Here’s a cross section view of the consumer light field camera unveiled by Lytro yesterday. Many people have been wondering about the camera’s output resolution. The official specs are enigmatic in this regard, as the resolution isn’t listed in megapixels (it boasts “11 Megarays”). If the diagram is to scale, however, we can learn a little about the sensor’s size. The camera is listed as being 41mm tall, so the sensor appears to be between 7.5×7.5mm and 10.5×10.5mm — roughly the size of a Fujifilm X10 sensor.
DxOMark has just published its findings on the quality of Nikon’s new mirrorless camera sensor, and the verdict is that Nikon did a pretty good job milking quality out of the small 1-inch sensor:
With regard to its size, this ranking is a big surprise, as the Nikon J1 sensor manages to score close to or even better than larger sensors (including 4/3 sensors).
[...] On the other hand, its low-light ISO score is a bit low: 372, which reflects the impact of the sensor size. Indeed, this score is naturally dependent on the sensor size: the bigger the sensor, the more light it captures. So even though the quality of the pixels provided by Nikon is very close to that of its main competitor, its sensor size physically limits the image quality.
If low-light shooting is your thing. then you might want to look into cameras with larger sensors. However, for everyday photography the new Nikon line perform surprisingly well given how much smaller its sensor is compared to its competitors.
Many Nikonians would have been overjoyed if Nikon’s mirrorless cameras had been announced with an APS-C sensor instead of a 1-inch one, but are DSLR-sized sensors the best fit for smaller interchangeable lens cameras? Michael Johnston over at The Online Photographer says no, arguing that Micro Four Thirds is the optimal size:
APS-C sensors work fine in fixed-lens mirrorless cameras, such as the Leica X1 and the Fujifilm X100. And while NEX is making its own splash and winning its own adherents, many have pointed out that the over-large sensor is distorting the size of the lenses, preventing them from being miniaturized in proportion to the cameras. On the other hand, Micro 4/3 really does seem to have it right: the sensor is big enough, but not too big; small enough, but not too small. The cameras are right-sized, the lenses are right-sized. Everything’s in balance. Everything fits.
The relatively small 1-inch CX-format sensor found in Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras caused quite a bit of discontent among serious shooters even before the cameras were announced, but now that it’s official we finally have the opportunity to see its image quality in real-world environments. dpreview has published a gallery of 23 JPGs shot with the Nikon J1, along with 5 RAW files shot between ISO 100 and ISO 3200. Take a look, and judge for yourself.
Last year Canon announced the world’s largest CMOS sensor — an 8-inch chip that’s 40 times the size of those found in Canon’s full frame cameras. Now, a year later, the sensor is finally being put to good use, having found its way into the Schmidt telescope at the University of Tokyo’s Kiso Observatory. The extreme-sensitivity of the sensor has allowed astronomers to detect more faint meteors during a 1 minute period than could previously be seen during an entire year, and has the ability to record those meteors at 60fps. Now we’ll just patiently twiddle our thumbs and wait for the sensor to appear in an upcoming digital camera.
Last September, Sony issued a notice informing customers that its pellicle mirror cameras would overheat during extended periods of video recording. Rather than maximum clip lengths, the company’s cameras are apparently limited by how long the sensor can endure high temperatures. In the video above, someone tests Sony’s new NEX-5N mirrorless camera for this overheating issue, and finds that you can record about 23m22s of video from a “cold start” before the camera issues a warning and shuts off automatically (the temperature indicator turns on at 12m23s).
You can supposedly record 29 minutes of footage on the camera if the sensor doesn’t overheat, though that’s probably impossible to achieve under normal circumstances — unless you’re shooting at the North Pole or something…
People seem to be having a hard time swallowing the idea that Nikon could do well if their upcoming mirrorless camera only packs a 2.7x crop sensor, but Thom Hogan argues that there’s a logical “hole” in the market that Nikon could be the first to fill:
So how much change does it take to make a real difference that gets noticed? The number 1.4 is meaningful in photography in so many ways. Turns out, that something around that number makes a lot of sense for capture size change, too. Each 1.4x change doubles the area of light captured. Hmm, that sounds an awful like a “stop.” [...] So if we were to make cameras about a stop apart, what would we get: a progression close to MF, FX, DX, m4/3, and whatever Nikon calls their 2.7x product.
[...] all this discussion that a 2.7x size choice is irrational is incorrect, IMHO. Having three very different choices with clearly different and increasing performance at each size is on its face a rational decision. If Nikon can deliver a stop+ better performance than the best compact camera but keep the overall size close, that represents a gain to photographers.
Though there does appear to be a “hole” in the sensor size progression of existing cameras in the market, whether anyone actually wants a 2.7x sensor remains to be seen — especially as MFT cameras get smaller and smaller.
You might soon be able to control Nikon DSLRs using only your emotions. A patent published recently shows that the company is looking into building biological detectors into its cameras, allowing the camera to automatically change settings and trigger the shutter based on things like heart rate and blood pressure. For example, at a sporting event, the sensors could be used to trigger the shutter when something significant happens and the photographer’s reflexes are too slow. The camera could also choose a faster shutter speed to reduce blurring if the user is nervous.
Nikon has a support page for people who wonder why the company hasn’t added sensor-shift image stabilization to its DSLRs. The first point is that stabilizing the image before it enters the camera allows the user to see exactly what the sensor “sees” through the viewfinder, and allows the autofocus and metering sensors to take advantage of this stabilized image as well. Secondly, they state that they can optimize the system for each lens to achieve finely tuned stabilization that gains extra stops of light over sensor-based systems.