Sensor size is what matters and the trend is for larger, says Aptina
Consumers need to think about sensor size rather than pixel count, says Aptina's Sandor Barna, because larger image sensors are likely to appear in all types of devices. Barna, the Vice President and General Manager of sensor maker Aptina's Consumer Camera Business Unit, spoke to us about the challenges facing compact cameras, the niche that will continue to exist for them, and hints that more large sensor compacts are on their way.
Understanding the effect of sensor size is important for customers, he explains: 'The analogy between film and optical format is pretty striking. In the film days, everyone was focused on the size of the film (35mm, 120, etc.) - grain vs. sensitivity (film speed) was a tradeoff decision you made each time you bought some film. In digital, optical format [sensor size] is analogous to film size - pixel count is like the minimum grain size, with a similar sensitivity trade-off. If we applied the old film logic to digital cameras, the optical format would be on the side of the box, not the number of megapixels.'
The image quality benefits brought by larger sensor sizes can help ensure there continues to be a market for compact cameras, he says (though he acknowledges the industry needs a better way of describing sensor size than the current obscure 'inch-type' naming system.)
|Aptina's Sandor Barna: 'I believe there's a market for a compact with noticeably better image quality.'|
Challenges for compacts
'Smartphones are getting better and your snapshot ability now matches your camera's,' he says. 'Then you think about the constant availability of smartphones and their ability to simply upload to Facebook and you see why compact cameras are declining.' And, he suggests, even the slight sensor size advantage that compacts currently have could soon disappear: 'Some of the less established smartphone makers will try to make a camera with a larger optical format [sensor size]. Mainstream [compact] cameras are susceptible to that because they offer no real advantage.'
But there's still a market for a dedicated camera device, he believes - even for people who don't consider themselves 'photographers.' 'Last time I went on vacation, I wasn't comfortable shooting with my phone, but a current compact wouldn't give me the results I wanted, either - I think there's still a market for people wanting to record planned events - weddings, vacations. I believe there's a market for a compact with noticeably better IQ and features like zoom that smartphones struggle to offer.'
'The places camera makers can differentiate are the areas that you can't introduce those compromises in a phone. Zoom is one of them - smartphone makers don't like the idea of adding this large, moveable, breakable part and their customers won't accept the thicker form factor,' he says: 'there are also system processing constraints in smartphones - the number of processor cycles that can be dedicated to the camera is restricted.'
'So you have to go into spaces that the smartphone can't go,' he says: 'and the main one is optical format [sensor size]'
'But,' he says, 'you have to keep the ease-of-use comparable to that of a smartphone camera - and that's a big challenge. DSLRs aren't for everybody and they're not always convenient. People want a smaller device with that automatic mode they can leave it in. And camera makers need to eliminate the painful process of uploading to a computer, then posting to your favorite website.'
|Some smartphone makers are already experimenting with larger sensors (the sensor in Nokia's Lumia 1020 is around 3.5x larger than the ones used in most smartphones)|
Go big, or go home
This pressure to offer higher image quality doesn't just affect compacts, he says: 'I think the trend is towards larger format - we've seen an increasing push towards full-frame in the DSLR market and I see everything pushing towards larger formats.' But that still leaves room for something between a smartphone and a DSLR, he says: 'As I said before - I think a 1" sensor represents such a big gap that I don't see that smartphones can go there.'
'For Aptina this trend represents an opportunity to expand - not just with 1" sensors but right up to APS-C,' he explains: 'We've had a lot of interest. In terms of 1", we've been working closely with our current customer base and have been having interest beyond the customer currently using them - we expect to see cameras announced at the beginning of next year.'
'Video is another market opportunity - look at the success GoPro has had,' he says: 'even if you're not using it for action, being able to take a 30 second video clip of your children is very powerful.' However, despite this enthusiasm for video, Barna is not convinced that higher-resolution video is what's going to push the market in the short-term: 'I don't think it'll be 4K yet because I don't think 4K is ready yet - until the point at which people have 4K televisions it'll be a special application. It's really useful for cropping at the moment. Once the monitors are common, you'll start to see it. Home distribution of 4K video will be the breakthrough though - Hollywood is already shooting in 4 - but for user-generated content, 1080 is probably all anyone needs in their pocketable device.'
Aptina designs and produces sensors for a range of products, from smartphones (for which it's just introduced the Clarity+ technology), to consumer cameras such as the Nikon 1 and action cameras, such as the GoPro.
