Is FF sensors going to slowly phase out?

Started Apr 11, 2013 | Discussions
Erik Magnuson
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NEX VG-900 shoots 24MP stills
In reply to Josh152, Apr 13, 2013

Josh152 wrote:

I was thinking still cameras.  A video camera is a completely different thing and not really what this thread is about or what was being discussed.

Seems you haven't read much about the VG900 - one of the major complaints is that the sensor is not well optimized for video.  It really is mostly a FF NEX with odd ergonomics.

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Mark K
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Re: Is FF sensors going to slowly phase out?
In reply to dpyy, Apr 13, 2013

dpyy wrote:

blue_skies wrote:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51250906

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I read that thread, but no one really had a really good explanation of why FF is needed. The only recurring answer that seems to be consistent is the need of extreme dof. Really? Can a sensor format be really be sustained by the demands of dof alone?

Have you had any FF camera? If not grab one and take photos along with your non FF cameras, then you will know why. The impact of FF sensors on image quality is too obvious.

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RedFox88
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Re: it depends on your definition of 'slow'
In reply to forpetessake, Apr 13, 2013

forpetessake wrote:

RedFox88 wrote:

forpetessake wrote:

I don't know how the myths about FF manufacturing difficulties, size, and weight, etc. got propagated, probably because people have short memory.

film and digital

There were plenty of tiny 35mm cameras in the film days, there is nothing that prevents

But those lenses, if zooms, had slow apertures.  They forced the user to load it with 400 speed film which wasn't as good as it is today.  Many a compact 35mm film camera with 35-120mm zoom lens were often with slow f/4-f/13 maximum aperture.

Let's look at the popular Olympus OM-D with its compact kit 12-50/3.5-6.3 lens. The lens is equivalent to 24-100mm f/7-12.6 FF lens.

Sorry but you are talking about "35mm effective" aperture for DOF and I'm talking about simply light: exposure.  Exposure matters for getting a photo more than "35mm effective DOF".

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tomtom50
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Apr 13, 2013

Erik Magnuson wrote:

forpetessake wrote:

I don't know what information you have found on the web making you saying that,

Everything written about semi-conductor manufacturing.

but what I've seen even from 5 years ago the APS-C sensors were selling in the range of $50-100 pop, and some estimates indicated that FF sensors were 5-10 times more expensive, i.e. comfortably in the range of $250-1000. I've found costs quoted $43 for a 4/3rds sensor, $91 for an APS-C and $650 for a full frame sensor in 2008. I would expect FF sensors to be well under $500 now as the production volumes increased and R&D and equipment costs being amortized. Also margins on FF sensors were historically substantial and will be falling as the case with every other commodity, so there are all reasons to believe that $100 goal will be achieved sooner rather than later.

You have some data, but draw the wrong conclusion  still fooled by Moore's observation thinking. Costs are decreasing, but slowly (i.e. more units means lower per unit for fixed costs, yeilds may increase but you can't increase yield past 100%, etc.)   The final factor you fail to consider is that 24x36mm sensors cannot be made "single shot" as that exceeds the area+resolution of the stepper reticles.   So making 24x36mm sensors requires MORE steps than smaller sensors (increasing time to process a wafer and decreasing yields.)  Here is where experience and technology are increasing yields but again much more slowly than you get with memory/cpu die shrinkage.

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Erik

Erik,

Your argument about Moore's Law not applying well is correct, but the reticle argument cuts the other way. FF sensors do not intrinsically require more steps to make; they are made in more steps because they are made in small quantities and dedicated tooling is not wothwhile for small volumes.

If FF volumes rise dedicated tooling will be developed, FF sensors will be made in fewer steps, design will be amortized over more units, and cost will drop.

Will price ever reach $100? Forever is a long time but it seems unlikely to me as well. The advantages of FF just do not seem that meaningful to the mass market. Only a small percentage photographers will ever understand, much less care about, depth of field. Very high IQ and low light capability can be achieved with 1", m43, and APS-C.

Falk Lumo goes into this really well in http://www.falklumo.com/lumolabs/articles/equivalence/ff.html

He has the following graphic, backed up well by theory:

http://www.falklumo.com/lumolabs/articles/equivalence/ff.html

All said, I can imagine FF costs dropping to $200 - $300 in the next five years if the entry-level FF cameras take off and volumes rise greatly. At that point a FF camera selling for $1000 on discount becomes imaginable.

