Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Started Oct 19, 2012 | Discussions
bgbs Veteran Member • Posts: 3,195
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

It will solve many problems. For instance, why should I be limited to 14mp sensor on a D4 body? Why can't I put 36mp sensor on it? So many people complain that 12mp is too small, 36mp is too much, and 24mp on a D600 body although looks desirable, but because it is a semi-pro body, with scenes dial, less fps, less speed, less....you name it, it starts to miss the mark of what you want in a perfect body.

I think buying a camera that you want with the sensor that you want (we do this with lenses already, or MF cameras do it with digital backs) would make for a more tailored solution. Nikon would win by selling sensors, lenses, and cameras together or separately. Say I have an aged camera, but I do not care to upgrade to the latest camera, but I'm only interested in the latest sensor, would it not be great to only purchase the new sensor for my older body.? Or say I want to quickly convert my camera to DX format, I just swap the sensor and get more reach for wildlife.

The modular approach from a customer loyalty perspective, will tie a customer to a brand for life.

OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

It would be a great concept if the technical challenges could be overcome.

Orthogonality is one of the points correctly mentioned. Possibly some external adjusting screws so self levelling fine adjustment could be done in the field. Some astro cameras have a separate mounting plate with 3 or 4 adjustment screws to gain orthogonality (squareness).

As chips get larger orthogonality demands increase by the square. That is a chip that is twice the size of APS would requite at least 4X more accurate squareness.

I see this all the time in telescope astrophotography where the current larger chipped cameras use Kodak KAF16803 chip which is about 34mm x 34mm with a 44mm diagonal. Slight tilts show up easily in star images where stars in corners will appear elongated on one side of an image or corner than the others. Flex in the system can be hard to track down so any mounting system needs to be precise, rigid and repeatable. And as I mention perhaps fine adjustment screws whilst not a good thing to need may be worthwhile. Or some cleverly engineered self levelling system.

But imagine - they could have a whole new division marketing various sensors just like we do now with lenses.

All it would take is a really powerful processor in the camera to take care of the various setups and be somewhat future proof for at least a while anyway.

Greg

Guys.... we that use MFDB on MF cameras, we take it on and off hundreds of times a year... not only I do it on my Contax 645 but I bought an inexpensive chinese plate to be able to use my MFDB to my Fuji GX680 without having to change the MFDB's mounting (it's always C645)... the later is even revolving! Yet, there is no problem with the focusing plane or the sensor positioning for years.... The alignment is all to springs and prongs and metal plates and even shims and yet no problem!

Having a British degree in MechEng I don't see any problem whatsoever for proper sensor alignment... and surely there isn't any nor it is any special cost to ensure the correct fitting of a slotted sensor.

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

bgbs Veteran Member • Posts: 3,195
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

maybe technology isn't there yet but I think the manufactures can come up with a camera sensor calibration system that would take place each time the sensor is swapped.  Printers do it, why can't cameras?  I know I'm talking about apples and oranges here, but it's an idea for the future. Slowly we are seeing sensors cleaning themselves, and I think soon sensors will fine-tune themselves to lenses automatically.  It's one step a time process.

Zardoz
Zardoz Senior Member • Posts: 1,249
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

Hey bro,

You should probably let the MFDB manufacturers know that there's no problem, because they're busy adding sensor/body alignment fine tuning right now:

An all-new custom adjustment feature permits fine tuning the alignment of the camera body to its digital back.

OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

It would be a great concept if the technical challenges could be overcome.

Orthogonality is one of the points correctly mentioned. Possibly some external adjusting screws so self levelling fine adjustment could be done in the field. Some astro cameras have a separate mounting plate with 3 or 4 adjustment screws to gain orthogonality (squareness).

As chips get larger orthogonality demands increase by the square. That is a chip that is twice the size of APS would requite at least 4X more accurate squareness.

I see this all the time in telescope astrophotography where the current larger chipped cameras use Kodak KAF16803 chip which is about 34mm x 34mm with a 44mm diagonal. Slight tilts show up easily in star images where stars in corners will appear elongated on one side of an image or corner than the others. Flex in the system can be hard to track down so any mounting system needs to be precise, rigid and repeatable. And as I mention perhaps fine adjustment screws whilst not a good thing to need may be worthwhile. Or some cleverly engineered self levelling system.

