Saturday, July 12, 2008

Digital Camera Resolutions Just Keep Growing

According to this article at (probably the most useful news source on the Web insofar as digital cameras are concerned), Hasselblad has just announced a new camera (the H3DII-50) which will offer resolution of 50 megapixels (with an 8176 x 6132 pixel array). It will use the new Kodak KAF-50100 Image Sensor, which measures 36mm x 48mm (roughly twice the size of a sensor with the same 24mm x 36mm measurements of a 35mm film frame). To give an idea of what 50 megapixel resolution means, the article about that sensor says the following:
At 50 million pixels, or megapixels, the sensor captures digital images with unprecedented resolution and detail. For instance, with a 50 megapixel camera, in an aerial photo of a field 1.5 miles across, you could detect an object about the size of a small notebook computer (1 foot by 1 foot).

Considering that it's possible to get a fairly high quality photo print at a printing resolution of 200 pixels per inch, that would mean that uninterpolated digital files from the new Hasselblad could be enlarged to sizes as large as 40.88 inches by 30.66 at that 200 ppi resolution. The key word here, of course, is "uninterpolated". With any number of excellent digital enlargement programs, considerably larger prints should be quite feasible.

Of course, the Hasselblad camera won't be inexpensive, by a long shot. (Somehow, that phrase "long shot" seems particularly appropriate in light of the preceding quotation.) But prices on groundbreaking digital cameras invariably go down dramatically as time goes by. (I'm old enough to remember when Kodak DSLR cameras with a mere 6 megapixels of resolution were priced at something approaching $20,000! My, how times have changed.) In any event, the days when people could say that digital photography was incapable of approaching the quality of film photography have obviously passed into the mists of history.

50 megapixels is still low resolution in comparison with the resolution of the BetterLight digital camera backs used by professional service companies specializing in giclee reproductions of art. But BetterLight backs are digital scanning backs, designed to be used with large format view cameras and tethered to computers (usually in a studio environment, although they can also be used outdoors in order to take landscape or architectural photos with incredible detail). The BetterLight backs can't be used for photojournalism or sports photography, the way that Hasselblad cameras can, since they can't take photos of sports scenes or other fast-moving subjects. So the Hasselblad is clearly yet another breakthrough. (Previously, their highest resolution was around 39 megapixels.)

The Kodak sensor used in the new Hasselblad is designed to have a wide dynamic range, but its sensitivity range of 50 to 400 is lower than the range of some other digital cameras, so it isn't necessarily the best choice for photos in extremely low light. But improvements are sure to follow as time goes by.

UPDATE: As of the beginning of September 2008, I just read about a new digital camera back, made by Phase One, with a resolution of 60 megapixels ("with 8984 x 6732 active pixels achieving 180 MB, 8 bit RGB files")! It's the P 65+. Needless to say, it's extremely expensive. Here's a link to the official web page pertaining to the product.

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