lens vs. image sensors in digital photgraphy

Discussion in 'Photography' started by aniramca, Dec 9, 2006.

  1. aniramca

    aniramca Guest

    Going back to the old style film cameras, how would you rate for the
    distribution of critical components of a camera which contribute to
    producing excellent photos (excluding human talent and touch) ? Would
    you say they were 60% lens quality, 30% technical/mechanism or photo
    meter, and 10% film? Or were they even 70% lens, 25 % mechanism/meter
    and 5% film? I don't think that film played much of a role, as most
    films were either Kodak, Fuji or Sakura/Konica.
    The lens was what the camera manufacturers try to emphasize. Superior
    cameras were famous for their lenses - Nikkor, Canon, Zuikor,
    Leitz/Leica, Zeiss, Schneider-Kreutznach, Rollei, etc.
    Now, in the new digital technology, good quality lens alone may not
    make a good camera. Do you agree?
    My questions are about another critical component which makes good
    quality picture cameras. Is it the image sensor, from CCD to the new
    CMOS technology? Or you may call it the "brain" of the camera. I
    visited a few sites which describe about the technology, such as
    http://www.shortcourse.com/how/sensors/sensors.htm Camera review sites
    undoubtedly talk a lot about how good a CCD or CMOS of one camera from
    others, etc., etc. Unfortunately, if you read all of those sites, you
    find out conclusively that all cameras are all good (Just like when to
    read all different car magazines for best cars). Well... I like to know
    what are the superiority of a camera over the other. Nikon is famous
    for its lenses, but do they incorporate a good CCD or CMOS to get
    excellent digital cameras? Could someone provide me with some input on
    In the past we never heard a Sony 35mm or SLR cameras, but now we see a
    lot of Sony digital cameras. They are now using Zeiss Ikon to utilize
    their excellent lenses and name... but what about their image sensor
    technology?. Are there websites which specifically discuss about this
    issues? You can have excellent lens, but if your technology of image
    sensor is behind or lagging, then your images in the digital camera
    will be crappy.
    On the other hand, could someone tells me that perhaps all CCD and all
    CMOS are the same (just like you get a Windows OS.... the same whether
    you use it in IBM computer or Dell or Toshiba). So, who makes these CCD
    and CMOS anyways? Who developed the technology? (Kodak, Philips, Canon?
    Are they just common computer chip companies such as Intel, AMD, etc
    who makes and designs the CCD and/or CMOS? Is one CCD or CMOS
    technology better than the other?
    So, which digital camera has superiority in terms of both lens and
    image sensor technology? Is Nikon among the top? Canon, Sony,
    Panasonic, Samsung, HP, Fuji or others?
    I heard from someone in this newsgroup suggested that Minolta/Konica
    (who made good SLR cameras) failed to produce good CCD in their digital
    cameras, and therefore they now go under and end up being picked up by
    Thanks for the discussion.
    aniramca, Dec 9, 2006
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  2. aniramca

    John Guest

    If you left out a few periods and spaces, you could have made your post even
    harder to read.

    Better yet, don't even bother with capitalizing. Just use one long stream of
    lowercase characters without any spaces whatsoever. Readers will think it as
    a puzzle and be pleased.
    John, Dec 9, 2006
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  3. I would say it is not easy to say and compare since it is only the final
    product that counts and the variables all intermix.

    Test the camera(s) you are considering to see how they do the kind of
    work you are interested in and how they feel to you. After than don't worry
    about how they got there.
    Joseph Meehan, Dec 9, 2006
  4. aniramca

    Skip Guest

    But there were HUGE variations in film, from Kodachrome 25 and 64 (and the
    unlamented 200) Ektar/Gold 25, Protra through Fuji Reala, Fujipress, the
    list goes on. And then there were the black and white films, like Technical
    Pan, Panatomic X, Delta, etc. All of them had distinctly different
    It never did. It made a good lens and a good image, but not a good camera.
    A good lens is critical, no matter what the medium.
    Well, the sensor isn't the "brain," the processor is. The sensor is the
    replacement for the film. And just as critical.

    Sony makes the majority of sensors for P&S cameras, and many of the DSLRs,
    too, including Pentax, most of Nikons. Panasonic makes some (Olympus?) as
    does Kodak (Leica). Canon makes most of their own, as far as DSLRs are
    concerned. K/M's failure wasn't due to not producing a good sensor, Sony
    made them before the acquisition. It was more a failure of business plan.
    One reason for the unanimity of reviews is that most cameras perform more
    than acceptably. There are no really bad sensors, some are just better than
    others, and, to a large degree, which is which is a matter of taste. Even
    Sigma/Foveon has its adherents.
    Skip, Dec 9, 2006
  5. aniramca

    Pat Guest

    Yoggi Berra said something like baseball is 90% physical and the other
    50% is mental. I think photography is about the same.

