Do You Really Pay Attention to Image Quality Anymore?

One could argue that the image quality from any camera from the past decade will always be more than good enough.

Just how much attention do you pay to the sample images from new cameras that are posted during reviews on blogs and in YouTube videos? A big part of any camera review will always be the sample images, but a recent post from a Redditor has us wondering if we have reached a point where sensors and image quality are a moot point. Let’s talk about this after the break.

A thread on Reddit entitled ‘I realized I don’t look at sample photos from new camera bodies anymore!’ grabbed our attention pretty quickly. For years, the sample image sections posted on various blogs were one of the first sections visited by those who are just generally interested to see what the output of any given camera might be like. Still, it seems like this might be changing.

Image quality

A good few years ago, while digital sensors were still in their infancy, the sample images posted from new camera bodies gave a reliable indication of just how well a camera could perform. It was an easy way to compare one camera to another, Now, this is so much harder to do; no camera released in the last 5-7 years (and possibly even longer) produces terrible images.

The original poster of the thread says outright that, to him, the person taking the photo has more of an impact on the image than anything else, and that he is done wasting his time looking at sample images. So, have we reached a point where sensors and image processors in modern cameras just aren’t as important when determining if a camera is good or not?

The Nikon Z50 has some of the best high ISO performance I have seen from any camera, and it is really apparent when you print images made with this camera.

Let’s start off by saying that any camera, regardless of the sensor in it, is only as good as the photographer using it. This has been true since the dawn of photography, and it will be true until AI takes over everything. Honestly, you can pick up any camera today and create images that will look just fine when viewed on high-resolution screens. This makes it challenging to convey differences in image quality from one camera to the next.

So yes, viewing sample images online can seem to be a waste of time these days. But printing is where subtle differences in sensor technology and image quality from individual cameras really comes into play, and it is the entire reason why we always print large images from the cameras we test and review.

Image quality

When images are printed, you can see the difference from one camera to the next. Prints allow you to really see how well sensors and the image processors they are paired with handle high ISO images, you can see the differences in color rendering, subtle details, and so much more. When you look at our reviews, don’t just look at the images: read the text as we will straight up tell you how the images produced with a camera truly look when printed.

While it might not seem like it due to how our phones, Retina, and other high-resolution displays make all online photos look, don’t be fooled into thinking there aren’t any differences in images from different cameras. Sure, no camera generates a bad image now. The days of images with wild banding, terrible colors, and crushed details are long gone, but the differences are there. As for the OP of the Reddit thread being ‘irritated by the reviewers who are super-negative about minutia,’ well, this is the level we have reached with technology. To professionals out in the field, even the smallest details matter a whole lot. What are your thoughts on the importance of image samples in new camera reviews? Let us know in the comment section below.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.