Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Is 16 megapixels enough?

A few months ago I posted about my all too brief experience using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 on a photo shoot. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but I couldn't show any images from the shoot since they all belong to the Polytech I took them for (and work for).

Now, however, some of the images are beginning to appear on billboards and other promotional material in the public arena. So I guess I can re-photograph them 'in-situ' and talk about them in the context of public advertising. And the first such appearance is on a billboard outside the front of the Polytechnic.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic billboard. Samsung S3 smartphone camera.
The 'billboard' certainly isn't enormous - it's 2x1 metres in size. But that's still a fairly reasonable sized print. Especially for a camera that some might say has 'only' 16 megapixels, on a small (micro four thirds) sensor.

So how does a 16MP micro four thirds image hold up when enlarged to a metre high? One word - beautifully. In fact it looks so good, I believe it could easily handle doubling again in size, with hardly any effect on image quality!

In these days of 24+MP cameras, those of us with less megapixels (and even worse still, smaller image sensors), are made to feel somewhat inferior if we have anything less. But even if we want to print 'big', do we really need 20+ megapixels and full frame?

Billboard detail. Samsung S3 smartphone camera.
The file for the billboard was created with a resolution of 240dpi and then the image was enlarged to fit the space. It was originally shot as a vertical portrait, so the extra brick wall was added later in Photoshop (cloned from the original photo). Excuse the quality of the photo taken on my smartphone, but even so, you can see that the detail on the billboard is incredibly sharp. There's almost no visible grain or dot structure (unless you put your nose up to the print), which leads to my conclusion that it could easily handle an even more extreme enlargement.

The original images were never intended for billboard use - the brief was for no larger than A4 for an Annual Report. Yet the files from the Olympus 16MP micro four thirds sensor have no problem being enlarged to way beyond standard page layout size. I'm very impressed with the final image quality and have to conclude that for me - and I suspect probably for most of you - a 16MP micro four thirds sensor image is 'more' than enough.

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