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Old Mar 9, 2009, 9:20 PM   #1
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I see that Akira Watanabe, manager of Olympus' SLR planning department, is quoted saying - "Twelve megapixels is, I think, enough for covering most applications most customers need."

I agree - in fact I'd go further and say that 12 megapixels are more than enough. What I would prefer is bigger sensors.

There's an interesting diagram at this site showing the relative sizes of some sensors -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format
It seems to me that a lot of people would find a non DSLR camera that had around 6 or 8 megapixels and a decent sized sensor - e.g. 17.3 x 13mm - but without most of the bells and whistles like video and sound recording that most photographers aren't interested in - a camera very much to their liking. To me, better low-light performance and the benefit of less noise much outweighs video & sound capability. And why have functions like in-camera sharpening, when your computer and one of the several photo manipulation programs does it better?

I'd even go so far as to say I'd rather such a camera had a non-zoom lens. I say this because non-zoom lenses are reputed to give better resolution than zoom lenses - and are presumably less costly to manufacture into the bargain. I put this (non-zoom) theory to the test a couple of years ago when I bought a used Canon A300 which has no zoom function - and have found the resolution it gives is, for a camera that's barely over 3 megapixels, remarkably good.

Does anybody else think this way?

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Old Mar 10, 2009, 4:56 AM   #2
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In theory, what you say makes sense. However, the average consumer is looking for convenience. The ability to shoot video with a small pocketable camera, and having a decent zoom range are very important to most consumers. I'd also be willing to bet that most p&s users do not do any real editing, so having the camera perform sharpening helps that user get the best pics. Finally larger sensors cost more money. I just don't think there is much of a market for a single focal length, higher quality, non video digicam. Sigma has released such a camera which has gotten little interest from the non pro market.

It is true that many pro's/serious amatuers are looking for a higher end p&s to carry around when they want to travel real light, and that market has really been untapped. Canon has the G10, and Panasonic has the LX3 which are more fully featured cams. The sensors are still small which leads to problems with noise at anything above base iso. Again though the issue is cost. These higher end point and shoots approach entry level DSLR prices without delivering the same IQ. Perhaps micro 4/3 will address this market---the current offerings (just the g1 from Pany, with only two lenses) are good, but not quite there.
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Old Mar 10, 2009, 7:04 PM   #3
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rjseeney -

Thanks for mentioning the Panasonic G1 - it's got me interested - I hadn't realised that it has a decent sized sensor.
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Old Mar 10, 2009, 9:32 PM   #4
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The practical limitation of a larger sensor is larger size and larger lenses.

So it is impactical to have a megazoom camera with a larger 17.3 x 13mm 4/3 sized sensor, because the camera will end up being huge. This is also why current megazoom cameras have small sensors.

The best current compromise is the micro 4/3, where the Panasonic G1 & GH1, have smaller size more by virtue of the lack of mirror box. (and of course the interchangeable lenses is great too!!)

I think themicro 4/3Olympus, when it is released, is aiming for a smaller body size and lenses, so this may be the ideal solution to the large sensor, small camera issue.

I've often thought that the practical limitation for Mpixels in a typical point and shoot digital camera is around 6-7Mpixel. Any more than that, the noise or noise reduction takes over and renders a less than satisfactory result. And for the typical APS-C DSLR, maybe 15Mpixel, and 12Mpixel for 4/3 DLSRs. Perhaps 25Mpixel is the limit for a full frame DSLR.




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Old Mar 10, 2009, 9:33 PM   #5
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Herb wrote:
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rjseeney -

Thanks for mentioning the Panasonic G1 - it's got me interested - I hadn't realised that it has a decent sized sensor.
Things are getting interesting now- Samsung has announced it's NX camera line with APS-C sensor, EVF and live view on LCD as well as video. If the cameras are adaptable to the Pentax K-mount ( as seems to be the case from what I read), they should turn out to be very portable, and have excellent optic options. Others will likely follow suit. Stay tuned.

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Old Mar 10, 2009, 10:16 PM   #6
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I'm another one who has never been a willing participant in the megapixel race. Once P&S cameras reached about 6 or 7 megapixels, I always felt that was the practical limit in terms of image quality - given existing technology. Again, that's for point-and-shoot cameras. But technology may soon cause most serious enthusiasts to adjust their thinking.

Right now, I've got a Pentax K200D and a Panasonix LX3 - both great cameras. But, for the sake of convenience, I've been thinking about adding a superzoom to my collection again (I used to have a Canon S3 IS). I've been close to buying a Panasonic FZ28 a couple of times. But I've held off on pulling the trigger because of that small sensor. I suspected a better alternative was just around the corner. And I may have been right.

Being a Pentaxian, for a while I was considering a K2000 with the 18-250mm lens. That would come close to offering the zoom range one can get with most superzoom point-and-shoots - with an APS-C sensor and resulting image quality. But while such a camera/lens combination would be smaller and lighter than most DSLRs, it might not be small and light enough for the kind of convenient, all-day operation that superzooms provide.

One alternative might be the just-announced Sony DSC-HX1, which promises a step forward in sensor/processing ability that is advertised as providing a 50 percent reduction in noise. We'll see. But if the camera delivers on the promise, it might be the first P&S superzoom to provide at least roughly the kind of image quality most serious enthusiasts want.

