Not Just More Pixels, Better Pixels

Merely having more pixels does not make a digital camera better. “More garbage is just more garbage.”

All pixels are not created equal. So what do you look for? The three most common features that people call for when seeking the best pixels are 16-bit color, 12 stop dynamic range and no interfering filters.

Think of Anti-aliasing and low pass filters used on some lower end cameras. The intent is good. The intent is a cleaner image free of moiré. The unintended consequence is painful…a mushier image. This results in photographers having to carefully sharpen an image to emulate the natural clarity of a Phase One capture back.

With 12-stop dynamic range the industry standard, Phase One has teamed with Dalsa to create the P 65+ with 12.5 stop dynamic range. What does that mean to you? What could you do with a ½ stop more information in your image file? Any thoughts about elusive highlight details?

Most 35mm DSLR cameras operate at 12-bit color depth. That means they can only document 4096 tonal levels between pure black and pure white. Too little bit depth and you run the risk of blotchy and/or banded colors. In simple terms, when it comes to bit depth, more is better. The latest crop of 35mm DSLR cameras has achieved 14-bit color depth. This means they are doing a little better with 16,384 tonal levels. Because Phase One digital systems capture at 16-bit color depth, you get the marvelous ability to record and distinguish 65,536 tonal levels per channel. 16-bit color gives you smooth flawless gradations of skin tone and smooth open skies.

No wonder the Phase One RAW file starts off so much better.

So the next time someone says they have just as many pixels as a medium format camera, you can both smile and let them keep their illusion, or gently ask them about the quality of their pixels.

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