Is 5 better than 3?

The megapixel challenge.
(P.S. I love my new camera)


I've been living for a while now with pixel envy. Paul got a new 5 megapixel camera and I have been drooling ever since. I like my Olympus Camedia C-3020 Zoom, but I wanted more. Paul investigated and selected the Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom. A nice, small camera with some key features. Of course, 5M makes the top of the list. In addition it has a sliding cover. This cover overcomes a big drawback of the 3020. The 3020 lens cap is crap. It falls off easily and I keep putting my fingers on the lens. The C-50 promises to eliminate that. I have been pleasantly surprised to find several useful settings on the camera's main control. A twist of the dial brings into play one of several shutter speed / aperture programs. The settings are indicated by icons that I think I can even remember!  For instance, Portrait mode brings in a bias for large f-stop so that the background is out of  focus. It also selects spot focus and metering. Cool.  The other modes operate similarly. 

So, the question remains, how much better is 5M? See for yourself. This test was done by taking a picture with each camera from the front porch in San Carlos. I then cut out one small part and present it here. Both images were taken with SHQ, which is better quality than I normally use. More on that later.

3 megapixel taken with SHQ mode 5 megapixel taken with SQH mode

3 megapixel taken with SHQ mode 5 megapixel taken with SQH mode

As you can see, the 5M picture provides tremendous detail over the 3M picture The 5M is larger because these two are displayed at 1:1. (If you don't see the images at the left, you might need a TIFF viewer plug in from AlternaTIFF. It's free.)




In these two I have blown up the 3M picture to the same display size as the 5M, you can see that even when it gets bigger, there isn't any more detail there.



However, the  biggest plus for me is for the web site. the 5M pictures will let me take a normal picture and cut out a smaller piece to use on the web. Suppose these two cars were the whole picture. With the 5M I could choose to use just a clip of one door. I couldn't do that with the 3M picture. I think this will change my photo taking process. I may not zoom as much as I used to. If the photos are destined for the web I think I'll just take them all with a wide angle and crop to suit me. Most crops will still be so big, pixel wise, that I'll have to resize them for the web anyway.

In these two pictures, the 3M is on top, the 5M on the bottom. Both are displayed 1:1. See how much more detail there is in the 5M picture. Sweet.

For making 4x6 prints this is not a big difference. For enlargements, the 5M will let me print up to 11x16.


Another question on my mind, how much of a difference does the loss less TIFF mode make? Here are some samples. Each was taken with the C-50 zoomed all the way out.


Looking at these three I could convince myself that the TIFF is the best photo, but I have to wonder if I could do this in a true blind test. For my money, I'll stay with HQ. It seems good enough to me.

Lastly, what happens to these when they are saved as JPG? I assumed that they would all degrade to about the same quality. Looks like that's true. Each was saved with 15% JPEG compression. I can't see any difference.


Each of the three pictures above, saved as JPEG with 15% compression.