SLR vs Compact - Sensor sizes and Quality

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Billy, May 24, 2006.

  1. Billy

    Billy Guest

    I have the Nikon D70 and I'm thinking of scaling back down to a compact
    for convenience purposes. I'm a previous Coolpix series owner and loved
    the swivel style cameras. I'm not a very serious photographer and like
    all the gadgets such as scene modes, movie mode, etc.

    Not being a serious photographer, I dont know what I'll be missing. I
    hear much talk about sensor size, and I'm a bit worried that if I went
    back down to something like the Coolpix P2, that I'd be sacraficing
    quality and other important things. I really want to Coolpix S4 (I
    think it is) which is a newer swivel style but I wanted 30 frames per
    sec in 640x480 movie mode - which it is lacking (only 15 frames sec).
    That is a big gadget lacking feature for me.

    Can someone help give me a bullet list of what I'd be sacraficing with
    a compact like this so that I can make the decision if the features
    will be missed or not?
     
    Billy, May 24, 2006
    #1
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  2. Billy

    y_p_w Guest

    Billy wrote:
    > I have the Nikon D70 and I'm thinking of scaling back down to a compact
    > for convenience purposes. I'm a previous Coolpix series owner and loved
    > the swivel style cameras. I'm not a very serious photographer and like
    > all the gadgets such as scene modes, movie mode, etc.
    >
    > Not being a serious photographer, I dont know what I'll be missing. I
    > hear much talk about sensor size, and I'm a bit worried that if I went
    > back down to something like the Coolpix P2, that I'd be sacraficing
    > quality and other important things. I really want to Coolpix S4 (I
    > think it is) which is a newer swivel style but I wanted 30 frames per
    > sec in 640x480 movie mode - which it is lacking (only 15 frames sec).
    > That is a big gadget lacking feature for me.
    >
    > Can someone help give me a bullet list of what I'd be sacraficing with
    > a compact like this so that I can make the decision if the features
    > will be missed or not?


    Nikon D70 - 6 MP effective

    23.7 x 15.5 mm sensor = 367.35 mm^2

    <http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Nikon/nikon_d70.asp>

    Nikon Coolpix S4 - 6 MP effective

    1/2.5" (4:3 aspect ratio) sensor = 5.76 x 4.29 mmm = 24.71 mm^2

    <http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Nikon/nikon_cps4.asp>

    Do the math. That's almost 15 times the area. It's gathering that
    much more light, although it requires much larger lenses to do so.
    There's certainly nothing wrong with using both. You won't always
    want to lug around the D70 and its associated equipment. A
    compact digicam could be carried as a backup to the dSLR.

    Your D70 is going to be far more responsive. You should be able
    to take indoor pictures without flash that aren't so noisy. It is
    bigger though.

    BTW - you'd be going back to a 4:3 aspect ratio, if that's important
    to you.
     
    y_p_w, May 24, 2006
    #2
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  3. "Billy" <> writes:

    > I have the Nikon D70 and I'm thinking of scaling back down to a compact
    > for convenience purposes. I'm a previous Coolpix series owner and loved
    > the swivel style cameras. I'm not a very serious photographer and like
    > all the gadgets such as scene modes, movie mode, etc.
    >
    > Not being a serious photographer, I dont know what I'll be missing.


    I'd suggest that you probably *do* know what you'd be missing. At
    least, you've previously owned Coolpix series cameras, and you now
    have a D70 -- so you've used both, and seen the photos you take with
    both.

    If you don't know what the difference in results, and the difference
    in process, is, seems like it's only because you're not paying
    attention :).

    > I hear much talk about sensor size, and I'm a bit worried that if I
    > went back down to something like the Coolpix P2, that I'd be
    > sacraficing quality and other important things.


    You definitely would. But it's possible that you don't push even
    something like the P2 to the limit; some quality differences won't be
    very noticeable if you stick to small image sizes.

    The sensor size makes a difference basically in noise. That's most
    noticeable at high ISO.