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forpetessake
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Re: it depends on your definition of 'slow'
In reply to RedFox88, Apr 13, 2013

RedFox88 wrote:

forpetessake wrote:

RedFox88 wrote:

forpetessake wrote:

I don't know how the myths about FF manufacturing difficulties, size, and weight, etc. got propagated, probably because people have short memory.

film and digital

There were plenty of tiny 35mm cameras in the film days, there is nothing that prevents

But those lenses, if zooms, had slow apertures.  They forced the user to load it with 400 speed film which wasn't as good as it is today.  Many a compact 35mm film camera with 35-120mm zoom lens were often with slow f/4-f/13 maximum aperture.

Let's look at the popular Olympus OM-D with its compact kit 12-50/3.5-6.3 lens. The lens is equivalent to 24-100mm f/7-12.6 FF lens.

Sorry but you are talking about "35mm effective" aperture for DOF and I'm talking about simply light: exposure.  Exposure matters for getting a photo more than "35mm effective DOF".

I was also talking about the collected light. DOF and light gathered follow the same conversion rules: f-stop multiplied by crop factor. It's the effective aperture, not the f-stop that determines both DOF and light: http://www.josephjamesphotography.com/equivalence/#1

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Josh152
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Re: NEX VG-900 shoots 24MP stills
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Apr 13, 2013

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Josh152 wrote:

I was thinking still cameras.  A video camera is a completely different thing and not really what this thread is about or what was being discussed.

Seems you haven't read much about the VG900 - one of the major complaints is that the sensor is not well optimized for video.  It really is mostly a FF NEX with odd ergonomics.

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Which does not change the fact that it is a video camera.

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Bart Hickman
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Re: Is FF sensors going to slowly phase out?
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Apr 14, 2013

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Bart Hickman wrote:

Car size is not analogous to camera size since there's a tangible benefit of large size on a car (more cargo room).

There are a tangible benefits to larger camera sensor size: 1+  stops better noise performance and better OVF.

Those are a benefit of the larger sensor.  However the size itself is a down-side.  Better noise performance can be obtained through other advancements (as is has been over recent years), but car cargo capacity can only be achieved by making the car big.

For a camera (and lens), size is always something you want to minimize.

Actually no - some people like larger cameras.  By your definition, the ideal current ILC is the Pentax Q.

They only like the larger camera because the lenses are so big.  If the Pentax Q had the same performance characteristics as a Nikon D800, the D800 would be in big trouble.

| When 8" drives were the established technology and 5.25" drives began competing, 8" drives were superior in capacity, speed, and latency.

8" drive platters were in washing machine or refrigerator sized cabinets - not the same market at all (poor analogy).

It's an perfect analogy with exactly the same type of tradeoff.  The point is people who wanted more performance put up with the larger machines.

Sigh.  The cost/performance ratio of 8" drives was coming down slowly. The cost/performance of 5.25" drives was coming down quickly.  Any idiot looking at the trend data could easily predict when 5.25" drives would be better.  You have no data to support this for sensors: the rate of change for cost/performance for sensors is relatively constant.

From what I've read, the 5.25" drives were only closing the gap for smaller capacity sizes.  When 8" drives became obsolete, they were still far higher performance, but they only offered that performance at larger capacities and larger price--beyond what most of the market wanted.  My data are from a book titled, "The Innovators Dilemma".

This is potentially analogous to FF sensors.  I don't have data for consumer demand for sensor size.  Does anybody?  It seems to me eventually the smaller sensors will offer everything almost everybody wants at which point any extra performance offered by the larger sensor is no longer profitable.

Bart

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Bart Hickman
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Re: Nope, it's rather the opposite.
In reply to Grevture, Apr 14, 2013

Grevture wrote:

Bart Hickman wrote:

Erik Magnuson wrote:

They are a defensive move to protect market share from advances in small sensor cameras.  I suspect the profit margin on the bodies isn't that good.

This is odd logic: Nikon and Canon already make most of the APS-C sensor cameras anyway and are not trending down.  More likely they want to shift users into a price bracket where they have less competition and can thus command higher margins.

They aren't growing

CIPA and GFK numbers don't agree with that. They are growing.

I stand corrected.  I was under the impression the mirrorless market was growing faster in terms of percentage.  Maybe it's not.

and meanwhile NEX and m43 were closing the gap with cameras like the D7000.  They haven't closed the gap yet obviously, but they will in a few years.

If you are talking about closing the gap in terms of performance, no: a FF sensor will remain 2.25 times larger then a APS-C one, and when using the same technology in both, the larger surface have some advantages (like when looking at D7000 and D800 which have very similar sensor technology).

