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04-10-2016, 10:19 AM   #1
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Does a larger sensor have effect on dynamic range?

I am shooting with a K3 and before that a K5...

My question is pretty straight forward. Does a larger sensor have any effect on dynamic range?

I always hear about the 645z having an amazing dynamic range so I am wondering if the K1 will have an improvement over the K3 just based around sheer principles of sensor sizes which I know very little about. I mean yes I get the basics but when it comes to technical things it's not my strong suit.

Basically while I am out shooting while I am traveling I am finding that I am exposing for the highlights (when possible) and then in post processing bringing back the shadows with the sliders in lightroom.

I also see several scenes that would be excellent to capture from time to time but more or less the range is just too great. With the naked eye the scene looks awesome but when it comes to a capture it either I don't know what I am doing, I don't know what I am doing in post processing, or the variation in light intensity and shadow is too much.

I am pondering putting up the money for the K1 but I am not entirely up to speed on what some of the non obvious benefits would be to move up a format.

04-10-2016, 10:29 AM - 2 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
My question is pretty straight forward. Does a larger sensor have any effect on dynamic range?
Generally-speaking, the larger the sensor, the more dynamic range you get. But the true reason for better dynamic range is a. larger pixel pitch and b. newer technology. If you took a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor like the one in the K-1 and compared it to a hypothetical latest-gen 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, the two should have roughly the same dynamic range. That would in turn be comparable to a 60-megapixel medium format sensor.

Since you get more megapixels with the larger formats without any compromises (other than cost ), you end up with better image quality at the end of the day.

You can also go the other way: if you were to dial down the number of megapixels (say a 12-megapixel full frame sensor, like the one in the Sony A7s), you'd have the potential for even better dynamic range and amazing high-ISO sensitivity, at the expense of resolution.

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04-10-2016, 10:34 AM   #3
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Too early in the morning for popcorn, sadly. But this should be fun.

I'm not nearly smart enough to understand all this stuff, but my understanding is that the size of the sensor has no bearing on the dynamic range. DR is a sensor property, not a format property. So two sensors of the same family / generation with identical properties, except physical size, would still show the same DR. But I might be wrong and I'm sure others will chime in.

As to what benefits you get from FF there was a whole thread on that earlier. I think it boiled down to:
1) Not being embarrassed to shoot next to guys with D810 or 5Dmk3
2) Using your 30 year old lenses as they were intended to be used
3) some other stuff I really did not understand

Last edited by jatrax; 04-10-2016 at 06:49 PM.
04-10-2016, 10:34 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Generally-speaking, the larger the sensor, the more dynamic range you get. But the true reason for better dynamic range is a. larger pixel pitch and b. newer technology. If you took a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor like the one in the K-1 and compared it to a hypothetical latest-gen 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, the two should have roughly the same dynamic range. That would in turn be comparable to a 60-megapixel medium format sensor.

Since you get more megapixels with the larger formats without any compromises (other than cost ), you end up with better image quality at the end of the day.

You can also go the other way: if you were to dial down the number of megapixels (say a 12-megapixel full frame sensor, like the one in the Sony A7s), you'd have the potential for even better dynamic range and amazing high-ISO sensitivity, at the expense of resolution.
That makes sense.

I am now wondering once these cameras ship if there can be a test comparing dynamic range between the K3 and the K1...who am I kidding... I will wind up with a K1 eventually but if I can see exactly what the real world benefits will be it might help me make up my mind faster.

I would love to have a 645z but the cost to get into it with lenses and all is a little too much (for now).

04-10-2016, 10:36 AM   #5
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This is a topic of endless debate. The simple answer is that newer sensors tend to have better dynamic range so I would expect that to play a role here. But also the size of the individual sensor locations plays a role. In theory the K5 sized dots have greater dynamic range than the K3 sized ones. In practice if you sample back to the same resolution the extra mp seems to make this moot. But in the case of the K1 you will have > mp and larger pixels - that should give a greater dynamic range.

DXOMark is a measurement that DXO publishes for sensors. They include dynamic range info. Below I have linked the D810 (which uses a 36mp sensor similar to the new K1) and the K3.

Nikon D810 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark
Pentax K-3 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark
Pentax K-5 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark

If you buy into the DXOmark methodology the K3 has about 1.4 stops less dynamic range and about 2 bits less color depth than the D810. Note that the K5 has slightly higher dynamic range - a mere 0.7 stops less than the D810, and the same color depth as the K3.
04-10-2016, 10:36 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
You can also go the other way: if you were to dial down the number of megapixels (say a 12-megapixel full frame sensor, like the one in the Sony A7s), you'd have the potential for even better dynamic range and amazing high-ISO sensitivity, at the expense of resolution.
Got to admit, I have wondered about the A7s. I thought it might be a good general-purpose stills camera, but it seemed that every discussion I could find about it was all about video, video, video. It's a video camera! And expensive.
04-10-2016, 10:40 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
Too early in the morning for popcorn, sadly. But his should be fun.

I'm not nearly smart enough to understand all this stuff, but my understanding is that the size of the sensor has no bearing on the dynamic range. DR is a sensor property, not a format property. So two sensors of the same family / generation with identical properties, except physical size, would still show the same DR. But I might be wrong and I'm sure others will chime in.

As to what benefits you get from FF there was a whole thread on that earlier. I think it boiled down to:
1) Not being embarrassed to shoot next to guys with D810 or5Dmk3
2) Using your 30 year old lenses as they were intended to be used
3) some other stuff I really did not understand
From what I gather (as Adam pointed out) is that pixel density and size matter. I just didn't know what the end of the day results will be about dynamic range (or anything else for that matter).

Full frame won't make pictures not suck is the main point... LOL!

