Image Resolution: File size vs. Equipment Quality
What’s the Right One?
When it comes to taking high-quality photos, professionals and hobbyists alike tend to argue about what is most important to delivering sharp images.
But what do they mean when they talk about getting the best image quality? Generally, the conversation focuses on image resolution.
What is Image Resolution?
Image resolution refers to the level of sharpness, clarity, and detail of your photo. Generally measured in pixels per inch (ppi), image resolution determines how clearly defined small objects are in your photograph by using greater or fewer numbers of small colored dots to build the image. The more pixels per inch available for use, the greater the definition of objects in the photo.
There are two primary contributing factors to producing high-resolution images: file size and equipment quality.
The file size of an image is important to note in consideration of the editing process and final presentation of the project. Most cameras have an adjustable file size, and photographers may choose to adjust this size based on what they plan to do with the image after it is taken.
In a practical example, a printed image will require a higher resolution than an image that will be presented on-screen, while an image that you want to upload to the web may be a lower resolution to save load time.
Similarly, an image that is going to be printed out in an 8”x10” format will require significantly more pixels to appear clear than a 2”x 4” image. Larger files may also be necessary if you intend to zoom into or crop or edit an image, so that material lost or altered by the process will not affect the overall quality of the picture.
You can consider the file size factor of image resolution as the software equivalent to the equipment’s hardware factor, and think of it as a flexible aspect of image resolution.
Having high-quality equipment can be an expensive and even physically demanding venture, but for photographers looking to produce professional-looking images may opt for the investment.
One piece of equipment that can make or break an image is the camera’s sensor. Larger sensors, which allow for larger light-sensitive pixels to interpret the image seen through a lens, can produce very crisp images. Because they can take in more light for each image, they may also be more useful in taking better photographs at higher ISOs in low-light situations.
Higher quality lenses can also play a part in having high-resolution photographs by improving optical zoom range and providing a clear window for light to enter your device. Lower quality lenses may be made of cheaper materials, causing blurring, discoloration or vignetting to photos.
Unfortunately, with both lenses and sensors, higher-quality equipment may cost more and be heavier than their moderate counterparts.
Some arguments have been made that lenses are the primary factor in equipment-based resolution because high-quality lenses are likely to outlast camera bodies. In any case, it is important to also match the quality of the body and lens to ensure neither sabotages the other in your picture-taking process.
When it comes to high-quality image formats and high-quality sensors and lenses, the conversation isn’t mutually exclusive. Depending on the goal of your project, your budget and your plans for the photographs, more expensive, higher quality equipment and high-resolution files may be worth the investment. For others, however, a basic camera and average resolution files may do the trick.
One option, might be to rent some of the equipment you are considering and see how you like it.
We love talking with photographers about their needs. Set up a time to speak with the photography experts at Meets The Eye Studios and be sure to ask to receive a tour of the studios.