But imagine - they could have a whole new division marketing various sensors just like we do now with lenses.

All it would take is a really powerful processor in the camera to take care of the various setups and be somewhat future proof for at least a while anyway.

Greg

Guys.... we that use MFDB on MF cameras, we take it on and off hundreds of times a year... not only I do it on my Contax 645 but I bought an inexpensive chinese plate to be able to use my MFDB to my Fuji GX680 without having to change the MFDB's mounting (it's always C645)... the later is even revolving! Yet, there is no problem with the focusing plane or the sensor positioning for years.... The alignment is all to springs and prongs and metal plates and even shims and yet no problem!

Having a British degree in MechEng I don't see any problem whatsoever for proper sensor alignment... and surely there isn't any nor it is any special cost to ensure the correct fitting of a slotted sensor.

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

Let me give you a simple way of having the sensor properly aligned with no special cost or puzzle... You load the "box" that contains the sensor on rails to insert the camera and you build a slot behind the shutter curtains of the camera to "receive" the sensor... then you have a release/non release button on the box that extends and retracts the sensor from the box... the devise would simply extract the sensor into the slot (and put spring loaded pressure on it) and would retract it if the currier box would have to be slotted out... it's been done effectively and cheaply in lots of applications that need accuracy....

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Theodoros
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bgbs Veteran Member • Posts: 3,195
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

I think sensor and image process would come as one module.

OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

bgbs wrote:

I think sensor and image process would come as one module.

why?

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Theodoros
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OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

bgbs wrote:

It will solve many problems. For instance, why should I be limited to 14mp sensor on a D4 body? Why can't I put 36mp sensor on it? So many people complain that 12mp is too small, 36mp is too much, and 24mp on a D600 body although looks desirable, but because it is a semi-pro body, with scenes dial, less fps, less speed, less....you name it, it starts to miss the mark of what you want in a perfect body.

I think buying a camera that you want with the sensor that you want (we do this with lenses already, or MF cameras do it with digital backs) would make for a more tailored solution. Nikon would win by selling sensors, lenses, and cameras together or separately. Say I have an aged camera, but I do not care to upgrade to the latest camera, but I'm only interested in the latest sensor, would it not be great to only purchase the new sensor for my older body.? Or say I want to quickly convert my camera to DX format, I just swap the sensor and get more reach for wildlife.

The modular approach from a customer loyalty perspective, will tie a customer to a brand for life.

I don't see how one could possibly argue with that....

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Theodoros
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Wojciech Sawicki
Wojciech Sawicki Contributing Member • Posts: 661
That sounds familiar ;)
3

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

According to the now 3 years old Nikon patent, the sensor will be at the edge of a small box (much like the screen of a small cell-phone), which will be slotted in position from the left side (as we look at the VF eye-piece) and it will be user interchangeable....

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

I had something like that, a long long time ago There were at least four different backs available, including a 6mp near full frame. Mine had a 2.5x crop factor, 1.5MP, ISO 100

All that for a mere $16,000

Man, how we've progressed since.


Seriously though, as cool as the interchangeable sensor idea sounds in theory, it wouldn't be feasible in practice...

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OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: That sounds familiar ;)

Wojciech Sawicki wrote:

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

According to the now 3 years old Nikon patent, the sensor will be at the edge of a small box (much like the screen of a small cell-phone), which will be slotted in position from the left side (as we look at the VF eye-piece) and it will be user interchangeable....

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

I had something like that, a long long time ago There were at least four different backs available, including a 6mp near full frame. Mine had a 2.5x crop factor, 1.5MP, ISO 100

All that for a mere $16,000

Man, how we've progressed since.


Seriously though, as cool as the interchangeable sensor idea sounds in theory, it wouldn't be feasible in practice...

Yet...., the OP is for interchangeable sensor, not for interchangeable back or for converting a film camera to digital, ....there is quite a difference!

