What follows FF?

Started Aug 8, 2012 | Discussions thread
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JohnFrim Contributing Member • Posts: 572
What follows FF?

In some respects, digital cameras have advanced like a person climbing a ladder one rung at a time, but with both feet landing on the same rung. With one foot developers have increased the size of the sensor; then they put the other foot on the same rung by increasing the number of pixels on that sensor. The next advance increases the dimensions of the sensor again, often with a similar pixel count as achieved on the previous step, followed again by an increase in pixel count.

The ultimate target size (ie, the top of the ladder) for the digital SLR market seems to be a 35mm sensor (hence, the designation "Full Frame"), and of course that has now been achieved in several models. My question is, will developers stop at 35mm, or will they go to 40mm, or50 mm, or... for the "amateur" photographer before one is forced to make the move to medium format?

In the days of 35mm film, camera manufacturers were constrained by the wide availability of this size of film. But in the digital realm there is little that constrains the size of the sensor anymore; even aspect ratios have moved from 3:2 to other dimensions.

Image circle from a lens is clearly a limiting factor, but only if the user base has a large collection of 35mm lenses that they want to be able to use "full frame". Perhaps with the features now being incorporated into modern lenses these owners will be happy to abandon their aging feature-starved glass. And given that there are many APS-C lenses now available I wonder how much future-proofing is in the minds of those buyers? Maybe they are thinking that APS-C is "big enough" and their future upgrade will be toward improved APS-C sensors.

Of course, a larger than 35mm sensor will require a new bevvy of lenses that will undoubtedly be larger, heavier, and more costly (as will the camera). But once we cross that 35mm barrier in the amateur SLR/SLT/mirror-less arena, where are we headed?

Is handling size an issue? I think clever engineers can come up with ingenious solutions to that problem, within limits. Perhaps we have been stuck in the SLR form factor for too long, and that's why we see the mirror-less designs looking quite different, yet claiming SLR image quality and performance.

I expect there will always be efforts to improve light sensitivity of the sensors and image processing algorithms; and camera features and user interface are certainly rife for further development (I see, I think "record that", and the photo is taken). But when will sensor size and pixel count stop growing? And what will the camera of the future for the "amateur" photographer look like?


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