Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1]   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: When will image quality be better than what we have to print it with?  (Read 2392 times)
Dan Wells
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 371


WWW
« on: December 04, 2008, 02:31:04 AM »
ReplyReply

I've been looking a output from a lot of cameras lately, as I try to decide whether to stay "35mm" digital or move to medium format for my high detail landscape and macro photography. Most modern medium format backs can already output a file with more than enough resolution and dynamic range to outresolve any printer 24 inches wide or less, and the more image samples I look at, the more I suspect that the D3x can too. If the D3x isn't there yet, the NEXT pro DSLR released certainly will be. Within a year or two after that, a DSLR will be released that doesn't weigh 2.5 lbs or cost $8000, yet still outresolves (and has a better tonal range than) 24 inch printers. Sure, printers evolve too, but much more slowly than cameras. Prints larger than 24x36 are a vanishingly small segment of the market - a 44 inch printer is the size and weight of a piano (and pretty much has to be), and a 44 inch print takes up a good-sized wall. Maybe some fashion photographers make prints that size on a regular basis (for huge ads), but nobody looks at ads all that closely. Very few art prints wind up that big (most prints of Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico are 16x20, for example).
     When cameras produce files so big we can't print all the detail, what will be the next differentiating feature that keeps us buying them? Will we reach the point we did with film cameras, where people found one they really liked and kept it forever because the next model didn't really offer anything different? Will there be features that differentiate cameras with essentially identical image quality (again like film days)? This will be good for photographers, although bad news for camera manufacturers who have come to count on photographers buying a camera every year or two!

 
                            -Dan
Logged
BernardLanguillier
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 8357



WWW
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2008, 04:19:39 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote from: Dan Wells
I've been looking a output from a lot of cameras lately, as I try to decide whether to stay "35mm" digital or move to medium format for my high detail landscape and macro photography. Most modern medium format backs can already output a file with more than enough resolution and dynamic range to outresolve any printer 24 inches wide or less, and the more image samples I look at, the more I suspect that the D3x can too. If the D3x isn't there yet, the NEXT pro DSLR released certainly will be. Within a year or two after that, a DSLR will be released that doesn't weigh 2.5 lbs or cost $8000, yet still outresolves (and has a better tonal range than) 24 inch printers. Sure, printers evolve too, but much more slowly than cameras. Prints larger than 24x36 are a vanishingly small segment of the market - a 44 inch printer is the size and weight of a piano (and pretty much has to be), and a 44 inch print takes up a good-sized wall. Maybe some fashion photographers make prints that size on a regular basis (for huge ads), but nobody looks at ads all that closely. Very few art prints wind up that big (most prints of Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico are 16x20, for example).

My personnal feeling is different. Fine art prints tend to increase a size a lot recently. I believe that one of the driving factors is size LCDs screen. People are getting used to 40 inch screens, not to say 46 or 50, and I feel that images have to be of similar size to trigger a wow reaction nowadays.

Quote from: Dan Wells
When cameras produce files so big we can't print all the detail, what will be the next differentiating feature that keeps us buying them? Will we reach the point we did with film cameras, where people found one they really liked and kept it forever because the next model didn't really offer anything different? Will there be features that differentiate cameras with essentially identical image quality (again like film days)? This will be good for photographers, although bad news for camera manufacturers who have come to count on photographers buying a camera every year or two!

Our compulsive desire to buy new stuff?

Cheers,
Bernard
Logged

A few images online here!
Geoff Wittig
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1017


« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2008, 06:27:39 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote from: Dan Wells
I've been looking a output from a lot of cameras lately, as I try to decide whether to stay "35mm" digital or move to medium format for my high detail landscape and macro photography. Most modern medium format backs can already output a file with more than enough resolution and dynamic range to outresolve any printer 24 inches wide or less, and the more image samples I look at, the more I suspect that the D3x can too. If the D3x isn't there yet, the NEXT pro DSLR released certainly will be. Within a year or two after that, a DSLR will be released that doesn't weigh 2.5 lbs or cost $8000, yet still outresolves (and has a better tonal range than) 24 inch printers. Sure, printers evolve too, but much more slowly than cameras. Prints larger than 24x36 are a vanishingly small segment of the market - a 44 inch printer is the size and weight of a piano (and pretty much has to be), and a 44 inch print takes up a good-sized wall. Maybe some fashion photographers make prints that size on a regular basis (for huge ads), but nobody looks at ads all that closely. Very few art prints wind up that big (most prints of Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico are 16x20, for example).
     When cameras produce files so big we can't print all the detail, what will be the next differentiating feature that keeps us buying them? Will we reach the point we did with film cameras, where people found one they really liked and kept it forever because the next model didn't really offer anything different? Will there be features that differentiate cameras with essentially identical image quality (again like film days)? This will be good for photographers, although bad news for camera manufacturers who have come to count on photographers buying a camera every year or two!

