Big lenses and resolution

November 05, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

I read about this place in Washington where Eagles fish. When the tide goes out, oysters are exposed that traps fish. The fish lures the Eagles. So off I went to photograph this spectacle. There was just one problem (actually two, the second being that the light was a bit harsh). The action was happening a bit far from me. I could not get closer as I did not fancy wading into the water with my gear. What are we to do when the subject is too far for decent images? We can always magnify the subject with a longer lens. I shoot birds with the Sony 200-600mm lens (which I love). Yet, even at 600mm the Eagles were a bit small in the frame. This is where resolution can help.

With the 60mp sensor of my Sony A7R IV I can crop into the image and still have enough resolution left for a decent sized print. There are many photographers that are against the mega pixel race. They claim that there is no need for so much resolution other than cropping. I disagree! The issue is not just about the ability to crop but rather also about the ability to frame. Let's say, for argument's sake, that the Eagles were closer to me and that I could fill the frame with the bird. These birds move fast. They move erratically. Furthermore, to precisely follow this unpredictable action with a long lens is rather difficult. The smallest movement of the camera and lens nicks a bird's wing. So even if I could fill the frame with the bird, I would still prefer to zoom a bit out and leave the bird a tad bit smaller in the frame. This prevents the bird from getting cut off of the frame. This helps me to create a perfect composition by framing in post using my resolution. This is one of the major reasons why I do not shoot with the OM-1. Its ProCapture feature is so fantastic that this camera has tempted me. But with only 20mp the photographer is left with no room to shoot action a bit smaller in the frame and to compose later in post using resolution. Do so will leave you with a file too small for larger prints.

          So while I agree that a 20mp file can be printed largely, especially with today's up-sizing software, the issue is that if you start with an image captured at 20mp and you framed loser to compose later you are left with perhaps only a 10mp file. I would not mind (at the very least I could stomach it) a final image of 20mp but you don't end up with that if your start with a 20mp file. Now you may be temped to say, "just compose right in camera." And I answer, "have you ever tried to follow an erratic fast moving subject with a 600mm lens?"

Call me crazy if you like but I will take more mega pixels any day of the week. And no, it is not just about print size, it is about keeping erratic fast moving subjects in frame by shooting a bit zoomed out to frame and compose later in post. Give me longer lenses (yes, small birds always seem to far) and more mega pixels for bird photography and I am happy. Oh, and by the way, I am no fan of the Canon F/22 (exaggerating to make the point) long lenses. Good light happens at sunrise and sunset when you have less light. Small apertures and little light does not work for action photography, period. Besides, you cannot blur the background well using small apertures unless the subject is really close to you and the background is far away. But in reality, this situation represents the vast minority of situations that bird photographers face. There is just no substitute for good long lenses and higher mega pixel files when shooting erratic fast moving small subjects.


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