The Buyers guide to...Which cameras have Pixel Shift?

We round up all the cameras that offer pixel shift technology for creating ultra high-resolution images that are bigger than what the camera's sensor can normally capture

How to shoot High Resolution Images with the Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R
Buyers Guide

Over the last several years some camera manufacturers have introduced new shooting modes that enable photographers to create ultra high-resolution images larger than their sensors can normally capture. Generally referred to as ‘pixel shift’ or high resolution modes, this new shooting option has proved incredibly popular with consumers.

In this buyer’s guide we’ll round up which cameras have pixel shift technology and list all the different names it is called by various manufacturers.

What is pixel shift technology?

Pixel shift technology enables a camera to create images at a much higher resolution than its sensor would normally be able to produce. Pixel shift is essentially a compositing mode.

On cameras that have pixel shift, the sensor is physically shifted by a fraction of a pixel during a series of shots, and the data from these is then combined.

After the image sequence has been captured, the cameras merge the shots into a single raw file. Each pixel of your resulting image then has more data, and thus your photo is of a higher resolution than your camera’s native sensor. The file is bigger and has more detail than a standard image.

Like other similar compositing modes, pixel shift modes perform best with static subjects. What’s more, it’s important that the camera does not move. Therefore, pixel shift is typically unsuitable for landscapes with moving foliage unless the shutter speed can be set long enough to blur the movement consistently in each of the four exposures.

If the shutter speed freezes the movement there may be multiple versions of the foliage in the final image.

So which cameras have pixel shift?

Different camera manufacturers have their own name for pixel shift technology. Olympus debuted pixel shift technology with its OM-D line and calls it High Res Shot mode.

For Panasonic users, you’ll find it in your menu as High Resolution Mode. Sony users have Pixel Shift Multi-Shooting Mode.

To make this guide easier to digest, we’ll break down which cameras have pixel shift by brand.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Review

Price when reviewed

£1099.99

$1199.99
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Website: Olympus

For

  • Images full of detail
  • Low noise at higher ISOs
  • Superb stabilisation

Against

  • Image quality can't quite match full-frame
  • Dynamic range could be better
  • Camera type: Mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: 20.4Mp Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Processing engine: TruePic VIII
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 64-25,600
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with 121 (all cross-type) phase-detection AF points
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: Mechanical shutter: 10fps with focus and exposure fixed at the start of the burst, 6fps with C-AF, Electronic Shutter 30fps and 10fps
  • Max video resolution: C4K 24p at up to 237Mbps / 4K 30p, 25p, 24p at 102Mbps
  • Live Bulb Shooting Options: Live Composite, Live Time, Live Bulb, Focus Bracketing, Focus Stacking, 50Mp High Res Shot modes
  • Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: Vari‑angle 3.0-inch 1,037,000-dot touchscreen
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 125.3 x 85.2 x 9.7mm
  • Weight: 414g including battery and memory card, 366g body only

Technically the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III sits below the OM-D E-M1 Mark II in Olympus’s interchangeable lens camera line-up but it has an updated processor that gives its smaller body a slight edge for speed and AF performance. It also produces nice images and the stabilisation system is incredible, enabling you to hand-hold the camera and get sharp images with exposures measured in whole seconds. In addition, it does a good job with video; although if you’re really serious about shooting moving images you might want to look at the Panasonic Lumix G90 which has a true Log mode.

Olympus has given the E-M5 Mark III the same 20.4Mp Live MOS sensor as the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. The processor is also listed as the same TruePic VIII engine, but Olympus tells us it’s been updated for a bit more oomph.

Like the OM-D E-M1 II, the OM-D E-M5 III has a 121-point (all cross-type) phase-detection autofocus (AF) system. There are also clever shooting options such as Live Composite, Live Time, Live Bulb, Focus Bracketing, Focus Stacking and a 50Mp High Res Shot mode.

As with its predecessor, the OM-D E-M5 II, the High-Res Shot mode is a tripod-only option. When this mode is activated, the E-M5 III shifts the imaging sensor by 0.5-pixel movements between 8 shots. These are then merged into one image that’s equivalent to 50Mp.

Olympus has upgraded the video capability of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III in comparison with the Mark II model. The new camera is capable of shooting C4K 24p video at up to 237Mbps or 4K 30p, 25p, 24p video at 30p 102Mbps.

