16 Megapixel - how bad will it be?

Well I am glad to report that after looking at several pictures made with  the Sony 16MP BSI sensor from Sony cameras using the Sony G lens (HX9V, HX7V, WX7 another WX7 and a WX5) that my initial fears for bad image quality have been put to rest. Sony actually did pull a rabbit out of the hat with a very advanced selective smoothing, selective sharpening and some other tricks where the Boinz processor really has to earn his keep.
It is not perfect but since Sony the Tiger loves the megapixel race and there are no alternatives in this sector I think we have to live with it.
Sony I apologize for calling the 16MP sensor loony and look forward to the next HXxx  megazoom with 20MP or more on a 1/2.3" sensor.


lesnumeriques.com did a test with the 10MP Sony HX5 and the 16MP HX7. They resized identical images from both cameras to A4 size and let the readers choose without telling what picture was shot which what camera.
"When we watched the images from the HX7V, we were divided. Some seemed a bit better than the HX5V, others a little worse. At that point we initiated a survey , opposing each other to print size equal to ask our readers what they thought ... and they much preferred the new!"
So was my first reaction also, but on the third closer look there is massive loss in detail in the darker areas where the noise reduction smooth things over.

Take a closer look at the fan and the mounting screws.
It seems you win in some areas and you loose in some others.

January 2011
Since there are no pictures I could find shot with the new 16 MP sensor (not counting pre-production models), I will do the next best thing. Look at the 14 MP cameras from yesteryear.
I will download a few pictures, post the link of the 14mp picture for you and make a lossless 1:1 crop of a 640x640 pixel area.

Then I take you on a trip through time and we go back more than 10 years, from the Nikon e950 (0.8MP),  Panasonic PV-SD4090 (1.3 MP), Canon A60 (2MP), Minolta DiMAGE Z1 (3MP), Casio EX-Z4 (4MP), Canon S2IS (5MP), Sony H1 (5MP), Ricoh R6 (7MP), Sony HX5 (10MP) and compare it to the APS-C sensor NEX-3 (14MP).
All photos are 100% lossless crops of the original, so you can pixel peep your heart out.
(the new Sony Exmor R 16MP cell phone sensor 1/2.8" 0.36" diagonal. So with 1/2.3"  0.43" diagonal the normal p&s sensor is just 20% larger than this cell phone sensor)

Canon SX210


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening and the fringing is bearable. 


Canon PowerShot SX30


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 / FZ40


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening


Sony H55


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99


let´s reduce both sides 50%, autoadjust color and add some sharpening

So if you adjust your perspective about the megapixels and spend a few seconds postprocessing the pictures you like you will have some pretty fine memories to keep.
And as mentioned before I think of the Sony HX9V as a 4 MP camera since that is pretty much the max pixel count a 1/2.3" sensor should have.
I used Faststone for all my postprocessing. See my HX5 blog for more info.

NEX-3 (14MP APS-C sensor)

 autoadjust color and add some sharpening

Now let´s go back in Megapixels

HX5 (10MP)
shot with 5MP setting
 autoadjust color and add some sharpening

shot with 10MP setting
 original size crop, autoadjust color and add some sharpening
you find a link to the original size at my HX5 blog here.
not all photos benefit from sharpening, I like the soft look form the original better.

Ricoh R6 (7MP)
my in between the Canon A60 and the HX5

original size crop autoadjust color and add some sharpening

How about we take a look what a crop from a 5mp camera from the olden days would look?
I had briefly the Sony H1 and still have the Canon S2IS

Sony H1 (5MP)

 autoadjust color and add some sharpening

Canon S2IS (5MP)

  autoadjust color and add some sharpening

Canon S2IS ISO 400
autoadjust color and add some sharpening
you see automatic does not work in all situations

Casio EX-Z4 (4MP)

autoadjust color and add some sharpening 

Minolta DiMAGE Z1 (3MP)

autoadjust color and add some sharpening 

Canon A60 (2MP)

autoadjust color and add some sharpening
The Canon A60 was my favorite pocket camera from 2002 to 2007 when the Sony sensor died.
Here is one sample why I enjoyed her performance so much. I had less than 5 seconds from getting the 3 mm little grasshopper on my index finger, press macro twice and shoot.
(It is a bloody shame what Canon did to the once awesome A series)

autoadjust color and add some sharpening

How about the Panasonic PV-SD4090?
While Sony still put 3.5" 1.44 Mb floppies in their Mavicas, Panasonic added a 120 Mb floppy.