    I don't think you can rule out the human element because equipment
    choice of the right stuff for the project is a huge consideration. You
    don't take a camera will a large telephoto lense on a scuba dive and
    expect to get any pictures. But anyway.

    The lense is the most important thing. Here's a test. Go smear
    vasoline on a lens and try to take a picture. Nope. Nada. You've got
    to be able to see it.

    Film was the next most important. You needed to select the right file
    (but you've ruled out the human element). Film can make a huge
    different. That's why there are/where so many.

    Finally the camera. Well, that's pretty irrelevent. It's just a box
    to keep out the light. You don't need light meters and winders and
    flashes to take great pictures. Look at all of the large format stuff
    without it. Heck, a hand light meter normally beats the heck out of a
    camera's meter.
    Pat, Dec 9, 2006
  6. aniramca

    Jeff R. Guest

    This rather pointless attribution of % values reminds me of the famous joke
    where the parts of the body are arguing about their relative worth.

    A version can be found here: http://joek.com/jokes/joke_102.shtml
    Jeff R., Dec 9, 2006
  7. That's only true of film cameras. With Digital cameras, it is quite
    relevant --- true that the variation between quality for different
    cameras is perhaps not as high, or doesn't have as much impact, as
    the variation between different types of film. But still, the rules
    completely change with digital cameras, since the film is now one
    of the intrinsic, non-removable-non-replaceable-non-refillable
    components of the camera.

    Also, for P&S cameras, the lens is part of the camera as well (but
    then, P&S things do not even qualify as "cameras", so we'll keep
    them out of the discussion :))

    Carlos Moreno, Dec 9, 2006
  8. aniramca

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    Nice troll.
    Paul Mitchum, Dec 9, 2006
  9. The CCD was first proposed on October 17th 1969 by Willard Boyle and
    George Smith of Bell Labs which, as of last week, is now part of the
    French communications giant Alcatel-Lucent. The original intention of
    the CCD was not an imaging device, but a semiconductor analogue of
    magnetic bubble memory devices. The manufacturing technique was first
    developed and an imaging device demonstrated a few months later in 1970
    by another Bell Labs worker, Gilbert Amelio, who subsequently moved to
    Fairchild on the west coast to productionise and continue th development
    of imaging CCD sensors. Amelio then went on to run National
    Semiconductor, followed by a period in charge of Apple Computers.
    Kennedy McEwen, Dec 9, 2006
  10. aniramca

    Paul Furman Guest

    The lens is critical. That's pretty much a matter of your budget though
    with any of the major SLR brands. Some would argue that Pentax is the
    best because of the availability of great old affordable lenses and
    that's a good argument, same for Nikon, and hell Canons can mount most
    anything with an adapter. I like that my Nikon D200 will mount and meter
    with 'antique' Nikkors. I think the new Sony mounts & meters with old
    Minolta lenses.

    The sensor is important, as others said, because it's the film and it's
    fixed in the body. Along with that is the method of capture and speed
    and noise, dynamic range, etc. Most of them are perfectly capable, Canon
    has the edge on full size low noise sensors on the high end. Not a lot
    of difference between manufacturers at the same price point though. Some
    designs are better for certain uses like full frame for wide angle or
    extra fast burst for action.

    Larger pixels produce better dynamic range and less noise/grain. This
    means full frame sensors and or lower pixel counts perform better. More
    pixels are useful too though, it depends on your needs.

    The metering, autofocus & such, I don't think there's a lot of
    difference. They are all great. You might add into this category
    features like built-in image stabilization that Pentax & Sony offer.

    The next category of critical engineering features is the ergonomics and
    feature set of the camera body. This is quite obviously useful even if
    it's possible to get great photos with the simplest field camera, it's a
    heck of a lot more convenient to be able to have easy intuitive access
    to all the modern features that are common these days. Again, I'm happy
    that my Nikon D200 has lots of knobs for quick manual control of most
    settings and a very well designed LCD menu system. There are way more
    features than I need but we each have different needs and some of the
    features I love, others would ignore, the important thing is to be able
    to use those features easily.

