Here’s a photograph by the The Bangkok Post showing Sony’s sensor manufacturing plant in Thailand submerged under flood waters roughly 3 meters (~10ft) high. The shutdown of the 502,000 square foot, 3,300 employee plant doesn’t just affect Sony, as other companies — including Nikon and Apple (in the iPhone 4S) — rely on Sony image sensors as well.
Engadget has published a lengthy review on the Pentax Q that confirms what many people have assumed since the camera was announced: that using a tiny sensor just to make an interchangeable camera system small isn’t a good idea:
Pentax really has managed to design the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera — and yes, it does work. But there’s no magic at play here. The Q is small because all of its components were downsized — Pentax took everything from the lens to the image sensor to the mode dial and shutter release and gave them the shrink ray treatment. […] The result is an attractive, pocketable ILC that doesn’t quite follow its powerful pedigree.
[…] If money is no object and you’re not keen on capturing incredible images and video footage, then perhaps you’ll still consider picking up a Q. As for the rest of us — we’re perfectly happy with our larger, much more capable ILCs, and wouldn’t dare consider making such a sacrifice just to carry a bit less weight on our shoulder.
There’s a ton of competition in the mirrorless camera market now, and one of the big selling points is having a DSLR-caliber sensor in a compact camera body. Lose the sensor quality, and there isn’t too much of an advantage over all the other options out there.
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.