What’s more, Full-HD video can be shot at up to 120p for slow-motion playback.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X

Olympus OM-D E-M1X review

Price when reviewed

£2199

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For

  • One of the fastest cameras you can buy
  • Pro Capture Mode offers lots of flexibility
  • High Res Shot mode is very impressive

Against

  • It's very heavy for a Micro Four Thirds camera
  • Four Thirds sensor
  • Need more smaller, lighter, more affordable long telephoto lenses
  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: 20.4Mp Four Thirds Type (17.3 x 13.0mm) CMOS
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 64-25,600
  • Processing engine: 2x TruePic VIII
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with 121 cross-type points (800 in magnified view)
  • Max continuous shooting rate: 18fps with AF tracking, 60fps with AF locked on first frame with electronic shutter
  • Pro Capture High Mode: 60fps
  • Pro Capture Low Mode: 18fps
  • Burst Mode in S-AF: 15fps for 143 raw files
  • Burst Mode in C-AF: 10fps for 283 raw files
  • Max video resolution: 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p
  • Viewfinder: Electronic with 2,360,000 dots
  • Screen: Touch-sensitive vari-angle 3-inch LCD with 1,037,000 dots
  • Storage: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 144.4 x 146.8 x 75.4mm
  • Weight: 849g (body only), 997g (including 2 batteries and memory cards)

The OM-D E-M1X uses Olympus’s Pro Capture mode for shooting stills of very fast action. Thanks to the dual processors, there’s no blackout in the viewfinder when this is in action.

In Pro Capture High mode, the shooting rate is 60fps, but the focusing is fixed at the start of the sequence. Switch to Pro Capture Low, and you can shoot at 18fps with continuous focusing.

Pro Capture mode is designed to help you record fleeting moments that are easily missed. To that end, when it’s activated the camera starts writing images to the buffer as soon as the shutter release is half-pressed. Once the shutter button is pressed fully, the 35 images that were buffered immediately before it was pressed are recorded along with 100 from immediately after.

There’s also a standard sequential shooting mode that uses the mechanical shutter. When this is in action, the maximum shooting rate in single AF mode is 15fps for 143 raw files. In continuous autofocus mode, the maximum is 10fps for 283 raw files.

A High Res Shot mode also delivers larger and more detailed images. The 50Mp Handheld mode captures the images quickly but then takes a little longer to render the final shot than the Tripod mode. Comparing the results with standard images reveals a nice jump in the level of detail.

Similarly, the 80Mp tripod mode delivers impressive results. It gives a significant boost to the size of print that you can make. That compositing also has a beneficial effect on the dynamic range as there’s more detail visible (and extractable) from the shadows.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Price when reviewed

£1499

$1299
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Website: Olympus

For

  • Fast and accurate focusing with moving subjects
  • Superb stabilisation system
  • Innovative features

Against

  • High price
  • Comparatively small sensor limits scope to restrict depth of field
  • High Res Shot mode a tripod only mode
  • Camera type: Mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: Four Thirds-type 20.4Mp Live MOS
  • Processing engine: TruePic VIII
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with 121 all cross-type focusing points
  • Max continuous shooting rate: 18fps with AF tracking, 60fps with AF locked on first frame with electronic shutter
  • Max video resolution: 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p
  • Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 64-25,600
  • Screen: Vari‑angle 3-inch 1,037,000-dot touchscreen
  • Storage: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 134.1 x 90.9 x 68.9mm
  • Weight: 498g (body only), 574g (including battery and memory card)

The E-M1 II is a complex and versatile camera. It takes a while to get to discover all its features and understand some of its quirks, but it’s a rewarding experience.

Its stabilisation system is incredible and allows you to rethink how you shoot, leaving the tripod behind and avoiding high ISO settings. Olympus has also packed in the clever technology that we have come to expect with Live Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite mode making long exposure photography easy and in-camera focusing stacking enabling greater depth of field than is normally possible. In addition, High Res Shot mode turns this 20Mp camera into a 50Mp device – and you can use it for normal landscape photography with no concern about a breeze blowing through the trees.

High Res Shot mode has impressed us in the past with its ability to produce larger files with greater detail by combining a sequence of images in-camera. According to Olympus the latest version of the system in the OM-D E-M1 II produces images with resolution equivalent to 50Mp shots. It can also compensate for the slight movement in landscape scenes – leaves and grass etc.

