lp/m)—or at least smaller pixel pitch—than its current 36x24mm and 24x16mm sensors. That is weird, and surely means that these new MF pixel sizes or smaller are also coming to the smaller ILC formats soon, whether we want it or not. At a guess: the same pixel size in 36x24mm, for about 60MP, and a proportionate jump in 24x16mm, to 30–35MP (e.g. use current MFT pixel sizes.); hopefully not beyond 30MP.

For 4/3" format? Maybe at least to the resolution/pixel count of recent 1" sensors, which run 16MP to 21MP, so 24-36MP? Hopefully under 30MP!
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Dan Wells

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2018, 01:31:59 am »

Yes, the MF sensors are a tighter pitch than anything full-frame, but they're very close (by area) to the 24 MP APS-C sensors The area relationship is that full-frame sensors (if they're exactly 24x36 mm) are about 2.35x the area of the "large" (Fuji/Nikon/Sony) APS-C sensors, up to about 2.5x the area of the Canon version of APS-C (and a little more for some Sigma sensors and perhaps other oddities). The 33x44 mm form of medium format is almost exactly 4x the area of large APS-C (within a few percent), and "645 full-frame" (which isn't) is almost exactly 6x the area of large APS-C.

This makes the 100 MP and 150 MP sensors relatively easy designs - they're just huge versions of the most common ILC sensor around.

We've HAD a multi-year freeze on pixel count, especially in APS-C, and the results have been excellent - I agree completely with rdonson that the current Fuji sensor, especially with its well-matched lenses, is a superb performer. I'm not sure it can readily be beaten except by a physically bigger sensor. Anything denser I've seen loses significant dynamic range, and has increased noise.

The present (much larger pixel size) MF sensors offer significantly greater dynamic range at low ISO than APS-C or even FF sensors. Will they be able to keep that going to APS-C density, or will the medium format look lose something that may be more important than resolution?

The present FF sensors offer very similar dynamic range to APS-C at ISO 200 - but they pick up a stop or more by having a lower base ISO. No APS-C camera I'm aware of offers even ISO 100 as a base ISO, let alone 64.

I don't care at all about really high ISO (I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've had my Fujis over 3200, and 90% of my images are from under 1000, very often base ISO 200). I'd trade everything over 3200 for 100 in an instant, and I'd give up everything over 1600 if I could get 64!
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davidgp

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2018, 03:55:51 am »

This makes the 100 MP and 150 MP sensors relatively easy designs - they're just huge versions of the most common ILC sensor around.

You can say that for any sensor... 35 mm designs are quite easy designs... they are just huge versions of the most common 1" or mobile phone sensor design... that it is not really very different from the truth... but scale up a design has its problems... and it is always more expensive to manufacturer for how the CMOS technology manufacturer topic works.

The present FF sensors offer very similar dynamic range to APS-C at ISO 200 - but they pick up a stop or more by having a lower base ISO. No APS-C camera I'm aware of offers even ISO 100 as a base ISO, let alone 64.

Go here: http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm , you can clearly see that Sony a6500 or Nikon D7500 have an base ISO of 100 with  a bit more dynamic range than Fuji X-T2 with their base ISO 200.

rdonson

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2018, 01:33:29 pm »

you can clearly see that Sony a6500 or Nikon D7500 have an base ISO of 100 with  a bit more dynamic range than Fuji X-T2 with their base ISO 200.

Fuji and Sony don't use the same ISO standards for their cameras.  Sony and most manufacturers uses REI and Fuji uses SOS for determining ISO ratings. 
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Ron

Dan Wells

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2018, 11:17:12 pm »

Yes, some of the technologies are similar between phone sensors and DSLR/mirrorless sensors (developed for phone sensors, then migrate to big sensors), but the pixel pitch is not. The wide-angle camera (the telephoto actually has SMALLER pixels) on an iPhone X has 1.22 um square pixels, while the ubiquitous Sony 24 MP sensor in the Fuji X-T2 and so many other cameras has 3.9 um square pixels. Roughly 10.2 phone pixels fit in a camera pixel - if you built a phone sensor the size of an APS-C sensor, it would be a 245 MP camera with 7 stops of DR at ISO 25, declining to 6 stops by ISO 64 and under 5 stops by ISO 200 (photonstophotos only has the iPhone 7, but DR hasn't improved all that much by the latest generation).

The new 150 MP sensor has essentially the same pixel pitch as the 24 Mp APS-C sensor, and should perform similarly to 6 APS-C sensors stitched perfectly, although it may be an upgraded version. The medium format sensor uses a very low base ISO (50) to wangle additional DR - I wish the APS-C cameras did that! (even at the cost of high ISOs)...
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2018, 01:19:27 am »

Hi,

I don't think so, to begin with the new MF sensors have a new pixel size. 24MP on APS-C is around 4 microns, while 44x33 mm is 3.81 microns. So I don't think it is a scaled up APS-C design.

