Why Megapixels and Pixel Peeping may soon be important
If there are two longly held axioms in the photography community, at least on the internet, it's that Megapixels don't matter, and Pixel Peeping is something to be frowned upon. I personally disagree with these two ideals to an extent, but in the near future, those who are absolute in their condemnation of of pixel peeping or the merits of more megapixels are going to have to re-think their objections. Soon there will be a very real reason why megapixels matter, and soon, we're all going to be pixel peeping.
Why? Because 5K displays may be about to go mainstream.
If the rumours are to be believed, Apple are soon going to launch retina enabled iMacs. The current speculation is that these new computers will feature a 5K HiDPI display. Even if you don't believe this specific rumour, it's only a matter of time, as Dell recently launched a 5K display, and others are following suit. If Apple does indeed launch a 5k equipped retina iMac, then this will make HiDPI displays common place on computers and 5k will eventually be the new norm on the desktop. (Well, for the upper end of the market initially anyway)
What has this got to do with megapixels and pixel peeping, I hear you ask? On a 5k display, a 12 megapixel image is not big enough to fill the display. 12 megapixel cameras are still common, and still being sold by some manufacturers, so while this has been "enough" resolution up till now, it's not going to be in the future, if you want to view an image full screen on one of these displays. 16 megapixel cameras are far more common, but images from these too will only be bigger vertically, and even with a 16mp image, the picture won't fill the width of a 5K display.
To show you want I mean, here are various common sensor sizes compared to the resolution of a 5K display (which is the lighter blue outlined in yellow).
The upshot of this is that for a lot of images, just viewing them full screen will be technically "pixel peeping". Now, I know different people have different interpretations of the term pixel peeping, and if you can't see the actual pixels, is it really pixel peeping anyway? On a HiDPI display the pixels per inch will be much higher, so you won't really be seeing the pixels, but it will still make a big impact. I've been using the retina equipped MacBook pro for over a year, and displaying images on it is a much different experience than on a standard monitor, and not always the way you would expect.
While, for the most part images look great, I have found that sometimes, the extra resolution tends to make image artefacts more visible. While one could argue that the higher ppi mans that images will be more like print, but you tend to sit closer to a computer screen than you ever would look at a print on a wall, so you'll see things in a lot more detail. I'm sure that if these new iMacs are launched you'll see a lot of discussion about the merits of the displays and the effects on photography, but those who complain about "pixel peeping" might need to come up with something else to worry about.
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