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06-19-2012, 06:37 PM   #1
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Do we really need bigger sensors?

So I've been lurking around the forums as usual, and got a fleeting interest in the Pentax Q(lots of potential for macro/super telephoto), so I went out and read some reviews. One thing that rather shocked me is the people that where negative about it all chanted the same thing: "It wont do, the sensor is way too small!". So I asked myself "What do we need a bigger sensor for?". I mean with technology advancing like it likes to do, do we really need to be preoccupied about noise and IQ? The only thing I know of that technology cannot help us with is DOF (dept of field), or is is possible to still obtain a thin DOF with a smaller sensor? Could critical advance in sensor technology abolish bigger sensors? Am I missing some deficits of smaller sensors that cannot be remedied by technology?

thanks for you opinions, try not to heat up the conversation too much.

the pentaxinator

06-19-2012, 06:47 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxinator Quote
I mean with technology advancing like it likes to do, do we really need to be preoccupied about noise and IQ? The only thing I know of that technology cannot help us with is DOF (dept of field), or is is possible to still obtain a thin DOF with a smaller sensor? Could critical advance in sensor technology abolish bigger sensors? Am I missing some deficits of smaller sensors that cannot be remedied by technology?
No, you can't abolish bigger sensors. Independently of the fact that technology can give us capable tiny sensors, bigger sensors will always be better. So, there will always be a market for bigger sensors--made of those people who want better quality. How much better? -- Wouldn't you want to have the best possible IQ in the smallest, lightest camera package? Different people see this IQ/ weight equation differently.
06-19-2012, 07:00 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxinator Quote
So I've been lurking around the forums as usual, and got a fleeting interest in the Pentax Q(lots of potential for macro/super telephoto), so I went out and read some reviews. One thing that rather shocked me is the people that where negative about it all chanted the same thing: "It wont do, the sensor is way too small!". So I asked myself "What do we need a bigger sensor for?". I mean with technology advancing like it likes to do, do we really need to be preoccupied about noise and IQ? The only thing I know of that technology cannot help us with is DOF (dept of field), or is is possible to still obtain a thin DOF with a smaller sensor? Could critical advance in sensor technology abolish bigger sensors? Am I missing some deficits of smaller sensors that cannot be remedied by technology?

thanks for you opinions, try not to heat up the conversation too much.

the pentaxinator
The sensor question is good topic, and much hashed over. There is a lot of really good reasons to have a bigger sensor.

Start here:

Digital Camera Sensor Sizes: How it Influences Your Photography
06-19-2012, 07:13 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Each doubling in the size of the sensor area gives us a 1 stop advantage, or to look at it another way, each halfing in sensor size gives us a 1 stop disadvantage. This is physics, technology can't change it.

06-19-2012, 07:35 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by causey Quote
Wouldn't you want to have the best possible IQ in the smallest, lightest camera package? Different people see this IQ/ weight equation differently.
As it goes, not me. My K-r is a nice size, but I wouldn't mind 50-100 grams and a few mm more, especially in the grip. I hate the ergonomics of all little point and shoot cameras equally. I like a good chunk of well balanced hardware in my hand. The K-5 feels just about perfect, to me, though I've only handled one once.
06-19-2012, 07:35 PM   #6
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Interesting question.
I think that even shallow DOF you can imitate with post-processing manipulation (e.g. with Topaz labs lens effect plug-in).

I still like pictures from my K-5 much more than the pic with any small sensor camera, but I think that there must be an optimal sensor size for each purposes. I do not think that the larger the sensor the better after a certain threshold unless the objective is to take pictures in almost complete darkness.
06-19-2012, 08:17 PM   #7
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Technology raises the absolute capability across the board, but physics maintains the relative difference.

Some have fixed expectations and technology has advanced sensor tech where smaller and smaller sensors will satisfy those people (eg iphone shooters).

Others (eg, camera forum geeks ) are interested in the best possible IQ (for given cost & size/weight) and change their expectations year to year, for us smaller sensors will never satisfy as better IQ is always possible in larger sensor cameras.
06-19-2012, 08:18 PM   #8
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Bigger frames give more room for cropping. Smaller frames (and their shorter lenses) give much thicker DOF. Those are the major differences.

06-19-2012, 08:22 PM - 1 Like   #9
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Interesting article on TOP :
Not exact about sensor size, but the related issue of DOF.

The Online Photographer: In Defense of Depth
06-19-2012, 09:21 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
Interesting article on TOP :
Not exact about sensor size, but the related issue of DOF.

The Online Photographer: In Defense of Depth
Thanks for the link. Really enjoy the reading. It's good to see that I'm not the only one that think a photo w/ super-thin-DOF doesn't really mean much except the 'first' look. As a matter of fact I just changed my m4/3 system to a P&S camera because my wife and kids want to see more background in their photos, not some blur blur abstracts ...
06-19-2012, 10:26 PM   #11
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with all the talk of 35mm, would you guys be very interested if there pentax made a 645D Jr model selling at half price?

Last edited by Reportage; 06-19-2012 at 10:39 PM.
06-19-2012, 10:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxinator Quote
So I've been lurking around the forums as usual, and got a fleeting interest in the Pentax Q(lots of potential for macro/super telephoto), so I went out and read some reviews. One thing that rather shocked me is the people that where negative about it all chanted the same thing: "It wont do, the sensor is way too small!". So I asked myself "What do we need a bigger sensor for?". I mean with technology advancing like it likes to do, do we really need to be preoccupied about noise and IQ? The only thing I know of that technology cannot help us with is DOF (dept of field), or is is possible to still obtain a thin DOF with a smaller sensor? Could critical advance in sensor technology abolish bigger sensors? Am I missing some deficits of smaller sensors that cannot be remedied by technology?

thanks for you opinions, try not to heat up the conversation too much.

the pentaxinator

yes - no - yes - yes
06-19-2012, 11:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Reportage Quote
with all the talk of 35mm, would you guys be very interested if there pentax made a 645D Jr model selling at half price?
No, because we haven't got the lenses for it.
06-19-2012, 11:17 PM   #14
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The original poster asks "what do we NEED a bigger sensor for"? That's always the question, and there's no correct answer for everyone...like me for example, I don't NEED a K-5. It doesn't pay my bills. I just wanted one, for many reasons, so I bought it.
06-19-2012, 11:27 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by frank Quote
Thanks for the link. Really enjoy the reading. It's good to see that I'm not the only one that think a photo w/ super-thin-DOF doesn't really mean much except the 'first' look. As a matter of fact I just changed my m4/3 system to a P&S camera because my wife and kids want to see more background in their photos, not some blur blur abstracts ...
My recent tips to Melaka and Indonesia, I had the same experience.
I needed that DOF to convey the surrounding in context.
Whether it be shots of the people, the places, I generally needed some DOF rather than none.
Maybe not to the point where everything was sharp, but enough DOF to show the surroundings for people shots while shallow enough to get some isolation.
On a larger format, for the same FOV/DOF, I would have had to stop down and up the ISO.
It would have meant little if the people shots all had very shallow DOF. They could well have been my backyard and not another country.

For personal/family shots and local environments, I can understand the need for shallow DOF (since we are familiar with them and there is less need to show the surroundings), but after being directed to the fantastic work by Bill Gekas of his daughter with a 16-45, it certainly leads me to think about the TOP article again.
Bill Gekas Photography | The Gallery
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