What I think that Sony redesigned the 44x33 mm sensor with their newest technology, and sharing the same technology with the 54x41 mm sensor. So, they probably use the best technology available today, at least available from Sony.

I have also noticed that there was a stop at 24 MP on APS-C.

I think that a part of that may be that the APS-C systems are seen as low end, except for Fuji. Så companies like Canon and Nikon make a few good lenses for APS-C but most of the lenses may not be so excellent. So, increasing resolution just shows the weakness of the lenses.

Fuji would probably love to have higher density pixels, but they are just a tiny bit of the market.

Making the pixels smaller does not really reduce DR at the picture level. Individual pixels have lower DR but having more pixels compensates for that pretty much. See the attached example from Bill Claff's site. The 42 MP A7rIII has pretty similar data to the 24MP A7III and the 12 MP A7s.

According to Jim Kasson, it would take 2.7 micron pixel pitch to make the Zeiss Otus full justice at f/11. That is around 120 MP on full frame. If you open up to f/5.6 that figure would be around 480 MP.

So, best lens designs are resolving much past present sensors. But it is always diminishing returns. You see less improvement for each increase of resolution.

You would probably not view a 480 MP image with the Otus at actual pixels. But, it would extract almost all information from the lens, avoid artefacts and sharpen well.

This is a good presentation by Jim: https://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/whats-your-q/

And this one shows some nifty graphs: https://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/mtf-vs-pitch-and-f-stop-for-a-simulated-otus/

Best regards
Erik






Yes, the MF sensors are a tighter pitch than anything full-frame, but they're very close (by area) to the 24 MP APS-C sensors The area relationship is that full-frame sensors (if they're exactly 24x36 mm) are about 2.35x the area of the "large" (Fuji/Nikon/Sony) APS-C sensors, up to about 2.5x the area of the Canon version of APS-C (and a little more for some Sigma sensors and perhaps other oddities). The 33x44 mm form of medium format is almost exactly 4x the area of large APS-C (within a few percent), and "645 full-frame" (which isn't) is almost exactly 6x the area of large APS-C.

This makes the 100 MP and 150 MP sensors relatively easy designs - they're just huge versions of the most common ILC sensor around.

We've HAD a multi-year freeze on pixel count, especially in APS-C, and the results have been excellent - I agree completely with rdonson that the current Fuji sensor, especially with its well-matched lenses, is a superb performer. I'm not sure it can readily be beaten except by a physically bigger sensor. Anything denser I've seen loses significant dynamic range, and has increased noise.

The present (much larger pixel size) MF sensors offer significantly greater dynamic range at low ISO than APS-C or even FF sensors. Will they be able to keep that going to APS-C density, or will the medium format look lose something that may be more important than resolution?

The present FF sensors offer very similar dynamic range to APS-C at ISO 200 - but they pick up a stop or more by having a lower base ISO. No APS-C camera I'm aware of offers even ISO 100 as a base ISO, let alone 64.

I don't care at all about really high ISO (I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've had my Fujis over 3200, and 90% of my images are from under 1000, very often base ISO 200). I'd trade everything over 3200 for 100 in an instant, and I'd give up everything over 1600 if I could get 64!
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davidgp

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2018, 04:30:47 am »

Fuji and Sony don't use the same ISO standards for their cameras.  Sony and most manufacturers uses REI and Fuji uses SOS for determining ISO ratings.

Hi Ron,

Not sure about that, I was just pointing out what http://www.photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm chart shows. I think it is based on the empirical data collected by DxO to do their own charts... but maybe I'm wrong about this last point.

Regards,

David

rdonson

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2018, 08:53:03 am »

Hi David,

The REI vs SOS reared it’s ugly head not because of empirical data but because of the usual nonsensical chatter in various internet forums about Fuji X series cameras only going down to ISO 200 versus other cameras going down to 100.  The stupid conclusion was that Fuji X cameras were therefore some how inferior.  This is usually followed up by the conclusion that X-Trans sensors are inferior to Bayer sensors. Furthered by DXO not supporting analysis of X-Trans sensors.

I apologize if I confused things.
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Ron

davidgp

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2018, 09:19:00 am »

Hi David,

The REI vs SOS reared it’s ugly head not because of empirical data but because of the usual nonsensical chatter in various internet forums about Fuji X series cameras only going down to ISO 200 versus other cameras going down to 100.  The stupid conclusion was that Fuji X cameras were therefore some how inferior.  This is usually followed up by the conclusion that X-Trans sensors are inferior to Bayer sensors. Furthered by DXO not supporting analysis of X-Trans sensors.

I apologize if I confused things.

Hi,

Thanks for the info... not closely following Fuji news or comments I was not aware of it... but the nerd on me thinks it is an interesting topic to learn a bit more :)

Regards,

David

bjanes

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2018, 11:01:18 am »

Fuji and Sony don't use the same ISO standards for their cameras.  Sony and most manufacturers uses REI and Fuji uses SOS for determining ISO ratings.

