Megapixels or Dynamic Range

Megapixels or Dynamic Range? If You Could Have More of Only One…

by Hugh Brownstone1 Comment

JP Danko posted a piece over at DIY Photography which prompted me to reformulate his question into something more understandable for the marketing guys at the big camera companies: which would be a more exciting upgrade for you, dear planet5D reader — from 24mp to 50mp, or from 11.5 stops of dynamic range to 14, megapixels or dynamic range?

Why am I not asking about high ISO performance instead?

Because the Sony A7s has already made such a compelling case for better high ISO for filmmakers (as the Canon 5D Mk II originally did before it) that it’s moot: of COURSE we want more of THAT.

Then again, for filmmakers the A7s has already made a compelling case for dynamic range over pixels and even internal 4K recording, too: all else being equal, I’m just one of many who would choose to take the added cost and headache of the external recorder required for the A7s – or even shoot 1080 and forego 4K – rather than spend the bucks on what really is a wonderful camera with a lesser sensor, the Panasonic GH4.

Even if it means foregoing those magnificent Voigtländer Noktons.

There are other considerations, yes. [poll id=”3″] [bctt tweet=”Megapixels or dynamic range? Sound off!”]

How High ISO Has Revolutionized Photography – and Why Dynamic Range is Next

Via DIY Photography:

Low Light, High ISO Image Sample 1:

To start off, lets (hypothetically) say that you are going for a hike mid-afternoon to go see some caves with your family. Its a bright, sunny, summer afternoon – but even on bright days open shade shadows can be pretty dark.

Canon 5D Mk II with Canon 20mm f/2.8 lens

1/60th, f/2.8, ISO 400

Megapixels or Dynamic Range

Low Light Image Analysis:

A photo like this is at the limits of what would have been possible with cameras before the Canon 5D Mk II. I am shooting at 1/60th which is about as slow of a shutter speed that I am comfortable with hand-held, I am using a fast 2.8 prime lens, wide open and ISO 400.


Low Light, High ISO Image Sample 2:

Next we start exploring some of the caves, walking into some of the cracks and crevices at the base of the Niagara Escarpment. Here we are going from open shade to deep shade.

5D Mk II with Canon 20mm f/2.8 lens

1/60th, f/2.8, ISO 800

Megapixels or Dynamic Range

Low Light Image Analysis:

In order to get a decent exposure in the mid-ground on my subject, I had to bump the ISO up to ISO 800.

This is also a perfect example of why improved native (as opposed to faking it with HDR) dynamic range needs to be the next priority for camera manufacturers. With the exposure I chose, I am severely clipping the highlights in the bright sunny forest and clipping the shadows further in the crevice. It is a tradeoff that doesn’t exist for a human eye viewing this scene

See the rest of the samples at DIY Photography “How High ISO Has Revolutionized Photography – and Why Dynamic Range is Next”

(cover photo credit: snap from the DIY Photography)


  1. D810 and get both high MP (36) and High DR (14.75). This camera is incredible.

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