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
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 size...at
least so far. There's a few images of mine I'd like to print really big
say 2'X3' but we'll see.
think a famous sports figure with a contract with a shoe company is a
hero. For others its a parent or someone who touched their life
personally in a profound way.
For me it's someone who holds a beacon for us all. My heroes are Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell and James Burke.
Carl Sagan, the astrochemist is probably most well-known as the creator of the landmark television documentary about the universe we live in, 'Cosmos'.
One of his best books was 'The Demon Haunted World', a treatise on the
power of Science to act as a shining light in the current shadowed
climate of superstition, religious zealotry and disdain for intellect.
Instead of embracing the unknown, people embrace unknowing - the
dumbing-down of textbooks by the removal of things well known to any
geneticist or organic chemist so as to cater to the narrow beliefs of a
religious minority is only one of the symptoms. Psychics, astrology
charts and horoscopes are commonly consulted. There's a tendency towards
escapism instead of fixing the thing people are escaping from.
Ignorance of every flavor and shade dressed up as knowledge surrounds us
- and people are embracing this ignorance with open arms. Carl looks at
the explosion of pseudoscience and "junk science" as integral
components of modern culture and exposes them for the subversion of
reason that they are.
Joseph Campbell is the author of "Hero
With a Thousand Faces" and a number of television programs, most notably
'The Power of Myth' with Bill Moyers. Joseph was a man of real
wisdom who showed through his books and lectures on spirituality and
comparative religion, a person can be both Spiritual and Religious
without burning any bridges, without excluding anybody and, most
importantly, without giving up Reason - we can be both Scientist and
Pilgrim. By finding the common threads of spirituality in all
traditions, Joseph helped me realize long ago that there are many paths
to one goal and Belief isn't always about us and them. Aboriginal shaman
or Roman Catholic, Buddhist or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, Shinto or
Zoroastrian, we all tell the same stories and are filled with the same
light. The spark of the infinite is within and it is up to us to fan it
into a bright flame, tempered by wisdom and knowledge, so that we may
illuminate the way in these dark times.
James Burke is known
for his books and television series about the interconnectedness of
historical events. "Connections" and "The Day The Universe Changed" are
probably his most well-known series and certainly my favorites. He shows
how our growth of understanding of the universe around us changes the
way we see the universe and, in effect, changes the universe itself -
for example, the Sun no longer orbits the earth, does it?
James shows how events in history are connected to and influence other,
sometimes seemingly-unrelated, events - everything is linked in an
intricate web of cause and effect. History is not isolated events
happening in a rigid linear timeline but a cross-pollination of events
large and insignificant, near and far, obvious and hidden happening in a
continuous matrix. One of my favorite trails of cause and effect
shows how Napoleon's invasion of Egypt was very important to the
development of the modern computer: 1 - Napoleons troops, while in Egypt, buy up a lot of intricately woven shawls. 2 - When they get home, this starts a fashion craze for the complex fabrics. 3 - Looms are designed in Europe to copy these designs controlled with paper cards with holes punched in them.
4 - The American engineer Herman Hollerith borrows this the idea to
automate the mechanical retrieval of census data with punched paper
cards. 5 - Later, these cards are used to get data in and out of ENIAC, the first electronic computer.
I think Carl, Joseph and James slip right under most peoples' radar
but, to me, they're examples for all of us, holding candles in the midst
of the vast spiritual and mental darkness of pervasive ignorance, fear
and superstition that I see so much of these days.