Monday, April 8, 2013

An Introduction to Large Sensor Compact Cameras

In the last few years we have seen a new trend in compact cameras. Select manufacturers have decided to trade making a camera as small as possible for the higher image quality that comes with having a larger sensor.

The benefit of a large sensor is improved image quality. It gives better dynamic range, better colors, and better low-light performance. To make the most of these sensors, the companies have also looked at the other aspects of the camera to make it appeal to a more discerning photographer. They are coupling them with a higher-grade lens that is able to optimize the photos coming out of the camera. They also have paid special attention to the controls. Some companies have gone for simple controls, while others try to pack the camera full of features. All of the cameras are designed for professional photographers who may want something smaller to have on the side, or for an advanced amateur who appreciates what these cameras offer.


The first large sensor compact released was the Leica X1. The X1 has a 12 megapixel APS-C sensor that is the same size that many DSLRs use. The X1 was designed to be easy to operate, with the best possible image quality. They created a 24mm (36mm equivalent) f2.8 lens that was designed specifically for this camera. It is sharp, with great color reproduction. This is a camera for a person who likes to take their time when taking their photos, and is looking for the best possible image quality. Leica has followed the X1 with the X2. In typical Leica fashion, the X2 is an evolution of the X1. It offers a higher resolution of 16 megapixels, a faster auto focus system, and a few other improvements. 


Perhaps the most popular of these new cameras has been the Fuji X100. It has a 12 megapixel APS-C sensor and 35mm equivalent lens and looks like a classic rangefinder camera. Fuji incorporated a hybrid viewfinder into the X100 that is switchable between an optical or electronic viewfinder at the flip of a switch. This allows the photographer to work in whichever way they prefer. The X100 has been widely adopted for the quality of it’s photos and innovative design. And like Leica, Fuji has recently updated the X100 to the X100s. Fuji has included it’s new 16 megapixel X Trans sensor that has a unique filter array to improve the overall resolution of the camera. Fuji has improved AF as well as the low light capabilities of the camera.


Canon took a different approach when designing the G1X. Instead of using an APS-C sensor, the sensor in the G1X is 20 percent smaller, but is still larger than other point and shoot cameras on the market. They also included a zoom with a 28-112mm equivalent range. Canon wanted this to be a good back up to photographers who are using their DSLR cameras.  The controls will be familiar to someone who uses a Canon 5D Mark III or 7D. There is also an articulated screen for more versatility in composing photos or video.


Sony has made an exciting entrance into this market by releasing the RX1. It is the first company to release a compact camera with a full frame sensor. This means that the sensor is the same size as a 35mm negative and the same as the top DSLR cameras. This allows the best possible image quality. They have mated it with a Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 lens that was designed especially for this camera. It has the photo quality of the best cameras on the market, but is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. Sony has delivered an unparalleled tool for photo taking. From it’s small size to it’s amazing photos, this is a camera for the photographer who wants the best compact camera available.

 

The new kid on the block is the Nikon Coolpix A. It has a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor and a 28mm f2.8 lens. They decided on a wider angle lens, to separate the Coolpix A from the pack. They have made it easy to use for someone using their medium range DSLR camera or the high-end point and shoots like the P7700. It has many of the features found in Nikon’s best cameras, including the Creative Lighting System for amazing TTL flash photography.

This is a segment of cameras that I see growing over the next few years as camera phones continue to be used as the go-to camera for most people. People are going to need a reason to buy a compact camera instead of using their phones, and this just might be the answer. 

- Josh Bearden

4 comments:

  1. Nice article, it would be nice to include the Sigma DP series of cameras in your list.

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  2. No mention of Pentax, Ricoh, or Samsung?

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  3. The first large sensor compact was Sigma DP1

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  4. I am agree with Mr. Anonymous, Sigma DP was the first one before all this cameras you listed.

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