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Old Mar 27, 2004, 2:49 PM   #1
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Default Limits to Progress for Digital Cameras?

I was kind of inspired by this thread which was asking if digital is better than 35mm currently?


For my uses, the only limiting factor I'm seeing is related to low light conditions limiting shutter speed and/or creating noise.

I was wondering is there a physics/technical limit to how good a digital camera can get in the near future? Or atleast affordable ones. Would improving the image require larger sensors, more megapixels, better algorithms, or something else?
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Old Mar 27, 2004, 3:19 PM   #2
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This is a broad topic and CCD/CMOS technology does have a maximum threshold that will be impossible to circumvent once it reaches 25+MP. A poor but acceptable analogy would be comparing CCD/CMOS with current CPU technology problems trying to get below .8 microns. The signal to noise ratio will increase in correlation to the density of sensors embedded to a chip. The means to resolve that will ultimately be larger area focal plane arrays, in conjunction with some form of solid state peltier cooling. More processing speed and a broader system bus architecture will also be required to move enormous data quantities at acceptable speeds in addition to larger and faster bufferss and memory technologies.

I think in the next 2 years we'll begin seeing larger imagers that utilize or *borrow* technology from focal plane arrays from thermal imaging systems to mitigate signal/noise problems as we try and pack more photosites into chips which can not exceed certain physical sizes (nobody wants a 20 megapixel point and shoot with a 4x6 frame sensor in the back). I belive medium format digital cameras will be the next frontier to conquer since they allow for larger body dimensions which is something that Kodak has been working on relentlessly for the last 3 years.

Ultimately for the consumer market it will be an elaborate orchestrated effort to increase resolution by utilizing faster/broader system data bus architecture, improved noise reduction algorithims, better memory sorage devices etc. Personally I think the layered Foveon technology promises the best results moving forward by design and room for further expansion.
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Old Mar 28, 2004, 7:05 AM   #3
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Another huge limiting factor that many people don't mention is the dynamic range of the sensor. How wide an amount of light can be recorded at the same time? The Fuji S3 Pro is going in that direction. Instead of adding more resolution (right? Same MP as the S2?) they are instead adding more photosites to allow for a wider dynamic range.

One way that film beats digital sensors for the majority of cameras is in the dynamic range. It isn't hard to get a film that beats a digital camera.

I don't know enough to say if the Foveon is a better design, but physically it certainly can put more photosites in the same physical space. But I don't know is noise characteristics or the amount of extra circuitry required to make it work. No one (at least in a consumer product) has made a really dense Foveon chip. Lets hope they do, though... it's an interesting tech that I do not want to see die.

film has trouble in low-light as well. The higher ISO films have more grain, and you need the higher ISO to take a picture in low light with a reasonble shutter speed. So this isn't only a limitation of digital photography... it's a limitation of photography in general.

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