Is 16MP the "limit" for 4/3 sensors?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by DeeJayK, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    I was recently reading a post on the LensRentals blog written a few years back (March 2010) that mentioned that the "4/3 companies have already said 12 Mpix is as far as they intend to go" with regard to pixel density. I found this statement intriguing (particularly in light of the fact that the latest 4/3 sensors have 16 MP) and some more Googling lead to a May 2011 article containing the following quote from Akira Watanabe, manager of Olympus Imaging's SLR planning department: "If a customer wants more than 12 megapixels, he should go to the full-frame models."

    Obviously we can all point to predictions and pronouncements from any number of sources which later turn out to be proved incorrect, that's not my point here. The basic take-away of the LensRentals article that prompted my query is that today's sensors are outresolving the quality control parameters and manufacturing tolerances of the best lenses, thus adding more pixels is moot.

    So my question now is this: will 16 MP be the limit for Four Thirds sensors? Are we really at the end of the megapixel race?
  2. tuanies

    tuanies Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 13, 2011
    Graham, WA
    Tuan Huynh
    I think we are. I'd rather see them adapt new sensor technologies, maybe even backlit sensors to boost low-light performance. 16MP isn't that big of a deal for me.
  3. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    We will probably see larger then 16 MP sensors in the :43: world. There are rumors that the GX7, Panasonic GX1 replacement has 18 MP sensor. The megapixel race this is probably over, the market understands that megapixel has nothing to do with IQ.
  4. AceAceBaby

    AceAceBaby Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    I think there are two maximum reasonable sensor resolutions when you make and sell cameras. One is the actual maximum based on the laws of physics and available materials & glass, the other is whatever your current top of the line model supports. The argument for either is the same, of course. :)
  5. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Companies say all sorts of stuff. They will go as far as the technology allows, which is certainly larger than 16MP. For example, the 1 inch sensor in the Sony RX100 is 20.2 mp.
  6. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    All else equal, more pixels are better. Since all things are never equal, it's a pointless statement of course. I can tell you that I've been generally disappointed with the 24MP APS-C sensors. The quality isn't anything to write home about except in ideal conditions, which is great if you're an ideal conditions bright light type of shooter. I'm not. However, 24MP chokes the hell out of the computing side of things. I'd rather spend memory and processing on deeper buffers and faster burst rates than larger images.

    To answer your actual question -- there's no technical reason for the sensors to be limited at 16, except that it's a good compromise at the moment. So it seems very likely that we'll go beyond 16 at some point.
  7. ajm80031

    ajm80031 Mu-43 Regular

    While u4/3 seems to have settled on 16MP for now, it's certainly not "the limit" -- the Sony RX100 already crams 20MP high-quality pixels into a sensor that's significantly smaller than a 4/3 size sensor. Olympus and Panasonic probably think 16MP is the "right" level to be at currently based on a number of factors (sensor cost, quality of most u4/3rds lenses, amount of processing power required,etc.) but those factors can and will change. I expect u4/3rds will go above 20MP at some point, but not for a while.
  8. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    I doubt it, but I don't expect big leaps. If they can add more without sacrificing performance then they will.

    8 years ago the original Canon 5D was limited to 12 MP, but last year the 5D III was released with 22 MP. Same sensor size, but in a few years they've been able to double the pixel count while improving performance.

    So who knows what sort of resolution and low light abilities a 4/3 format sensor would have in 2020. Me might be up in the 30s or 40s, with low noise shooting up to ISO 200,000 with a broad spectrum chip that records in IR, visible light, and UV...
  9. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    16mp is absolutely not the limit for micro four thirds. Perhaps 12mp was the limit at the time the system was introduced because that was the limit of sensor technology (for that sized sensor) at the time. But technical progress never stops. Never say never. Five years ago, APS-C DSLRs were just moving from 10 to 12mp and many were noisier than they are today. In 2013 many feature 20-24mp with great results. But, like Promit above, I personally have have no real use for 24mp. I think 16mp is the sweet spot for both micro four thirds and APS-C right now. But that's right now.
  10. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    Yeah -- if APS-C sensors had the same pixel density as a 12mp 1/1.7" sensor they would be something like 90+ megapixels. Pack them on as tight as some of Sony's and you could get over 200 mp.
  11. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    I agree, I'm sure we'll see > 16MP eventually. There doesn't seem to be any compelling reason why not and we're seeing plenty of larger resolution sensors in other formats appearing.

