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24 January 2011 How many pixels does it take to make a good 4"×6" print? Pixel count wars revisited
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Proceedings Volume 7876, Digital Photography VII; 78760F (2011)
Event: IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging, 2011, San Francisco Airport, California, United States
In the early 1980's the future of conventional silver-halide photographic systems was of great concern due to the potential introduction of electronic imaging systems then typified by the Sony Mavica analog electronic camera. The focus was on the quality of film-based systems as expressed in the number of equivalent number pixels and bits-per-pixel, and how many pixels would be required to create an equivalent quality image from a digital camera. It was found that 35-mm frames, for ISO 100 color negative film, contained equivalent pixels of 12 microns for a total of 18 million pixels per frame (6 million pixels per layer) with about 6 bits of information per pixel; the introduction of new emulsion technology, tabular AgX grains, increased the value to 8 bit per pixel. Higher ISO speed films had larger equivalent pixels, fewer pixels per frame, but retained the 8 bits per pixel. Further work found that a high quality 3.5" x 5.25" print could be obtained from a three layer system containing 1300 x 1950 pixels per layer or about 7.6 million pixels in all. In short, it became clear that when a digital camera contained about 6 million pixels (in a single layer using a color filter array and appropriate image processing) that digital systems would challenge and replace conventional film-based system for the consumer market. By 2005 this became the reality. Since 2005 there has been a "pixel war" raging amongst digital camera makers. The question arises about just how many pixels are required and are all pixels equal? This paper will provide a practical look at how many pixels are needed for a good print based on the form factor of the sensor (sensor size) and the effective optical modulation transfer function (optical spread function) of the camera lens. Is it better to have 16 million, 5.7-micron pixels or 6 million 7.8-micron pixels? How does intrinsic (no electronic boost) ISO speed and exposure latitude vary with pixel size? A systematic review of these issues will be provided within the context of image quality and ISO speed models developed over the last 15 years.
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Michael A. Kriss "How many pixels does it take to make a good 4"×6" print? Pixel count wars revisited", Proc. SPIE 7876, Digital Photography VII, 78760F (24 January 2011);

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