    > I really want to Coolpix S4 (I think it is) which is a newer swivel
    > style but I wanted 30 frames per sec in 640x480 movie mode - which
    > it is lacking (only 15 frames sec). That is a big gadget lacking
    > feature for me.


    Every report I've heard says that camcorders are much better
    camcorders than P&S digicams are (also that P&S digicams are much
    better cameras than camcorders are).
    --
    David Dyer-Bennet, <mailto:>, <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/>
    RKBA: <http://www.dd-b.net/carry/>
    Pics: <http://dd-b.lighthunters.net/> <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/>
    Dragaera/Steven Brust: <http://dragaera.info/>
     
    David Dyer-Bennet, May 24, 2006
    #3
  4. Billy

    Jeremy Guest

    "Billy" <> wrote in message
    >
    > Can someone help give me a bullet list of what I'd be sacraficing with
    > a compact like this so that I can make the decision if the features
    > will be missed or not?
    >


    Here is an article that lists many of the significant differences:

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/2dig.htm
     
    Jeremy, May 25, 2006
    #4
  5. Billy

    Don Stauffer Guest

    Billy wrote:
    > I have the Nikon D70 and I'm thinking of scaling back down to a compact
    > for convenience purposes. I'm a previous Coolpix series owner and loved
    > the swivel style cameras. I'm not a very serious photographer and like
    > all the gadgets such as scene modes, movie mode, etc.
    >
    > Not being a serious photographer, I dont know what I'll be missing. I
    > hear much talk about sensor size, and I'm a bit worried that if I went
    > back down to something like the Coolpix P2, that I'd be sacraficing
    > quality and other important things. I really want to Coolpix S4 (I
    > think it is) which is a newer swivel style but I wanted 30 frames per
    > sec in 640x480 movie mode - which it is lacking (only 15 frames sec).
    > That is a big gadget lacking feature for me.
    >
    > Can someone help give me a bullet list of what I'd be sacraficing with
    > a compact like this so that I can make the decision if the features
    > will be missed or not?
    >


    Basically you'd be sacrificing a bit of exposure speed. The smaller
    chips have a bit lower signal/noise ratio in dim light. A slower
    exposure speed means maybe using a tripod more often, or having to
    accept a bit more noise in pictures taken in dim light.
     
    Don Stauffer, May 25, 2006
    #5
  6. Billy

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Billy wrote:
    > I have the Nikon D70 and I'm thinking of scaling back down to a compact
    > for convenience purposes. I'm a previous Coolpix series owner and loved
    > the swivel style cameras. I'm not a very serious photographer and like
    > all the gadgets such as scene modes, movie mode, etc.
    >
    > Not being a serious photographer, I dont know what I'll be missing. I
    > hear much talk about sensor size, and I'm a bit worried that if I went
    > back down to something like the Coolpix P2, that I'd be sacraficing
    > quality and other important things.


    The digital SLR's do produce sharper, cleaner images. They are
    especially better in low light where the large sensors support
    amplification to ISO ratings of 1600 or 3200 compared to a max of
    400 for the P&S cameras.

    However, having said that, it may still be the case that the P&S
    offers _sufficient_ quality for your purposes. I personally chose a
    P&S camera (Pentax Optio 750Z) for the low cost, high versatility
    (e.g., 640x480x30fps video, tilt swivel LCD back) and especially, the
    low size and weight. Like you, I'm not a serious art photographer.
    It's important to me to have a camera that I can carry around without
    feeling that it's a burden.

    Also, I think that 99% of the "quality" of a photo is in the eye and
    skill of the photographer and only 1% is in the quality of the camera,
    at least if decent quality cameras are used. Remember that the
    great photographers of the last two centuries were often using
    equipment that can't match the optical quality of quite cheap
    cameras made today.

    I think that what you need to do is to go to one of the review sites
    like http://www.steves-digicams.com or http://www.dpreview.com,
    read the reviews, and look at the images produced by the cameras.
    If the quality of the images of the camera you want will be
    unacceptable to you, you should be able to see that in the photos
    taken by the reviewers.