Panasonic PV-SD4090 (1.3 MP)

autoadjust color and add some sharpening

 I remember taking a picture from my new born nephew with the 1.3 MP Panasonic, we did a A3 size print on t-shirts and they looked gorgeous.

Nikon e950 (0.8MP) 
I payed over $400 for a badly refurbished Nikon. That experience messed up the Nikon brand for me for a long time.

autoadjust color and add some sharpening

I hope you enjoyed the trip though 10 years image sensor density changes.
If you understand the benefit of blending 4 pixels into one for normal viewing on the screens the 16 MP into 4 MP is not so bad at all with all the new features we get with it.
You will also notice that most pictures no matter from what camera and sensor benefit from some simple post processing.

If you think that is too time consuming, just batch process all your pictures and select then what you like better.

As a former SLR user (my first and only SLR camera some 30 years ago pictured above) I sure appreciate having everything I need in my pocket and not on my back.

And there is nothing better to bring the old memories alive than seeing them on a 300" HD projector screen in life size.

So in the end you only have those memories when you can capture them and the most are spur of the moment. As much as I want an APS-C camera she will be always only for the planned pictures and not the spontaneous ones.

Here some opinions from others I found:
When I'm dealing with my DSLR, I look for good lenses, I crop a ton, I take serious photos, artistic photos, I publish, and I sell - therefore I have a strong desire to have pixel-level sharpness, detail, and cleanliness. THOSE shots I blow up to 200%, I post process, I run NR, I sharpen...and the use for them varies, often large prints or meeting publication standards. All of what you say is true, when it comes to that camera.

However, when I look for a P&S camera, I am looking for a spontaneous, fun, casual, capture-the-moment or share a laugh, maybe capture the spirit of unplanned photography. I wouldn't want RAW processing...the moment I find myself huddled over a 200% blowup of an ultracompact P&S snapshot, judging individual pixels and tuning RAW files, I've completely lost the entire point of that type of photography - might as well have brought the DSLR and a good lens, and captured something worth spending that time over. It's a matter of knowing what you want or need, then getting the tool that can do the job. I'm by no means supporting or enabling - I don't even know if these new cameras will be worth $1...I'll judge the images when I see them, comparing them to my existing P&S cameras to see if they are the same or better at the sizes I will be displaying them. Simple as that...if they aren't as good, sayonara to the 16mp sensor.

But not everyone needs to defend, justify, enable, or otherwise make excuses for the megapixel race - some of us agree it's silly and unnecessary and would be just as happy with a nice new 5MP camera with high quality - but if 16MP is what they're making, and in the end the images are still good for what you intend to use them for, then you can still purchase one of these cameras and be happy. If you need massive cropping, professional sales, publication, or large prints, then if the results can't meet those needs, don't buy one. Better yet, don't be looking at small sensor P&S cameras at all in the first place, whether they have 5 or 50MP, because you're in the wrong class of camera!


  1. cant wait to see first reviews!

    Interesting.... how HX9 differs from HX5 in terms of physical size and weight? Because HX5 is quite compact camera.

  2. should be the same size just a few mm thicker

  3. Wow, so convincing. Thanks for the in-depth illustration. It reminds me one good old gun. The Olympus c5050. This 5M sensor with good lens still able to beat most advance compact cameras in 2011. The post processing inside the camera already done all the best. Try to do some auto color and sharpening on those photos, surprising there are no effect at all, because the in-camera post proceeding already done it all.


If you want to talk to me, use the comments box at the end of the post. No need to register or log in. If possible choose a name for easy answering.