Camera Specs that may no longer Matter

With the recent improvements in software, notably from Adobe and Topaz, there are a few camera specifications that may no longer merit too much concern. Those two specifications are sensor resolution and high ISO noise. It feels strange to write that last sentence as I have been chasing the best cameras and sensors for decades now. My leap into medium format cameras, first with the Hasselblad and more recently with the stellar FUJIFILM GFX cameras, has been a major part of that quest to find the best image quality possible. This isn’t to say that a high-end capable camera is not worth it anymore, but here I would like to point out that other factors may be more important–like dynamic range, autofocus capabilities, frame rate and so on. Since I mainly use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to process my raw images there are two features in those software options that have really revolutionized what we can get away with.

First off, let’s talk about Adobe’s Super Resolution feature built both into Lightroom and Photoshop. When this feature was first announced in March 2021, I wrote a fairly detailed blog post about it which you can find here. That post goes into much more detail about how to use it and the results. The upshot is that by right clicking on any image and choosing “Super Resolution” Adobe’s software will use AI to increase the resolution the image by a factor of four. It basically doubles both the horizontal and vertical axis of the image–and it does a fantastic job. Hence, with this feature a 24 MP image becomes a 96 MP image. As shown below, this feature can radically increase the size of any image making it possible to make larger prints than otherwise would be possible with the lower resolution image file.

In the screenshot above you can see a 24 MP image blown up to a 96 MP image using Super Resolution. The 24 MP image is on the right and the 96 MP version is on the left. I have used the Compare feature in Lightroom to show both images at 100% magnification.

In 2024, there are still quite a few cameras coming out with 20 to 24 MP sensors. The 24 MP benchmark has been and continues to be a popular sensor resolution. 24 MP makes a lot of sense for most photographers as the files are easy to deal with and don’t fill up a memory card as fast as larger file sizes. Of course, these days 46 MP is also a very popular sensor resolution as well. My tests in the past with 46 MP sensors have shown me that you can easily make prints up to 40 x 60 inches. With the Super Resolution feature in Lightroom you can now go even larger with no worries.

The Super Resolution feature also works wonders with even larger image files. Take for example images produced by any of the GFX 102 MP cameras like the landscape image shown below produced with the FUJIFILM GFX100 II. This 102 MP image file becomes a 408 MP image when Super Resolution is applied. I realize a 408 MP image file seems absolutely ridiculous but if you need to print something on a 60-foot long wall or the side of a bus then this option will really help out in those rare circumstances. Also if you want to apply an extreme crop but still want to have some detail in the image Super Resolution can help in that instance as well.

As shown above, the large 102 MP GFX image files look amazing when Adobe Super Resolution is used to increase the file size. On the left is the 408 MP version of the image and on the right is the original 102 MP version of the image. I have found that higher resolution image files tend to net better results when you use Super Resolution–probably because there is more information for the software to work with when upressing the image file.

The other camera specification that really may not matter that much anymore is high ISO noise. Adobe introduced Denoise AI early last year and it is unbelievable how well it works to remove noise from images while retaining or even enhancing the detail of the image. When I first tried it out I was completely blown away at how well it worked. I also found that the default setting of 50 was way too much noise reduction for my taste. As shown below, I tend to use a setting of 25 to 35 when using this tool in Lightroom. For me, 30 to 35 seems to be the sweet spot. I don’t feel the need to remove all of the noise, just to remove enough noise so that the noise itself is not the thing you look at when viewing a print of the image.

The Denoise AI feature in Lightroom can be found in the Detail section (in the right hand column) of the Develop module. Once you click on the “Denoise AI” box then a dialog will show up as shown above and you can move the slider to select the amount of Denoise AI you want to apply to the image. The image preview on the left side of the dialog box will show you the results at 100% so you can adjust as you want.

I realize both of these features are using AI software to some degree — and there is a lot of hate out there for AI image generation — but this is a very useful application of AI software for our needs which does not create anything that isn’t already there in your image. I too am not in love with the AI image generation software and have written a few different times about how that will have a huge impact specifically on the photography industry (and already has had a massive effect). But I do applaud Adobe for adding these very useful features into Lightroom and Photoshop.

Of course, Topaz Labs has had similar software that can upres images and reduce noise using AI enhancement for quite a while now. I tested that software a few years ago before Adobe launched their versions and found it didn’t work as well as I would have liked. I am sure it is much better now than it was years ago but for my work the Adobe tools seems to work just fine. Topaz also has software that can help sharpen images that are a little on the soft side as well. While that might be useful for some, I have not found a need for it and would rather rely on good camera technique and fast shutter speeds to get crisp images.

We are in an age where the software is a huge part of the final image result. This has been the case with Apple iPhone images for quite some time now. But for those of use using larger cameras and sensors, it is wonderful to see these options come to Lightroom and Photoshop. Regardless of how well these features work, this isn’t to say that high resolution cameras are not important. As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” We still need to use care and good camera technique to craft our images. But, this also means that if I choose to take my lighter 24 MP camera on a trip I don’t have to worry that it might not be enough resolution for making larger prints or whatever the client may need.

I am still a total geek about getting the best image quality possible in any and all circumstances. That is why I still use the FUJIFILM GFX system as my main cameras–all three of the 102 MP cameras. They have incredible image quality (that few other cameras can match) and they also have remarkably low noise at higher ISO settings. Super Resolution and Denoise AI help us take our images further than ever before–and that is something that a lot of photographers will rely on in the future regardless of their camera’s specifications.

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