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, May 25, 2006
    #6
  7. Billy

    Alfred Molon Guest

    In article <>,
    says...

    > The digital SLR's do produce sharper, cleaner images.


    That depends on the lens you use. There are compact cameras with lenses
    which are at the level of a good DSLR lens (better than the DSLR kit
    lenses).
    --

    Alfred Molon
    ------------------------------
    Olympus 50X0, 7070, 8080, E300, E330 and E500 forum at
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MyOlympus/
    Olympus E330 resource - http://myolympus.org/E330/
     
    Alfred Molon, May 25, 2006
    #7
  8. Billy

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Alfred Molon wrote:
    > In article <>,
    > says...
    >
    > > The digital SLR's do produce sharper, cleaner images.

    >
    > That depends on the lens you use. There are compact cameras with lenses
    > which are at the level of a good DSLR lens (better than the DSLR kit
    > lenses).


    I wonder about whether a sharp lens resolving down to a tiny
    sensor will be as sharp as a lesser lens that resolves to a much
    larger sensor.

    In the film world, a relatively poorer lens on a 2-1/4 square
    camera will produce a sharper output for the same size print as a
    relatively sharper lens on a 35 mm camera - because the image
    doesn't have to be enlarged as much. With around double the
    required enlargement in each dimension, a 35mm film camera lens
    resolving 80 lines per millimeter will be less sharp than a 60 mm
    film lens resolving 50 lpm for a given size print.

    In the digital world, this analogy isn't precise. However I
    would think it's still the case that if the smallest "point" a
    lens will resolve fits in one pixel, you can get a sharper image
    than if it spills over across adjacent pixels. And you can vary
    that ratio either by using a sharper lens, or by using a larger
    pixel.

    Also, there's no doubt that the larger sensors in the dSLR
    cameras produce less noise. With more electrons in the "well" at
    each pixel position, the ratio of the number of electrons created
    by a light signal to the number created by random thermal events
    will be larger in a larger sensor than in a smaller one - hence
    less "noise".

    Someone who knows more than I should feel free to step in if I've
    misstated the case.

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, May 25, 2006
    #8
  9. On 25 May 2006 13:25:23 -0700, Alan Meyer <> wrote:
    >
    > In the digital world, this analogy isn't precise. However I
    > would think it's still the case that if the smallest "point" a
    > lens will resolve fits in one pixel, you can get a sharper image
    > than if it spills over across adjacent pixels. And you can vary
    > that ratio either by using a sharper lens, or by using a larger
    > pixel.
    >
    > Also, there's no doubt that the larger sensors in the dSLR
    > cameras produce less noise. With more electrons in the "well" at
    > each pixel position, the ratio of the number of electrons created
    > by a light signal to the number created by random thermal events
    > will be larger in a larger sensor than in a smaller one - hence
    > less "noise".


    For one comparison, there's this:
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz30/page13.asp
    which is a high-end small-sensor camera vs. an intro-level DSLR

    "OK, so the FZ30 image is noisier (though in prints it's not enough to
    cause concern), and has marginally less detail and a narrower dynamic
    range, but perhaps the most surprising thing here is how well the FZ30's
    image stacks up against a camera with a huge sensor and a razor-sharp
    50mm F1.4 lens. If you compare the FZ30 against a 350D with a cheaper
    zoom lens the sharpness difference is far less stark."

    Of course, on the next page of that review, they crank both cameras up
    to their respective max ISOs, where the large sensor makes a vast
    difference. But that's the sensor, not the lens.

