Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

Started Feb 24, 2012 | Discussions
Oddrain New Member • Posts: 12
Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

I use a DSLR for much of my photography, but often turn to a compact for social events or occasions where it is not convenient to carry something bigger.

Although great improvements continue to be made, the small sensors in these cameras still can't give the high ISO/low noise combinations that many of us would like to handle those low light situations we often find ourselves in. Of course the latest drive for extreme zoom ranges further exacerbates the need for faster shutter speeds and the high ISO settings that will bring noise into our photos.

Review sites such as DPReview rightly focus in on the high ISO noise issue and provide detailed analysis of camera noise characteristics often highlighting subtle differences between cameras.

However, the same emphasis is rarely given to maximum lens apertures. In my view these still have significant room for improvement and can do a lot to help obtain the faster shutter speeds needed without having to resort to noisy higher ISO settings.

So should review sites like this one be doing more to raise awareness of the benefits of wide aperture lenses for compact cameras and pressurize manufacturers to push the max aperture specs in the same way they have pushed zoom range and megapixels?

One way of doing this might be to compare compact camera images at different light levels rather than different ISO settings. This would allow cameras with wider apertures to show their advantage by using a wider aperture and less noisy low ISO settings for the same lighting conditions.

Sorry for the long post … let us know what you think!

Alphoid Veteran Member • Posts: 5,333
Agreed

I've felt the same way. They mention the wide aperture usually, but rarely give apples-to-apples comparisons.

Speaking of point-and-shoot cameras, I'd love to see one with a 1:1 macro lens.

sherwoodpete
sherwoodpete Veteran Member • Posts: 7,766
Re: Agreed

Alphoid wrote:

I've felt the same way. They mention the wide aperture usually, but rarely give apples-to-apples comparisons.

Valid point. A compact camera with an f/1.8 lens can keep to much lower ISO settings than one having an f/5.6 lens. Simply comparing at identical ISO doesn't give a realistic representation of real-life performance.

Speaking of point-and-shoot cameras, I'd love to see one with a 1:1 macro lens.

Why? Since the crop-factor of P&S cameras can be around 5x, a 1:1 macro would be taking shots requiring a 5:1 ratio on a DSLR ( or 3:1 on APS-C format).

It's unlikely to happen with a P&S, though some of the newer small format interchangeable lens cameras should take a 1:1 macro lens.,

Regards,
Peter

PaulRivers Veteran Member • Posts: 7,420
Re: Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

I agree with the OP - I wish this was more emphasized in reviews...

Klimt z Regular Member • Posts: 333
Re: Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

To a great extent, lens speed is the driver of cost and overall size. The designer begins with lens speed and builds from there.
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K

OP Oddrain New Member • Posts: 12
Re: Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

Its a good point. Pushing the aperture will definitely impact size and price and the designers have to make trade offs. We can't have it all! However, I suspect the trade offs are currently biased towards the huge zoom ranges we are seeing as they have more marketing value.

We saw a similar situation in the past where a potentially more useful wide angle end of the zoom range was being sacrificed for the telephoto end. I remember seeing cameras with only 40mm at the wide end, but the telephoto end was being pushed to the limits at that time. Clearly not great for compacts that are often used for indoor social occasions where space is very limited. Luckily awareness was raised and now we regularly see a more useful 24mm at the wide end.

Perhaps a more balanced approach that would trade some of the telephoto end for better apertures across the zoom range would create a camera with better photographic value for many users. For this to work, the awareness needs to be there to create the demand that manufacturers would need to sell such cameras.

Just my opinion

Best Regards

Alphoid Veteran Member • Posts: 5,333
Re: Agreed

sherwoodpete wrote:

Why? Since the crop-factor of P&S cameras can be around 5x, a 1:1 macro would be taking shots requiring a 5:1 ratio on a DSLR ( or 3:1 on APS-C format).

That's the whole point. I could take photos of much smaller things than I can with a dSLR (at least without going for a microscope or other esoteric techniques). It would be the ultimate macro device.

Klimt z Regular Member • Posts: 333
Re: Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

There are now a number of compacts with fast lenses and shorter zooms. Meanwhile the travel zoom segment is, as you say getting longer and longer zooms. It is like the megapixel race.

It would be interesting to compare cameras at various light levels as you suggest.
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K

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Wider aperture lenses for compact cameras?

Oddrain wrote:

So should review sites like this one be doing more to raise awareness of the benefits of wide aperture lenses for compact cameras and pressurize manufacturers to push the max aperture specs in the same way they have pushed zoom range and megapixels?

I'm afraid that an increased awareness is not capable of changing the nature of the lenses fitted to small cameras. For the camera to remain small, it is obliged to have the wide aperture performance restricted to the wide angle end of the zoom, for example, like LX3, LX5. In fact, the wider the better (LX3/5 capable of 24mm equiv)....

