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Pixels and Perception

Sharpness has become a mainstream aesthetic. It's not unusual to hear rhetorics such as "it's between a sharp image and a missed opportunity."

But what do we really mean by sharp?

  1. There is sharpness at the focal point, which requires understanding of the mechanisms of photography. Eg. the exposure triangle (or tricycle, as some refer to it)[1]
  2. There is sharpness by display. Eg. retina display.
  3. Then there is sharpness by perception.

Below is an investigation on #2 and the relationship between #2 and #3, focused on digital production and dissemination.

I am writing it out because I sense a data inflation among all the screens that surround us, and I'd like to do some calculations to prove my hypothesis:

Is there too much fictional sharpness around us?

Javi gave a lecture on resolution, glitch and the Poor Image on 12/11. See http://pzwiki.wdka.nl/mediadesign/Calendars:Networked_Media_Calendar/Networked_Media_Calendar/12-11-2018_-Event_4)

Image as Data

In the broadest strokes and from my current understanding, three things affect digital sharpness:

  1. the photosensor determines the capacity of maximum data input
  2. the image quality (a setting on the camera) regulates the actual data stored
  3. the display/physical medium that outputs the image (to be perceived by a human)

The human eyes receive the output. That's the beginning of seeing/perceiving.

A digital Input to a digital Output interests me the most because of its potential to show how the sharpness we think we are seeing might be something quite simple. We might be able to rethink about sharpness and the tools we use to produce it.


This actual size of the 5D Mark III sensor is 36mm x 24 mm.

surface area 864 mm²
photosites (pixels) 22,300,000
pixel pitch 6.22 µm
photosite (pixel) area = pixel pitch² 38.69 µm²
pixel density[2] 2.58 MP/cm²

Pixel pitch tells you the distance from the center of one photosite(pixel) to the center of the next. The larger the photosite, the more light it can capture and the more information can be recorded. Pixel density tells you how many million pixels fit or would fit in one square cm of the sensor.[3]


If a movie is shot with 4k resolution and only projected at 2k (which, according to Barend, is still the standard in NL), then why do we need all the pixels?

The Resolution of the Eyes

--> 5:21 <--

576 megapixels (A megapixel is made up of one million individual pixels) not considering other factors such as fovea

Not only do we not visually revolve the world like in a camera, we also don't narratively resolve the conflict and drama in our life like in the movie scripts.

What Are Screens doing to Us