I'm not talking about closing the absolute gap in dynamic range.  I'm talking about the whole product experience.  I guess AF speed and tracking are the main deficits those products have right now.

I'm just arguing the advantage of the larger surface area can become irrelevant at some point.

Also, why would a FF lens be less expensive to produce than a lens for a smaller sensor?

Many of the "less expensive" FF lenses are less expensive because they are older designs that already amortized initial costs.  New lenses tend to be more expensive unless designed to a specific price.

But old lenses generally aren't sharp enough for the new resolutions

Well, many of them are. When we reach FF resolutions of 200 megapixels and beyond I might agree with you. Until then, not a big issue.

I think the high volume lenses I'm thinking about aren't nearly this sharp.  Certainly not much that gets tested at places like photozone.

so something with tighter tolerances is required anyway.  Besides, APS-C lens volume probably outstrips FF lens volume, so APS-C lenses can also amortize these costs.

Actually for those lens mounts where you have both sensor sizes, volumes for FF lenses remain higher, since those work fine on both FF and APS-C.

For telephoto that's true.  There's been very little market drive to shrink the size--at least not until recently.  And even when they do shrink the size, they'll differentiate the lens from the more expensive FF version by crippling AF speed.

Bart

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Erik Magnuson
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Re: Nope, it's rather the opposite.
In reply to Bart Hickman, Apr 14, 2013

Bart Hickman wrote:

I stand corrected.  I was under the impression the mirrorless market was growing faster in terms of percentage.  Maybe it's not.

Growing faster as a percentage does not mean growing faster - it just means that the growth is to a smaller base.   For 2013, DLSR growth is projected to be by 1.6 million units (from 16.2 million to 17.8 millon)  Mirrorless by less than 1 million units (from 4 million to 4.9 million).

I think the high volume lenses I'm thinking about aren't nearly this sharp.  Certainly not much that gets tested at places like photozone.

Again, you are applying the wrong numeric logic - it's not important that a lens+sensor system resolve to the theoretical maximum resolution - it's sufficient that they resolve significantly more than whatever you are comparing to (for a personal definition of "significant.")   Lens resolution is not a "brick wall" type filter - every lens on a D800 will show higher resolution than the same lens on a D3x - just not always by the linear pixel count difference.  BTW, that's not a ratio of 36/24 or 1.5 - that's area and resolution is measured as linear, so the correct ratio is  7360/6048 or 1.2.

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Erik Magnuson
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Re: Is FF sensors going to slowly phase out?
In reply to Bart Hickman, Apr 14, 2013

Bart Hickman wrote:

However the size itself is a down-side.

Not always: Larger size can mean larger, better separated controls for use with gloves or in the heat of the moment.  Larger battery capacity.  Space for dual card slots, etc.

Better noise performance can be obtained through other advancements (as is has been over recent years), but car cargo capacity can only be achieved by making the car big.

The same performance tricks can be applied to the large sensor as well.  The performance advantage remains the same.

They only like the larger camera because the lenses are so big.  If the Pentax Q had the same performance characteristics as a Nikon D800, the D800 would be in big trouble.

Not going to happen anytime soon. And then whatever the D800 equivalent of the time will be, it will also have similar performance improvements.

From what I've read, the 5.25" drives were only closing the gap for smaller capacity sizes.

So you put them in an array of multiple drives.  The fast 8" drives were fast because they used a lot of platters. Does it matter if you have 8 platters in one case or 4 cases of two platters each?  Which solution scales better?

Hard drives have some significant physical issues as well: mass of the platters, mass of the heads, energy required to drive those masses,  distance the heads needs to move to seek, etc.  The angular momentum and head mass of some of those old drives was such that certain seek patterns could make the drive housing "walk" like an out of balance washing machine.

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Erik Magnuson
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to tomtom50, Apr 14, 2013

tomtom50 wrote:

Your argument about Moore's Law not applying well is correct, but the reticle argument cuts the other way. FF sensors do not intrinsically require more steps to make; they are made in more steps because they are made in small quantities and dedicated tooling is not wothwhile for small volumes

This is a classic chicken/egg scenario.  Unfortunately for your argument, the steppers and fabline upgrades that could change this are multi-billion dollar investments that only benefit large sensor production.    How many FF sensors do you have to build before the ROI actually makes the unit cost lower? (Don't forget to account for the future value of money.)   And that's for a single site which would mean a single supplier unless multiple suppliers also made the investments -- but then each would have to spread the cost over fewer sensors.

