My New Camera and the Megapixel Wars

I’ve been preaching for years that if one knows how to sharpen properly, then 8-10 megapixel (MP) is enough for A3 prints.  So when Panasonic and Olympus recently released new cameras with new sensors but still with 12 MP, I took that as an indication that the MP wars are over.

Well, wishful thinking my friends!  😕  In March 2009 Canon released a new body in their entry-level series, the EOS 500D, with a 15.1 MP sensor.  On an entry-level body!!!  What for???  By the way, this is the same sensor found in the Canon 50D, on which Harold Merklinger reported on Luminous Landscape in December 2008.  He found out that the resolution of this 15.1 MP sensor exceeds the resolution of many top-notch Canon lenses, including some L-series lenses, at their optimum aperture!!!

Please, let’s stop and think about this for a second!  The users of the Rebel bodies usually know almost nothing about aperture numbers and shutter speeds, let alone optimal apertures.  They usually own one or two cheap zooms with laughable resolving power and no tripod of any kind.  So what do these photographers need 15.1 MP for?!?!  Somebody please enlighten me…

Anyhow, enough whining.  I drew my consequences out of the MP wars and bought me a new old camera — a Canon 40D.  It’s been discontinued for about 6 months now, so if you find any new stock, the prices are excellent.  I was lucky to find a 40D for 665 €, so I didn’t hesitate for long.  My Canon 30D is 3.5 years old and if it broke two months from now (which I don’t think it will), I’d have to buy a 50D or a 60D in a hurry.  For those who’ve already forgotten the 40D, here is a comparison with the 30D.


By the way, the new 21 MP Canon 5D markII body (which I wanted to have) has a higher MP count than the 50D, but being a full-format body, its pixel pitch is lower.  In that same article Harold Mecklinger reports that the 5Dmk2 is OK with most L-series lenses, and that’s good news.  However before Canon increases the pixel count once again, they need to upgrade virtually all their lenses.  The 85/1.2 II and most super-teles can remain unchanged, but all others need a resolution boost.

PS: Just in case you are wondering, I’m not saying that the 40D is the best camera out there.  Since I have a Canon system, I had to choose a Canon body, and the 40D is the one that best fits my needs and my budget at this time.  If I had three wishes on how to improve the 40D, they would be: image stabilization in the body, a larger viewfinder, better AF in low-light.  If I had three more wishes, then I’d say better high-ISO performance, full-format sensor and smaller and lighter body.