It may not be the most popular series of compact cameras, but the Ricoh GR Digital line has attracted a sizable cult following of photographers around the world — particularly street shooters. From the time the original GRD was announced at Photokina 2004 until the most recent GRD IV, the cameras have offered smaller 1/1.77-inch CCD sensors. That will soon change: a trusted source tells us that the Ricoh GR Digital V will feature a larger APS-C sensor.
Idan Shechter, the guy behind Camera Size, has launched a new website for photographers who understand sizes better through visual comparisons than through specs and figures. Sensor Size is a website that offers quick visual comparisons of sensors found in popular digital cameras. Select the cameras you want to check out from a couple of drop-down menus, and the sensors are displayed in relative sizes next to each other. You can also stack the images or display them in a 3D overlay for a better view.
Ever wonder why camera manufacturers these days are describing often sensor sizes with fractions instead of millimeters? Roger Cicala of LensRentals explains:
[...] then we get into all of these fractional-inch-type-measurements for the smaller sensors. That measurement system originated in ancient times (the 1950s to 1980s) when vacuum tubes were used instead of CCD or CMOS sensors in video and television cameras. The image sensor was, in those days, referred to in terms of the outside diameter of the vacuum tube that contained it.
Why do manufacturers keep using such an archaic measurement? Because it helps them lie to you, of course. If you do the math 1/2.7 equals 0.37 inches, which equals 9.39 mm. But if you look at the chart above you’ll see that a 1/2.7″ sensor actually has a diagonal of 6.7 mm. Why? Because, of course, a thick glass tube used to surround the sensors. So they calculate the sensor size as if the glass tube was still included. Makes perfect sense to a marketing person who wants to make their sensor seem larger than it is. What sounds better: 1/2.7″ or ‘less than 10% the size of a full frame sensor’?
If you have a few minutes, give his entire post on sensor sizes a read — it’s quite illuminating.
Sensor Size Matters [LensRentals Blog]
Image credits: Photograph by Sphl
Here’s a helpful video that attempts to demystify the concept of DSLR sensor sizes. If you’ve never been able to understand how sensor size (and its crop factor) affects resulting photographs, this video will help.
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.
Pentax Q interchangeable lens camera review [Engadget]
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.
Update: Photographer Jim Goldstein did his own calculations can guesses that the photos are equivalent to 1-2 megapixels.
The Fuji Guys sent out a tweet today saying that the company’s upcoming interchangeable lens mirrorless camera will not have a Micro Four Thirds sensor inside:
X Series Interchangeable lens system not = M4/3 nor current mirrorless cams. X series will be “premium” cameras!
From what’s being said, it sounds like the company is focusing on sensor size and image quality — good news for serious photographers. People have been begging for an X100-style camera with interchangeable lenses since that camera was announced, and Fujifilm likely isn’t ignorant of that fact.
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.
Since one of the main reasons for going mirrorless is compactness, perhaps APS-C sensors should be left to larger DSLR-sized cameras like the Sony A77 (which has been getting some glowing reviews, by the way).
Micro 4/3 is the Big Kahuna [The Online Photographer]
Image credit: Goldilocks by violscraper
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.
A camera’s sensor size is a very good predictor of how good its image quality is, but understanding and comparing the sensors sizes isn’t very easy. While televisions and computer monitors are usually measured by diagonal length, sensors sizes are listed with its two dimensions in millimeters. Back in 2008, David Pogue of the New York Times wrote an article about this issue, calling for someone to develop an online tool for converting confusing sensor measurements into the diagonal length of the sensor in inches. Within three hours two new websites were born: Sensor-Size and Sensor Size Calculator.
Sensor-Size | Sensor Size Calculator (via Lifehacker)