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
Sigma SD15 with 15-30mm f3.5 lens
If anyone has read my other camera reviews you will have noticed that I don’t review any of my Pro level slr cameras from Nikon or Canon , the reason I don’t do that here is simple.
Here is a good reason why, I was out walking our golden retriever, one Sunday about two weeks ago and passed two photographers with Canon SLR’s, Tripods, all top of the range equipment. On passing I overheard one talking to the other about the lens he had just purchased “It the best in the country , the only one so far”, I am mostly very good at passing on these types of comments and I didn’t know them . However on returning past them again about an hour later, they were still talking cameras, pointing in the same direction and taking pictures of very little if anything.
If this is what they enjoy doing then good luck to them, it did however remind me of just how some people can be, when it comes to camera equipment and the need to have the best. For what reason though, for image creation or talking to friends about.
So I don’t believe that the race to the top of the camera food chain has anything to do with good or great photography, photography is the skill of good and interesting image making, it goes back well over a hundred years and in all that time photographers have been making images that are both iconic and outstanding.
You don’t need the perception of owning the best and greatest equipment to create good images.
While being into image creation, you do need a camera that you both like to use and can trust. For me out in the field the choice of which camera I would take for any given function is selective. I don’t think I have a best camera body, they all do something differently good and bad, they can be used in different ways.
So down to this review
The Sigma SD15
Firstly I think this is one of the most interesting, challenging and creative cameras to be produced for a long time, it will never be seen as the king of the food chain nor will many photographers, with the need for the best to boost their self esteem, stop looking down on it and the even newer Sigma SD1.
Sigma cameras contain foveon, ccd imaging sensors
Foveon X3® direct image sensor
Foveon has combined the best of what both film and digital have to offer. This is accomplished by the innovative design of the three layer Foveon X3 direct image sensor. Similar to the layers of chemical emulsion used in color film, Foveon X3 image sensors have three layers of pixels. The layers of pixels are embedded in silicon to take advantage of the fact that red, green, and blue light penetrate silicon to different depths – forming the first and only image sensor that captures full color at every point in the captured image.
A Dramatically Different Design
The revolutionary design of Foveon X3 direct image sensors features three layers of pixels. The layers are embedded in silicon to take advantage of the fact that red, green, and blue light penetrate silicon to different depths — forming the world’s first direct image sensor.
From point-and-shoot digital cameras to high-end professional equipment, Foveon X3 technology offers multiple benefits to consumers and manufacturers alike. At the same time, it opens the door for other innovations, such as new kinds of cameras that record both video and still images without compromising the image quality of either.
Having read about this sensor technology and the camera for sometime, in May 2013, I exchanged an old Nikon D200 for a Sigma sd15 camera and a couple lenses, ( 15-30mm f3.5 and a 70-300mm f4-5.6).
I was no longer using the D200 so felt, why not take a chance and try the claims for the Foveon sensor and the SD15 out.
Something that is less important than you my think to the pro/semi-pro photographers alike is images size or pixel counts, a much more important aspect of a digital image is the amount of details captured at any defined pixel location and this is something that I have found the Sigma SD15 to be wonderful at.
There is little point in crushing huge amounts of pixels on to an image sensor if the detail capture is low or poor.
The simple facts with the Foveon x3 sensor is that all possible colours are captured at each pixel location, this fact alone increases the level of detail some three fold over a traditional sensor, that splits colour detection into groups of three pixels, each of which can only see one colour from (Red, Green or blue), the effect on an image using this method are the creation of unwanted artefacts in the final image. So the use of a filter over the sensor is needed to stop this effect. This filter blurs the detail level in the image by a factor of around a third at each pixel group locations.
In recent times traditional sensors have increased in pixel counts to a point where the effects of artefact creation are less than before, so some expensive camera models have removed the needed filter over the sensor. This is good and produces better image resolution, however you need a three times bigger image file size to produce the same level of true detail that you find from the Foveon sensor.
Large image sizes take up more disk space are slower to process and longer to upload or email.
My final question related to printed and end results, if you print an unprocessed file from the SD15 at the same size as one from say a Nikon D700, do you get the same detail in the final image, well I have found the answer to mostly be yes, in most cases, yes looking at large prints I can detect very little difference if any.
Don’t get me wrong, I still own and use other cameras , however I have been amazed at the results from this Camera and its Foveon sensor, the colour definition is also wonderful.
Sigma and Foveon claim that the SD15 has 14 million pixels, but this is in three layers and that the newer Sigma Sd1 has 48 million pixels again layered, this is a difficult and controversial claim as each image size is only the given amount divided by three.