Olympus’s Image Stabiliser (IS) is widely respected, but the latest version in the E-M1 II raised a few eyebrows at the launch event because it’s capable of extending the safe hand-holdable shutter speed by up to 6.5 stops with stabilised lenses like the new Olympus 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro. That’s an incredible figure, higher than any other camera. It could produce some interesting creative opportunities that are only normally possible with a tripod.

Further good news is that the Olympus OM-D E-M 1 Mark II is capable of recording 4K footage at up to 30p. Combining this with the claimed IS performance could mean the OM-D E-M1 Mark II prove popular with run-and-gun shooters.

Add in a high-quality viewfinder and a vari-angle touch-screen that helps you shoot from more creative angles and you have a very attractive camera.

Panasonic S1

Panasonic Lumix S1 Review

Price when reviewed

£2199.99

$2497.99
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Website:

For

  • Solid construction
  • 4K footage is very impressive
  • AF system great at picking out small subjects

Against

  • No Vari-angle screen
  • AF tracking sometimes erratic, but good for most subjects
  • Menu is sometimes confusing
  • Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame (23.8×35.6mm)
  • Video: 4K (3840×2160) at 60fps and 150Mbps
  • Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body stabilisation
  • High Resolution Mode: 96MP (12,000 x 8,000-pixel) images

The Lumix S1 is aimed at professional and high-end enthusiast photographers and videographers. It’s a complex camera that offers lots of opportunities to customise it and make it work for you. It also has a dual-tilting screen, a first-rate viewfinder, excellent video specification, a fast AF system and a useful High Resolution mode that can produce 96Mp images.

Like the Panasonic G9 and S1R, the Lumix S1 has a High Resolution mode. When this is selected, the camera takes a sequence of shots in quick succession with the sensor moving by a tiny amount between each. The S1 then merges the images into a single raw file.

When the aspect ratio is set to 3:2, using High Resolution Mode results in 12,000 x 8,000-pixel images. That’s 96Mp. Thanks to the S1’s IBIS (in-body image stabilisation), its sensor can be moved by a tiny amount between shots in the High Resolution mode. This enables the camera to gather more information about the scene and create larger images.

When the image resolution is set to 300ppi, a standard 24Mp image produces prints that measure 20×13.3inches or 50.8×33.87cm. However, a 96Mp High Resolution mode image would make prints that measure 40×26.6 or 106.6×67.7cm. Each dimension is twice that of the standard image. That’s attractive to landscape, still life, macro and commercial photographers.

There are a few restrictions applied when you use High Resolution mode. For example, it automatically uses the electronic shutter, the minimum aperture is f/16 and the shutter speed can only be set from between 1 and 1/8000 of a second. Sensitivity can be set up to ISO 3200.

It’s the type of camera that takes some getting to know, but it’s also a camera that is worth getting to know.

As the lower-resolution of Panasonic’s two full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Panasonic S1 has a 24.2Mp full-frame sensor. Interestingly, this is a 23.8×35.6mm device whereas the S1R’s sensor is listed as 24x36mm. The total pixel count is 25.28Mp while the effective pixel count is 24.2million.

That sensor has a native aspect ratio of 3:2, but it’s also possible to shoot in 4:3, 1:1, 16: 9, 2:1 and 65:24.

The image sensor is paired with a new Venus Engine processor. This enables a maximum shooting rate of 6fps with continuous autofocusing. If you can do without C-AF, however, the rate can be pushed to 9fps. Alternatively, in 4K/6K Photo mode, it’s possible to shoot 4K images at 60fps or 6K images at 30fps.

Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1 at creatives who want to be able to shoot both stills and video. On the video front, the headline feature is that the S1 can shoot 4K (3840×2160) at 60fps and 150Mbps. However, if you want to keep the full width of the sensor, the maximum frame rate for 4K video is 30fps.

There’s also an HEVC shooting option at 4:2:0 10-bit for internal recording. This option is missing from the Lumix S1R.

Helpfully, Panasonic’s Dual IS system is incorporated. This stabilises images and video.

In addition, Panasonic is going to introduce an optional (paid for) firmware update for the Lumix S1 to introduce full V-Log recording. This will also enable 4:2:2 10-bit 4K 24p/30p internal video recording and 4:2:2 10-bit 4K 60p HDMI output.

