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"MP race" vs. "ISO race"...

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Steve-S View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Steve-S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: "MP race" vs. "ISO race"...
    Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:10

So the Megapixel race is well known. Sony is looking pretty good here with the a77, of course; and over in FF-land the a900 hasn't been exceeded since its introduction YEARS ago, a really fine accomplishment by Sony given the "dominant" position of CaNikon. Sony and Canon both have rumored FF replacements under development in the "30something MP" range (and Sony at least is rumored to have a 2nd sensor in the 50MP range, iirc... ) .

Then there's the high-ISO race. Nikon is currently king here, I believe. A few years ago they took a big jump in usable high-ISO (the joke went that "photographers shoot using available light, except for those shooting the new Nikons, who use available dark.") Canon has mostly/almost caught up, I think... Sony, of course, lags a bit in the high-ISO race.

Conventional wisdom says that high-MP is the enemy of high-ISO: large photosites (fewer of which fit onto a sensor) are better at gathering photons, with less noise (better s/n ratio).

Recently, however, many are suggesting that down-res'ing the high-MP images -- with appropriate de-noise/interpolation settings -- results in low-res / high-ISO performance that is very-nearly equal in quality to (some even say it's every bit as good as) images from sensors made with low-res / hi-ISO in mind.

The thing I haven't found is a really solid head-to-head comparison of this, from someone equipped to produce hard data. Can anyone point me at a site that has done this high-ISO test, comparing high-MP & low-MP sensors of similar generation/technology? It seems particularly apropos right now, given all the a77 buzz, and how many folks are saying "I didn't need 24MP's, I wanted fewer MP but better ISO."

Many thanks!


- Steve S.
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5thElefant View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 5thElefant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:19
DXO has all the data. Just set the comparisons to print size and you're doing the "down-res'ing the high-MP images" comparison.
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romke View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote romke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:36
i think you can compare the existing data at DXO and possibly somewhere else as well.

the info that is not available yet is whether there will be available newer ways of combining highres imaging and high ISO capability.

traditionally there has been a trade off between the quality of color rendering at lower ISO vs noise at higher ISO - and with eg the a900 Sony clearly preferred color rendering over high ISO capability. Nikon (with the same sensor) has chosen a somewhat different approach: somewhat less perfect color rendering and better high ISO performance.

in the end the results are both hardware (ADC) and software related.

maybe we can have both in future highend designs: high quality color rendering at lower ISO settings, and if needed, high ISO capability together with some loss in color accuracy - either by selecting different processing software to control the ADC's, a different set of ADC's or both.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MichaelMeyer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:48
For most peoples' everyday uses, the ISO battle and the megapixel race are non-issues. For most of us, a more useful thing to worry about would be dynamic range--and even that is good enough for what most of us do.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rticknor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:57
I would be really interested to see this type of test conducted.

To take the a77, vs the best Nikon high iso camera. Shoot the a77 in raw, and de-noise in Lightroom, then export to the same resolution as the Nikon image -- then pixel peep.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Steve-S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 19:59



I considered adding in color-rendering and/or DR considerations to my original query (both also usually considered to be superior in lower-resolution sensors) but thought that might be too many variables to allow for a clean/clear thread... Still, I'm happy to be wrong about that if thread-drift produces useful insight into any/all of these...


- Steve S.

Alpha: a350+5D+7000; SAL1870, MinO50/1.7, MinO75-300, Tam90/2.8, Smyg85/1.4, others.
SR(MC/MD): XD-11, XK+AEhead Min50/1.7&1.4, Tam70-150/3.5, Viv35/2.8, Viv2xTC
 



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Allan Olesen View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Allan Olesen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 20:31
Originally posted by Steve-S Steve-S wrote:

Canon has mostly/almost caught up, I think... Sony, of course, lags a bit in the high-ISO race.

Huh? According to dxomark, Canon does not have any APS-C camera which comes close to Sony a580 and its Nikon sisters.

The best Canon APS-C is actually somewhere around a55 which of course is far down the list because of the light loss from the transparent mirror.

Originally posted by Steve-S Steve-S wrote:

Recently, however, many are suggesting that down-res'ing the high-MP images -- with appropriate de-noise/interpolation settings -- results in low-res / high-ISO performance that is very-nearly equal in quality to (some even say it's every bit as good as) images from sensors made with low-res / hi-ISO in mind.

Well, among those who are not pixel peepers, I think it has been known for years that the noise in the full picture is unaffected by number of sensor pixels as long as the sensor has the same size.
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FineArt View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote FineArt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 20:42
Originally posted by MichaelMeyer MichaelMeyer wrote:

For most peoples' everyday uses, the ISO battle and the megapixel race are non-issues. For most of us, a more useful thing to worry about would be dynamic range--and even that is good enough for what most of us do.


The 12 bit Sony file is pretty much maxed out in DR at around 12 stops. For more, Sony has to move to 14 or 16 bit files.

Personally i'd love a 16 stop file.
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FineArt View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote FineArt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 20:57
Oh, and please switch to the 16 bit JPG2000 format for JPGs!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dimas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 21:00
Originally posted by FineArt FineArt wrote:


The 12 bit Sony file is pretty much maxed out in DR at around 12 stops. For more, Sony has to move to 14 or 16 bit files.

Personally i'd love a 16 stop file.


Can you explain how exactly do you go from 12 bits to 12 stops and back from 16 bit to 16 stops?
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MichaelMeyer View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MichaelMeyer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 21:04
Originally posted by FineArt FineArt wrote:

The 12 bit Sony file is pretty much maxed out in DR at around 12 stops.


And 12 stops is, like I said, probably good enough for most everyday uses that any of us put our cameras to. Though if there's going to be improvement this is where I'd like to see it rather than in more MP or high ISO.

Edited by MichaelMeyer - 21 September 2011 at 21:09
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Allan Olesen View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Allan Olesen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 21:16
One extra bit corresponds to a doubling of the highest sensor value (or actually the highest value +1).

One extra stop corresponds to a doubling of the light quantity.

So if the sensors values are linearly proportional to light quantity, 1 extra bit = 1 extra stop. So far, so good.

However, I don't know the definition of dynamic range. It is possible that you may need 12 bits to represent a dynamic range of 11 stops - in which case 16 bits can represent a dynamic range of 15 stops.
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lakrids View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lakrids Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 21:24
As far as I know, the bit size has nothing to do with stops. It has more to do the color range inside the bit range. So you could have a 4 bit raw file with excellent 21 stops dynamic range, but the tonality would be bad.

Again as far as I know
A. N. “Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world.”
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FineArt View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote FineArt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2011 at 21:34
Originally posted by Allan Olesen Allan Olesen wrote:

One extra bit corresponds to a doubling of the highest sensor value (or actually the highest value +1).

One extra stop corresponds to a doubling of the light quantity.

So if the sensors values are linearly proportional to light quantity, 1 extra bit = 1 extra stop. So far, so good.

However, I don't know the definition of dynamic range. It is possible that you may need 12 bits to represent a dynamic range of 11 stops - in which case 16 bits can represent a dynamic range of 15 stops.


Exactly.

DXO claims the newest sony sensors are a bit over 12 stops DR despite the 12 bit A/D conversion on the sensor. How exactly that is represented on the output id like to know.

Canikon use 14 bit files. MFDBs use 16 bit files. With the MFDBs you can see the rich tonality in the pictures.
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