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Old Sep 15, 2006, 4:55 PM   #1
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I'm not sure whether this belongs here of in the General Q and A forum, but here goes.

I'm trying to identify the non-DSLR cameras that have the biggest sensors. When I say 'biggest' I do not mean 'most megapixels' - I mean which have the most area. I'm asking this because my impression is that the mania for cramming more megapixels onto a tiny sensor is self-defeating because it gives rise to severe problems with noise, especially at higher ISO settings.

Most non-DSLR cameras seem to have sensors about the size of a small fingernail. Even my Olympus C2100UZ may be a bit better than that - it's described as having a 'half inch' sensor (whatever that means - does it mean 1/2 inch measured diagonally or is it 1/2 inch wide?)

So far, the only non-DSLR camera I've found that has a decent sized sensor is the Sony R1, with a sensor that measures 21.5 x 14.4 mm. (It, alas, lacks image stabilization).

One of the few cameras that I've considered buying to replace my 'UZI' is the Panasonic FZ7 - but it's sensor is a miserable 1/2.5 inches - and from everything I read about it, this severely detracts from its performance unless you shoot only in bright light at ISO 80 or maybe at ISO 100. Even the FZ50 with a slightly bigger (just over 0.55 inches I think) sensor seems to be not much better.

What I'd really like is a camera like the FZ7 but with its 6 megapixels supplied by a much bigger sensor. I'd be happy too with a good many fewer bells and whistles. For example, I've no use whatsoever for either movie mode or recording sound. Does anybody else feel the same way?

Has anybody heard of any likely developments in this direction?
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Old Sep 15, 2006, 6:34 PM   #2
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The only one I've heard that's "generously" sized is the Sony R1 (IIRC), which has an APS-C sized sensor, the same as in most dSLRs. However, froma price standpoint, you're just as well of to buy a dSLR.

The others are either 1/1.8" or 1/2.5", AFAIK.

Russ
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Old Sep 15, 2006, 6:57 PM   #3
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Russ - I've thought about that, but the dust problem from removable lenses bothers me, and I wonder if I'd get a dSLR with an image stabilized 12x zoom lens even at the price of the Sony R1?

And then - I suspect a dSLR would be rather cumbersome. (That (to me) is one of the attractions of the FZ7 compared with my Olympus C2100UZ.

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Old Sep 15, 2006, 9:40 PM   #4
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While there are some manufacturers every year who seem to try to squeeze too many MP on the high end out of their current generation sensor, the overall trend has been better and better image quality each year with less noise.

We even have today, in Fuji's latest generation of Super CCD (in the F20, F30, and S6000), sensors not much bigger than that in your old Olympus, which are delivering high ISO performance comparable to DSLRs of just a few years ago.

Current DSLR sensors are better still, and have other image quality advantages as well (such as better dynamic range). And that would also apply to the sensor in the R1. But, while entry level DSLR bodies, delivering outstanding image quality, are also getting more affordable, good lenses remain a significant additional cost.

What I would like to see though, is a sensor size in between those in current compacts and current DSLRs. Something like a 12mm x 9mm sensor, with a 3x crop factor, might be ideal for affordable entry level DSLR type cameras, or fixed lens consumer bridge cameras. With the actual sensor 1/4 of the size (1/2 the crop factor) of most current DSLRs, smaller and more affordable quality lenses could be made. Yet the sensor would still be 60% larger than those in current compact models, which are already delivering very good image quality.

I think there might be a good trade off at that point in depth of field as well; something in between the very wide depth of field in most compacts and the much narrower depth of field in DSLRs.

For your purposes, though, you might find that the Sony H2 and H5 and the Canon S3 IS do significantly better in high ISO performance than the Panasonic. And if you can do without IS, the S6000 might be in a class of it's own.


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Old Sep 17, 2006, 12:37 PM   #5
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Herb
the thing about small sensors that matters is noise, while some manufacturers do it better than others, most of the small sensor crowd suffer the noise debate, some more than others

together with this is lens performance
you would think that both low noise and good lens glass are needed in equal quantities but i guess its just not that simple
you would already know that the FZ does pretty well in good light circumstances, but such great zoom power is rare.
so what I suggest you do is this
each of Steves reviews have images from the reviewed camera
check out what you have heard of
and include your current camera in that
compare the images, isnt it that simple?

if i had to choose for you I would say look at R1, for there is no doubt the images look good. For me I just dont like the look of the thing..