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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to tomtom50, Apr 14, 2013

tomtom50 wrote:

Erik,

Your argument about Moore's Law not applying well is correct, but the reticle argument cuts the other way. FF sensors do not intrinsically require more steps to make; they are made in more steps because they are made in small quantities and dedicated tooling is not wothwhile for small volumes.

If FF volumes rise dedicated tooling will be developed, FF sensors will be made in fewer steps, design will be amortized over more units, and cost will drop.

Will price ever reach $100? Forever is a long time but it seems unlikely to me as well. The advantages of FF just do not seem that meaningful to the mass market. Only a small percentage photographers will ever understand, much less care about, depth of field. Very high IQ and low light capability can be achieved with 1", m43, and APS-C.

Falk Lumo goes into this really well in http://www.falklumo.com/lumolabs/articles/equivalence/ff.html

He has the following graphic, backed up well by theory:

http://www.falklumo.com/lumolabs/articles/equivalence/ff.html

All said, I can imagine FF costs dropping to $200 - $300 in the next five years if the entry-level FF cameras take off and volumes rise greatly. At that point a FF camera selling for $1000 on discount becomes imaginable.

I am sorry, but the referenced article, and the therein referenced article (by same author) has been heavily criticized on both this and on the m43 forum. The main points were that the author does not have a good comprehension of the topics discussed and writes opinions and conclusions based on nonsense analysis. Besides, if his theories hold any merit, we'd all be using iPhones right now

As to your argument about Moore's law, and cost, R&D amortization is actually rather low, as the sensor's cost is mainly stemming from production costs (and margins) and not R&D recovery. The R&D recovery cost is a small percentage of the total production cost.

The cost of ICs typically goes down by generations based on newer technologies which allow smaller ICs to be created that take up less geometry to perform the same functionality, and thereby fitting more on a single wafer. Camera sensors are an anomaly, because their size is fixed, regardless of the process node that it is targeted to. The camera sensor quality keeps increasing on every next process node, that is a fact. However, see graph, newer process nodes are much more expensive.

Wafer price per process node - note this does not take into account the wafer size

To bring the cost per sensor down, larger volumes indeed do help. This allows migration to larger wafers, meaning that proportionally more (large) sensors can be carved out of a single wafer (edge effect).

The process node advancement also allows for yield recovery such as bad-pixel remapping & masking. Simply, the more advanced process nodes allow for more advanced solutions. Some of this does not come from the sensor ICs, but from the processor ICs that process the sensor data in-camera.

A 12" wafer can hold about 50 FF die, a 16" wafer can hold about 125 FF die. But the 16" wafer will be proportionally more expensive. The price difference roughly holds up to the ratio of the radius-square, so a factor of 64/36 = 1.8x. But you see that the number of FF die increases by a factor of 2.5x, so there is an incentive to move to larger wafers, given large enough volumes.

Here is a simple #die/wafer estimater (but notice that it does not allow an FF-die - as the max reticle opening only goes up to 32mm):

It is hard to get today's exact numbers, but here is an historic article that give a good breakdown of wafer cost and breakdown thereof:

The big unknowns are exact wafer cost and die yield. A cost of around $25k per wafer is probably not realistic, but I would not go too far below that. Yield, even with the pixel recovery algorithms, is a big problem. It was once said that FF sensors could never be made because of their size/yield trade-off (meaning it was yielding less than one successful FF die per wafer).

But even with a 100% yield, and a wafer (structured) cost of $15k, assuming a 12" wafer at 50 die, the best possible cost is $300. Nowhere near your $100 price target. Up the actual wafer cost, and lower the yield to well below 100%, and you can see FF sensors costing in the range of $500 - $1000 (and probably even higher).

It has been said that FF cameras spend more than 60% of their cost on their sensors, which makes sense if you consider a $2000 FF camera body price as today's lowest price. Even with distributor's discounts, it is likely that today's FF sensor costs are still around $1k per die, and definitely not $100 per die.

Once you go to smaller sensors, the cost structure changes rather quickly, but not because of the total number of die per wafer (it roughly doubles going from FF to APS-C), but because the yield increases dramatically (smaller die is more likely to be functional - defect density area formulas).

To reach $250 per APS-C die, you need to yield twice as many good die as FF-die (there are 2x on a wafer, so $1k -> $500, and then you need to have twice the yield, so $500 -> $250). It is likely that the yield ratio is well above 2x, meaning that APS-C die can be made for $150-$200 or so.

Please do not take the above as science either - I am merely trying to illustrate as to why FF sensors remain much more expensive than their smaller counterparts.