A second option might be the micro four-thirds Panasonic G1. Image quality is already quite good. But to really offer the kind of shooting convenience one buys a superzoom for, it would have to offer something along the lines of a 14-200mm (equivalent) lens. The just-announced 14-140mm lens is a bit short. But if one isn't looking for a superzoom lens range, micro four-thirds may already be the solution for most shooters.

A third - and potentially the most exciting - option is Samsung's NX line with the APS-C sensor. Like many others, I am eagerly awaiting details of this project. But it could end up being the best of all worlds.

But it's clear that technology and some creative thinking on the part of camera makers may soon mean an end to the traditional compromises one had to make when considering resolution and sensor size.
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Old Mar 10, 2009, 11:26 PM   #7
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To really compare Megapixels, sensor size and noise, you really have to compare apples to apples and that is Pixel Density (# of Pixels per unit of area or cm**2). Otherwise the discussion is just waltzing around the peach tree.

So here are some popular cameras:

Type Model MP Pixel Density Tech Sensor Size


P&S
Canon SD990IS 14MP 34MP/cm**2 CCD 1/1.7
Nikon S600 10MP 36MP/cm**2 CCD 1/2.33
Canon G10 14MP 34MP/cm**2 CCD 1/1.7
Panasonic LX3 10MP 24MP/cm**2 CCD 1/1.63
SLRs
Pentax K100D 6MP 1.7MP/cm**2 CCD APS-C
Pentax K10/K200D 10MP 2.8MP/cm**2 CCD APS-C
Pentax K20D 14MP 4.0MP/cm**2 CMOS APS-C
Panasonic G1 12MP 5.0MP/cm**2 CMOS 4/3

Now you can start to make some comparisons with the same units of measurement and you can start to see why things are the way they are.

In the P&S class there are up in the 30+MP per sq cm. The Panasonic LX3 by keeping the MP count down and the sensor size rather large (for a P&S), shows a significant reduction in Pixels per unit of area, however when compared to a SLR, there is a difference in pixel density of between 5x ranging up to 14x.

In the SLRs, I used Pentax as a basis of comparison since they all used the APS-C sensor size and you can see the progression of pixel density rise with the increase in overall MP count. The Panasonic G1 at 12MP has the highest pixel density due to the smaller sensor die size of 4/3. If the Pentax K20 sported the same pixel density (as the G1) it would be up at 18MP. If it had the same pixel density as a P&S it would be up around 127MP.

There is also a difference in technology and that is CCD in most, with some of the newer SLR bodies going to CMOS which is inherently less noisey.

So with this simple comparison you can see that the P&S units in terms of noise really do not have a chance with respect to SLR. However with their much smaller sensor size as has been pointed out, the lenses are greatly reduced in size, which directly translates in to the overall physical size & weitht of the camera itself. Also with the substantially smaller sensor size the crop factor increases up to the 4x and 5x range thus making superzoom lenses very reasonable in size.

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Old Mar 11, 2009, 6:57 AM   #8
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Biro wrote:
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Right now, I've got a Pentax K200D and a Panasonix LX3 - both great cameras. But, for the sake of convenience, I've been thinking about adding a superzoom to my collection again (I used to have a Canon S3 IS). I've been close to buying a Panasonic FZ28 a couple of times. But I've held off on pulling the trigger because of that small sensor. I suspected a better alternative was just around the corner. And I may have been right.......

Being a Pentaxian, for a while I was considering a K2000 with the 18-250mm lens.

......A second option might be the micro four-thirds Panasonic G1. Image quality is already quite good. But to really offer the kind of shooting convenience one buys a superzoom for, it would have to offer something along the lines of a 14-200mm (equivalent) lens. The just-announced 14-140mm lens is a bit short. But if one isn't looking for a superzoom lens range, micro four-thirds may already be the solution for most shooters.
The 18-250mm on a Pentax is equivalent to about 27-375mm, while a micro 4/3 in a 14-140mm is around 28-280mm.

If you were considering the SIZE of the Pentax K2000 & lens, then you could also consider the Olympus E-420(4/3 sensor), which is smaller than the Pentax(smallest DSLR in the world). Then you could perhaps use the Olympus 18-180mm, covering 36-360mm.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 10:34 AM   #9
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That's very true... that E-420 and lens combination is another potential option for anyone looking for a superzoom range with higher image quality. And it might even come to something like that. But I want to see what Samsung's NX series is all about first. If it's not what we're hoping for, I imagine the Oly's price will have come down even more by then.
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Old Mar 11, 2009, 11:23 AM   #10
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interested observer -

I agree - it's very useful to keep pixel density in mind though I have to admit that I'd never actually checked it on my old Olympus C2100UZ (2.1 megapixels on a 1/2 in. sensor - & according to dpreview, only 6 megapixels per square centimeter). No wonder the camera had such a following.

I sold the Olympus a few years ago & replaced it with a Nikon 8800. I chose the Nikon mainly because it had a 2/3 sensor combined with 8 megapixels.
Its pixel density, according to dpreview, is 14 megapixels per square centimeter. That's not as good as the SLRs in your list, but it seems to be a good deal better than most point and shoots.
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