Panasonic S1R

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Price when reviewed

£2899

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Website:

For

  • Robust build
  • High-quality high-resolution images
  • Excellent handling with lots of customisation

Against

  • Big for a mirrorless camera
  • AF system not as dependable as some
  • Currently limited lens range
  • Sensor: 47.3MP full-frame (36x24mm)
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-25,600, expandable to ISO 50-51,200
  • Aspect Ratios: 2:3, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9, 2:1 and 65:24
  • Video: 4K (3840×2160) at 60fps and 150Mbps

The Panasonic S1R has a sensor with an effective pixel count of 47.3 million. Unlike Panasonic’s G-Series Micro Four Thirds cameras which have a native aspect ratio of 4:3, the S1R’s 36x24mm sensor is a 3:2 device. However, there are also aspect ratio settings of 4:3, 1:1, 16:9, 2:1 and 65:24 should you want them.

Given the high pixel count of the Panasonic S1R in comparison with the S1, it’s no surprise to find it has a more limited sensitivity range. The standard range is ISO 100-25,600, and there are expansion settings to take it to ISO 50-51,200. That upper value is the same as the Lumix S1’s highest native setting.

Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at professional photographers who want a high-resolution camera. For many, the 47Mp resolution is likely to be enough, but like the S1 and Panasonic G9, the Lumix S1R has a High Resolution mode.

When this is mode is activated, the camera shoots a series of 8 images in quick succession. Using the in-body stabilisation mechanism, it moves the sensor a fraction between each shot. The camera then merges the images to create one much larger raw file.

When the aspect ratio is 3:2, using High Resolution Mode results in 16,736 x 11,186-pixel images. That means the images have 187million pixels! At 300ppi this enables you to create 141.7 x 94.56cm (55.787 x 37.227-inch) prints.

There are a few restrictions applied when you use High Resolution mode. For example, it only works with the electronic shutter, the minimum aperture is f/16 and the shutter speed range is between 1 and 1/8000sec. Sensitivity can be set up to ISO 3200. Panasonic also recommends that the camera is supported on a tripod.

The Lumix S1R is an advanced camera with plenty of customisability and a dual-tilting touchscreen. There’s also a class-leading electronic viewfinder, and a nippy AF system. And, despite the already high pixel count, there’s a High Resolution mode that produces 187Mp images that are superb but challenging for computers.

It’s a complex camera, but well thought out and capable of producing superb results. Also, it sets a new benchmark for electronic viewfinders, with a super-smooth, high-detail view. And while the screen may not flip out for viewing from the front, its robust hinges allow it to tilt horizontally and vertically. This makes it useful for all sorts of photography as well as shooting video.

Naturally, the main reason for investing in a 47Mp camera is to produce images with lots of detail. The Panasonic Lumix S1R certainly delivers on this score. If you want to take things up a notch, there’s the High Resolution mode.

Panasonic Lumix G9

Panasonic G9 Review

Price when reviewed

£1499

$1698 / €1729
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Website: Panasonic

For

  • Compact weather-sealed body
  • Stabilisation system rated at 6.5EV
  • High-quality EVF and screen

Against

  • Sub-full-frame sensor
  • Awkwardly positioned joystick controller
  • 400-shot battery life in standard mode
  • Camera type: Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: 20.3 million Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13mm)
  • Burst Mode: 20fps with AF-C, 60fps with AF-S
  • Autofocus: 225-point Contrast detection
  • Video: 4K (3840 x 2160) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p with no cropping
  • Dimensions (W x H x D) : 136.9 x 97.3 x 91.6 mm / 5.39 x 3.83 x 3.61 inch (excluding protrusions)
  • Weight: 658g / 1.45lb including 1 SD card x and battery, 586g / 1.30lb body only

The Panasonic Lumix G9 is Panasonic’s flagship stills-camera and it sits alongside the GH5 at the top of the company’s interchangeable lens camera line-up. Like the GH5, the G9 is a mirrorless camera with a Four Thirds Type sensor and a Micro Four Thirds lens mount. Panasonic says the camera is aimed at enthusiast outdoor and wildlife photographers.

While the GH5 is largely known as a video camera, it’s also a very capable stills camera. The fact that the Panasonic Lumix G9 has the same sensor and processing engine, but has been tuned for stills rather than video is, therefore, good news for photographers. It also feels like a high-quality camera, being light yet sturdy with a good-sized grip while the touch-control is accompanied by a healthy array of physical controls.

The G9 has the same 20.3Mp sensor and Venus 10 processing engine as the GH5. However, Panasonic tells us the G9’s sensor and processor have been tuned very differently to suit the G9’s stills-shooting focus. To boost detail resolution, the sensor also has no optical low-pass filter.