    -dms
     
    Daniel Silevitch, May 25, 2006
    #9
  10. Billy

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Daniel Silevitch wrote:
    > ...
    > For one comparison, there's this:
    > http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz30/page13.asp
    > which is a high-end small-sensor camera vs. an intro-level DSLR
    >
    > "OK, so the FZ30 image is noisier (though in prints it's not enough to
    > cause concern), and has marginally less detail and a narrower dynamic
    > range, but perhaps the most surprising thing here is how well the FZ30's
    > image stacks up against a camera with a huge sensor and a razor-sharp
    > 50mm F1.4 lens. If you compare the FZ30 against a 350D with a cheaper
    > zoom lens the sharpness difference is far less stark."
    >
    > Of course, on the next page of that review, they crank both cameras up
    > to their respective max ISOs, where the large sensor makes a vast
    > difference. But that's the sensor, not the lens.


    That's a fascinating comparison.

    Looking closely at various parts of the images, it seemed to me
    that the 350D showed better resolution, lower noise, and more
    dynamic range (i.e., more gradations of color) in all the images.
    It clearly produced higher quality images.

    However, if I had a choice between the high quality camera and
    the lower quality camera plus $1,000 saved on camera and lenses,
    plus lower weight and size, I might very well choose the cheaper,
    smaller, lower quality image camera.

    If I were a professional photographer shooting for clients, I'd
    definitely buy the SLR. But shooting only for myself, I think
    I'd probably pick the other camera. It's good enough for me
    and would certainly be easier to justify to my wife :)

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, May 25, 2006
    #10
  11. On 25 May 2006 14:30:18 -0700, Alan Meyer <> wrote:
    > Daniel Silevitch wrote:
    >> ...
    >> For one comparison, there's this:
    >> http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz30/page13.asp
    >> which is a high-end small-sensor camera vs. an intro-level DSLR
    >>
    >> "OK, so the FZ30 image is noisier (though in prints it's not enough to
    >> cause concern), and has marginally less detail and a narrower dynamic
    >> range, but perhaps the most surprising thing here is how well the FZ30's
    >> image stacks up against a camera with a huge sensor and a razor-sharp
    >> 50mm F1.4 lens. If you compare the FZ30 against a 350D with a cheaper
    >> zoom lens the sharpness difference is far less stark."
    >>
    >> Of course, on the next page of that review, they crank both cameras up
    >> to their respective max ISOs, where the large sensor makes a vast
    >> difference. But that's the sensor, not the lens.

    >
    > That's a fascinating comparison.
    >
    > Looking closely at various parts of the images, it seemed to me
    > that the 350D showed better resolution, lower noise, and more
    > dynamic range (i.e., more gradations of color) in all the images.
    > It clearly produced higher quality images.
    >
    > However, if I had a choice between the high quality camera and
    > the lower quality camera plus $1,000 saved on camera and lenses,
    > plus lower weight and size, I might very well choose the cheaper,
    > smaller, lower quality image camera.
    >
    > If I were a professional photographer shooting for clients, I'd
    > definitely buy the SLR. But shooting only for myself, I think
    > I'd probably pick the other camera. It's good enough for me
    > and would certainly be easier to justify to my wife :)


    You might change your mind if you ever needed to shoot above ISO200; the
    big sensor of even a low-end SLR blows the thumbnail-sized imager of a
    P&S out of the water. You might also change your mind if you like wide
    shots; one of the more annoying aspects of my FZ5 (smaller brother of
    the camera reviewed above) is that the wide limit is 36mm.

    But within their limitations, the high-end P&Ss can do pretty well.

    -dms
     
    Daniel Silevitch, May 25, 2006
    #11
  12. Billy

    Rudy Benner Guest

    "Daniel Silevitch" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > On 25 May 2006 14:30:18 -0700, Alan Meyer <> wrote:
    >> Daniel Silevitch wrote:
    >>> ...
    >>> For one comparison, there's this:
    >>> http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz30/page13.asp
    >>> which is a high-end small-sensor camera vs. an intro-level DSLR
    >>>
    >>> "OK, so the FZ30 image is noisier (though in prints it's not enough to
    >>> cause concern), and has marginally less detail and a narrower dynamic
    >>> range, but perhaps the most surprising thing here is how well the FZ30's
    >>> image stacks up against a camera with a huge sensor and a razor-sharp
    >>> 50mm F1.4 lens. If you compare the FZ30 against a 350D with a cheaper
    >>> zoom lens the sharpness difference is far less stark."
    >>>
    >>> Of course, on the next page of that review, they crank both cameras up
    >>> to their respective max ISOs, where the large sensor makes a vast
    >>> difference. But that's the sensor, not the lens.

