Sharp Thinking

Size, ahem, doesn’t always matter. At least, if this New York Times article about digital
cameras is correct. It seems they printed three versions of the same image. One each at five, eight, and
13-megapixel resolutions. They then showed them on Times Square and
asked passerbys which was which. Of the “dozens” of people who were
surveyed, 95% percent could not tell the difference while the other
five percent tried but failed to get it right. In fact, according to
the article, only one person correctly chose which was which and , the
writer feels, even this was a result of random chance, not expertise.

However, since this was a
non-scientific, non-double blind
you can’t say much about the conclusions drawn from
this. That said, this sounds to me a lot like double blind studies done
on audio perception. It seems there are people who allege they can
hear differences in music when said music is played over different
types of speaker wire (the more exotic and therefore more expensive,
the better). Yet, when these so called golden ears try to tell the
difference in controlled, double blind tests, they
are unable
to do so.

Note, this is not the same as saying there are no differences.
Theoretically, there could be. But if there are, the differences appear
to be so small as to be below the level of human detection.

I wonder if the same thing isn’t happening with digital camera
specifications where manufacturers are racing to sell cameras with more
and more pixels (with higher and higher prices) because people think
they will get sharper, better images (or, at least, manufacturers are
either claiming or implying such).

If this article is correct, then unlike the difference between
Betamax and VHS, there does not appear to be a difference. So, why
spend the extra money on anything above five megapixels? Well, I guess
there may be other features that are only available in the higher
prices cams. But otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to me. YMMV. Insert
disclaimer here. Feel free to buy whichever you choose.

By the way, as sort of a bonus rant, I love how manufacturers are
adding image stabilization (at an added cost, of course) to their
cameras. What is so interesting to me is they are solving a problem
they have created. See, a lot of camera shake is being caused by people
holding their camera with their arms extended away from their body so
that they can view the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
This is similar to placing the camera on the end of a pendulum.
That is, the camera, at the end of your arms, swings up and down and/or
left and right leading to images that, in some light conditions, will
result in blur.

However, you probably wouldn’t hold the camera this way except many
digital cameras don’t have optical viewfinders. If they did, you could
brace the camera against your face (while looking through the
viewfinder), keeping your elbows and arms close to your body, and thus
reduce shaking (thereby reducing or eliminating image blur).

An added benefit of optical view finders are that they work great in
the sunshine and, conversely, in low light conditions. Both sunshine
and darkness wash out every LCD screen I’ve ever seen. The only
downsides I know of are for eyeglass users (because the glasses get in
the way of the viewfinder) and if you want to shoot a
high or low angle shot (because LCDs allow you to hold the camera away
from your eyes, thus making it easier to shoot low or high level
shots). Otherwise, why not get a digital camera that
has both an optical viewfinder and LCD screen (Sony, Canon, Kodak, and
others make models that have both) and have the best of both worlds?

Happy Shopping!



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