How Many Megapixels Are Enough?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I’m recovering from oral surgery today, so I thought I would dig up a post from my ‘Saving the World, One Pixel @ a Time’ blog and run it because even though I wrote it, it always brings a smile to my face.

I was sitting in Brady’s Bar having a tall cool one after a long, hot day slaving away in the digital darkroom, when Patrick walks through the swinging doors looking like he just lost his last cigarette, but he hadn’t. He dropped his lanky frame onto the stool near me, stuck a Lucky Strike between his teeth, lit it with his Zippo and inhaled:

“Did you see the announcement about the 120 megapixel Canon chip?”
“Yup,” says I. Mom always said I was loquacious
“I’m sick of this megapixel race; how much is enough?”
“Gee I dunno, Patrick. It’s like Ferraris. You can’t legally drive’em at their top speed but they keep makin’em anyway.”
“But I just bought an 18MP camera and found out it’s already obsolete.”
“You can still use it to take pictures, can’t you,” I inquire cagily.
“Yeah, but how many pixels are enough; when are they gonna stop?”

panasonicmount It was time to get on my soapbox and tell Patrick one of Farace’s Immutable Laws of the Imaging Universe. So I stroll over to the jukebox, drop in a quarter and play, B10. To the sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” I explain it to him this way…

“Ya see, Patrick,” I begin, “back in the day, some people thought that 35mm doesn’t give’em enough quality so they want to use bigger pieces of film, even measured’em in centimeters. Other folks, come along and think this centimeter-sized film isn’t good enough either so they decide to use sheets of film as big as four by five inches, then some guys decide they wanna top that and use eight by ten pieces of film.”

While trying to digest all this, he motions to the bartender to bring him another O’Doul’s and chugs it down in a single gulp, and looks at me for more, so I gives it to him.

“Then, Patrick. Some genius is gonna figure out that film ain’t flat enough so he’ll use pieces of glass but they gotta be bigger that eight by ten, maybe eleven by fourteen inches!”

He crumbles up his pack of Luckies, tosses it into an old Gayety Show Bar ashtray and asks, “What’s the point of this story anyway.” So I tells him “it’s simple, some people are never satisfied.”