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Old Jan 10, 2005, 3:09 PM   #1
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Like many, I really want an ultra-compact camera. Of course, who wants the sacrifices like soft corners, purple fringing and chromatic aberration. Then there's also the issue that it's so small it will never be fast enough to take a smooth picture with...

There seem to be step-by-step improvements, but will it ever be possible to get great image quality out of something the size of the Optio S5i, and know that you're not missing out by not having lugged a G3 with you?

Of course, please feel free to frame and say that's there no difference in image quality, that would be quite nice.
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Old Jan 10, 2005, 9:10 PM   #2
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You list several attributes what are failing in smaller cameras. Here is my guess (and you missed the worst culprit of them all, so I'll include that.)

Soft corners is an issue of cheaply made lenses, not size (I believe.) So I think that if they wanted to this could be prevented.

Purple fringing & Chromatic aberration are not an attribute of the size of the lens, it often has to do with materials and coatings. So, again, this could be fixed if they wanted to. Actually, now that I think a bit more about this, another solution to this is a lens behind the object lens which corrects the light wavelength separation. Space might be an issue here if they don't have enough room to put this correcting lens. But I think that lens material and multi-coatings can also help with this (but can be very expensive solutions.)

The big issue which you don't touch on is digital noise. The really small sensors used in the small cameras are more prone to noise than the larger sensors in bigger cameras. There are ways to aleviate this, but until they made some revolutionary strides in limiting interference in the chip (noise can be produced by parts of the sensor effecting other parts of the sensor.) I don't see them getting around this for awhile.

I don't know if any optical problems are caused by using really small apertures. If so, that will be a problem as well.

So some things are a matter of cost and others are not. But basically its down to profits. Digital cameras are cash cows with people viewing them as disposable and requiring upgrades every year or two. This is a hugely profitable market. Why make a great camera for a lot of money when you can make several progressively better ones and make several sales in a row?

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Old Jan 10, 2005, 9:23 PM   #3
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The other problem with digital cameras is the CCD electronics. I think that eventually with aging....it's going to develop problems. Not much we can do about that right now...except either change the hardware, or compensate for it using firmware, or software. This applies to any digital camera right now.
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Old Jan 10, 2005, 9:55 PM   #4
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If you are copying documents or something of that sort the kind of soft corners you get with some of the sub-compacts might be a factor. Pros often soften and slightly darken the corners of their shots to add more impact to the picture. Go through the S3/4/4i/5i images at pbase and see how many shots you can find where the soft corners actually detract from the picture. I have an S4 and have yet to take a picture where the corner softness detracted from it. The S series is especially small and I think slightly soft corners and a little vignetting at wide angle is going to be there in any really tiny zoom camera. I don't think there is another zoom camera the size and weight of the S to compare, but some that are slightly larger have soft corners and slight vignetting.

The S series and many others don't have much CA or purple fringing. It doesn't seem to be a necessary result of ultra miniaturization.

The small sensors will give more noise. Technology has been making improvements, but generally not as fast as density has increased. Neat Image and Noise Ninja do a nice job on that if you are willing to take the trouble. You probably will never find a tiny ladies purse pistol that will pump out 44 magnums or a mini pickup truck that will haul 2 tons. And they aren't likely to make a pocket camera that will take images equivalent to a DSLR – at least not in the next few years. But you get a lot more shots from the less than perfect camera in your pocket than you do with your super camera sitting at home.

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Old Jan 11, 2005, 8:15 AM   #5
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The best small digicam will never match the best large digicam of the same generation in the same sense that the best 35mm camera will not match the best medium or large format chemical camera. It is very possible for a pocket digicam to be good enough in the same way that 35mm is good enough for many/most photos.

There are some features of small cameras that will always be unavoidable: Lower power since batteries are bulky. Smaller aperature (higher minimum f/number) because the lens is small. More red-eye since the flash is closer to the lens. More noise and purple fringing since the sensor is smaller.

None of those difference between a larger digicam and a pocket model may matter to you though. Or at least the difference in convenience and price may out weigh the other trade-offs for you.
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 12:04 PM   #6
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Most of the stuff you listed (vignetting, purple fringing, etc) have nothing to do with small cameras. Larger cameras have those problems too.

The only thing that small cameras will lack is a large sensor and physically bigger/heavier lens. I guess this means that small cameras will always have less noise (since sensor will be smaller) and they will have weaker pics (due to weaker lens quality). Another issue is flash (red-eye, weak flash, etc) but technology improvements may fix that.

But small cameras should be sufficient for most people in all other aspects...
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 12:37 PM   #7
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Oups double post - deleted.
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 4:51 PM   #8
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Here's my take...

I have a Casio EX-Z3... ultra compact... very handy... easy to use. goes everywhere... does it take technically correct pictures? (Sharpness, noise level, etc.). No... absolutely not... but I will say this... it takes Great Images...

Is this picture sharp? It's pretty grainy... but to me this is an image i will cherish forever... and i got this because the Z3 is so easy to carry...

just my 2 cents... :G
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 10:16 PM   #9
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Interesting. I know that when you've got more room for a bigger sensor and a larger lens you'll do better.

I guess perhaps I should phrase my question differently. To match an early generation prosumer or DSLR, how far do compacts have to come?

At some point I believe the difference in that question will be like cd players--something that only the audio/camera-philes can perceive, or where minor details cause the purchase decision rather than the product output. I just wonder when/if we'll get there.
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