    >>
    >> That's a fascinating comparison.
    >>
    >> Looking closely at various parts of the images, it seemed to me
    >> that the 350D showed better resolution, lower noise, and more
    >> dynamic range (i.e., more gradations of color) in all the images.
    >> It clearly produced higher quality images.
    >>
    >> However, if I had a choice between the high quality camera and
    >> the lower quality camera plus $1,000 saved on camera and lenses,
    >> plus lower weight and size, I might very well choose the cheaper,
    >> smaller, lower quality image camera.
    >>
    >> If I were a professional photographer shooting for clients, I'd
    >> definitely buy the SLR. But shooting only for myself, I think
    >> I'd probably pick the other camera. It's good enough for me
    >> and would certainly be easier to justify to my wife :)

    >
    > You might change your mind if you ever needed to shoot above ISO200; the
    > big sensor of even a low-end SLR blows the thumbnail-sized imager of a
    > P&S out of the water. You might also change your mind if you like wide
    > shots; one of the more annoying aspects of my FZ5 (smaller brother of
    > the camera reviewed above) is that the wide limit is 36mm.
    >
    > But within their limitations, the high-end P&Ss can do pretty well.
    >
    > -dms


    Ok, all right, I gave up. Geez. Went and bought the Nikon D-50. Oly C-7070
    will be backup and for underwater use in the housing. Lens is Nikkor
    18-70mm.
     
    Rudy Benner, May 25, 2006
    #12
  13. Billy

    Alfred Molon Guest

    In article <>,
    says...

    > I wonder about whether a sharp lens resolving down to a tiny
    > sensor will be as sharp as a lesser lens that resolves to a much
    > larger sensor.


    The lens of the Olympus 8080 (a compact camera) is better than the kit
    lenses of the Canon and Olympus DSLRs (Nikon I don't know). It's overall
    sharper and is so from corner to corner, even wide open. Lots of DSLR
    lenses (not just the kit lenses) are not corner-to-corner sharp when
    wide open.

    Here is a test in case you are interested:
    http://myolympus.org/8080/#Lens_resolution

    Here is another test in which again the lens of the 8080 beats the DSLR:
    http://tinyurl.com/o497a

    Another factor to consider is that cameras with no mirror have an
    advantage, because the lens is closer to the sensor.
    --

    Alfred Molon
    ------------------------------
    Olympus 50X0, 7070, 8080, E300, E330 and E500 forum at
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MyOlympus/
    Olympus E330 resource - http://myolympus.org/E330/
     
    Alfred Molon, May 25, 2006
    #13
  14. Billy

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Daniel Silevitch wrote:
    > ...
    > You might change your mind if you ever needed to shoot above ISO200; the
    > big sensor of even a low-end SLR blows the thumbnail-sized imager of a
    > P&S out of the water. You might also change your mind if you like wide
    > shots; one of the more annoying aspects of my FZ5 (smaller brother of
    > the camera reviewed above) is that the wide limit is 36mm.


    Good points. I've lost a lot of photos to blur due to the combination
    of low maximum ISO speed and high minimum f/stop. And as for
    wide angle, I think the best mine does is the equivalent of 37.5 mm.

    > But within their limitations, the high-end P&Ss can do pretty well.


    I think of it as a challenge - use my brain to overcome the limits of
    the camera. Now if only I didn't have to think so hard :)

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, May 26, 2006
    #14
  15. "sensor size"?!
    LOL!

    I have a Kodak c330 with 4mp and 1/2.5" CCD.
    I cropped an image, printed it, and cant tell the
    difference between it and a 35mm print.
    full frame as in 35mm, large format? 110, 126?
     
