Sunday, 23 August 2015

Impact of sensor size

Looking back, we have had "the megapixel race", in which camera makers aimed put more and more resolution into their cameras. And for compact cameras, we have had the "superzoom race", so far culminating in the mindboggling 83x built-in optical zoom in the Nikon Coolpix P900.

In the enthusiast segment, though, there is a very clear trend at the moment: The importance of the sensor size. We have the very successful Sony RX100 large sensor compact camera sporting a "one inch" sensor, while previously cameras from the same segment typically had 1/1.7 inch sensors.

So why, exactly, is the sensor size important? It does lead to larger and more expensive cameras, and larger lenses, so there must be positive aspects as well to balance this out.

One such positive is bokeh: The larger the sensor, the thinner the depth of focus is. Meaning that the foreground and background will be more out of focus, everything else equal. Read more about it here.

Also, the larger the size of each individual photosite, the better the quality. At least in theory. Hence, one would normally expect less noise and better dynamic range from a larger sensor than from a smaller sensor. To illustrate this, I have taken the same pictures using three different sensor sizes:

From left to right: Nikon 1 V3 (one inch sensor size), Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II (Four Thirds sensor size), and Nikon D3300 (APS-C sensor size).

Here is a relative comparison of the sensor sizes:

Monday, 17 August 2015

New Lumix 20mm lens: Better focus ring

The Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake is a classic Micro Four Thirds lens. Being the first Panasonic prime lens, it is widely considered to be very well performing. But it has some shortcomings: Due to the old fashioned focus design, where the whole lens assembly moves back and forth during focusing, the autofocus is rather slow. Also, the large focus assembly makes it very noisy when focusing.

In 2013, Panasonic updated the lens. It is well known that the new lens is largely a cosmetic redesign: The optical layout is the same, and the focus method is the same. But is the new lens better? The new lens is available in black and silver, and you can see the silver version to the right below:

Old (left) and new (right) versions of the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

Design wise, I much prefer the old version, to the left. I don't like glossy lenses. The specifications are very similar, but the new one is lighter, even if it has a thin metal outer body:

LensLumix G 20mm f/1.7Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II
Lens elements/groups7/57/5
Aperture diaphragm blades77
Minimum focus0.20m0.20m
Filter thread46mm46mm
Hood includedNoNo
Optical image stabilisationNoNo

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Less camera sales, fewer camera models?

A lot has been said recently about the decline in the camera market: The number of sold camera units have decreased dramatically in the recent years. This is mostly due to mobile phones having good enough cameras, and, perhaps even more importantly, that mobile phones are connected, making it easier to share images and videos on social media.

This decline in sales mostly affects the low end of the market, meaning basic compact cameras. These are most easily replaced by the camera phones.

System cameras, with interchangeable lenses, still sell fairly well, even if their numbers also drop. Among these, we see a small increase in the ratio of mirrorless cameras sold. But DSLR cameras still hold a major part of the market.

With this new reality, what should the camera maker's response be? They can try to make even better cameras, to capture a larger share of the cameras actually sold, or they can try to scale down and only produce the kind of models which people buy the most of. So are there fewer camera announcements now?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

New firmware for Lumix 14-140mm II

Panasonic recently updated the firmware for a number of their lenses (click here). The updates are mostly geared towards the upcoming Lumix GX8, promising to deliver the dual IS feature, using both the lens optical image stabilization, and the camera sensor shift image stabilization at the same time.

One of the lenses affected is the Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 superzoom lens (click for my review). Compared with the older version of the lens, I find that it is better in every way: Smaller, lighter, cheaper initial price, better image quality.

There are some who say that the new version of the lens causes "micro jitters" when recording video handheld, which makes it impossible for use with video. As the lens is advertized for video use especially, this sounds like a very bad thing.

To see if there is a problem after the new v1.1 firmware upgrade, I have tested the lens together with the old version, supposedly free from the micro jitters issue. I've mounted them on a pair of Lumix GX7 cameras, and recorded video at 1080p, 50FPS. To avoid motion blur, which might hide the micro jitters, I set a fast shutter speed at 1/250s.

Both cameras were connected to a Desmond mini stereo bracket. The new version of the lens to the right.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Can you make money off your photos with Foap?

There is a demand for pictures for use as illustrations, both online and in the real world. This market is capitalized upon by a number of marketplace services, aiming to be a middleman between the photographer and the publisher.

One such middleman is Foap. From the point of view of the photographer, Foap is an app, where you can upload your photos, and sell them for US$5.

Now, this doesn't sound like a lot, you may say, but let me add that this is the sum you get for a single use of the picture, you retain the copyright, and you can resell it a number of times.

The buyer pays US$10 for each image use, and Foap cashes in on the difference, that is their business idea.

So how does this work? Essentially, Foap tries to be two different things:

  • A marketplace for selling your photos
  • A community for photo interested people

Uploading a photo is much like on social media like Instagram: You will be asked to provide a name, an "story" behind the photo, and tags. Filling out this, especially the tags, is very important, as this is how the buyers find their pictures.