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Why can't a COMPACT, ZOOM, FULL FRAME DIGITAL camera be built? Film ones existed !!

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by MarcusGR, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. MarcusGR

    MarcusGR SC Rookie

    12
    Sep 11, 2010
    Dear all,

    my favourite, long-since abandoned, film-camera was my Pentax Espio 928.
    It was small and lightweight, and it had a capable zoom (28-90). And, of course, it was "full frame". Yes, its aperture value was poor (3.5-9), but I can't help wondering why they can't make, nowadays, a digital full-frame compact ZOOM by just puttin in a digital sensor into an equivalent of my Espio 928 ..!! Current digital sensors are very sensitive to light ... And the resulting camera would still be very attractive even if - to improve minimum aperture - one had to give up some of its zoom, ... Besides, it would have a decent optical viewfinder so, personally, just to keep the camera small and light, I wouldn't be bothered by the lack of an LCD screen !! I would be very grateful to you for a technical explanation to my question.... I'm sure there is one. Kind Regards, Marcus.
    PENTAX ESPIO 928 film camera:
    Focal length: 28-90mm
    Focusing range: 0.58m - infinity.
    Macx. aperture: f3.5-9
    Shutter speeds : 1/5s - 1/400s, plus B.
    Film speeds: DX coded ISO 25-3200 (ISO 25 for non-DX coded film).
    Dimensions: 126.5 x 73 x 57.5mm
    Weight: 315g (without battery) espio928.
     
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  2. Mayank

    Mayank SC Veteran

    230
    Jul 16, 2010
    India
    Marcus, I think camera companies are not building a full-frame compact camera because of marketing reasons! They would like to 'evolve' compact cameras slowly and reach full frame in a few years time, in the process making us buy many camera models :eek:
    For the time being, I think any of the micro four thirds cameras may come closest to the Espio you have mentioned. Leica X1 and Sigma DP1/2 may also come close but they have do not have zoom lenses.
     
  3. MarcusGR

    MarcusGR SC Rookie

    12
    Sep 11, 2010
    Thank you, Mayank. Nonetheless I do not believe in conspiration-theories ... Too much competion on the market. I rather think there must be some technical reason, which I would like to be clarified by a camera-designer.
    For instance: in order to have a lightweight zoom, old Espio928 had a rather small lens. Maybe the resolution of a current full-frame sensor would exceed the resolution of such a lens itself ... But, of course, I am just guessing ... Poor old Espio928 full-frame exposures looked fine indeed, but I never had them printed in a large format ...
     
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  4. Ghosthunter

    Ghosthunter boo!

    Sep 8, 2010
    London UK
    Andy
    Leica do one....sort of, the M9 and I'm sure someone will be along at some point with their version. A GF1 type camera with FF sensor would be my idea of heaven!! especially if it gave the same image quality than the Nikon and Canon FF cameras.
     
  5. jankapp

    jankapp SC Regular

    45
    Aug 28, 2010
    As you bought your Espio you did not pay for the sensor.
    Jan
     
  6. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    Cost is a major barrier. When an image from a crop sensor is near the image quality of a full-frame sensor but is significantly cheaper to produce, it's an easy decision for the manufacturer.

    It's also a technical issue. Sensor design needs to improve in order for full-frame sensors to work in a compact camera. I believe the Kodak sensor in the M9 is unique in the use of offset microlenses to achieve a full-frame sensor in a relatively small body.
     
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  7. sonomichele

    sonomichele SC Regular

    43
    Jul 6, 2010
    Texas
    Marcus, there are a few reasons. Cost is one, FF sensors really cost a lot, I think in the hundreds of dollars each. Secondly is that film is much more forgiving than a digital sensor with respect to light coming in from oblique angles. That is why it took Leica many years to develop the appropriate microlenses and sensor needed for the M9. Third and the one reason that most people don't really attend to, is that the older compact cameras really weren't that good. There were some exceptions, but as a general rule I think that holds true. We generally just looked at them at 4x6 size and rarely blew them up. Digital is much more demanding because we all blow them up 100% on our computer screens. I think if you actually took some of those old images and scanned them and enlarged the way we do digital files, then you would be surprised and not in a good way. Our standards have really gone way up and we demand a lot more.
     
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  8. MarcusGR

    MarcusGR SC Rookie

    12
    Sep 11, 2010
    Tanks a lot, Michael ("Sonomichele") for your excellent explanation. Meanwhile, I had been looking myself for a technical one, and ended up finding a formidable article titled "Do sensors out-resolve lenses?" written by a scientist (Osuna) and a photographer (Garcia), and issued in the "Luminous Landscape" website (see: Do Sensors “Outresolve” Lenses?). I am still groggy after reading it ... but it is a mix of extremely technical, esotheric stuff and "humane" conclusions. The latter can be boiled down to what Michael said. In particular, Osuna&Garcia conclude: "Sensors for larger formats are approaching the diffraction limit of real lenses, and it is more difficult to get high levels of aberration suppression for them. The point is that you cannot fully exploit the resolution potential of high-resolution sensors with regular mass-produced lenses, particularly for larger formats". Old Espio 928 zoom-lens, tiny and mass-produced as it certainly was, would almost certainly be unworthy a FF sensor. But let me invite you all to read Osuna&Garcia article: it almost killed me:biggrin:, but it changed a lot of my assumptions regarding sensors and objectives.
     
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  9. Chuck-B&H

    Chuck-B&H B&H Photo Specialist

    56
    Aug 5, 2010
    New York
    Hello,

    While I do not know any insider secretes, my gut feeling is cost and size. Take the Sigma Dp cameras for example;

    Point & Shoot Digital Cameras

    They are excellent cameras but when compared to the Canon G models or the Panasonic LX's they are seen by consumers as expensive. Over the past 10+ years, my experience has been that point and shoot customers ultimately want a camera that is small and inexpensive and this is what the manufacturers cater too. There is little market demand for a FF small camera with a big price tag. What might be a compromise for you are the new mirror-less cameras coming to the market with APS-C size sensors. I have use the Samsung NX-10 quite a bit this past summer and my results were excellent. The new Sony NEX models also look to be excellent.

