Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Started Oct 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
Grevture Veteran Member • Posts: 4,188
Re: Maybe you should try reading posts before you reply

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Grevture wrote:

I agree there is something appealing about the idea of a replaceable sensor, but it misses a couple of very fundamental parts of how a camera works and how it is made up.

- First, you may wish this is not true, but it is: Sensor and processors are very closely related. They form an image together, and separating the two will cause a lot problems over time.It could work for a short while, but after a while, who wants to use a new good sensor with an old slow processor unable to fully utilize it?

This doesn't mean that a todays processor won't be able to cope with ALL todays sensors to their max performance, it only means that todays sensors (if kept) will perform better in the future (when fitted in next generation body) and that next generation sensors will have degraded performance in a current body... It then comes to the user to judge if he an upgrade is worthwhile and the extend of it... doesn't it? The major advantage of having specialized sensor for the task remains I mean (as an example) that there are people that wouldn't give a dime to improve their D800E's IQ performance further... even if another sensor would do better in the future... but at the same time, they would prefer to have a D4 sensor also to improve speed or to cope with ultra low light ...and may be a (true) B&W sensor too... Then (in the future) they may decide to move to a better processor or replace one of their sensors with a future one (although the later will perform even better with a "new" body).... The upgrade path becomes much more flexible (if needed)... doesn't it?

A lot of people has, over time, made claims like "this sensor is so good I will never need an improvement" ... And yet, a few years later they still have upgraded

So you want to be able to swap a D4 sensor in and out of a D800 body, I sort of guessed you would come around to this favorite theme of yours

The upgrade path would become more flexible, yes - but also tremendously more expensive, something you seem to ignore. Sadly that is how it works. Flexibility as in having loose parts always come at a price, while the cost-efficient approach is to bundle all possible functionality in one package and sell that package to as many customers as possible. This is why we have cameras with lots of functionality which is frequently used only by a fraction of its owners. But making separate, dedicated models, is very expensive. The D4 is a good example (among Nikon cameras) how expensive it gets to build a camera specifically for a fairly small audience.

- Second, it is the sensor and the processor together which form the valuable parts of a camera. This becomes very evident when you look at mirrorless cameras who are just a rather small and cheap shell holding the two important parts together and providing a grip and a interface to interact with them. It is equally evident when you look at the medium format cameras with digital backs where the actual camera body just is a connector between the sensor-processor and the optics (and providing some grip and interface).

Even in the basic Hasselblad (H4-40?) the WHOLE back (which is much more expensive than the sensor) doesn't cost half the price of the camera... and the sensor only is much-much more expensive than a FF sensor.... and this I repeat is for the back... not for the sensor! Clearly there is a wide spread impression that sensors are too expensive... There are some people I know in the MF industry... I can say with confidence that sensor cost has been improved dramatically during the last years, to an extend that it has no relevance whatsoever than the past...

Either those people you know in the MF industry (whats left of it) is having fun at your expense, or they are dreaming. The harsh reality is MF manufacturers cannot even afford to use the most current sensors available in their sizes (developed for industrial, scientific or military use), but are stuck with some old, rather dated, designs which can be made at a (barely) acceptable cost.

If sensor prices has 'improved' so much lately, why is it we have seen no real price drops of MF cameras then? They are still stuck on price levels out of reach for enthusiasts where they could potentially reach the larger volumes they so desperately need.

Sensors are expensive, and the price increases exponentially with both size and level of technology. And a custom built processor which deals efficiently with the data collected from the sensor and turns it into an image is not cheap either. Unless you opt for a more generic design and lose much efficiency. Much like the 16 bit A/D converters MF manufacturers use - contrary to what many belive, it is not because they need 16 bits, its simply because they cannot afford to build more efficient customized A/D converters (where 14 bits would be more the sufficient).

Have you by the way noticed a trend among medium format cameras? Hasselblad no longer makes separate backs. Leica S2 has a built in sensor, and so does Pentax 645. The modular medium format Sinar cameras have been discontinued. Leaf have stopped making digital backs. The sole remaining player really working with replaceable medium format sensors (backs) are PhaseOne. It is because fewer and fewer are prepared to pay for the flexibility you look for.

Finally, correct sensor positioning is nothing difficult or costly to achieve... a simple spring loaded extract/detract mechanism that would apply pressure in the extract position, along with an appropriate "slot" on the body behind the shutter would do the job just fine...

You keep saying that, but camera technicians and a lot of other knowledgeable people I know say the opposite. And their arguments - unfortunately - make a lot of sense.

You seem to think it is easy simply because you want it to be easy. I also wish it was like that, but I have seen compelling arguments it isn't.

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