Just as the market is once again graced with higher resolution cameras, so too is the Internet awash with salivating consumers desperate to lap them up. Surely having a 50-megapixel camera will make them all much better photographers than they were 44 megapixels ago? The extra resolution must be the push they needed to take them from mediocrity to greatness.
Well, were it only so. Alas, quite simply, no. Perhaps we all need a rational counterbalance to the frenzy. It never ceases to amaze me how many comments are left on review sites by amateur photographers desperate to acquire the latest gadget, believing that it’s the Holy Grail they were looking for. Give it a few months; a new grail will be along.
There is no doubt that many professionals benefit from high-resolution devices. And limiting our definition of professionals to just photographers may incur an entirely valid rebuke from astronauts, defence contractors, medical technologists and the clandestine services. There are many instances when more resolution is better.
But for the vast majority of us we have to wonder what we will do with all that extra resolution. Do we have the patience to execute the appropriate shot discipline to make use of those extra pixels? Did we have that discipline at 24 and 36MP? Are we doing critical work that demands medium format levels of resolution? I wonder how many new exponents of these 50MP cameras will think carefully about their composition, while ensuring they have a tripod and the finest glass to make use of all those pixels.
And there’s the other consideration; the extra infrastructure you’ll need, especially the lenses capable of using such resolution. I suspect many people balk at the cost of the lenses appropriate to such high resolution, to say nothing of the cameras themselves. Extra batteries and perhaps new screen protectors for the rear LCD; more lenses will probably mean more filters, perhaps more cleaning aids, etc. It just goes on.
Companies are very good at making us feel insecure. Their marketing material has carefully selected verbiage and phraseology to evoke a sense of awe and promote the superiority of their product. They know that when we take the bait, we will eventually reason that we’ll need more gear to go with it, especially big, expensive glass. And, unfortunately, many people act on this insecurity to feel better about themselves and in relation to others. I personally know of one guy who loves having the latest camera but knows very little about how to take a decent photograph. He’ll take one simple portrait shot a hundred times going through every conceivable setting on his expensive gear without a decent result by the end of it. He’s all about the gadgets and he believes it makes him authentic and credible in the eyes of his friends. Sad, really.
Conversely, a colleague of mine just recently purchased her first DSLR, second hand on eBay. A perfectly capable machine, she’s absolutely thrilled with it, but wonders if she needs to buy more gear and lenses to compliment it. The self-doubt is slowing creeping up on her. I told her just to get a decent camera bag to carry it and keep it safe; her kit lens will cover 99% of everything she will shoot (which is mostly her little girl scurrying about).
There’s a reason that I used the 44MP figure in the first paragraph. All the shots on this page were taken with a mere 6MP camera (50 minus 6). I know I’ve made this point before and several times, but it bears repeating, especially when you feel the urge to upgrade to something that won’t necessarily make you a better photographer.
Think about why you need to upgrade. Is it really for the benefit of your photography? Or because you think your peers, many of whom are internet strangers, will be impressed? Does your eye frame better shots when you have a 50MP device in your hand compared to 20MP? Will you understand form and light or appreciate juxtaposition of colour with more megapixels?
I doubt it, and I say this in all humility, because having seen some of the preview example shots put out by other review sites recently it’s clear to me that they appreciate the gadget more than the art. Supposedly ‘leaders’ in the review sector, many of their photos have no imagination, no clear composition, poor exposure and processing. There are a few exceptions, of course, (Photography Life being a notable one), but only a few. The vast majority, and again just my humble opinion, only fuel the mediocre output but with ever more megapixels to help them.
Buy whatever you want and whatever makes you happy. If you have a need to collect material things to feel better about yourself then that is your prerogative. But for those of you who are interested in photography (and I suspect most visitors to this site are) please spend a little less time stressing over megapixels and a little more time appreciating the amazing contributions from people like Nasim and Thomas. Understand what makes an image work and the discipline required to capture it. I am not for one moment professing that I fully understand; that’s what makes photography so interesting and enjoyable to me. I invest my energies in this constant learning process and the contributors to this site provide excellent inspiration.
I may not have the most pixels available to me and you will forgive my random selection of images here, but hopefully they demonstrate that my pursuit of photography is far more rewarding to me than the camera makers will have you believe.