SMARTPHONES, MEGAPIXELS AND SENSOR SIZES - where to start?!
OK, so this title may sound like a classic movie from the 80’s (or is that just in my head?!) but for the 95% (or whatever the latest figure is) of people who take photos on their smart devices it may be useful to understand the limitations.
For the vast majority of us 12 megapixels is sufficient. Compare a 12MP and 18MP photo that’s been printed 4x6 and you’ll struggle to spot the difference. Even going as large as A3 the majority of people (with an untrained eye) would notice little, if any difference.
After a decade of phone and camera brands using the number of pixels as a leading promo tool it didn’t take too long for many customers to get wise and realise that their latest phone upgrade with 43 megapixels wasn’t producing any better images.
Put simply, it’s not the pixel count alone that creates a bright, sharp image with depth. Yes, a high pixel count provides the opportunity for detail but the higher the megapixels the more light that is required. This is where the sensor size comes into play. The sensor is what let’s the light in, cuts through the noise and enables you to see the detail within the pixel. The problem for a mobile device is getting an expensive full frame sensor (864 mm²) into the device.
The ‘mega’ race has calmed but there still seems to be a fascination with the megacount that smart devices are reluctant to move on from. The simple reason is linked to profitability and portability. The sensor size and it’s not something you can scrimp on or squeeze into a device that is trying to be all things to all people so smart devices stick with wowing their audiences with the 'mega' misleading numbers such as the Xiaomi 108 megapixel camera!
The iPhone 12 Pro is pitching itself as a phone that is good enough for professional work and as much as this 12 megapixel camera it is capable of some lovely photos the small sensor size means that in low light conditions the results will be inconsistent. If printing is part of your business the 12MP has it’s limitations. Yes, it has extraordinary lens capability for a phone and yes it’s convenient but the sensor is still about 30% smaller than a basic compact camera. Not only does this affect the quality of your raw image but this is also very limiting for those who want to play about in post-production.
As a rule of thumb the larger the sensor the more light and therefore the more flexibility.
What is the difference between full frame and crop sensor, and should I upgrade?
The term full frame comes from the size of the sensor, and it being the ‘full’ size of a
traditional 35mm film negative. The benefits that you get from a larger sensor is the ability
to capture more information. This information gives a sharper crisper image that you are
more able to crop into allowing you to do far more with your files.
The answer to, 'Should I upgrade?' lies in what type of photography you are planning to do.
If you're a wildlife photographer then you may want to stick with a crop sensor camera, as
the angle of view changes on lenses between a crop sensor and full frame sensor.
When you are using a crop sensor camera, there is a crop factor on the lens (this differs from camera to camera, but is between half frame to 1.7 approx.) This means that on a full frame camera a 50mm lens looks roughly as the eye would see, however, on a crop sensor camera, it would look more like an 85mm lens, a tad zoomed in and perfect for portraiture.
Pop into store or contact one of the team to find out what would suit you.
What are the pros and cons of mirrorless?
Mirrorless cameras, as the name would suggest, do not have the mirror box in the body of
the camera. This allows the camera to be smaller and lighter - great for being on the move
and more discrete for street photography. Many mirrorless have a micro 4/3 sensors although in recent years there has been a swathe of full frame mirrorless and this product has really shaken up the pro and consumer market!
However, losing the mirror from the camera body means losing the optical viewfinder and gaining an electronic viewfinder. This is preferable to some people, especially beginners, as you can see what your image is going to look like before taking it. This makes learning how to shoot manually slightly easier. It is also great for fast paced work, meaning you do not need to keep checking the playback as you can trust what you see in the viewfinder.
Try the electronic viewfinder in store…I shoot mirrorless and wouldn’t go back!
To sum up...
A smart device is a great way to introduce people to photography and there is a wide range of really fantastic mounts, gimbals and other accessories to increase your options and functionality. They have their place and we should celebrate that technology has made photographers out of all of us. We’ve all seen some excellent examples of still photography, music videos and even feature length films shot solely on an iPhone.
What we love is that for some they provide the introduction to that first taste, that passion and that curiosity to explore how much better their photography could be. A springboard to a micro 4/3 camera or full frame camera and the fully fledged 'art of photography'.