It's been twenty years since Jeff Keller founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, one of the first websites dedicated to digital photography. Jeff, who has been at DPReview for nearly five years, looks back at the rise and fall of consumer digital cameras and his website.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At #2 we have another staff favorite – the Sony Alpha a9.
Rotolight has released the Anova Pro 2 circular LED for stills and video, boasting a 70% increase in brightness and what the company describes as "unrivaled battery performance."
Designer Vinicius Araújo has imagined what he believes the perfect Adobe software keyboard might look like. From customizable touch pads, to a scroll wheel, to a little display that shows the tool in use, his design is pretty compelling.
Peak Design has teamed up with Leica to release a limited-edition backpack made special for fans of the Red Dot.
A portrait of an android woman has beaten over 5,700 pictures of humans to take third place in this year’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. The judges were not told the subject was an 'android' until after the winning images were chosen.
Hauling around C-Stands just got a whole lot less annoying thanks to these new Matthews shoulder and roller bags, which can hold two or three C-stand (respectively) plus accessories.
Neal Preston has shot timeless photos of everyone from Led Zeppelin, to Whitney Houston, to Michael Jackson. In this interview, he offers insights into his craft to up-and-comer Elijah Dominique.
Future prosumer Canon DSLRs might feature light-up buttons, if this newly published patent is any indication of the camera company's plans.
Sony's a7R Mark III shoots 42.4MP files at 10fps and incorporates a robust video feature set, large battery, refined ergonomics and more. It certainly looks impressive, but what is it like to use, and how does it stack up against the rest of the market? Find out in our full review.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017 – the Fujifilm X100F takes the bronze and the #3 spot.
There's never been a better time to shop for a new camera, but the number of options available can be overwhelming. In this series of buying guides we've provided customized recommendations for several use cases, from shooting landscapes to buying a first camera for a student photographer.
Shopping for a camera with a set budget? No problem! We've rounded up our favorite cameras, broken them into price brackets and picked the best of the bunch.
Looking for a lightweight compact camera that's easy to bring with you anywhere? Or maybe you're smartphone-shopping and want the one that takes the best picture. And what if you want to shoot from above? In these buyers guides we have recommendations for the best compact cameras, smartphones and drones.
Despite reports to the contrary, analysis of DPReview images by our friend Jim Kasson confirms a disappointing fact: Sony a7R III is still a Star Eater. But there may be some improvements.
As the saying goes: A photo is worth a thousand words. And if you're sending that photo through Facebook Messenger, your thousand words now look twice as nice after today's update to 4K resolution.
Get to know the new Leica CL in short order by giving our 90 second 'First look' video a watch.
Leica has just released the CL, the forth in its series of APS-C L-mount cameras. Despite sharing a name with a camera released in the mid-70s, the new CL is a thoroughly modern ILC, with a 24MP sensor and built-in electronic viewfinder.
The Leica CL is a 24MP rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, which sits alongside the TL2 in the company's APS-C lineup. We've been using one for a few days – check out our gallery of images.
While it shares a name with one of Leica's most popular and affordable cameras of the 1970s, the new CL is separated from its namesake by more than just years. We've been using one for a few days - click through for a detailed first-impressions report.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and the #4 ranking goes to the Leica M10.
Sigma is discounting 13 different high-performance 'Art' series lenses from today until November 30th. The company is calling it an 'unprecedented' sale.
See DJI's 'AeroScope' drone-tracking technology in action. This is the system that DJI says can help law enforcement and airport (among others) track and identify rogue drones.
iPhone X owners can already accessorize their new phone with high-quality smartphone photography lenses courtesy of Moment's new lineup.
Considering buying Sigma's exciting new 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens for crop-sensor E-Mount and M43? Check out these official full-res samples first!
Vimeo has just added support for 8K HDR 10-bit content, making it possible to show up to 75% of the colors the human eye can perceive vs the usual 35%. Take THAT YouTube.
The holidays are coming, but your gear isn't cutting it? It's time to treat yourself!
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and sitting pretty at #5 is the Fujifilm X-T20.
See some of the most iconic black-and-white photographs throughout history brought to life by a community of colorization enthusiasts and professional retouchers in the new book Retrographic.
Shopping for a photographer? Whether you are one yourself or not, chances are you could use some ideas. From stocking stuffers on up, we've got some photography gift suggestions for every budget.