Ideally, if the problem was today into designing a hybrid film/digital camera (which there is no chance of doing), the designer would have to apply a similar approach as with modern MF cameras (Mamyia 645, Hass H, Contax 645) diminishing the left part of the camera and having interchangeable backs which would either take 35mm film or Digital backs with the screen/electronics/buffer and cards integrated into the back.... this would shoot cost near the MF territory....  handling would be worst too... Especially for telephoto users! ....Remember the Rollei 3000 series?

But slotted interchangeable sensors..., that would be something!

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

Leif Goodwin Senior Member • Posts: 1,390
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Leif Goodwin wrote:

This is reminiscent of Thom Hogan's modular camera obsession. As pointed out above, the machining needs to be precise to allow the sensor to be accurately positioned. And that would greatly increase the cost of the camera, as you have to build a rugged precisely made frame into which you slot the sensor. The sensor also has to be in a frame, to provide strength, and to allow it to mate accurately with the slot. Both are expensive to make, and increase the size of the camera. In addition, the sensor is intimately tied to the image processing chip. So, as well as the sensor frame, and the sensor slot, you have to design a sensor interface, which allows the signals to go from the sensor to the image processor. That further increases cost. You will always be tied to the same image processor too, so if you want to use a sensor with twice the pixel count, you will be limited to the throughput dictated by the current processor. And you will have to upgrade the firmware. Alternatively, you only have one piece of firmware, and then that constrains what you can do. If you want several sets of firmware installed at once, for several sensors, you need more intenal memory, further increasing cost.

In my opinion this just does not fly. It is too niche, and not suitable for a mainstream product.

The mechanical issues are not so difficult to resolve Leif... not with current tech anyway, there is a limitation with the electronics that the camera bares as far as future speed and processing speed is concerned, but I am sure the D800 (for example) buffer, memory and processing would be up to its limits with only the current sensor that the camera bares and that could satisfy many users for many years to come.... (after all it's been proved that modern cameras can serve for at least four years). It's the flexibility and available solutions that would balance the drawbacks... Possibly in the future, somebody could buy a replacement (upgraded) body and keep many of his sensors, while at the same time keep his old body as a back up and use it with speed/processing limitations with future sensors... That's great ...no?

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

In a later post you refer to MF databacks, pointing out correctly that they are interchangeable. You of course realise how much MF cameras and databacks cost don't you? You haven't given any indication of the cost that this will add. Or the bulk. The examples with interchangeable backs are all very expensive. Manufacturers would have to support multiple sensors, and development costs would have to be recouped from sales. Nikon have released the D800 with two sensor versions. If there was demand for a B&W version i.e. no Bayer filter, or they thought there would be demand, they would surely have put one into production. The same is true for IR and UV sensitive versions. Note that Canon did release an IR sensitive version of one DSLR, but as far as I know they have not done so since. I think the truth is that you'd end up with a white elephant: in four years times sensors change so much that a camera with an interchangeable sensor would be out of date. Recent innovations include the change from CCD to CMOS, the addition of video support, future sensors will have on chip focus support, and other things I have not thought of. You end up freezing in the feature set, and preventing new features. And the truth is that a plug in FX sensor module would probably cost as much as a new FX camera. Why? Because the sensor is a significant part of the camera cost, and specialist sensors would sell in lower volume, so research and development costs would be spread over fewer sensors.

In my opinion there is no market for this idea, the compromises outweigh the advantages once you think it through. Just my opinion.

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primeshooter
primeshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,008
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
2

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

According to the now 3 years old Nikon patent, the sensor will be at the edge of a small box (much like the screen of a small cell-phone), which will be slotted in position from the left side (as we look at the VF eye-piece) and it will be user interchangeable....

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

You speak so much garbage on here it's hard to know if you are trolling or not, but don't worry, I know you are serious!

OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Leif Goodwin wrote:

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Leif Goodwin wrote:

This is reminiscent of Thom Hogan's modular camera obsession. As pointed out above, the machining needs to be precise to allow the sensor to be accurately positioned. And that would greatly increase the cost of the camera, as you have to build a rugged precisely made frame into which you slot the sensor. The sensor also has to be in a frame, to provide strength, and to allow it to mate accurately with the slot. Both are expensive to make, and increase the size of the camera. In addition, the sensor is intimately tied to the image processing chip. So, as well as the sensor frame, and the sensor slot, you have to design a sensor interface, which allows the signals to go from the sensor to the image processor. That further increases cost. You will always be tied to the same image processor too, so if you want to use a sensor with twice the pixel count, you will be limited to the throughput dictated by the current processor. And you will have to upgrade the firmware. Alternatively, you only have one piece of firmware, and then that constrains what you can do. If you want several sets of firmware installed at once, for several sensors, you need more intenal memory, further increasing cost.