IMHO, REI is not really a standard, since the manufacturer can rate the sensor ISO arbitrarily according to whatever rating will produce the desired results according to their preferences (see this Wikipedia article).

The DXO ISO measurements use Ssat where Ssos is effectively 0.704 times Ssat. Although DXO does not rate Fuji sensors, the REI of many cameras can be related Ssos (Ssat uses 12.7% of saturation, whereas Srei uses 18%). For example, DXO rates the Nikon D850 ISO at base  ISO (ISO = 64) as 44, which is 0.69x Ssat. Srei would be 0.704 times Ssat, so the Nikon rating is very close to SOS.

Cheers,

Bill
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rdonson

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2018, 12:01:35 pm »

Thanks, Bill !!!
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Ron

davidgp

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2018, 12:23:25 pm »

IMHO, REI is not really a standard, since the manufacturer can rate the sensor ISO arbitrarily according to whatever rating will produce the desired results according to their preferences (see this Wikipedia article).

The DXO ISO measurements use Ssat where Ssos is effectively 0.704 times Ssat. Although DXO does not rate Fuji sensors, the REI of many cameras can be related Ssos (Ssat uses 12.7% of saturation, whereas Srei uses 18%). For example, DXO rates the Nikon D850 ISO at base  ISO (ISO = 64) as 44, which is 0.69x Ssat. Srei would be 0.704 times Ssat, so the Nikon rating is very close to SOS.

Cheers,

Bill

Ok... much to learn about what is what in ISO world... many thanks Bill!!!

NancyP

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2018, 11:23:32 am »

What size market would there be for a 80+ MP FF sensor?

I admit that I would like to try an existing 40-ish MP FF sensor, but at the moment, I don't print large, so I would rather put money in lenses and keep working at 20-ish MP FF sensor. (My computer, with only 8G RAM, probably appreciates this.)
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2018, 01:57:04 am »

Hi,

I would guess that the guys and dolls using 40+ MP sensors on FF would gladly buy an 80+ MP sensor for FF, economy permitting.

At the same time I would assume that guys and dolls shooting 12MP for best ISO would not spend on 80+ MP.

It may be races for the courses. But, I would say that we are probably getting a bit into diminishing returns with higher MPs, with lenses limiting more than sensors. But lenses limiting detail is really the optimum case.

If we shoot sports or birds in flight, probably neither lens or sensor may be the limiting factor. Focusing may be. Which takes us back to horses for the courses.

Best regards
Erik


What size market would there be for a 80+ MP FF sensor?

I admit that I would like to try an existing 40-ish MP FF sensor, but at the moment, I don't print large, so I would rather put money in lenses and keep working at 20-ish MP FF sensor. (My computer, with only 8G RAM, probably appreciates this.)
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution? What is your Q?
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2018, 03:30:02 am »

Hi,

Another way to see it is: https://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/whats-your-q/

If you buy the best lenses, you may want a sensor making them justice and that may need around 500 MP on 24x36 mm.  As far as I know, Jim Kasson has calculated that optimum pixel size for f/11 on a near optimal lens would be 2.7 microns. That is a 2.7 micron sensor would resolve all detail with no artifacts. Going to f/5.6 it would be around 1.4 microns. Cell phone sensors are in that region.

There are probably reasons we are stuck at around 3.8 - 5 microns now. The disadvantages of reducing pixel size may negate the advantages.

We may not need 24x36 mm, if we don't need more than 24 MP. It could be that APS-C may be optimum for 24 MP or even 4/3. But, smaller sensors need larger apertures to collect the same amount of light as larger sensors.

Best regards
Erik



Why the fascination with sensor resolution?  Why not dynamic range?  Why not noise?  Why not color rendition?

How many megapixels are needed?  How many lenses are capable of resolving a target for a 60-150 MP sensor?  Is there a market for wall sized prints that is driving this?

I love my Fuji X-T2 and 24 MP serves me well.  When I feel the need for more pixels I just shoot panos.  I know, that doesn't serve everyone but how many people will really be served by 60-150 MP sensors?  What portion of the camera market is that?  Is the fascination simply that its easy to judge something by the number of MP?

Like many, the bulk of my money in photography is tied up in lenses, computers and a printer.  I rarely print beyond 17x25 (16x24).

In some ways this thirst for more MP reminds me of the car enthusiasts who lust for more horsepower to use on roads with a 65 mph speed limit.  They gush that they now have a car that can go 0-60 mph in under 3 secs.
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Re: Where are we on sensor resolution?
« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2018, 09:12:48 am »

I must say that I'm intrigued by the newer Nikon sensors that can be shot at 64 ISO because of optimal dynamic range.  However, I don't really need 36 or 47 MP's.  Does one gain a significant amount of DR with these high MP sesors?  I also haven't given up on micro 4/3.  It seems like a sweet spot for many of us especially with super sharp lenses.  What improvements can be made with 4/3 sensors? 
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