While 20Mp images will suffice for many situations, the G9 also has a High Resolution mode that enables 80-megapixel images to be created in JPEG and raw formats in-camera. In this mode the camera takes a sequence of 8 images in quick succession, shifting the sensor a little between each shot. These images are then merged to create a single larger image with more detail.

According to Panasonic UK, this is a tripod-only mode and it takes approximately 4 seconds to process the image – that’s about half the time that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II takes in its Pixel Shift mode.

Panasonic has also given the G9 a very high-quality electronic viewfinder, an articulating touch-screen and a blistering continuous shooting rate. Further good news is that the AF system can keep up with the frame rate so you can shoot sport and action.

Pentax K-1 II

Price when reviewed

£1799.99

$1999.95
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Website:

For

  • Captures superb detail
  • Pixel Shift Resolution II
  • Excellent colour
  • Weather-proof

Against

  • Poor menu system
  • Focusing in live view a little slow
  • Sensor: 36.4 million Full-frame (35.9 x 24mm)
  • Processor: PRIME IV
  • Autofocus: 33-points with 25 cross-type
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-240,800

There aren’t a whole lot of differences between the Pentax K-1 II and the K-1, but chief among them was an upgrade to Pentax’s Pixel Shift Resolution System. This is now called Pixel Shift Resolution System II and includes a Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode, which is designed to record better colour and definition.

It works by moving the sensor by a pixel width between each of four shots which are then composited into one image. For the first time there are two modes for this.

The first being the one we have seen before that should only be used when the camera is on a tripod and with a motionless subject. A second new option is able to cope with moving subjects and the camera being hand-held. Pentax still recommends using a tripod for the best results though.

Pentax says Pixel Shift Resolution II obtains RGB colour data for each pixel to produce super-high-resolution images with finer details and more truthful colours than those produced by ordinary full-frame sensors.

In the new Dynamic Pixel Shift Resolution mode, which can be used during handheld shooting, this system can be used jointly with the camera’s shake-reduction mechanism, since it synthesizes the captured super-high-resolution images by detecting the slight fluctuations of the subject’s position during continuous shooting.

The camera also provides ON/OFF switching of the Motion Correction function, which detects moving elements of the continuously captured images to minimize the effect of movement during the image synthesizing process.

Pentax KP

Pentax KP: price, specs, release date confirmed

Price when reviewed

£1099

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Website:

For

  • Pixel Shift Resolution system
  • High sensitivity of ISO 819,200
  • 5-axis shake reduction

Against

  • Expensive
  • No 4K video
  • No hybrid AF
  • Sensor: 24.32 million APS-C CMOS
  • Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/6000sec mechanical / 1/24,000sec electronic
  • Video: Full HD video at 60i/30p
  • Screen: 3in, 921k-dot, tiltable LCD

Inside the Pentax KP is a newly developed APS-C-sized CMOS image sensor with 24.32 million effective pixels, which has no anti-aliasing filter for resolving finer details.

The sensor, in combination with a PRIME IV imaging engine, enables the Pentax KP to shoot night scenes at the super-high sensitivity of ISO 819,200.

The Pentax KP doesn’t offer 4K video recording. However, it does include a 4K Interval Movie mode that stitches together a series of 4K-resolution still images (3840 x 2160 pixels) at a fixed interval to create a single movie file.

Also on-board the Pentax KP is the company’s Pixel Shift Resolution System, as seen in other recent Pentax cameras and similar to what we’ve seen from recent Olympus cameras.

This technology enables the KP to capture four images of the same scene by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel for each image. The KP then stitches them into a single, high-resolution composite image.

Ricoh says that compared to the conventional Bayer system in which each pixel has only a single colour data unit, this new system obtains all colour data in each pixel to deliver ultra high-resolution images with more accurate colours and much finer details than those produced by conventional APS-C-sized image sensors.

Ricoh says it has also added an ON/OFF switch for the motion correction function to make the Pixel Shift system usable with a wider range of subjects. The motion correction system promises to automatically detect a moving object during continuous shooting and minimise negative effects during the synthesising process.

The Pentax KP also has a five-axis SR II shake reduction mechanism that delivers a compensation effect of approximately five shutter steps.

When taking a panning shot, this mechanism controls the SR unit to compensate for all external factors without requiring any switching action.

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