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Old Aug 26, 2009, 7:37 AM   #1
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Default Camera Sensor Size vs. Quality

I am in the market for a new camera and ready to dive further into this hobby. I currently have a Canon A540, which is a great camera. I am looking into an ultra zoom or DSLR camera. During my research into ultra zooms and DSLR's, I have come across various sizes of image sensors. I realize DSLR's have the largest sensors, but some P&S's have 2/3, some have a smaller 1/2.5, while the newest crossovers have the larger 4/3.

In a P&S, should sensor size be an issue when I am looking at the specifications of a camera? I know I need to find a camera for my best needs and these needs take priority over the sensor size. However, if there are 2 cameras with similar features that I like, should I go with the one with the largest sensor size?
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 7:53 AM   #2
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sensor size plays a part, but you can't consider it in a vaccum in determining picture quality. If you're down to 2 cameras, read the reviews out there - picture quality and high iso performance are tested in any thorough reviews. Having a larger sensor doesn't guarantee better quality - how images are processed in the camera makes a huge difference.

Also realize that a larger sensor will usually mean a larger physical camera which changes ergonomics. So, I would also advise handling the two different cameras. You may find the larger camera feels better / worse to you than the smaller camera. And that's important - if you don't like the way the camera feels you're less likely to use it.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 8:13 AM   #3
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I have looked into the Canon SX10is, and am waiting to see what the XS20is will bring. I am also waiting to see how the new Fuji S200 EXR will perform in the reviews. Then there is the Sony DSC-HX1 and DSCH20. AND I like some of the features in the Panasonic DMC-FZ35.

I live in a rural area, and the nearest camera shop is an hour away. I just wish there were someplace closer to try these cameras out.

Oh,yeah...I want to take pictures of landscapes, portraits, birds and animals, indoor pictures of family, and I want to have a little control of depth of field. My family has a boat and I am missing some great far away shots because my current camera is only 4X optical zoom.

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Old Aug 26, 2009, 8:15 AM   #4
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Sensor size affects image quality in a number of ways.

First, is that a larger image sensor permits a shallower depth of field for the same aperture at the same angle of view (35mm equivalent focal length), but while the difference isn't great from one P&S digicam to another, between a P&S digicam and a dSLR the difference can be significant. The shallow depth of field permitted by larger image sensors is as much a curse as a blessing. A shallow depth of field gives considerable creative latititude when composing a scene, but it also taxes the camera's autofocus system. That's why few dSLRs record video, and of the ones that do, few will autofocus while a video is being recorded.

Second, for a given resolution, smaller image sensors require greater pixel densities. (In order to fit, for instance, 10,000,000 photoreceptors onto a smaller image sensor, you have to pack them in tighter.) Higher pixel densities increase the probablility that one photoreceptor will influence a nearby photoreceptor, especially at high ISO settings, resulting in noise, and methods of dealing with noise frequently obscure fine detail. As a result, a 10MP camera that uses a larger image sensor will usually produce better, more detailed images than a 10MP camera that uses a smaller image sensor, especially at higher ISO settings.

Keep in mind that these are all sweeping generalities, and exceptions can be found.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:27 PM   #5
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Smaller sensor allows a relatively small lens to have a relative good aperture rating while maintaining a good depth of field.

If you want high depth of field, good telephoto, they can easily get better pics than a DSLR with a low-end lens.
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Old Aug 29, 2009, 6:43 PM   #6
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It would be helpful if we knew the budget that you have allocated for this new camera. Certainly, a consumer level DSLR camera is an option that would provide dramatically improved and enhanced image quality. But cost-wise that may not be an option. Please let us know.

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Old Aug 31, 2009, 12:05 PM   #7
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Sensor size among point & shoot cameras isn't really a distinguishing factor. However, the difference between P&S sensors, and the larger sensors found in dSLRs is significant for both low light image quality and for depth of field control.

In good light (meaning outdoors with lots of light), you won't really see the difference in image quality (unless you're looking for narrow depth of field). However, once the light begins to fade a bit, the difference in image quality between the P&S cameras and the dSLR will really stand out.
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Old Aug 31, 2009, 8:36 PM   #8
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Realistically, my budget is about $500. I could go higher, but I am not sure if I would like to make the leap into a DSLR. Would I mind the bulkiness and having to change lenses for a certain shot? I can't say, because I don't have one to try out and use on a trial basis in the real world.

At this time, a P&S may be a better option. What do you recommend based on my posts in this discussion?
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