The thing about “3rd Generation” Cameras

Read through the post from Trey Radcliff, the one who, as someone I saw, popularise HDR (actually there’s one who started it and execute it beautifully: Ansel Adams).  He says something about 3rd Generation camera going to be mainstream and he is not going to buy DSLR anytime sooner.  For those who are

http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/

I beg to differ and here are my points.

a) 3rd Generation moniker. I guess his point about horseless carts, or cars, set the tone of the whole post. I highly suspect that the post is meant to be an attack so much so even naming a system has become a sore point. I guess the best way to describe it rather than 3G or 4G etc is compact camera systems or CCS which is adopted by some tech sites now.

b) The pain of choice, or having difficulty to choose between Nikon and Canon. Those who know what I think should read my article. It is not tough. Just look at the pictures that the camera produces and then decide which camera system is for you. After which determine which camera system gets more market support (i.e.  3rd party lens). More often than not, it will be either Nikon or Canon at the present moment.

c) I think the main problem is not the thickness of the camera. If one wants to hold a camera comfortably, then the size of the body has to be of a certain size to hold the camera steadily. Perhaps Trey, being a HDR guy for too long, uses more of the tripod and hence don’t see the need for a comfortable grip.  I have hold LX5, x100 all the way to the professional range. ever wonder why the professional range cameras has those grips?

d) Old lens on CCS. This is one reason why I don’t like CCS because it has to use small lens to match the shallow depth of the camera because of the lack of a mirror. I prefer the DX or APS-C lens because it is at the sweet spot of being smaller than a full frame lens+sensor and yet maintain a very close Image Quality. Of course there are the Fujifilms that can match their small customised lens with an APS-C sized sensor and the combination gives out very good results.  How about old lens then?  like i said, the physics of light can only bend that much.  There are things such as lens coating that prevents chromatic aberrations and ghosting images. The reason is simple, the lens without coating has reached its limits. And there is also distortion. why is it at 10mm fish eye that has so much distortion can be used in CCS cameras?  Reason is simple: there is computational algorithms to right the distortion.

Let me try to get this. We always tell people not to use digital zoom. Why are we now telling people in-camera post processing to correct lines will be accurate?  Algorithms and actual image are two different things. I personally would like the image  not to be corrected too much but 10mm is really too wide for my taste.

e) About on screen image quality. A lot of people now base their IQ judgement on what they see on screen which may not be a true representation of what they will get if they print it out.  Very simple. A lot of people saw that the picture taken by the Samsung and iPhone to be great. What they conveniently forgot is that those screen they use to see those pictures enhances the actual image.  So for CSC, what one sees on the computer screen is only half the story unless it is well calibrated and printed according to the calibrated screen.   For CSC, I have seen too many bad AWB by the cameras and colours that I have stopped looking at them including the Nikon v1.

f) Sensor size. Trey tries to argue by telling people that all are cropped sensors. The thing is different cropped sensor size yield different effects and IQ. the smaller it goes, the worse it will get. It is again the laws of physics. Logically speaking if one wants to capture as much light as possible to create as high an electrical output, do you use a small solar panel or a huge one?  Light capture still depends a lot about area of capture and even x100 with APS-C sensor which is just one step lower than full frame, would still need micro lens to help light to enter the sensor at each site.  If quality can be attained with small sensors, then the hasselbalds would be out of business pretty soon.

To score more points, he uses resolution and sensor size to illustrate “interesting image” capture saying one do not need good  good gear to capture.  This is what he says with the picture “I took this photo with my Nikon D3X, but I could have captured the exact same image with the Sony A77, for example.  There is nothing about this image that required a DSLR.”  The thing is this. The Sony A77 is THE Flagship camera for SONY and has to match the DSLR. The only difference is the EVF usage. So effectively saying, apart from the viewfinders, the image is really taken by a DSLR equivalent equipment. This is the classic case of hoodwinking.

And guess what the Sony A77 has more resolution squeezed into the sensor and it may not capture what the full frame D3x has captured. I am sorry to say, ISO performance and light capturing capabilities depends on the sensor, lens and software manipulation too.

For those who don’t know this. x100 captures most of the images at ISO1000 and then boost the image brightness to the level of the required ISO chosen by the user using in camera processing.  What amazes a lot of people is how they can do it well.

Can it be done on a smaller sensor? Perhaps. But small sensors can improve but will still hit the physics limit for light capturing device. A lot will be done through software in the future which i think is the accepted way for a lot of people but certainly not the best way. Just take a look at the photos from vintage full size ‘sensor’ cameras. Their sharpness and resolution is due to the analogue media: the film but the film size of 35mm do help to capture light by equivalent lens size at the optimum level. Anything lesser and at an acceptable IQ close to full frame should be the APS-C.

g) Optical view finders, like it or not, will trump Electronic View Finders hands down in terms of speed and accuracy. Technology and viewfinder resolution will improve. But EVF, as those who uses A77, arguably the best of the EVFs, will still struggle. The best viewfinder is our eyes and OVF will give our eyes the necessary information to capture the image.  EVF is to show what the sensor is seeing and our eyes will see what the sensor see. If the sensor+processor is not quick enough or cannot reset itself fast enough for the next shot, then the camera will not see action in serious sporting event.  Even everyday scenes like kids running would do better with optical view finders.

Trey’s statement “Hardcore action-photographers (which is a small percentage, btw) may choose to stick with DSLRs until the electronic viewfinder gets even faster. But that won’t be much longer.”

My rebuff: You mean the time taken for the sensor to sent information to the processor and then for the processor to the viewfinder and then to the eyes will match the speed of light from subject through mirror to eye?  The only thing that the statement can be true is when it is preceptively to be of same speed in micro of a second. Still OVFs are easier and cheaper to implement.

The other things he did not mention: The toughness of DSLRs. As far as I am seeing the CCS now are pretty dainty (doesn’t PEN look frail?). The lens construction cannot be that robust too. This point alone will make sure DSLR will be around longer and has more uses than CCS.

Conclusion: Trey certainly can has his own views. He can wait as long as me as I am waiting for the next better thing after the D300s which is not a huge step up from my D200 anyways. But the DSLR is here to stay for the serious jobs and I think those who are on once in a lifetime journey to Alaska, Silkroad, South America (for those in Asia and vice versa) won’t be caught dead only with the CCS. I would bring the DSLR along.

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