Riley
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Old Sep 17, 2006, 2:42 PM   #6
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Thanks for the various opinions - they all make good sense.

I'm beginning to think though, that I'm maybe too hung up on Image Stabilization. There's no doubt that it works, as in the Panasonic FZ7 which I'd use mostly set at ISO 80.

But then I think about the sort of camera that doesn't have I.S., but that operates really well at, say, ISO 400. Then I could use a considerably faster shutter speed than I'd be using with the FZ7 at ISO 80. Wouldn't that make up for the lack of I.S.?

I think I can sense where this is leading - I'm going to look at kenbalbari's ideas very closely - or maybe wait for a manufacturer to bring out a camera with something like the 12mm x 9mm. sensor that he suggests......

Herb
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Old Sep 17, 2006, 6:31 PM   #7
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Regardless of the increasing effectiveness of camera software in 'assisting' images, the relationship with sensor size is not about to change anytime soon.

Using your example of the FZ7, if you had a bigger sensor in it, the crop factor would reduce and so that lens would lose some of it's 12x zoom. so to keep the x12 you would need to bolt on a bigger lens - hence the FZ30 & FZ50 (with their 1/1.8 sensor and bigger lens). The Fuji S9500 does the same.

There is already an example of a cut down 'C' DSLR sensor in the formof the four thirds system used by Olympus on the E500 DSLR. This gives a crop of x2 but suffers at the higher ISO compared to a DSLR with a half or full frame.

All cameras are compromises of different sorts.

A X3 crop sensor might be desirable for atop end compact - it would not be desirable for a DSLRdue to the backward step in image quality.
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Old Sep 19, 2006, 3:34 PM   #8
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I think the one prominent thing that separates dSLRs and cameras like the R1 from a normal P & S is the size of the image sensor in those "higher level" cameras.

One reason people may be upgrading to such cameras can surely lay logically on such matters as higher ISO performance, better image quality, greater dynamic range etc...All this are works of a larger image sensor.

Even in the "large sensor" level (Starts from the 4/3 CCD> ), there are still comparisons going on among large sensors themselves. (And I'm just one of them in the middle of it all) In my case, I am only concerned about what I can afford (And what that will benefit me most).


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Old Sep 19, 2006, 3:48 PM   #9
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Herb wrote:
Quote:
Russ - I've thought about that, but the dust problem from removable lenses bothers me, and I wonder if I'd get a dSLR with an image stabilized 12x zoom lens even at the price of the Sony R1?
What's the current price of the Sony R1...around $750 - $800??

I just bought a Pentax K100D (which has image stabilization in the camera body) with a decent starter lens for $587. That leaves $163 - $213 for a good telephoto zoom before I have spent what the Sony costs. I can get a Tamron 75-300mm (that's 112.5mm-450mm in film equiv.) for around $169. Plus I have the flexibility and quality that comes with a DSLR. I'm not trying to talk you into something you don't want. I'm just pointing out that for the cost of the Sony R1, you can do better.
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Old Sep 19, 2006, 4:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
What's the current price of the Sony R1...around $750 - $800??

I just bought a Pentax K100D (which has image stabilization in the camera body) with a decent starter lens for $587. That leaves $163 - $213 for a good telephoto zoom before I have spent what the Sony costs. I can get a Tamron 75-300mm (that's 112.5mm-450mm in film equiv.) for around $169. Plus I have the flexibility and quality that comes with a DSLR. I'm not trying to talk you into something you don't want. I'm just pointing out that for the cost of the Sony R1, you can do better.

I agree that you did better in terms of lens range and having a dSLR, but do keep in mind that the quality of the R1's lens is like an L glass from Canon...even than, a single (premium price)L glass alonefalls short of the reach of the 24-120 mm range of the R1's lens. (I wonderis iteven possible to get as wide with a nice F/2.8 starting aperture...)

The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM can be a nice match for the R1's lens, but it cost US$1400 and has that much range in the 1.6 crop factor. (25.6 - 56 mm) To add another longer lens witha similer quality will be a bombshell. (If it isn't already is)

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