But as far as I understand it if you have less pixels on a given density you can have greater light gathering capabilities. The little 'light buckets' that actually capture the light when are bigger allow better ISO performance, but I didn't know about dynamic range. I am not a technical person for the most part but if it helps it helps.
04-10-2016, 10:40 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
Got to admit, I have wondered about the A7s. I thought it might be a good general-purpose stills camera, but it seemed that every discussion I could find about it was all about video, video, video. It's a video camera! And expensive.
I think that for most users, sticking with a balance of resolution and high-ISO performance is the way to go (i.e. 24Mp or 36Mp sensors). The A7s is awesome at what it does, but still somewhat of a niche camera.


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04-10-2016, 10:42 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
You can also go the other way: if you were to dial down the number of megapixels (say a 12-megapixel full frame sensor, like the one in the Sony A7s), you'd have the potential for even better dynamic range and amazing high-ISO sensitivity, at the expense of resolution.
This is why the top of the line Canon 1DX is like a 22MP sensor or something (that and frame rate) and the D5 is only 20.8MP.
04-10-2016, 10:44 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
This is a topic of endless debate. The simple answer is that newer sensors tend to have better dynamic range so I would expect that to play a role here. But also the size of the individual sensor locations plays a role. In theory the K5 sized dots have greater dynamic range than the K3 sized ones. In practice if you sample back to the same resolution the extra mp seems to make this moot. But in the case of the K1 you will have > mp and larger pixels - that should give a greater dynamic range.

DXOMark is a measurement that DXO publishes for sensors. They include dynamic range info. Below I have linked the D810 (which uses a 36mp sensor similar to the new K1) and the K3.

Nikon D810 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark
Pentax K-3 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark
Pentax K-5 : Tests and Reviews - DxOMark

If you buy into the DXOmark methodology the K3 has about 1.4 stops less dynamic range and about 2 bits less color depth than the D810. Note that the K5 has slightly higher dynamic range - a mere 0.7 stops less than the D810, and the same color depth as the K3.

I don't get the whole color depth thing... (never came up for me)... but the idea of larger light buckets on the sensor makes sense... but the question remains... if I expose for the highlights but the rest of the frame is in deep shadow... how much is more... and how much more will be able to be recovered?

When people start using the things I would like to see some hands on tests rather than all the theory and arguing that goes on here LOL!
04-10-2016, 10:52 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
If you buy into the DXOmark methodology the K3 has about 1.4 stops less dynamic range and about 2 bits less color depth than the D810. Note that the K5 has slightly higher dynamic range - a mere 0.7 stops less than the D810, and the same color depth as the K3.
That makes logical sense (which can sometimes be wrong of course). But it is what I would expect to see. The K-3, in my personal use seems to have very slightly less DR than the k-5 series. The K-1 has a newer sensor, more pixels and yet a lower pixel density than the k-3, so I would expect a larger dynamic range.

I would also expect that an APS-C sized sensor cut from the same wafer as the FF K-1 sensor would show identical performance regarding DR.
04-10-2016, 11:07 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
I don't get the whole color depth thing... (never came up for me)... but the idea of larger light buckets on the sensor makes sense... but the question remains... if I expose for the highlights but the rest of the frame is in deep shadow... how much is more... and how much more will be able to be recovered?
recovery is latitude more than dr, but they are closely related... one difference is that you can't really measure latitude.

"The quick summary then is that the Pentax 645z appears, not surprisingly, to have comparable resolution to the Sony A7RII when both are used with the very best lenses. Any lenses other than the best available in each mount will sway the result.
When it comes to noise at high ISO the Pentax 645Z wins. As for dynamic range, both cameras appear comparable in the shadow areas while the Sony has about a stop more recoverable in the highlight end.
In the end these cameras are really quite close in terms of sensor performance, and I wouldn’t choose one over the other on that basis. I love the 645Z’s interface and handling, huge optical viewfinder, fantastic battery life, great long exposure capability and overall robustness.
The Sony A7RII runs a neck and neck image quality race with the big Pentax, and so calling a winner is almost impossible."
https://web.archive.org/web/20150905213322/https://luminous-landscape.com/so...nds-on-report/

last post, bottom of the page, see the graphs, a7rii has overall equal dr to the 645z: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/16-pentax-news-rumors/310344-pentax-645z-...1-dxomark.html

new sensors get you better dr, but no ff camera is able to equal the 645z iso noise levels, so the 645z still wins in that respect, i wish that i had one!

based on what the a7rii does, i'm guessing that the k-1 is going to have the mf guys reaching for their antacid medicine
04-10-2016, 11:12 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
This is why the top of the line Canon 1DX is like a 22MP sensor or something (that and frame rate) and the D5 is only 20.8MP.
I actually might have preferred a lower MP count on the K-1. . . Except of course, we have a lot of APS-C glass, and we get a crop mode for that, and the cropped image will be almost 16 MP which makes it almost like two cameras in one. So, there's the real advantage of a high-resolution sensor in this application, IMHO.
04-10-2016, 11:14 AM   #14
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Actually larger sensors can have a detrimental affect with regards to long exposures and heat.
So it is not a simple yes/no answer.

Michael
04-10-2016, 11:29 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
I actually might have preferred a lower MP count on the K-1. . . Except of course, we have a lot of APS-C glass, and we get a crop mode for that, and the cropped image will be almost 16 MP which makes it almost like two cameras in one. So, there's the real advantage of a high-resolution sensor in this application, IMHO.
It's really a niche for those low MP FF cameras. Only the $6k+ cameras have them.

But as you say, they make crop mode mostly unusable. Perhaps Pentax will release such a beast, although I doubt it because their MF offering is already $6k. Hard to imagine them trying to sell an FF camera at nearly the same price point.
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