However if you take into account that they are only saying this because the camera market has taken as a standard, mega-pixel counts, image detail and colour definition are a much harder subject to sell, to the general public. So what Sigma and Foveon are doing with this claim of high pixel count is to say our cameras produce the same detail yet better colour definition than other cameras with traditional sensors at the level of 14mp or 48mp.
Is this claim true, well side by side A3 or A2 prints appear to say yes. This along with the fact that I just love the colour and image brightness and the great exposure produced from these cameras.
Pixel Counting Definitions
Prior to the existence of the Foveon X3 direct image sensor, there has been a 1:1 relationship between the number of pixels (photodetectors) and the number of pixel locations for a traditional CCD and CMOS image sensor. Given this relationship, the generic term “pixel” has been commonly used to reference both the pixel (photodetector) and the pixel location. Foveon direct image sensors are a new type of image sensor that incorporates three pixels(photodetectors) at every pixel location on the image sensor. The definition of a pixel as indicated below is consistent with standard industry conventions as applied to CCD image sensors, CMOS image sensors, and the Foveon X3 direct image sensor.
A pixel on the image sensor of a digital camera is a light absorbing element (photodetector) that converts light (photons) into electrons. A pixel is also referred to as a pixel sensor when there is a need to distinguish the pixel from its location.
A pixel location is the X,Y coordinate on the two-dimensional grid of an image sensor at which the pixel is located.
Below I have included some images from my first six months of personal photography while using this camera, I have grouped them into colour and black and white images.
I have also found the camera to be wonderful in the production of black and white photographs, the fact that it is naturally capturing colours in the way it is helps to produce a black and white result as a finish image.
One area that is possibly the only down side I have found is the fact that at higher than 800 iso, the images are noisy in low light, which is why you would need higher ISO, my reaction to finding this out is to say well so, every camera has its weak points. I guess what you could ask is , do the good sides of this camera out do the bad, in my own opinion yes they do, every single bit of camera equipment on the market today has good sides and bad sides.
This is what photography is about, learning what your camera is good at and bad at and working with these details in order to get the best results possible.
Can this sigma help you do that, yes it can and some !
Black and white Gallery
Twelve Months with a Canon G1x (Comments and Gallery)
It is just over a years since I purchased a reconditioned (Canon G1x) from Canon in the Irish republic.
I posted a personal review of the camera at the start of March here: “Canon G1x review“, so to avoid myself doing a repeat here you can read what I felt about the camera back then from this link.
I have taken about four thousand images with this camera in the first year and I have to say I just love it, before I decided to get it I was looking to replace a Contax G2 camera as I was finding it very hard to get film processed without posting it back to the UK. The idea of a compact system camera i.e. one that can work with extra items like a external flash gun, had been something I was very interested in.
For many years compact digital camera’s have not been of a good enough quality to consider purchasing and using if you intend to produce marketable images, I.e. anything from stock photography to commissioned work. The sensors where just to small to produce clean and detailed enough images.
From the moment I took collection of this camera I have to say it’s impressed me, I have most often used Film or Digital slr equipment apart from the Contax G2 that I had for many years. The camera is of good enough size a weight to feel like a good pro level compact and it is built to last that’s for sure. The body is equipped with every feature that an advanced user could need and is identical to a Digital slr.
I was looking for a camera that I could keep in a bag as a backup to my slr’s and this camera has been that, however I have found myself looking at what it is I need to do before I go out and deciding what type of Camera I need with me. I feel that If I have been booked to do some work then a customer needs to see an slr and the results are of a higher quality, but not by much. How and ever for personal work like this blog or books, holidays and events then this camera is perfect. I have produced double A3 wide prints from its images and they look as good as my Nikon pro equipment. It has all the needed quality, is fast to use acts exactly like I need it to and produces great results.
I was looking for a compact camera that didn’t make me feel like I wished I had packed an slr and this Canon camera is it, it has always filled me with confidence and been a pleasure to use.
Canon G1x Gallery
Contax G2 electronic rangefinder camera
For many years I owned and enjoyed using a contax G2 film camera with three lenses and a flash unit. I trusted this camera completely and it helped me photograph many different subjects in many different locations.
However from about 1999 onwards I took to digital photography with a Nikon D1x then followed this with a Nikon D200 and on, my Contax G2 was still landing in my camera bag with some rolls of film but became less and less used. I was telling myself that black and white film was still better than converting digital images taken in colour. Digital sensors however have become better and better and it’s now almost impossible to tell the difference any more.
So last year I had to make a decision and the G2 got sold on ebay along with the lenses and flash, all getting a very good price. This however left a gap in my camera kit, the need for a light range-finder type camera.