Moore's law sounds great, but it was never a law, rather an observation, and it doesn't apply to ICs that do not change in size (sensor ICs). Keep this in mind.

I do not foresee a $250 cost per FF die to be realized within the next five years, and perhaps never. A $1000 FF camera within five years is a pipe-dream. We are barely at $400 cameras for APS-C today, and these are heavily de-featured (no EVF, etc). APS-C (and m43) cameras that are 'full-features' are selling well over $1k.

Sony's RX1 is probably as 'cheap' as an FF camera can get today. It lacks a number of features that FF cameras have (e.g. EVF), and is comprised out of fewer components. Depending on how much you want to allocate for the lens, I'd suggest that this camera is barely braking the $2000 FF camera body price barrier. If you add the (fixed) lens and the (removable) EVF, you are well over $3000 for this camera.

Your best bet for a $1000 FF camera is to get a used one. The 5DII is selling for about $1500 used today, so maybe in another five years you can snatch one of those.

Camera and sensor technology will keep improving, but we seem to have identified sweet spots (e.g. 12Mp for m43, 16Mp for APS-C, and 30Mp for FF). Anything outside of those parameters leads to rather poor high-ISO performance (e.g. 16Mp P&S), with excessive NR algorithms (smearing). Yet, customers want (and manufacturers build) the 16MP P&S, 16MP m43, 24Mp APS-C and 50Mp FF. Why? Well, because at ISO 100 it works, and more is always better ...

If Metabones' reduced the SpeedBooster from $600 to $400, it will be far more compelling to use an FF legacy lens on a Nex-7N with the SB than to step up to a FF Nex for another $1000 extra. But the SB has many drawbacks, one of them being focusing speed, and the RX1 sales into non-professionals shows an appetite for such higher priced products does indeed exist.

A FF Nex camera at $2500 may indeed be a reality - hopefully within a year.

For professionals, a $2500 FF camera expense is recovered within just a few assignments, and is just a 'tool-of-the-trade'. Most will upgrade (and sell their old one) their camera every one or two years anyways, whereas amateurs tend to keep their cameras much longer.

And yes, smaller sensor can deliver very high IQ, but they will never truly compete against the larger sensors - don't fool yourself here. Simplest way to convince this is to look at highest 'useable' (not max) ISO on a camera model - it will tell you the story. Today's P&S should really only be used below ISO 400, 1" below ISO 800, m43 below ISO 1600, APS-C below ISO 3200, and FF below ISO 6400. These are incredible numbers compared to only a few years ago (and even more when thinking about film), but my point is not the actual level, but the relative ratio - it is all related to sensor size in the end.

And, one last comment, under low light, f/2.8 and ISO 6.4k still works on an FF sensor, but f/2 and ISO 3200 already fails on an APS-C camera. The SB can help here and lower the f/2 to f/1.4, allowing for ISO 1600. This, imho, is a really BIG factor - APS-C can then be used with f/2 lenses at indoor settings (ie. 1/60th at ISO 1600).

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salla30
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to blue_skies, Apr 14, 2013

excellent analysis. very interesting read. Thanks for that!

One question, however; are you sure of your numbers? How can any single production element costing perhaps 40-60% of the total SALES cost of the device make the line profitable? (eg 1000 usd for a FF sensor or 250 usd for an APS-C sensor). My guess is these are going to wholesale at perhaps 40% of their street price, allowing for wholesale and retail markups. Something doesnt add up, unless I have missed something (probably have - heavy night last night ;-)).

I would think that camera manufacturers will be working towards a low cost FF P&S sometime fairly soon, now RX1 has led the way. My guess is that we will have "budget" FF p&s for around 12-1500 usd within 2 years.

Marketing will push the FF forward in the longer term; hyping the FF for the masses, probably using links to real film camera nostalgia as the hook :-). It's a hugely competitive game between the majors and the first to flagship FF as their USP for lower budget will garner a lot of residual business from the attention.

I agree with you about the useability of higher isos with various formats. I have RX100 and NEX 5N, and the difference in IQ at higher Iso's is amazing. I really do not care for the NR on these devices, is there any reason why we can't turn it off altogether? I know in RAW there is no NR but I would like to see no NR on the JPG side.

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pwmoree
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to blue_skies, Apr 14, 2013

Wonderfull thread to learn from you all. Thanks.

I think de APS-C sensor has given me great lens opportunities (with all the adapter and legacy options)

The famous compact zooms such as the Sony HX-300 (another thing alltogether I know) are popular mostly because of their REACH, due only to its small sensor size.