 
                            -Dan

I think when it comes to print size, the tail is wagging the dog. Back in the days of darkroom printing, anything bigger than 16x20" was a major effort. The sheer difficulty of getting something that big printed, washed, dried and mounted without any creases was a huge disincentive. Now of course wide format inkjets have changed the equation. it's so much easier to print big that...well, we're printing bigger. Anyone with access to an Epson 9800 or equivalent can crank out colossal 44x60" prints.

I think there is still some modest room for improvement in screening algorithms and resolution of inkjets; at a print size of 8x10" the best inkjet prints still can't match the fine detail and tonal smoothness of a good darkroom print. But the bigger you print, the more that comparison favors the inkjet print. I really think that prints from my Z3100 or from my older Epson 7600 start to sing at 18x24" or bigger; the overall impression of detail and texture gets stronger as I print bigger, until I hit resolution limits of the camera that captured the image. At least to my eye current inkjets and high-resolution D-SLR's are a pretty good match in resolution. Without a substantial improvement in inkjet dot size/dithering, more D-SLR resolution will be wasted for any but the largest prints.
Logged
madmanchan
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2110


« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2008, 08:54:00 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
When will image quality be better than what we have to print it with?

In certain aspects (and with a certain interpretation of the question), this is already the case today and has been for a while, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Example 1: The maximum linear dynamic range of a matte print is around 70:1. For a glossy print optimally lit, around 200:1 to 250:1. So prints have a maximum dynamic range of roughly 6 to 8 stops. Today's cameras, on the capture side, can already (far) exceed this. Printers (meaning photographers who are making prints) attempt to resolve this discrepancy by using tone mapping (e.g., use of a curves tool, or local contrast boost) to optimize the printed image to have an appearance similar to that of the original scene, even though the reproduction medium doesn't have the same dynamic range as the original scene.

Example 2: For a given light, cameras can (and do) capture colors that lie outside of a printer's reproducible gamut, for a print viewed under that same light. Printers attempt to resolve this discrepancy by using gamut mapping (e.g., selective hue, saturation, & lightness adjustments) techniques to map out-of-gamut colors to in-gamut colors. Another option is just to use the baseline, automatic gamut mapping provided by an ICC printer profile.
Logged

Dan Wells
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 371


WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2008, 09:41:23 PM »
ReplyReply

Tone mapping is a very old trick - brought to its fullest expression by Ansel Adams and the other developers of the Zone System - the papers they printed on gave them 5 to at most 7 stops of DR, but they were able to use contrast control, burning, dodging and other techniques to reduce as much as 12 stops of film range to fit in 7 stops on paper (Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico uses either 17 burns and 9 dodges or the other way around - and the only person other than Ansel himself who's ever successfully printed that negative is John Sexton (although that is an especially tricky image because Ansel forgot his light meter that day, and his guessed exposure was 3 stops off!)). We're doing the same thing today, although Photoshop doesn't smell strongly of vinegar like our old darkrooms did! While total dynamic range is far greater in camera than on the printer, printers (especially the current generation of 10-12 color printers with three grays) are capable of some fine tonal gradations within that range that cameras are only now capturing.
       I agree with Geoff that inkjets and cameras are a pretty good match right now (digicams with 8x10 inkjets, 8-12 MP DSLRs with 13x19 inkjets, DSLRs with somewhere in the mid-teens of megapixels (perhaps plus the 12mp FF Nikons with their very high per-pixel quality) with 17-inch inkjets, and the super-high resolution cameras with 24 inch inkjets).  The current crop of 20+ MP DSLRs (perhaps apart from the D3x - we'll see) have some image quality issues that mean that they only print 24 inches well under certain circumstances. Lower-resolution MF backs are a nice match with 24-inch inkjets as well. There's also a nice cost and commitment match between cameras and printers right now - 8x10 inch photo printers are cheap and unobtrusive, and go with cameras owned by non-photographers. 13x19 inch printers are priced and sized for the serious hobbyist, and the cameras they go with are too. 17 and 24 inch printers are a much bigger commitment of money and space, and they go with cameras that also take a commitment or a profession to own.
     If cameras continue advancing much faster than printers, however, we'll see two things happen. First, more cameras will start matching 44-inch printers, and second, cameras that need 24-inch printers will become much more available than the 24-inch printers themselves. In terms of the first issue, 44-inch printers are probably always going to be a rare specialty item, both because the printer is a floorstanding machine the size and weight of a piano and takes over whatever room it is placed in, and because a 44x66 inch print cannot be matted and framed with standard materials or displayed on a normal-sized wall. I am thinking here of the art market, where many photographers' work areas are in a small room or a corner of another room, and a 44-inch printer won't fit. I also have yet to see a gallery with room to hang very many prints larger than 24x36 - the gallery I'm in right now balks even at 16x24s, which are one of my standard sizes (although I know that others take larger work, I still can't imagine most taking anything over 24x36). Even the exhibit of Ansel Adams prints that traveled to the Boston Museum of Fine Art a couple of years ago was composed primarily of 16x20 prints, and very few larger than 24x30 (the only images above that size I recall were a couple of floorstanding trifold panels). Bernard may well have a point that the prevalence of large televisions has conditioned us to large images - I'll be interested to see if galleries, museums (other than the National Museum of Natural History, which DOES display a rotating exhibition of HUGE landscape prints, but I can't recall seeing landscape photos that big anywhere else) and other display spaces adapt to this, let alone people buying and displaying images that size in their homes.
    The second issue, with 24-inch printers and the cameras that match them, is related but separate. There has only ever been ONE 24-inch printer (the old, dye-based HP DesignJet 130) that I would consider anything besides a serious professional tool. The DesignJet 130 weighed 60 lbs, sat on a table (it was remarkably compact - actually narrower than many 17-inch printers and lighter than most) and cost a little over $1000. That's a machine that some serious hobbyists would buy and find room for. Any other 24-inch printer is a floorstanding machine weighing a couple hundred pounds, really made for commercial printing and costing $3000+. They are reasonable to accommodate if you're making money from the output, but they aren't really a hobbyist purchase. There are reasonable 17-inch printers for the serious hobbyist, especially the Epson 3800 (which looks like a 13-inch printer). However, we're at most a couple of years from a DSLR many hobbyists will purchase that a 17-inch printer can't do justice to.
    This suggests a couple of things - first, that we're close to the end of the megapixel race being useful - somewhere in the 24-30 MP range, given superb pixel quality, the camera outresolves even a 24-inch printer. Sure, there will be a market (primarily in advertising) for more, but the need for a 44-inch printer should limit that market. Second, a modern version of the DesignJet 130 (more colors, pigment ink) would be a great companion to many high-mp cameras appearing on the market today, whose owners want to print big, but don't need the ruggedness of the big floorstanding printers made for graphic arts shops. Will someone prove me wrong and introduce a less unwieldy 44 inch printer (and a "wall stretcher" to display the output)?