... or, in other words, you can't have a long zoom that is also wide apertured and still have it compact enough to put in your pocket.

Of course, once you have decided to build a camera that need not be pocketable, then then you are into super-zoom country, and you might as well make the lens go as long as possible. The aperture will still be darned small at the long end, of course, but hey... it is very l-o-o-ong indeed!
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Leonard Migliore
Leonard Migliore Forum Pro • Posts: 14,771
Re: Agreed

Alphoid wrote:

sherwoodpete wrote:

Why? Since the crop-factor of P&S cameras can be around 5x, a 1:1 macro would be taking shots requiring a 5:1 ratio on a DSLR ( or 3:1 on APS-C format).

That's the whole point. I could take photos of much smaller things than I can with a dSLR (at least without going for a microscope or other esoteric techniques). It would be the ultimate macro device.

You're probably aware of this but anytime you're doing 5:1 macro, it's pretty esoteric. Everything has to be extremely rigid unless you're using flash and you don't have any working distance or depth of field to speak of. But I like the idea too; I'd love to stick a Micro Nikkor on a Nikon 1.
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Leonard Migliore

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Agreed

Leonard Migliore wrote:

You're probably aware of this but anytime you're doing 5:1 macro, it's pretty esoteric. Everything has to be extremely rigid unless you're using flash and you don't have any working distance or depth of field to speak of. But I like the idea too; I'd love to stick a Micro Nikkor on a Nikon 1.

It is a matter of finding suitable subjects that reveal themselves as interesting in the macro ranges in question. I have noticed that there seem to more of them (subjects) to choose from when we are looking for stuff that will fit within a chunk of space about 1" high...

... that is to say, on FF35mm, where same-size-as-subject (1:1 repro) earned its reputation as "defining" the macro range.....

.... I am saying, it wasn't merely about the ubiquity of 35mm that made 1:1 happen, it was something about the subjects as well.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

 Barrie Davis's gear list:Barrie Davis's gear list
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sherwoodpete
sherwoodpete Veteran Member • Posts: 7,766
Re: Agreed

Barrie Davis wrote:

Leonard Migliore wrote:

You're probably aware of this but anytime you're doing 5:1 macro, it's pretty esoteric. Everything has to be extremely rigid unless you're using flash and you don't have any working distance or depth of field to speak of. But I like the idea too; I'd love to stick a Micro Nikkor on a Nikon 1.

It is a matter of finding suitable subjects that reveal themselves as interesting in the macro ranges in question. I have noticed that there seem to more of them (subjects) to choose from when we are looking for stuff that will fit within a chunk of space about 1" high...

... that is to say, on FF35mm, where same-size-as-subject (1:1 repro) earned its reputation as "defining" the macro range.....

.... I am saying, it wasn't merely about the ubiquity of 35mm that made 1:1 happen, it was something about the subjects as well.

I suspect that rather like a fractal, there is something of interest at every scale, right down to electron microscope images.

Perhaps the key to macro work is that people can recognise the subject: "Hey, there's something I've seen thousands of times - but never saw it properly until now".

Regards,
Peter

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Agreed

sherwoodpete wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

Leonard Migliore wrote:

You're probably aware of this but anytime you're doing 5:1 macro, it's pretty esoteric. Everything has to be extremely rigid unless you're using flash and you don't have any working distance or depth of field to speak of. But I like the idea too; I'd love to stick a Micro Nikkor on a Nikon 1.

It is a matter of finding suitable subjects that reveal themselves as interesting in the macro ranges in question. I have noticed that there seem to more of them (subjects) to choose from when we are looking for stuff that will fit within a chunk of space about 1" high...

... that is to say, on FF35mm, where same-size-as-subject (1:1 repro) earned its reputation as "defining" the macro range.....

.... I am saying, it wasn't merely about the ubiquity of 35mm that made 1:1 happen, it was something about the subjects as well.

I suspect that rather like a fractal, there is something of interest at every scale, right down to electron microscope images.

Yes, all close-up scales have subjects of interest.

I'm just suggesting there are more of them, or more that are accessable (that could be it) around the 1" inch size... a sort of bell curve, that peaks in the 1" zone, say.

I must emphasise, I don't have any proof of this, it is just a feeling I have got over the years.

Perhaps the key to macro work is that people can recognise the subject: "Hey, there's something I've seen thousands of times - but never saw it properly until now".

Ahh... well there you are getting somewhat into the area of defining macro by its showing, by virtue of enlargement, more detail than in the subject real life...

.... which, you may remember, is my particular idea of what constitutes a macro photograph.

--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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