In my opinion this just does not fly. It is too niche, and not suitable for a mainstream product.

The mechanical issues are not so difficult to resolve Leif... not with current tech anyway, there is a limitation with the electronics that the camera bares as far as future speed and processing speed is concerned, but I am sure the D800 (for example) buffer, memory and processing would be up to its limits with only the current sensor that the camera bares and that could satisfy many users for many years to come.... (after all it's been proved that modern cameras can serve for at least four years). It's the flexibility and available solutions that would balance the drawbacks... Possibly in the future, somebody could buy a replacement (upgraded) body and keep many of his sensors, while at the same time keep his old body as a back up and use it with speed/processing limitations with future sensors... That's great ...no?

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

In a later post you refer to MF databacks, pointing out correctly that they are interchangeable. You of course realise how much MF cameras and databacks cost don't you? You haven't given any indication of the cost that this will add. Or the bulk. The examples with interchangeable backs are all very expensive. Manufacturers would have to support multiple sensors, and development costs would have to be recouped from sales. Nikon have released the D800 with two sensor versions. If there was demand for a B&W version i.e. no Bayer filter, or they thought there would be demand, they would surely have put one into production. The same is true for IR and UV sensitive versions. Note that Canon did release an IR sensitive version of one DSLR, but as far as I know they have not done so since. I think the truth is that you'd end up with a white elephant: in four years times sensors change so much that a camera with an interchangeable sensor would be out of date. Recent innovations include the change from CCD to CMOS, the addition of video support, future sensors will have on chip focus support, and other things I have not thought of. You end up freezing in the feature set, and preventing new features. And the truth is that a plug in FX sensor module would probably cost as much as a new FX camera. Why? Because the sensor is a significant part of the camera cost, and specialist sensors would sell in lower volume, so research and development costs would be spread over fewer sensors.

In my opinion there is no market for this idea, the compromises outweigh the advantages once you think it through. Just my opinion.

Interchangeable sensor is different than interchangeable back Leif... I suppose that the extra cost for say a camera at the D800 - 5Dmkiii category, would probably be at 10-15% price raise (inc the same sensor) than the current models to allow for the slight extra mechanical complexity that is required, an extra sensor pack could possibly cost in the 500-1200 era depending on its technology and specifications, the sensor/electronics cost of modern FF DSLRs is not more than 15% of the total camera cost... and this is top for the best of sensors. Take this as an example, if a D600 costs 2000 for the body, what a good quality small carrier (standard for all sensors) containing the sensor only with the electronics that are dedicated to that sensor would cost?

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antoineb Veteran Member • Posts: 6,650
Doable perhaps - but won't be done for commercial reasons
1

(1) would a camera with replaceable sensor be DOABLE?  Perhaps, at the very limit.  But it would be quite difficult.  Replacing the sensor would be a tricky and (qualified) labour-intensive process.

And depending on the higher specs of that sensor, you might need to replace parts, or better all, the processing, memory etc.  What would be the point of being able to "slot in" a 36mp sensor in a 12mp camera, if that meant that most functions in the camera became 3x slower because of the limited processing power?  Continuous shooting going from 6fps to 2fps, time to display a shot going from 0.5s to 1.5s, buffer for continuous shooting going from 15 shots to 5 shots?

And that process would carry its own technical risk and involve a failure rate which customers wouldn't like at all.

(2) would it make commercial sense?  NO WAY.

(2.1)  If you replaced the sensor and possibly circuits as described above, you'd be replacing the most valuable parts of the camera.  Their price as spare parts would be close to the price of a new camera based around those newer electronics.  So why would the customer pay close to full price, to obtain an older camera with newer insides?

(2.2)  From the manufacturer point of view, it is much preferrable anyway to sell new cameras.