So for all of us who are wanting reach as a priority, a smaller sensor is the easiest way to obtain that.

A 200 mm lens is ALWAYS a 200mm lens, but with a smaller sensor the reach can be increased tremendously.

At this point in time (april 2013), our NEX cameras with its APS-C sensor seem to be an optimum in the compromise between reach and IQ. If this remains so, the future will show.

Peter

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blue_skies
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to salla30, Apr 14, 2013

salla30 wrote:

excellent analysis. very interesting read. Thanks for that!

Thanks

One question, however; are you sure of your numbers? How can any single production element costing perhaps 40-60% of the total SALES cost of the device make the line profitable? (eg 1000 usd for a FF sensor or 250 usd for an APS-C sensor). My guess is these are going to wholesale at perhaps 40% of their street price, allowing for wholesale and retail markups. Something doesnt add up, unless I have missed something (probably have - heavy night last night ;-)).

I am not sure about the numbers, they are merely illustrations. But I am sure that my numbers are a lot closer than a guestimate price of $100 for an FF sensor.

There is no wholesale - only retail markups, and this is very closely controlled by the manufacturers (no retailers discounts are allowed, unless approved by the manufacturers as an incentive).

Maybe someone in retail can comment on the actual retail margin, but it is not that large on electronic products - unlike clothes that can have over 100% markup at full price.

Heavy discounts occur only when a product is at end-of-life (frequent for electronic products), and the inventory has to be moved out or is to be written off. So careful planning (to not overproduce) is a key factor - or a line could become non-profitable. Usually, the discounted inventory is a small number, compared to the total production volume. It is also assumed that this 'discounted' inventory actually adds to the market, meaning that the buyers of such goods are not purchasing the non-discounted products ever.

BTW - there is nothing unusual about this high expense 'single production' element. E.g. consider cars - a big portion of the car's cost is the actual engine cost, often already 25% of the cars cost. And the dealer's margin for cars is even less (as a percentage).

I would think that camera manufacturers will be working towards a low cost FF P&S sometime fairly soon, now RX1 has led the way. My guess is that we will have "budget" FF p&s for around 12-1500 usd within 2 years.

Doubtful, I would not be surprised if the RX1 is a cost-leader, I mean, has tighter margins just to be realized as a product, but is not a trend setter (not enough margin).

Marketing will push the FF forward in the longer term; hyping the FF for the masses, probably using links to real film camera nostalgia as the hook :-). It's a hugely competitive game between the majors and the first to flagship FF as their USP for lower budget will garner a lot of residual business from the attention.

Doubtful, only hobbyists will respond. For most, the APS-C is already more than they need. I mean, people already shoot at night time with cell phones and P&S, with and without flash. For a picture that only lives on a cell phone, or on a website, the IQ is rather acceptable. Why would one need APS-C? Or better, why would anyone need FF?

If FF cameras were to drop rapidly in price, it will only hurt the FF business if the market penetration does not grow - manufacturers will be very careful to test-market their strategies.

Generally, electronic products are cost-driven, and market demand follows. To embark on a strategy like you suggest, a significant cost drop would have to be foreseen, I find that hard to believe. I think that costs drop evolutionary, not revolutionary.

I agree with you about the useability of higher isos with various formats. I have RX100 and NEX 5N, and the difference in IQ at higher Iso's is amazing. I really do not care for the NR on these devices, is there any reason why we can't turn it off altogether? I know in RAW there is no NR but I would like to see no NR on the JPG side.

Yes, but I see the trend going the other way - look at the A99 and the upcoming N7. There will be some NR applied to the RAW data, just to make the camera appear to handle higher ISO better.

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salla30
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Re: Those are APS compacts with slow lenses
In reply to blue_skies, Apr 14, 2013

haha, yes. good arguments. I guess i am just hoping to see a mass market FF camera

It matters not, which of us is right, the cameras manufacturers will do what they do, but it's definitely fun to speculate

You are probably right and the RX1 is the closest thing we'll see for the forseeable to a budget ff p&s.

However, I do think the majors have responded to the cellphone rampage by upping their game qualitatively speaking in small cameras. We do have the Iphone culture to thank for that. If it were not for the cam-phone takeover, would we have the likes of the S100 or RX100 or even the advent of the MILC, perhaps?

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Grevture
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Agree, and ...
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Apr 14, 2013

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Bart Hickman wrote:

I stand corrected.  I was under the impression the mirrorless market was growing faster in terms of percentage.  Maybe it's not.

