Cameras, megapixels and thoughts

Here’s a title that feels kinda strange coming from me. I’ve been a fan of high resolution since the beginning of my involvement with landscape photography. I don’t make images for the web but for prints. When I find a great landscape, my main concern is to make an image that can be printed as large as possible, taking of course in consideration the technical abilities of the camera I use.

This is why a few years ago when digital cameras were far beyond their current state (the era when a 10 megapixels cameras was considered high resolution), I turned to medium format film. 6×7 and 6×9 film cameras could produce scanned files that could be printed large and look spectacular. I also got the great tonal range which even today I consider it above most of the digital cameras (I am not including digital MF which costs tenths of thousands of euros and is out of most people financial ability).

I have made great 30×45 cm prints from the Leica M8 (10mp) and Nikon D700 (12mp), but I usually print my good images above 1 meter at the long edge. So, when the Nikon D800E arrived, I was able to reach those print sizes and at the same time shoot less frames of film, since every click costs money. With the D800E I was able to experiment more and get the images I wanted. I still shoot medium and large format film, especially black and white for the different look it provides (and that difference is more evident when looking at a 300dpi print) and will probably continue to do so, since I also enjoy the process of shooting an analog camera.

Since the D800E is not my favorite camera for everyday use due its size and weight, I usually take with me the NEX 5N or the Fuji X100. The Leica M8 has not been a first choice for me for some time done despite the fact that I love rangefinders. I almost exclusively use it for my infrared images these days. I am sure the new M240 produces stunning images, but so is the Sony A7R at half the price, and generally all the latest mirrorless cameras from a Fuji and Olympus. Things have dramatically changed during the last three years and I see more and more people following the mirrorless camera evolution.

One thing which is very important (and everyone knows that), is the lenses. I was able to produce great looking prints from the M8 because the lenses were spectacular. The same goes for my medium format film cameras (in large format the huge size of the “sensor” allows me to make stunning prints without having to use very expensive lenses).

The camera I use mostly these days is the wonderful Fuji X100. A superb lens matched exactly on the sensor and today i was blown away from the look of a 60×40 cm print take with this camera.

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You can see the image I am talking about above, and I have also a snapshot of the print with the Fuji on the background. All I can say is that the print is something completely different for what you see on the screen.

In theory, 36 megapixels would be required to print a 60×40 cm image at 300dpi. But the 12mp X100 produced a stunning looking print and even when looking it very very close the details are astonishing. This little camera never ceases to amaze me !

The image was taken using f/16 aperture (far into the diffraction zone) and with a B+W 110ND filter on the lens, still the details are there. Of course, when pushing the limits of camera, you must do it the right way. I used a heavy tripod with a sturdy tripod head, fired the shutter using a cable release, and the quality of the B+W ND filter is top notch. Every little detail matters when you are aiming at creating a good large print.

Today, most people do not print their photos at all, or are making very few prints, and even fewer are going to produce very large prints. The race of megapixels seems to calm down, and other aspects are given emphasis such a ISO performance and dynamic range. The latter I consider it to be the most important. A 12 or 16 megapixels camera with a good sensor and lens is sufficient for most people and you can do pretty much everything, form posting to web to make a beautiful large print that can decorate your wall.

I use my D800 in those cases where I am going to produce a huge print, and my MF and LF cameras for that special look when I require it, but for all other situations, a small and easy to carry camera like the X100 for example, is all I need !

(c)2014 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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