    As far as the race being over, I might have agreed with you until the D800 came out. It seems to have kick-started a new trend all over again by providing good noise performance, DR, *and* a crazy amount of megapixels. Other things being equal it's hard not to like extra resolution. I could be wrong, but we may be due for another cycle of resolution being a key selling point, albeit not likely as intense as it was during the height of the megapixel wars.
  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    From what I've seen over the years is that they usually go a bit too high on the MP vs noise issue. Meaning, most cameras would probably benefit from having 20% fewer pixels.

    I'm also a salesperson, however, and realize that if some stupid Samsung P&S is 16MP and can go to ISO25,600 and the Nikon D700 is only 12MP and can shoot no higher than ISO6400 they will say things like, "The Japanese used 'new technology' to make this Samsung both smaller and better. And more zoom too!"

    I hear stuff like that daily. The worst is how vacuum cleaners are so darn heavy because if they design them where they don't use 12 amps no one will buy them. Yet 12 amps does nothing for cleaning performance. Or TVs. "LED is the new technology, not LCD." That's like saying, "Cars have engines now which are better than the older tires." Uggh!

    Keep my cameras at 16, please. If you'd like to revert to 12 I'd be more than happy!
  13. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Yes, it's pretty obvious that the megapixel war has flared up again, isn't it? A pity.
  14. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    Nikon and Sony seem to be pushing the limits the most -- putting 14 and 20mp in a CX sensor, and 24mp in APS-C
  15. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    One thing that I am pleased with is that some camera companies (Pentax is the first that comes to mind) are still finding ways to keep using the stellar 16mp Sony sensor (or at least variations of it). The K-5, K-5II, K-5IIs and K-30 use it. The just-announced K-50 and K-500 have it. Even the Ricoh GR uses it. And that's just fine with me. Sony's SLT A58 has a 20mp APS-C sensor (note that they didn't use the 24mp sensor from the A65) and I'd be interested in how that does. If Pentax and others find they must go to more megapixels, I hope it's to this level and not 24mp.
  16. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    It's not many years ago that Nikon were also saying 12mp was enough, even for their full frame cameras. Technology is improving so fast that nobody can make accurate predictions, so just go with the flow and enjoy what we have today, instead of trying to peeer into the future.
  17. battleaxe

    battleaxe Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Maybe they are realizing that noise gets affected with more MP? From what I have seen and comments I read, the 24mp Sony sensor was a bit worse at high ISO vs their 16mp used in cameras like the SLT A57. On the other hand I think the 24mp sensor has better color detail(this be due to processor), and I think DR also. I think the ICL/higher end camera market the race is slowly dying down, but I think in the low end, phone market, the race is still going on a bit, with HTC trying to buck the trend there.
  18. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2010
    MP is easier to market in a bullet point because it's a quantifiable benefit that is easily understood. In fact, most consumers equate it with overall image quality, so it's easier for the camera makers to roll with the tide than fight against it. OTOH, DXOMark high ISO rating is less easily fathomable by most customers. ;)

    As long as overall performance (DR and noise) are improving along with MP counts (such as the current 16MP Micro 4/3 sensor), then it's all good.
  19. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    I'm sure you're right that we won't stop at 16MP, but my question is really whether more (smaller) pixels will really provide better performance.

    As to your point about the D800 re-igniting the "pixel wars", it really comes down to pixel density. A 36MP full-frame sensor (as on the D800) is still less dense than even a 12MP Four Thirds sensor. A full frame sensor with the same size pixels as on the 16MP Four Thirds sensor would have over 60MP.
  20. F/Stop

    F/Stop Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2013
    West Virginia
    Brian Y.
    so many true statements in this thread.. im personally tired of hearing about overall MPs on a camera sensor. But i do not agree, i think 16mp is just the new 12mp. Personally id rather see sensor improvements for low light DR etc.. 16mp is plenty!

    Its all about DPI when you print anyway, and if your making a huge print that wont be seen any less than a few feet away. Then you don't necessarily need a ton of MP.
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