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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pixel Peeping

Many years ago, I was in the home audio/video business. I enjoyed it as I got exposed to some amazing home audio equipment (Some of which I own), cool music and some interesting customers. Some of those customers were interesting in very strange and occasionally annoying ways. The best example was the person known back then as a "Tweak" (Long before the term was used to describe meth-heads). The Tweak was the person who walked into an audio equipment store to check out equipment while never, ever actually enjoying music. They were listening to the electronics.

What does that mean? Your average Tweak would have the specifications of each component and would judge them not on their sound quality but those numbers on the printed page. Yes, Total harmonic Distortion, signal to noise ratio and many others. They swore they could hear a difference when on paper the difference was a fraction of one percent. Some of these people were deluded enough to think that using an opaque green paint marker on the transparent parts of CDs' actually made them sound better. Of course when asked how binary code was affected (Being one of the greatest examples of not having the slightest "gray area") they were hard pressed into explaining and their responses usually ranged from getting as twitchy as a cult member in a deprogramming session to planting their feet and irrationally insisting that they heard a difference.

In photography, we call them "Pixel Peepers"- I'll use PP to keep things short, sweet and a little funny (At least I think it is). What PPs' generally look at first and foremost, are the amount of pixels on an imaging sensor. It usually doesnt occur to them about the physical size of the sensor, nor does the imaging device's actual ability to provide a quality image, or even their own ability to take a picture. Lets also not forget dynamic range. Thats another good one.

My favorite PP is the one who brags about how they can tell an image has been manipulated (Probably based on their own lack of skill), and/or the difference between film and digital. IF I have nothing better to do, I'll show them a range of images I've taken as far back as the mid-1980s (Pentax 645 Medium format film camera), Early 1990's (Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 Large format film camera made between 1956 and 1973) and from all the digital cameras I've owned over the years, starting with a 2 megapixel Kodak DC 290 back in 2001-2002 and all the way up to whatever my current camera was/is at the time.

All it's ever taken to put doubt in their minds was after they tried to tell me which was which- I'd ask one simple thing. For them to explain what it was/is about the image that made them think so. My favorite was: "It has to be- Just LOOK at it!". That particular PP was completely incapable of explaining their reasoning but they were just that sure. To this day, not a single person has been able to explain, or even properly guess. Even better was the image I shot in 1986 with a Pentax 645. Its usually the first one guessed as digital in origin. Another one- An image I shot of a guy sleeping on a bench at the CTA Blue Line California station with a Leica D-Lux 4 is almost always guessed as film.

To sum it up- Check it all out for yourself and remember that its all about the image, not the numbers.

1 comment:

  1. Dogru Soze Ne Hacet!
    That's inTurkish, meaning "what can I say if what you say is so right"
    could not agree more with you.