09 Jun 2017

More pixels or better pixels? We try to answer this question with a Sony A7S II

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The Sony a7S II doesn't provide a vast amount of megapixels by today's standards, but they're definitely good ones The Sony a7S II doesn't provide a vast amount of megapixels by today's standards, but they're definitely good ones Sony


8K for video

But on the other hand, 8K footage from a RED Helium looks amazing as well (subject, of course, to a really good lens). There are all sorts of arguments for using 8K, like the ability to zoom in and recompose a shot in post-production. And like the way that when you downsample from 8K, it can make 4K look even better. But, ultimately, there is no other way to get a picture with as much detail. That’s where the lack of aliasing comes in. It’s important. If I were shooting a movie and I had no financial or technical constraints, I would want to do it in 8K. 

So how is it that some of the best pictures I’ve ever seen have been from a camera with only twelve megapixels and yet the sharpest, most detailed video images on the planet come from 8K cameras? 

I think it’s because the two approaches both lead to an increased image quality, but via different means. 

The other day, I was photographing some old family pictures in an album. I didn’t have a scanner at the time so I had to shoot them in some decent lighting with a telephoto lens. It worked well enough. The pictures were mostly a bit faded, so I worked on the levels and curves and carefully increased the overall contrast. I did thiswith and without adding sharpening, but, nevertheless, the even the pictures without sharpening looked sharper! I tried this several times and the effect was consistent. I even asked a few people which images were more in focus and they all chose the contrast-enhanced ones. 

So this is at least one sense in which fewer, better pixels can be helpful if those pixels are able to capture more light, and if there is more meaningful information per pixel. 

With 8K, there is no shortage of detail. It is likely that less light will be captured but the overall effect is very good. I suspect that there is simply so much information in a 32-megapixel video frame that it’s possible, with processing, to extract a superb-looking image that is sharp and yet vibrant. 

I’ve only really just started to explore this in my own mind. What do you think?

David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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