A camera I could have as a backup to an SLR and that I could carry anywhere with me. After some reading and looking for what was available, I found that I had chosen just the right time to sell my old G2 as Fuji film a manufacturer I have long admired for both cameras and film had released their new X100 model. In the end I ordered an ex demo/reconditioned example from the fujifilm shop website at a good price along with a twelve month guarantee.
This article is my opinion (not a technical review) of this camera after having used it for some months.
Firstly let me say that from the moment I took this camera out of the box I fell in love with its looks and also its instant appeal to someone who owned more advanced slr and medium format cameras.
It has all the key features that a beginner and advanced photographer needs, no fussy dials or buttons with a thousand and one possible subjects from sunlight to hanging off a mountain upside down etc…
It’s just good old fashioned photography here,
An aperture dial on the lens going from f2 to f16
a shutter speed dial with speeds from B to 1/4000 of a second along with a T setting that when used with the lcd screen can select speeds down to 30 seconds.
Next to the shutter release and the shutter speed dial is exposure compensation dial that lets you make a shift in exposure from -2 to +2 in 1/3 stops.
These three are the grass roots of a good camera going back years and have been placed on professional (slr, rangefinder and medium format) cameras all this time. When you begin to know your subjects and how to photograph them these are all you will ever need.
One final point here and that’s that both the shutter speed dial and aperture dial include an A-automatic setting so that you can work in (Manual, Aperture priority, shutter priority and fully automatic) exposure modes. (If you’re not sure about these setting follow this link).
The fuji X100 viewfinder
Now you will read a lot of X100 reviews on the internet and the built in viewfinder has been talked about a lot and for good reason. It’s simply a little miracle, this for me is the single biggest reason that this camera is the best compact camera on the new and second hand market today.
You can look at lots of other reviews and articles to see samples of the view finder layout so I am not going to go into fine detail here but I have the following observations to make.
This view finder is wonderful as you can see all the exposure settings on a digital overlay. This is all the exposure and framing information you will ever need and it can be displayed both optically and when using the electronic view finder option.
I loved this finder and all the information that it provides but the real point about this to me is the eye sensor that lets you see exactly the same information you get on the rear LCD screen.
All you do is place your eye to the optical viewfinder and it instantly gives you the LCD screens view and information in full detail.
This is just simply wonderful, you can spend all day photographing any subject you like with this eye sensor option enabled, when using a tripod I found this just fantastic. This is what a great digital camera should be about.
I have spent a full day from dawn to dusk and never once felt that I didn’t know what the camera was doing from (f-stop, shutter speed, iso or even focus distance and depth of field) its all there in front of you even when you have the camera on a tripod.
The fuji x100 LCD screen itself is a little smaller that a pro level slr but it works in all situations and I never once felt that I could not see it even from extreme angles.
The X100 in your hands
I have owned a few digital cameras all slr’s since 1999 and I cannot explain just how much I love using the X100, you can read all the reviews you like about the X100 being slow to focus (Slow but correct is better that fast but out of focus), and about card write times. Many firmware upgrade have improved these problem so if you get a early X100 make sure you upgrade.
Actually none of this matters at all to me, it’s passed every test in my own book, it’s not only great to hold and to use, it also hit the mark on image quality and reliability time after time, day after day.
Fujifilm have just released an upgrade to the X100 the X100s but it will be sometime before I go out to get one because this version, the one I already have is wonderful and It will only be the day that Fujifilm say that a repair is too costly to justify, that I will get the new model.
The following are some images from this camera and I hope you can see why I am so happy with it!
Fuji X100 Samples
Fuji film X100
In my drive to replace a long lost but much loved contax G2.
An electronic range finder and film camera, I have purchased two cameras in recent months.
Both being second hand but much loved, these are a Canon G1x and a Fujifilm X100
Since giving up film way back in 1999 I have only used Nikon digital SLR camera bodies for everything I do.
Every time I sorted out my photography kit my Contax G2 just sat there looking at me and begging me to do something with it, so last summer I sold it on ebay for a price that I was just about happy with.
This created a problem however, all the time it had still existed for me it created a possibility that I had a compact system that I could use if needed, however I never did. The idea of ordering then posting off film, to be processed just killed my interest in using it anymore.
So now I have replaced my Contax G2 with these two second hand cameras, I have used them on times when I just don’t need or want an slr system with me.
Over the next few weeks I will post just exactly what I think of them both, I don’t intend to do a ken Rockwell type camera review however, I just want to share what I think of them as I use them.
Fuji film X100
Kilkenny landscape photography
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