    Mirrorless System Cameras
     
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  10. Mayank

    Mayank SC Veteran

    230
    Jul 16, 2010
    India
    Marcus, this is not a conspiracy theory, but design or marketing theory :) Trust me, I am a designer and know that marketing rules the world of design today. Most electronic products are deliberately put through a step-by-step, almost incremental evolution governed by marketing. It's the reason why digital cameras (at least the lower end) by different manufacturers look more or less the same (some call them clones) and have similar feature sets, which is not a coincidence! But I agree, this is not the only reason, I am sure there are a host of other reasons including technical constraints and cost.

     
  11. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    Thank you Chuck and sonomichele for your explanations. Electronic components often plummet in price as they improve (e.g. microprocessors, disk storage) so I am confident that others will join Leica and Kodak in the full-frame small-body category.

    Mayank, your theory may have some validity, but remember that camera manufacturers often get their electronic components from a similar source. Pick a group of cameras and they may have the same Sony sensor or third-party zoom lens. Compare it to the computer industry: Apple MacBooks have the same processors as Dell Inspirons and receive incremental updates as Intel delivers a new product. Camera makers depend on their suppliers, respond to competition and update their lines as necessary. If someone has figured out a cost-effective solution for a full-frame compact, we wouldn't be waiting until the next Photokina to hear about it and this forum would be bigger than Facebook.
     
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  12. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    But they don't need to be as big as the 5D, et al

    I, for one, would also like a smaller camera with FF sensor. I don't need the "pocket" cameras from the early 90s, but a smaller DSLR, the size of my Pentax ME Super, or even a Canon Digital Rebel. The 5D I had was just too big, and the M9 too expensive for my wallet.

    Surely they can shrink the body, even if they can't "miniaturize" it!

    I'm hoping the NEX might force Canon or Nikon to one-up Sony, before Sony does it to them with FF.
     
  13. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I'm not sure why FF is everybody's dream. Sometimes it works best for certain needs, other times it doesn't. I love my Ricoh GRD3 with its long DOF, something that a FF camera struggles with at times.

    FF sensors are expensive. Would we be willing to pay for that privilege in a compact?

    And lets not forget that large sensors require large lenses if they are zooms. Take a look at the Sony Nex - tiny camera but the large zoom lens hobbles it.
     
  14. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    I agree, but I'm happy with my ep1 for carry around zoom and my canon with 70-210 USM for some fast focusing. I'd like a carry around compact for shallow dof in a normal range. Need the ff sensors for that. There are enough compacts that perform well with tons of dof. What we don't have is the ff compact, and I think thats why some folks (I'm sure not everyone) wants one. There are no other options shy of the leica $$$.
     
  15. arpoador

    arpoador SC Regular

    Marcus -

    Thanks for linking to an amazing article. I just "read" it, and I think after a couple more tries (maybe this weekend) I might actually be able to follow it.

    I think this link is worthy of its own thread. If several of us try to read it and report our understanding of the content, we may be able to (together) do a better job of understanding all of the concepts involved.

    (And I thought I already understood what a Circle of Confusion meant, based on DOF discussions. Now I realize I'll have to rethink some of those assumptions too.)

     
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  16. MarcusGR

    MarcusGR SC Rookie

    12
    Sep 11, 2010
    circle of confusion ....

    The circle of confusion obviously is what appears around one's eyes after studying Osuna&Garcia exquisite scientific article in detail, isn' it? .... :wink: But I absolutely agree that a SERIOUS compacts fan - as I am - should do his/her best to have all those concepts as clear as possible. Marcus
     
  17. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
  18. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    Excellent point. I'd rather have a smaller sensor for the depth of field and smaller lenses. The desire for full-frame for me is the dynamic range and high-ISO performance. If that can be achieved in a small sensor, then I'd have very little interest in an expensive full-frame compact.

    The segment of the market that really excites is mobile phone cameras. They have powerful processors, advanced operating systems, network connections, applications (no more waiting for firmware updates for more features), bright high pixel-density screens, and can be carried everywhere. I'm imagining a backside illuminated 1/2" sensor with a magnetic lens mount or fixed prime and RAW capability. With fast multi-core processors in future phones, software can probably correct noise and extend the dynamic range with a single RAW file while maintaining a natural look.
     
  19. Mayank

    Mayank SC Veteran

    230
    Jul 16, 2010
    India
    Marcus, I think it's time for me to eat my words :tongue: Fuji FinePix X100 (launched earlier today) perhaps comes closest to the kind of camera you have mentioned, though it has an APS-C sensor and a fixed lens.
     
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  20. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    618
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Film cameras are a completely different kettle of fish from digital cameras. Digital sensors must have light strike the sensor at right angles; this means much larger lenses must be involved compared with film cameras. Leica have only just made a full frame camera that can use their M-mount lenses without massive vignetting, through the use of offset microlenses that direct more light into the edges and corners of the sensor. And even that system isn't quite perfect. When the M8 was made, it was technologically impossible to use a full frame sensor with M-mount lenses. Only recent developments have allowed this to happen (much to the joy of Leica shooters everywhere).

    The new Fuji X100 also uses offset microlenses which serve a similar purpose; I suspect this is one way that they can put such a small lens on an APS-C sensor and keep the package small.

    Technology is getting there, but it isn't there yet. I'm waiting for when it is, but in the meantime, I'll enjoy what is available. :smile:
     
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