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About Digital Photography...
 

Interpolation

Specifying digital camera resolution has become a tricky, lately, because there’s optical resolution (the actual number of sensors in the array) and interpolated resolution, which uses software magic to kick an optically obtained image to a higher resolution by guessing where more pixels should be inserted. In some cases it works, in others it doesn’t. Like the Trojan Horse, interpolation in the camera is a "gift" you can do without.

But since most digicams are now multi-megapixel, interpolation becomes less of an issue; these cameras will optically deliver all the resolution you’re apt to need. Should you want more, you can always use an imaging program like Adobe Photoshop, Picture Window, or scores of others to interpolate ( or resample) a picture taken with a low resolution camera to higher resolution for printing. The program will attempt to add additional pixels so the image can be enlarged without falling apart. However, you can only spin so many pixels out of thin air before your picture turns to mush and where no further amount of digital manipulation can make it any better.

Whoever Has The Best Lens, Wins

Resolution specifications are only a part of the story. A lot goes on after the shutter button is pressed: focusing, analysis of the scene for color temperature and exposure, light passing through the lens, the actual exposure, analog conversion into digital pixels, image compression, and more. Some cameras have been designed to integrate these processes so efficiently, they actually produce better images at lower resolutions than others at higher ones.

One of the most significant factors in the quality of the final image is the lens– you know, that conglomerate of glass elements sitting in front of the sensor array. Because CCD sensors are smaller than a typical 1 x 1.5-inch 35mm film plane, lenses for digital cameras have to be made with a greater precision and must have far more resolving power (which is an optical measure of capturing fine detail) than lenses used on 35mm cameras.

So it stands to reason that companies like Olympus, Nikon, Kodak, and others who’ve gained reputations as great optical houses would have a jump on the know-how. Imagine, for a moment, the precision needed to make a Nikkor f-2.4, 38mm to 115mm zoom (35mm equivalent) aspherical glass lens containing nine (count ‘em) multi-coated elements in seven groups with macro, the diameter of which is the size of your pinkie– and where the slightest aberration, acceptable in a larger piece of glass, immediately makes it a reject, consigned to lens hell.

 

 

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