View Full Version : Big sensor, tiny camera

06-16-2010, 03:03 PM
Just thought I'd start a discussion about digital camera sensor size.

Here's what got me thinking about this. Interesting article about a spectacular digital medium format camera: Phase One: All the camera $55K can buy. (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20007578-264.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20)

The article makes the point about digital medium format being so much more expensive than film medium format is/was. The high cost is all attributable to the cost of the much bigger image sensor.

In the film days now fading into history, medium-format cameras and film cost more than ordinary 35mm film SLR products, but not an order of magnitude more. Things are different in the digital era. The light-gathering image sensor chips cost a lot of money compared to film, and the cost goes up dramatically the larger the sensor. That makes medium-format digital cameras very expensive, though of course film purchasing, developing, and digitization is no longer an expense. The sensor is most of the cost of this $55,000 camera:

In total, the street value is $54,860--most of that from the $40,000 sensor, and the rest from three lenses and the 645DF camera body. Even the rugged Pelican case in which the products are packaged cost more than a lot of people's cameras. One thing that I wonder about is sensor size getting cheaper in the future. Maybe in another 10-20 years, the price of big sensors will come down and all decent cameras will have a 35 mm full frame sensor. Maybe the high end DSLRs will all have sensors equivalent to medium format -- or bigger.

In 25 years, we've gone from the Mac 128k to the Mac Mini with 2-8 GB of ram. LCD screens are now inexpensive even for the 24" size. I would expect that Moore's Law would apply to camera sensors as well.

It seems like these big sensor cameras are a coming trend that we'll see in a lot of mid-level cameras soon. There is a ton (http://dpreview.com/reviews/sonynex5nex3/) of buzz (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/technology/personaltech/20pogue.html) about the Sony NEX cameras coming this summer. The new Olympus PEN cameras look pretty cool too.

Here's a diagram of the different sensor sizes in current digital cameras:

Eventually, all my Nikon DX stuff will be outdated. The question is, how many years will it take?

06-17-2010, 12:05 PM
What is "film"?

06-17-2010, 12:17 PM
What is "film"?
Hey now, careful. We have not made the jump to digital. I think this nonsense is a passing fad. I mean how many photos and files have you lost to computer failures in the past 30 years? I have been developing my own film that long and in that time I have yet to lose one single negative to a power glitch or botched upgrade or drive crash.

Until the last silver halide!

06-17-2010, 05:43 PM
I have a DX Nikon and get to use an FX Nikon. the quality on the FX is better, however...the technology in any DSLR these days is pretty darn great. you really can't go wrong with a DX. I especially like the 1.5 factor when I throw on the 70-300mm lens and get an effective zoom of closer to 450mm! that's pretty cool.

Honestly, I think the sensors will get bigger, better and cheaper....and someday the DLSRs will, in essence be medium format for the price we're paying now.

That being said...I'm toying around with picking up a used Nikon film camera, just to test myself. :-) is film now considered "old-school"???? say it ain't so!

06-17-2010, 07:55 PM
I mean how many photos and files have you lost to computer failures in the past 30 years?

None :D I keep all my stuff on a 1Tb Server running a RAID 5 configuration...

06-17-2010, 08:05 PM
None :D I keep all my stuff on a 1Tb Server running a RAID 5 configuration...
And I'm sure you store a program to retrieve them into some current format. Just saying is all, on account of I was printing from 55 year old negatives that we found in my grandparent's basement.

In fact you don't even need any commercial stuff to develop silver halide film...


You can use instant coffee and laundry detergent as developer, vinegar as the stop bath and sea salt as fixer. Plain old kitchen junk.

I have this sneaking feeling that in 100 years archeologists might find large gaps in history from lost digital mediums and files. But we still trip across old film and movies, old recordings, etc. Shrug. Future researchers will think we all drove white Toyota pickups, married beautiful brown haired women and had German Shepherd/Malamute dogs because all they'll find is my old snaps. :-)