                                               -Dan
Logged
250swb
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 215


« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2008, 03:05:04 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
When cameras produce files so big we can't print all the detail, what will be the next differentiating feature that keeps us buying them?

Perhaps people will just become more sophisticated and stop going 'wow' at a large print just because it is large. Perhaps they will develop a critical faculty that makes them ask, 'why is the photographer ramming this down my throat, a small 10x8 print would work much better'? So maybe when the photographer and their audience grow beyond the novelty of ever larger prints (understanding that the scale of an image is part of its communication factor) then the current trend for 'how big can I make this' will fade away? In which case the camera (and photographer) will evolve to better reflect the content of the subject by using multi media, 3d, sound files, images that can be enlarged or reduced in scale by the veiwer, and even (as Adams recognised) the power of the intimate human scale traditional 'fine print' will make a return?


Steve
Logged

Geoff Wittig
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1017


« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2008, 05:54:57 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote from: 250swb
Perhaps people will just become more sophisticated and stop going 'wow' at a large print just because it is large. Perhaps they will develop a critical faculty that makes them ask, 'why is the photographer ramming this down my throat, a small 10x8 print would work much better'? So maybe when the photographer and their audience grow beyond the novelty of ever larger prints (understanding that the scale of an image is part of its communication factor) then the current trend for 'how big can I make this' will fade away? In which case the camera (and photographer) will evolve to better reflect the content of the subject by using multi media, 3d, sound files, images that can be enlarged or reduced in scale by the veiwer, and even (as Adams recognised) the power of the intimate human scale traditional 'fine print' will make a return?


Steve

It really depends on the individual image and what you're trying to say, I think. I have a handful of landscape photos that have some compelling light and a simple composition that work well at a small size like 8x10". But I've printed lots more that look great at larger sizes. A 24x68" panoramic photo can pull you into the image with intriguing fine detail and a 'you are there' impact lacking in a small print. They're just different visual experiences. I also have taken plenty of portraits and candids that look great at 8x10", and don't look so swell at 24x36"; it's a rare person whose complexion can stand up to that kind of scrutiny!
Logged
Dan Wells
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 371


WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2008, 09:45:05 AM »
ReplyReply

I print everything from 8x8 inches (for a really small detail - generally something like an individual mushroom) up to 16x24 (and I'd like to do 24x36) for the largest subjects. I agree completely that the subject has to match the print size - most of my big prints are larger subjects (although I occasionally print a small subject big for a specific effect).

                        -Dan
   


Logged
dalethorn
Guest
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2008, 01:34:41 PM »
ReplyReply

In the audio biz, we had the opposite situation where the physical transducers (phono cartridges, tape heads) were much worse signal processors than the electronic components (preamps etc.)  With typical cameras up to 60 mp, your image is perhaps 9,000 pixels wide, but printers can typically print at 1,200 dots per inch (not the same as pixels, but.....), which on an 8 x 12 inch print is 14,400 dots, and on a 13 x 19 print, 22,800 dots the long dimension. So cameras are catching up, one way or another, unless reasonably priced printers can produce *visually* better prints from images of, say, more than 100 mp.
Logged
Pages: [1]   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad