Compact Cameras and their image sensor size.
Digital Compacts and Sensor size
Ever since Digital cameras became available to the professional and the Consumer market alike there has been an ongoing debate about the sensor size that the manufacture selects for each Model.
You can see all the possible types and sizes of sensors here : Image Sensor types and sizes
As well as SLR cameras , I own two cameras that have sensor sizes below what most people, stereotypically would consider are professional, by which people mean that you would be able to sell the images to be printed in magazines or used for commercial reasons.
Most of the time I use these cameras when I know that their images will be used for the Internet or for personal reasons like Holidays or Family pictures.
However the Boss of Nikon-USA last year made a statement that the size of the sensor is now being made less important than ever before, simply because the image quality being produced by most sensors over that of a pocket camera or an i-phone was increasing year on year.
His statement was sure to and did raise some debate, specially from the owners of very expensive Nikon Cameras !
So , over the last few months I have taken a closer look at what he was talking about and the results are very interesting, below I have posted six images taken by a Nikon P7000 and then a Canon G1x , which as you can see from the diagram above on the left, has a much larger sensor that the other camera used here a Nikon P7000.
Many top end compact Cameras have a sensor size of 7.60mm x 5.70mm in size, the Canon G1x has a much larger sensor that measures 18.70mm x 14mm.
Many Photographers who make money selling images fell that the Canon G1x has a very acceptable image quality for a good 80% of image types and keep this compact-camera as a backup or as a carry anywhere camera. Sometimes a large and heavy SLR is just a pain to carry and makes you very conspicuous !!
So the question I was asking myself is , is there a big difference in image quality between these two Cameras here ?
Well the images below don’t appear to show many if any at all, the Nikon has a 10mp output and the Canon 14mp so if your are printing the images you could get a 36x27cm print from the little Canon and a 30cm x 23cm print from the Nikon, both at 300dpi.
This is a large surprise to me and I am sure could and would be questioned in a camera review lab but I am taking real world images from both sensor sizes and comparing them.
In all other respects I can see little defects in the RAW images coming from the Nikon as opposed to the Canon, the Colors are very good they both contain about the same level of detail in the shadow areas and the highlights such as bright areas of sky and clouds and have an image noise level that is acceptable.
So is the Boss of Nikon America correct, well yes, in many respects from looking at the results of most cameras with a sensor size of and over the 1/1.7″, with these sensors you will get some great images provided the camera itself is designed to let you do so!
Will I be throwing my full sized sensor SLR in the bin , well NO! not just yet but it is very reassuring to know that at last you can take these kind of cameras anywhere (Holidays, long walks, tops of mountains and family events) and get very good results , something that has not always been the case!
Just as some final comments,
At some point I will compare these cameras to my SLR and study these difference’s, However the very fact that a close study of the image quality difference’s is even needed shows just how good top end compact cameras have become.
I started the post by saying that this area , sensor size has always been a hot topic and it always will be but you will hear many people tell you that a type of camera is not good, when you ask “OH!!! why ?” they will bring up areas such as depth of field being Shallower with full frame sensor slr’s, very true , what they will not say however is how often they need this ability and how often they use it !!
What they also leave out is that in Macro photography you want a much deeper depth of field, otherwise that Bee your trying to get a picture of will only have its head and not its body in focus!
Three images of the same image scene
Canon G1x followed by Nikon P7000