Friday, November 8, 2013

"Detail Oriented" vs. "Perfectionist Gearhead"

So...I preordered the Sony A7r. 

A friend asked why I needed a camera with such a big sensor and high pixel count, which is a very good question. My answer wasn't just "because I'm a gearhead"...though that is partly true and would have helped me avoid a lot of typing.

I have a pocket camera I have with me every day that has a 12.1MP 1/1.7" MOS Sensor paired with a 28-200mm equivalent zoom and I find its output quite acceptable for most things...especially considering it really does fit in my pants pocket! (Most "pocket cams" are HUGE.)
The sensor size limits its dynamic range, noise floor, low light capability and DOF rendering but it's still fine for a good third of the kinds of things I like to photograph and its easy to always have with me.

But if I'm going to climb to the top of a volcano in Hawaii (next February) to capture amazing vistas or go trekking through a temple in Belize to discover the ancient Mayan
genius loci, which is on my "to do" list, I'm bringing the best camera I have paired with the best glass I have because I want the best dynamic range, the lowest noise floor and highest detail possible. You can always downsample, resize or crop if you want but you can never "add back" what isn't there in the first place. I figure, hey, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing to the best possible result.
The critical thing for me right now is I want the sensor to resolve slightly better than the lens, which is no small task considering I have some superb glass right now.

Admittedly, over a certain density, say 20MP or so, the number of pixels is unimportant - especially if the pixel size is too small! That new 40mp smartphone can only produce 5MP images that aren't a smeary mess - the rest are for oversampling but, hey, consumers think "more megapixels are better" - definitely not true for small sensors.

The new Sony A7r looks about right for my needs based on the full-size images I've looked at - plus it's about five thousand dollars less than the Leica M 240 which, until the A7r came around, was my only upgrade path from my Leica M9.
If I had a different set of lenses, the Nikon D800e would probably appeal to me for the same reasons.
The A7r's tiny flange distance is also great because it means I can use ALL my glass, including current Leica, Voigtlander and MS Optical M-mount lenses as well as legacy lenses like my vintage Carl Zeiss Jena wide-angles (20mm, 25mm & 28mm) and the venerable Minolta MC Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 (best bokeh ever).

The largest prints I currently have made is 12"x18" though I've only done a dozen or so that least so far. There's a few images of mine I'd like to print really big say 2'X3' but we'll see.

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