(3) what about the ecological dimension?
Suire, it would be much more civilised to not throw away a 3 year-old toy and replace it by a new one each time.  But in a consumer-facing environment this is what consumers seem to prefer.

Only some less futile pursuits environments, such as research, will sometimes use apparatus where part of the innards can be replaced.  Or the military, where decision cycles are very long.

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OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Doable perhaps - but won't be done for commercial reasons

antoineb wrote:

(1) would a camera with replaceable sensor be DOABLE?  Perhaps, at the very limit.  But it would be quite difficult.  Replacing the sensor would be a tricky and (qualified) labour-intensive process.

No, it can be a very easy process... look at the previous posts.

And depending on the higher specs of that sensor, you might need to replace parts, or better all, the processing, memory etc.  What would be the point of being able to "slot in" a 36mp sensor in a 12mp camera, if that meant that most functions in the camera became 3x slower because of the limited processing power?  Continuous shooting going from 6fps to 2fps, time to display a shot going from 0.5s to 1.5s, buffer for continuous shooting going from 15 shots to 5 shots?

Why don't you look at it the other way around? I mean if you could replace D800's sensor with the one of D4, the camera would become much faster....

And that process would carry its own technical risk and involve a failure rate which customers wouldn't like at all.

Why?

(2) would it make commercial sense?  NO WAY.

Why? ...I bet you it would be a great success... all pros would be after such a camera and most of the advanced photographers too....

(2.1)  If you replaced the sensor and possibly circuits as described above, you'd be replacing the most valuable parts of the camera.  Their price as spare parts would be close to the price of a new camera based around those newer electronics.  So why would the customer pay close to full price, to obtain an older camera with newer insides?

Why replace circuits.... second part of your quote (and my reply) covers this...

(2.2)  From the manufacturer point of view, it is much preferrable anyway to sell new cameras.

True... that's what is stopping them... again read the previous discussion from start.

(3) what about the ecological dimension?
Suire, it would be much more civilised to not throw away a 3 year-old toy and replace it by a new one each time.  But in a consumer-facing environment this is what consumers seem to prefer.

Only some less futile pursuits environments, such as research, will sometimes use apparatus where part of the innards can be replaced.  Or the military, where decision cycles are very long.

I believe that will be forced to do it, if another maker than C or N will come with such a solution into the FF market... again look at the previous posts...

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Theodoros
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trueview Regular Member • Posts: 197
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
3

Theodoros,

I strongly suspect that this is technically doable, and actually have been fantacizing about such a solution. Yes, the processing unit would have to come with the sensor, but there is no major difficulty here. Given the general level of build quality, AF, metering, etc of my 5dIII, an upgrade path to the sensor would seem logical, not to mention the possibility of adding special purpose sensors (B&W, for instance).

Unfortunately, I don't see this happening, for marketing reasons. Back in the dsays of film, a Nikon F2 or f3 had a nine year life span. Same goes for Canon equivalents. In the digital age, camera manufacturers have managed to reduce the product cycle to 3 years. I don't see them relinquishing this advantage any time soon. This of course is at the expense of the user.

OP Theodoros Fotometria Senior Member • Posts: 2,090
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

trueview wrote:

Theodoros,

I strongly suspect that this is technically doable, and actually have been fantacizing about such a solution. Yes, the processing unit would have to come with the sensor, but there is no major difficulty here. Given the general level of build quality, AF, metering, etc of my 5dIII, an upgrade path to the sensor would seem logical, not to mention the possibility of adding special purpose sensors (B&W, for instance).

Unfortunately, I don't see this happening, for marketing reasons. Back in the dsays of film, a Nikon F2 or f3 had a nine year life span. Same goes for Canon equivalents. In the digital age, camera manufacturers have managed to reduce the product cycle to 3 years. I don't see them relinquishing this advantage any time soon. This of course is at the expense of the user.

Exactly... that's why I am saying that they will ONLY be forced to do it if a third manufacturer (one that wants to enter the FF market without risking to convince the customers for been a long term alternative) will do it..., then they will have to react! (please refer to previous posts)

Three years ago, Nikon send a questionary to most pros (their customers) all over the world... among the questions was if modularity of camera in relevance of sensors, screens, viewfinders, is among their requirements, needless to say that all pros I know answered positively on the matter... then they filed the patent... thereafter nothing happened! ...Now that they 've taken the FF market from Canon by a good margin, I find it even more impossible for them to proceed..., not that they can't..., they clearly don't want too... they are clearly more interested (in both C & N) to communicate a marketing "imaginary war" having stupid soldiers that pay them the more they can... clearly the most profitable war in industry and the one that is against photography from traditional "photography servants" !!!