Growing faster as a percentage does not mean growing faster - it just means that the growth is to a smaller base.   For 2013, DLSR growth is projected to be by 1.6 million units (from 16.2 million to 17.8 millon)  Mirrorless by less than 1 million units (from 4 million to 4.9 million).

I would say this is a good example of where PR people at the camera manufacturers often strive to confuse us profoundly by throwing out growth percentages which are correctly calculated, but often used out of context which make them rather disinformative.

I think the high volume lenses I'm thinking about aren't nearly this sharp.  Certainly not much that gets tested at places like photozone.

Again, you are applying the wrong numeric logic - it's not important that a lens+sensor system resolve to the theoretical maximum resolution - it's sufficient that they resolve significantly more than whatever you are comparing to (for a personal definition of "significant.")   Lens resolution is not a "brick wall" type filter - every lens on a D800 will show higher resolution than the same lens on a D3x - just not always by the linear pixel count difference.  BTW, that's not a ratio of 36/24 or 1.5 - that's area and resolution is measured as linear, so the correct ratio is  7360/6048 or 1.2.

Agree, what so many people forget is that when looking at the whole system (lens + camera) it is still (and for a long time will remain) the sensor more then the lenses who limit the total resolution of the camera system as a whole.

A lot of people seem to have been a little overwhelmed by the large number of 36 megapixels in a D800/D800E. But if you look at it more closely, it is not a particularly high resolution even by today's standards. A 24 megapixel APS-C sensor scaled to FF would be roughly 55-57 megapixels. The 10 megapixel 1 inch sensor in the first generation Nikon 1 cameras correspond to about 73-74 megapixels in full frame. And the 20 megapixel 1 inch RX-100 sensor consequently correspond to something like a 145 megapixel FF camera. Not to mention some of the 1/2.3" compacts which have resolutions corresponding to 350-400 megapixels in a FF sensor. In short: 36 megapixels is not that much, nor is it that taxing on lenses.

And as Erik points out, pixel count grows by the square of the increase of linear resolution. Which is why you have to go from 6 megapixel to 24 megapixels to actually have a doubling of linear resolution. And that a D800 has less then 2,5 times higher resolution then a 6 megapixel camera (7360/3000=2.45). To quadruple the linear resolution of a 6 megapixel camera, you need a whopping 96 megapixels.

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Grevture
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Re: Nope, it's rather the opposite.
In reply to Bart Hickman, Apr 14, 2013

Bart Hickman wrote:

Grevture wrote:

If you are talking about closing the gap in terms of performance, no: a FF sensor will remain 2.25 times larger then a APS-C one, and when using the same technology in both, the larger surface have some advantages (like when looking at D7000 and D800 which have very similar sensor technology).

I'm not talking about closing the absolute gap in dynamic range.  I'm talking about the whole product experience.  I guess AF speed and tracking are the main deficits those products have right now.

Huh? Which products are mainly held back by AF speed and accuracy? APS-C or FF cameras?

I'm just arguing the advantage of the larger surface area can become irrelevant at some point.

Well, I agree that we at some point reach a "good enough" level where the differences become subtle. But just look at something like low light ability, the frontier of what we can - and want to - achieve is moving along as sensors get better. And a FF sensor (using the same technology) will still always have something like a one stop advantage. And that stop will always be a stop which can be useful to have. Also look at DOF control which will remain more extensive with a larger sensor no matter what level of sensor technology we are at.

Add to that the marketing advantages. Smart PR people always can inflate the differences that remain to appear very important also for customers that might not in reality benefit very much from them.

But old lenses generally aren't sharp enough for the new resolutions

Well, many of them are. When we reach FF resolutions of 200 megapixels and beyond I might agree with you. Until then, not a big issue.

I think the high volume lenses I'm thinking about aren't nearly this sharp.  Certainly not much that gets tested at places like photozone.

Even an almost untolerable lousy lens will benefit from a higher resolution sensor - also 200 megapixels. Of course not as much as a better lens will do, but it still benefits. And why should we design our sensors to match our worst lenses? I much prefer to design the sensors to take as much advantage as possible of our best lenses

Actually for those lens mounts where you have both sensor sizes, volumes for FF lenses remain higher, since those work fine on both FF and APS-C.

For telephoto that's true.  There's been very little market drive to shrink the size--at least not until recently.

It is true for all focal lengths - one telling example is Nikon. Even during those years when they only produced APS-C digital cameras (up until 2007) they still produced - and sold - much more FF lenses of all focal lengths then those limited to APS-C sensors. And since they introduced FF models, only a handful APS-C specific lenses has been released (mostly variations of kit zooms) while a wide variety of FF lenses has been released.

