Megapixels are Dead

Finally got my hands on Canon’s latest addition to its DSLR range, the EOS 450D, at the end of last week. Am always keen to see the new models in this particular range since I own a 350D, which is now three years old.

My 350D produces 8 million pixels; the 450D 12.2 million. So here’s a 100% crop of two shots I took with the two cameras, roughly 20 seconds apart. I used the same lens (a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di), at the same exposure settings (1/80th of a second at f/8) – click to enlarge them to full size:

450d_flowers-300x229

Both were taken in RAW mode and processed in Canon’s own Digital Photo Professional application with identical default settings – same white balance, same sharpness, same contrast, same everything. I think you’ll agree, the difference in detail is less than obvious. The shot on the right – the 450D – is a little larger in size of course, but the actual rendition of detail is as near identical as makes no odds.

Which basically proves the point that there’s no sense in worrying about megapixels any more: the limiting factor as far as detail is concerned is far more likely to be your lens or sensor noise, not the number of pixels your camera can spit out.

That’s not to say the newer model is completely devoid of improvements, but I’m certainly not tempted to upgrade my 350D merely on the strength of more pixels.

Moving on from that though, the new model does have 14-bit digital-to-analogue conversion, which theoretically means more colour detail and greater leeway when it comes to heavy editing compared to the 12 bits of the 350D. To wit, here’s the same shot but with the contrast turned up in both (to +4 in DPP):

350d_flowers_contrast

450d_flowers_contrast

You can see that 14 bits is better than an extra four megapixels: the 350D shot on the left has started to lose detail to oversaturation, while it’s been retained in the 450D shot.

But is it worth paying £600-odd for a 450D, instead of picking up a new 350D – they’re still around if you look – and a decent extra lens for the same price?

Nah.

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