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Theodoros
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Karld70 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,553
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

primeshooter wrote:

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

According to the now 3 years old Nikon patent, the sensor will be at the edge of a small box (much like the screen of a small cell-phone), which will be slotted in position from the left side (as we look at the VF eye-piece) and it will be user interchangeable....

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

You speak so much garbage on here it's hard to know if you are trolling or not, but don't worry, I know you are serious!

That or his ID was hijacked and this is not a post by him 

trueview Regular Member • Posts: 197
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

trueview wrote:

Theodoros,

I strongly suspect that this is technically doable, and actually have been fantacizing about such a solution. Yes, the processing unit would have to come with the sensor, but there is no major difficulty here. Given the general level of build quality, AF, metering, etc of my 5dIII, an upgrade path to the sensor would seem logical, not to mention the possibility of adding special purpose sensors (B&W, for instance).

Unfortunately, I don't see this happening, for marketing reasons. Back in the dsays of film, a Nikon F2 or f3 had a nine year life span. Same goes for Canon equivalents. In the digital age, camera manufacturers have managed to reduce the product cycle to 3 years. I don't see them relinquishing this advantage any time soon. This of course is at the expense of the user.

Exactly... that's why I am saying that they will ONLY be forced to do it if a third manufacturer (one that wants to enter the FF market without risking to convince the customers for been a long term alternative) will do it..., then they will have to react! (please refer to previous posts)

Three years ago, Nikon send a questionary to most pros (their customers) all over the world... among the questions was if modularity of camera in relevance of sensors, screens, viewfinders, is among their requirements, needless to say that all pros I know answered positively on the matter... then they filed the patent... thereafter nothing happened! ...Now that they 've taken the FF market from Canon by a good margin, I find it even more impossible for them to proceed..., not that they can't..., they clearly don't want too... they are clearly more interested (in both C & N) to communicate a marketing "imaginary war" having stupid soldiers that pay them the more they can... clearly the most profitable war in industry and the one that is against photography from traditional "photography servants" !!!

I generally agree, except for one thing. You seem to intend that Nikon customers are mostly pros (unless I misunderstood). I'm skeptical of that. I would suspect that even for quite expensive bodies such as D800/5diii, non pros outnumber pros by quite a large margin. Which means that manufacturers would also survey amateur reaction to inrchangeable sensors before going in that direction.

Also you are saying that Nikon has overtaken Canon in full frame. I read elsewhere that in terms of market share Canon is still ahead worldwide, but this was a secondary source, and the primary source was not quoted, so no way to verify. If you actually have a reliable source of market statistics for the photo market, I'd very much like if you could give it, my interest in this  matter having nothing to do with the N/C fan war taking place here (strictly business !

Leif Goodwin Senior Member • Posts: 1,390
Re: Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?
1

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Leif Goodwin wrote:

Theodoros Fotometria wrote:

Leif Goodwin wrote:

This is reminiscent of Thom Hogan's modular camera obsession. As pointed out above, the machining needs to be precise to allow the sensor to be accurately positioned. And that would greatly increase the cost of the camera, as you have to build a rugged precisely made frame into which you slot the sensor. The sensor also has to be in a frame, to provide strength, and to allow it to mate accurately with the slot. Both are expensive to make, and increase the size of the camera. In addition, the sensor is intimately tied to the image processing chip. So, as well as the sensor frame, and the sensor slot, you have to design a sensor interface, which allows the signals to go from the sensor to the image processor. That further increases cost. You will always be tied to the same image processor too, so if you want to use a sensor with twice the pixel count, you will be limited to the throughput dictated by the current processor. And you will have to upgrade the firmware. Alternatively, you only have one piece of firmware, and then that constrains what you can do. If you want several sets of firmware installed at once, for several sensors, you need more intenal memory, further increasing cost.

