I'm thinking of upgrading to a D800 and I think I read something about the 36MP resolution of the sensor to be a liability when hand-holding the camera at lower shutter speeds. Unfortunately I cannot remember where I read this.

At present, I have a D7000 that's 16MP. Given the same settings at a lower shutter speed, is it physically harder to prevent camera shake from shooting hand-held when using the D800 as compared to the D7000?


Not at all, and I have both.

HOWEVER - You are also working with a much larger sensor, in theory, given the same (ish) field of view, IE a 50mm on the D7000 and an 80mm on the D800, the affect of an identical movement would create a more noticeable blur on the image, when viewed at pixel level.

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    I'm not sure but to me it seems that you swapped focal lengths: it's 80 mm on full frame and 50 on crop, isn't it? – clabacchio Feb 24 '14 at 23:35
  • @clabacchio he did indeed - plus, being a Nikon it is more around 75mm on full frame and 50mm on a crop. (Nikon s 1.5 crop, Canon is 1.6) – DetlevCM Feb 25 '14 at 7:15
  • @clabacchio - yes you are right, sorry I was suffering with flu yesterday, my head felt like it was on backwards :-) – Digital Lightcraft Feb 25 '14 at 7:46

No, a higher resolution sensor does not increase the difficulty of handheld shooting.

It does mean that is is more difficult to realize the full potential of the higher resolution sensor, but that doesn't mean the results are worse than they would be with a lower resolution sensor.


Short answer: No.

Since D7000 is APS-C, it has a sensor size of 1/2 the area of D800, which is full frame. A full frame sensor with the same pixel density (not pixel size, but pixel-to-pixel distance) as D7000 in full frame would equal 32 megapixels. Since D800 is 36 megapixels, it will be marginally more difficult to get "all pixels perfect" with the same lens and focal length.

However, given the same magnification of the final image, there will be no difference. This only makes sense when pixel peeping at the ultimate pixel level -- if that even makes sense at all.

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    The area ratio is not 2 but 1.5^2 = 2.25 and these two particular sensors have identical pixel pitch. That aside, doing any kind of comparison like this doesn't make sense unless you also talk about what focal length lenses are used on both. If the field of view is the same for both, then the higher resolution sensor will be able to detect smaller motion blur. If the focal lengths are the same for both (and thus the field of you will differ if the sensor sizes are also different) then the smaller pixel pitch sensor will be able to detect motion blur more easily. – Szabolcs Feb 24 '14 at 22:01
  • Thank you for the correction. Yes, I meant to discuss the pixel pitch and compare with the same focal length. I totally agree about your point regarding field of view versus resolution, too. – eivamu Feb 25 '14 at 8:19
  • Actually, come to think about it, your math is not correct. Where does 1.5^2 come from? The 1.5 factor comes from the diagonal distance from corner to corner, which is what determines field of view related to focal length. Nikon APS-C is ~370mm^2, whereas FF is 864mm^2 which makes the area 2.34 times larger. So, 16MP for APS-C equals 37.4MP at FF. Hence D800 must have a lower pixel density than D7000 since it is only 36MP. – eivamu Feb 25 '14 at 13:49
  • Angular blur caused by camera movement is a function of linear measurement, not area measurement. Given the same field of view the sensor with more total pixels measured along the axis of the movement will demonstrated more blur at the pixel peeping level. – Michael C Feb 26 '14 at 4:08
  • Yes. I don't see how this contradicts what I've written :) – eivamu Feb 26 '14 at 17:47

tr;dr 1. The lens focal length matters more in practice. 2. There won't be more blur detectable when looking at a full-screen image, but since the D800 can resolve finer detail, it can also resolve smaller motion blur (if you're pixel peeping).

If you are talking about the difficulty of having no motion blur visible at the pixel level (not full image), then yes, it is more difficult. But how much more difficult? The D800 have 1.5 times more pixels horizontally in the image than the D7000. This means that with the D7000 you can get away with a 1.5 bigger turn of the camera during the exposure before the shake will become detectable.

But how much does the camera need to turn during shaking to have a motion blur of more than 1 pixel? That depends on the focal length of the lens, of course. Longer lenses are more difficult to shoot with hand-held because they magnify angular motion more.

So to put the difference between these cameras into a different perspective, to have all pixels sharp, the slowest usable shutter speed with an 50 mm equivalent lens on the D800 would be the same as the slowest usable shutter speed with a 75 mm equivalent lens on a D7000.

That said, as others noted: the reason why the D800 can reveal motion blur more easily is because it can resolve finer detail. I.e. you can zoom in more, until you see that tiny motion blur. If you look at the complete image, there won't be any more motion blur visible from the D800. In other words, in practice this is a non-issue.


Will it make it more difficult? No.

However, the higher resolution will mean you will capture more pixel level motion - i.e. a higher resolution sensor is more likely to retain minor movement at the pixel level, BUT this is not visible when you compare equally sized images from a higher and resolution sensor (unless you print/show images so large that individual pixels are visible).

Also, some higher resolution sensors come with a stronger anti aliasing filter which will lead to slightly more blurry images at the pixel level. (E.g. Canon 7D and 5D MK II) BUT in the end, technique is what matters most.

For all practical intents and purposes, what you should look at is overall sensor performance - and unless you have a lot more noise/significantly lower dynamic range, a higher resolution is generally recommended especially if your photography benefits from recording great detail.


As others have answered, no. A higher resolution does not impede on the ability to shoot handheld.

What you may have read, is that the D800 handles high ISO better than the D7000. Generally, larger sensors handle high ISO ranges better. I'm not quite sure of the technicalities as to why this is, but my personal opinion is because manufactures will invest more into higher end products. Again, generally, "full frame" is considered higher end.

Shooting at high ISO means you can use faster shutter speeds, thus less room for error in handheld shots.

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    For the same f-stop a larger sensor captures more light in total and thus offers better performance at high ISO. – Matt Grum Feb 24 '14 at 12:51

I'm going to go against the flow here and say, yes, a larger sensor does make hand-holding more difficult. I shoot with a D800 now; previously a D300. The D800's 36 MP capture a lot more information than the D300's 12 MP, of course. Simply, take a photo with a tripod or high shutter speed, then compare it to a shot made with a barely-hand-holdable shutter speed. Using barely-hand-holdable shutters speeds with the D300 always gave me acceptable results (more hits than misses, and adequately sharp to make me happy), however that' snot the case with the D800. Shooting at those marginal speeds is more likely to yield a result that just doesn't impress when I review photos in Lightroom. It's just not as sharp as I could get it with the D300 at the same speeds.

Of course, when I downsample on export to a smaller size the result looks great, and matches the D300's sharpness. But, the fact that I need to downsample to hide the difference means that larger prints will likely show off the imperfection more easily.

It's also worth noting that my experience is with the D300 and yours the D7000. I haven't used a D7000 for any length of time, but I feel like somewhere between the D300 and D7000 is where the greater pixel density requires better technique.

Edit: in other words, I believe I see the "however" scenarios that Darkcat Studios and DetlevCM describe, when viewing the image at actual size.

  • Thanks for the alternative point-of-view! I guess I'll just have to adjust my technique by upping ISO instead of shooting at lower shutter speeds like I'm used to on my D7000. – Jensen Ching Feb 25 '14 at 1:47

Simply no, if you are viewing or printing the image at the same size, a higher resolution does not affect the difficulty in shooting handheld. The only reason a higher resolution image seems to negatively affect shooting handheld is when you view both image at 100%. Each pixel in a higher resolution image represents a smaller angle, and obviously at 100%, it would appear that it is more blurry.

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