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The Extraordinary Stupidity of the New York Times’ David Pogue

The New York Times isn’t what she once was in the 1960’s or 1970’s of course. Yet some of its writers still surprise and shock us with their ability to produce absolutely stupid and serious-sounding pronouncements about things of which they apparently are completely innocent of any knowledge.

Latest in the train of preposterous foolishness emanating from the Times is Breaking the Myth of Megapixels from David Pogue. Seems Pogue thinks he has discovered that the number of pixels in an image make no difference in image quality! Or as he pompously proclaims:

…the Megapixel Myth.

It goes like this: “The more megapixels a camera has, the better the pictures.”

It’s a big fat lie. The camera companies and camera stores all know it, but they continue to exploit our misunderstanding.

Well no David, actually the number of pixels in an image is important as it establishes an upper boundary for the image resolution. Of course an inferior quality image might be produced or saved at a high resolution, but that is essentially irrelevant. All other things being equal, a higher number of pixels is better.

Mr. Pogue seems equally at a loss to determine what other issues might affect image quality besides image resolution:

If you’re torn between two camera models, you now know that you shouldn’t use the megapixel rating as a handy one-digit comparison score.

So what replaces it? What other handy comparison grade is there?

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing.

Well of course Pogue is completely wrong again. Other factors to consider are the available lenses and their optical quality, aperture size, and characteristics of the digital device (CCD or CMOS), which records the image. We also should consider if the image is stored using a loss-less or lossy compression algorithm, and certain characteristics of the memory of the device including its speed and capacity.

Factors which should be regarded as far as the CCD or CMOS chip are:

  • Sensitivity. Usually reported analogously with ASA or ISO numbers on the old film cameras.
  • Dark Count CCD devices tend to “flip” or show a charge even when no light is present; this limits their use in low light.
  • Bit depth 32 bits per pixel holds 256 times as many color variations as 24 bits per pixel, for instance (2^32/2^24=2^8=256)
  • Cosmetic Defects These are “bad pixels” due to limits in the manufacturing process and quality control issues.

In addition, high-end processes, such as Kodak’s photo-CD format, keep other image characteristics, such as chroma and luminance, which aid in the restoration of images compressed using certain lossy formats such as YCC and some JPEG formats.

If Mr. Pogue had been a columnist for the Times back in the 1970’s, doubtless he would have “discovered” some equally stupid conclusions about conventional film photography. Perhaps he would have opined that using different film stock didn’t really matter and is a “myth” as most people can’t readily see the difference. Or that quality optics didn’t make a difference. Or using better quality chemicals or paper didn’t make a difference.

But then such rubbish wouldn’t have made it into the Times back when it really was *the* New York Times.

Hold the presses! ROFLMAO I guess I was right on in calling the New NYT the “New York Times for Dummies” (rollover the times entry in my blogroll). Evidently Mr. Pogue is in fact the author of several books for dummies including: Classical Music for Dummies, The Flat-Screen iMac for Dummies, Macs for Dummies and Magic for Dummies!

Welcome aboard the New York Times for Dummies Mr. Pogue, you should feel right at home!

David Pogue (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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12 February, 2007 - Posted by | David Pogue, dummies, journalism, media, mega-pixels, New York Times, newspapers, photography, pixels, scanlyze, stupidity, technology


  1. My, what an angry little blogger! What a way you have with name-calling!

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t make you right.

    Here’s what you say: “Well of course Pogue is completely wrong again. Other factors to consider are the available lenses and their optical quality, apeture [sic] size, and characteristics of the digital device (CCD or CMOS) which [sic] records the image.”

    Here’s what I wrote: “A camera’s lens, circuitry and sensor — not to mention your mastery of lighting, composition and the camera’s controls — are far more important factors.”

    The point I’m making, and that you’re missing, is that for the CONSUMER, there’s no SINGLE-DIGIT comparison factor, as the camera companies had made megapixels out to be.

    You really think the average layman is going to be able to compare “chroma and luminance” as he’s standing there in Best Buy?

    Either you’re unaware of my column’s target audience, or you’re just trolling.


    Comment by David Pogue | 13 February, 2007 | Reply

  2. Well I’m a bit sorry if I hurt your feelings David it was mean-spirited of me to bait you so. However, as you have risen to the occasion allow me to thank you for correcting my spelling! [sic]… tho’ in truth I had fixed the error you spotted before I saw your post :)

    And for correcting my grammar [sic] hmmmm not sure what you are on about here with the word “which”. If you are thinking it should be “that”, I beg to differ, it is a general descriptive clause not a restrictive clause. If there was another CCD involved which did something else, we would say “that” as it would then be a restrictive clause specifying which of the CCD’s we meant. Bartleby should help clear this up:

    that / which (restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses). The standard rule requires that you use that only to introduce a restrictive (or defining) relative clause, which identifies the person or thing being talked about; in this use it should never be preceded by a comma…

    By contrast, you use which only with nonrestrictive (or nondefining) clauses, which give additional information about something that has already been identified in the context…

    The American Heritage® Book of English Usage.
    A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. 1996.

    1. Grammar: Traditional Rules, Word Order, Agreement, and Case

    § 62. that

    Or was it something else concerning you there with my “which”?

    I do think that your attempt to be cute and sound smart (or vv.) ended up cringingly, embarrassingly dumb, and you have then dug into your own little creationist-like redoubt of illogic and circular reasoning. You seem to have disregarded, and discarded, the corrections you have received from the Net (450+ before you apparently deleted them all from your blog just after the article above appeared and you replied to it?).

    And as to who your target audience is, let me guess, is it, “Dummies”? Just a conjecture, of course.


    Comment by scanlyze | 13 February, 2007 | Reply

  3. Oh and a further point. Here’s the first article that comes up under a Times Select search on Walter Sullivan for pre-1981. Now that’s what I consider to be good solid coverage of science and technology. Not cutsie infotainment pseudo-science twaddle.

    Comment by scanlyze | 13 February, 2007 | Reply

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