    Mr.Bolshoyhuy, May 26, 2006
    #15
  16. Billy

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Mr.Bolshoyhuy wrote:
    > "sensor size"?!
    > LOL!
    >
    > I have a Kodak c330 with 4mp and 1/2.5" CCD.
    > I cropped an image, printed it, and cant tell the
    > difference between it and a 35mm print.
    > full frame as in 35mm, large format? 110, 126?


    The results you get printing a digital image depend
    on a lot of factors of which pixel count and CCD size
    are just two of them.

    Others are: size of the enlargement, amount of detail
    in the photo, and ISO setting in the camera at the time
    of exposure.

    Up to 5" x 7", I believe that a 4mp camera with a
    small sensor can produce results that are indistinguishable
    from better cameras. At 4x6, you can do a lot of cropping
    in a 4 mp image and still look excellent. If the scene has
    very little fine detail, you can print 16x20 and look very
    good.

    For most people, cameras like yours are more than
    adequate.

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, May 29, 2006
    #16
  17. "Alan Meyer" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Mr.Bolshoyhuy wrote:
    >> "sensor size"?!
    >> LOL!
    >>
    >> I have a Kodak c330 with 4mp and 1/2.5" CCD.
    >> I cropped an image, printed it, and cant tell the
    >> difference between it and a 35mm print.
    >> full frame as in 35mm, large format? 110, 126?

    >
    > The results you get printing a digital image depend
    > on a lot of factors of which pixel count and CCD size
    > are just two of them.
    >
    > Others are: size of the enlargement, amount of detail
    > in the photo, and ISO setting in the camera at the time
    > of exposure.
    >
    > Up to 5" x 7", I believe that a 4mp camera with a
    > small sensor can produce results that are indistinguishable
    > from better cameras. At 4x6, you can do a lot of cropping
    > in a 4 mp image and still look excellent. If the scene has
    > very little fine detail, you can print 16x20 and look very
    > good.
    >

    IF (and that's a massive IF) the optics are good.
    Problem is that most small cameras have shitty optics (and that's giving
    them more credit than they're due).
     
    Jeroen Wenting, May 29, 2006
    #17
  18. Jeremy wrote:

    >
    > Here is an article that lists many of the significant differences:
    >
    > http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/2dig.htm


    what does this mean:
    "You can fill an entire laptop or monitor screen or project the images
    with no loss or cropping. Even vertical compositions on a projector are
    far bigger than the skinnier images from a DSLR."?

    skinnier? huh?
     
    Mr.Bolshoyhuy, Jun 4, 2006
    #18
  19. Billy

    J. Clarke Guest

    Jeremy wrote:

    > "Billy" <> wrote in message
    >>
    >> Can someone help give me a bullet list of what I'd be sacraficing with
    >> a compact like this so that I can make the decision if the features
    >> will be missed or not?
    >>

    >
    > Here is an article that lists many of the significant differences:
    >
    > http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/2dig.htm


    Take that one with a large dose of salt.

    --
    --John
    to email, dial "usenet" and validate
    (was jclarke at eye bee em dot net)
     
    J. Clarke, Jun 4, 2006
    #19
  20. Billy

    J. Clarke Guest

    Mr.Bolshoyhuy wrote:

    >
    > Jeremy wrote:
    >
    >>
    >> Here is an article that lists many of the significant differences:
    >>
    >> http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/2dig.htm

    >
    > what does this mean:
    > "You can fill an entire laptop or monitor screen or project the images
    > with no loss or cropping. Even vertical compositions on a projector are
    > far bigger than the skinnier images from a DSLR."?
    >
    > skinnier? huh?


    He's talking about a slight difference in aspect ratio. He's also blowing
    it out of proportion.

    --
    --John
    to email, dial "usenet" and validate
    (was jclarke at eye bee em dot net)
     
    J. Clarke, Jun 4, 2006
    #20
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