And even when they do shrink the size, they'll differentiate the lens from the more expensive FF version by crippling AF speed.

That part I do not get at all - which lenses focuses slower because they are limited to APS-C? Some cheap lenses focuses slower then more expensive counterparts, but that has nothing to do with sensor size.

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Bart Hickman
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Re: Is FF sensors going to slowly phase out?
In reply to Erik Magnuson, Apr 14, 2013

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Bart Hickman wrote:

However the size itself is a down-side.

Not always: Larger size can mean larger, better separated controls for use with gloves or in the heat of the moment.  Larger battery capacity.  Space for dual card slots, etc.

That's a good point, although I personally think APS-C cameras are about the right size where the size of the camera driven by lenses and electronics coincides with the ergonomic optimum.  Perhaps in the future, physical buttons won't be the best way to control a camera.

Better noise performance can be obtained through other advancements (as is has been over recent years), but car cargo capacity can only be achieved by making the car big.

The same performance tricks can be applied to the large sensor as well.  The performance advantage remains the same.

I know the advantage remains the same.  What I'm arguing is the relevance of the advantage does not remain the same while the relevance of the disadvantages is remaining the same (lenses are still large.)

Clearly this could, hypothetically, go the other way.  I suppose someone could figure out how to make FF lenses small enough that size is no longer a factor.  Of course this is even more disruptive as it probably makes all existing systems obsolete rather than only current FF systems.

They only like the larger camera because the lenses are so big.  If the Pentax Q had the same performance characteristics as a Nikon D800, the D800 would be in big trouble.

Not going to happen anytime soon. And then whatever the D800 equivalent of the time will be, it will also have similar performance improvements.

I was just pointing out that size, in and of itself, is usually a disadvantage.

From what I've read, the 5.25" drives were only closing the gap for smaller capacity sizes.

So you put them in an array of multiple drives.  The fast 8" drives were fast because they used a lot of platters. Does it matter if you have 8 platters in one case or 4 cases of two platters each?  Which solution scales better?

Hard drives have some significant physical issues as well: mass of the platters, mass of the heads, energy required to drive those masses,  distance the heads needs to move to seek, etc.  The angular momentum and head mass of some of those old drives was such that certain seek patterns could make the drive housing "walk" like an out of balance washing machine.

I'm just quoting from plots from the books I've read.  For whatever reason, at the time 8" drives disappeared, they still exceeded the price/performance of 5.25" drives at high capacities by a significant margin that did not appear to be narrowing significantly.

FF cameras are also currently a better price/performance value for high performance uses in the performance space that many people still care about.  But in the future, the APS-C (or smaller) mirrorless cameras could erode that segment from the bottom and FF cameras could find themselves being well-suited to a very small segment of the market.

Bart

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Bart Hickman
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Re: Nope, it's rather the opposite.
In reply to Grevture, Apr 14, 2013

Grevture wrote:

Bart Hickman wrote:

Grevture wrote:

If you are talking about closing the gap in terms of performance, no: a FF sensor will remain 2.25 times larger then a APS-C one, and when using the same technology in both, the larger surface have some advantages (like when looking at D7000 and D800 which have very similar sensor technology).

I'm not talking about closing the absolute gap in dynamic range.  I'm talking about the whole product experience.  I guess AF speed and tracking are the main deficits those products have right now.

Huh? Which products are mainly held back by AF speed and accuracy? APS-C or FF cameras?

Mirrorless cameras still don't measure up to DSLRs in terms of focus speed and battery life.  DSLR's enjoy a big advantage gap which I believe is much more significant than the difference in sensor performance.  But I think that gap will also narrow or become irrelevant eventually.

Actually, I guess the N1 system is already there in good light.  I'm sure the others will catch up.

And even when they do shrink the size, they'll differentiate the lens from the more expensive FF version by crippling AF speed.

That part I do not get at all - which lenses focuses slower because they are limited to APS-C? Some cheap lenses focuses slower then more expensive counterparts, but that has nothing to do with sensor size.

The Nikkor 55-300 is, by all accounts, very slow at focusing whereas the 70-300 is much faster.  Actually, Nikon's APS-C kit zooms all seem to focus relatively slowly IMO.  Whereas the FF lenses are very, very fast in spite of the fact they must move larger mechanical elements.  I assume this is an intentional differentiator.

Canon doesn't do this quite as much--their cheaper kit lenses seem pretty fast.

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