In my opinion this just does not fly. It is too niche, and not suitable for a mainstream product.

The mechanical issues are not so difficult to resolve Leif... not with current tech anyway, there is a limitation with the electronics that the camera bares as far as future speed and processing speed is concerned, but I am sure the D800 (for example) buffer, memory and processing would be up to its limits with only the current sensor that the camera bares and that could satisfy many users for many years to come.... (after all it's been proved that modern cameras can serve for at least four years). It's the flexibility and available solutions that would balance the drawbacks... Possibly in the future, somebody could buy a replacement (upgraded) body and keep many of his sensors, while at the same time keep his old body as a back up and use it with speed/processing limitations with future sensors... That's great ...no?

Theodoros
www.fotometria.gr
www.fotometriawedding.gr

In a later post you refer to MF databacks, pointing out correctly that they are interchangeable. You of course realise how much MF cameras and databacks cost don't you? You haven't given any indication of the cost that this will add. Or the bulk. The examples with interchangeable backs are all very expensive. Manufacturers would have to support multiple sensors, and development costs would have to be recouped from sales. Nikon have released the D800 with two sensor versions. If there was demand for a B&W version i.e. no Bayer filter, or they thought there would be demand, they would surely have put one into production. The same is true for IR and UV sensitive versions. Note that Canon did release an IR sensitive version of one DSLR, but as far as I know they have not done so since. I think the truth is that you'd end up with a white elephant: in four years times sensors change so much that a camera with an interchangeable sensor would be out of date. Recent innovations include the change from CCD to CMOS, the addition of video support, future sensors will have on chip focus support, and other things I have not thought of. You end up freezing in the feature set, and preventing new features. And the truth is that a plug in FX sensor module would probably cost as much as a new FX camera. Why? Because the sensor is a significant part of the camera cost, and specialist sensors would sell in lower volume, so research and development costs would be spread over fewer sensors.

In my opinion there is no market for this idea, the compromises outweigh the advantages once you think it through. Just my opinion.

Interchangeable sensor is different than interchangeable back Leif... I suppose that the extra cost for say a camera at the D800 - 5Dmkiii category, would probably be at 10-15% price raise (inc the same sensor) than the current models to allow for the slight extra mechanical complexity that is required, an extra sensor pack could possibly cost in the 500-1200 era depending on its technology and specifications, the sensor/electronics cost of modern FF DSLRs is not more than 15% of the total camera cost... and this is top for the best of sensors. Take this as an example, if a D600 costs 2000 for the body, what a good quality small carrier (standard for all sensors) containing the sensor only with the electronics that are dedicated to that sensor would cost?

Actually I suspect it is easier to make a databack than a plug in sensor. And I suspect you are wrong about the price of the sensor. The D600 is about £1600, and the D7000 is about £700. The two are similar cameras, so even allowing for slightly better components in the D600, such as a larger mirror, the sensor will be about 1/3 of the price. The D300s is about £1000, and the D800 is about £2000. They are very similar cameras, apart from the sensor, and a bit more memory and processing throughput in the D800. So again a £500+ premium for the sensor is believable. Well, package the sensor as a separate product, with the couplings and frame, and we are talking close to £1,000. In fact I think that is a gross underestimate. That £500+ sensor premium is based on a product that sells in large numbers. The price consists of the actual cost to manufacture the product i.e. raw materials and labour, plus a share of the cost to both design the product and create the tooling. Since these plug in sensors will be a niche product, or at least will have significantly lower sales than a D800, the latter costs will be much larger. So the actual on the street price would have to be much more than £500, easily £1,000 or more. Bear in mind that these things do not have a long life cycle, which works against a low price. Now look at the 600mm F4 lens. How long was it before they refreshed that lens with AFS and VR? A long long time. Why? Because they do not sell many. But, they do have a long lifecycle.

Is this a viable business proposition? I don't think it is. Of course I may well be wrong, but I think they have more important things to attend to that will generate more income e.g. replacement 80-400mm lens, 400mm F5.6 lens, D400 (??), a m4/3 competitor (??) and so on.

 Leif Goodwin's gear list:Leif Goodwin's gear list
Nikon D200 Nikon D600 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8G ED Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D +4 more
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