    On a more general level, the size and feel of the body is important. My
    D200 is a nice sturdy metal machine with weather seals for the dirty
    work I do outdoors and plenty of room for accessing the features &
    balancing a big lens on. Big bright viewfinder also! That's a huge plus
    for me. It would also be cool to have a compact body for portability &
    light weight even if that meant a dim viewfinder & less control. A full
    time pro would probably want something even bigger with a vertical grip
    & extra battery pack but that would be too much for me.
    Paul Furman, Dec 9, 2006
  11. aniramca

    Cynicor Guest

    I actually thought of the CCD on October 13, 1969, but forgot to tell
    anyone. :-(
    Cynicor, Dec 9, 2006
  12. aniramca

    smb Guest

    Ok, all techno mumbo jumbo gear talk aside, none of the above is as
    critical as it may seem. A good photograph is 10% the result of the
    camera and 90% the result of the photgrapher. A trite statement,
    perhaps, but true nonetheless,

    That being said, looking at the 10% that the camera contributes:

    Conventional wisdom has always said the lens is the most important
    thing. I don't think that's true any more, as almost all lenses made
    today are pretty darned good. There are subtle differences, but even
    inexpensive kit lenses on a modern dslr are capable of some excellent
    output. But even if you have the sharpest lens available, I'm
    reminded of one of Ansel Adams' famous quotes, "A sharp image of a
    fuzzy concept is worthless."

    With digital slrs, I believe the camera body to be the most important
    thing. Why more than the lens? Simple, if you don't like your lens,
    just put on a different one.

    I don't separate the sensor from the camera body. I think people get
    too hung up on what particular sensor is in a given camera. What is
    more important is how that sensor functions as part of the image
    processing "team," which involves the entire camera body. Each camera
    handles image processing in a different way, and it is the final
    output that counts. For instance, it was mentioned that Nikon uses
    Sony sensors. That doesn't mean that Nikons are really Sony cameras
    in disguise... Nikon does some proprietary things with their cameras
    that make them unique.

    The other reason I think the body is the most important thing is that
    it is the interface between your mind's eye and the captured image.
    The more ergonomic, reliable, fast, etc the camera body, the easier it
    is to capture the image. The photo you have is always better than the
    one you could have had if your camera didn't get in the way.

    If you're looking for generalizations about how different
    sensor/bodies packages compare, here are some: Canon seems to be
    better at low noise high ISO pictures, Fuji is acknowledged to have
    more dynamic range and more pleasing skin tones, Nikon has better
    colors and overall image "snap." But there are so many variables
    that there are no clear lines between these things.

    If you're looking for generalizations on camera bodies in particular,
    Canon is usually the first to introduce new technology, while Nikon is
    better at ergonomics and build quality. Again, these are
    generalizations and your mileage may vary.

    If you're looking for generalizations on lenses, all lens companies
    make excellent ones and not so excellent ones. Pick the ones that
    meet your needs.

    I think too many photographers get hung up on the technical details.
    Fact is, under many conditions a cheap P&S camera is capable of
    putting out images that are as good as a multi-thousand dollar dslr:


    Another trite but true statement is that the camera is nothing but a
    tool. The more expensive camera just makes things a whole lot easier
    and expands the range of conditions you can work under. Both a
    screwdriver and an electric drill will drive screws with the same
    results. The drill can do it faster and with less effort, but
    sometimes a plain screwdriver is all you need.

    smb, Dec 9, 2006
  13. aniramca

    Scott W Guest

    Well the film was easily the most important if you used the wrong film.
    If you used an 800 ISO print film no lens in the world would make it
    look good and you might as well use a crappy camera cause the image was
    going to look pretty bad no matter what you did.

    In many ways the sensor is the most important part, a FF sensor can
    have large pixels but produce an image with a high pixel count. A
    camera like the 5D will produce a lot sharper image with the same lens
    that a camera like the 30D would capture, and it can do it in much
    lower light.

    Scott W, Dec 9, 2006
  14. Good point. I would say the camera (which has the sensor and the first
    level processing of the data) is not only the camera, but the film as well.
    Some cameras offer different initial processing and many allow different
    sensitivities which are akin to different films.
    Joseph Meehan, Dec 9, 2006
  15. No. Once you take the sensor off the back and the lens off the front the
    camera is pretty much irrelevant to the quality of the pictures. Better
    cameras are just tougher and better sealed against dust and fluids as
    well as light.
    Richard Polhill, Dec 9, 2006

  16. Tough that one.


    You would have been famous if you had mentioned it.

    Instead, you are still a tosser.
    Kennedy McEwen, Dec 9, 2006
  17. [Philosophical debate warning]

    But sorry, your point of view does not make sense --- if you take the
    sensor off the back of the camera, then you no longer have a camera;
    you have *the remainings* of what once was a camera (which may
    become a camera again, some time in the future if you re-install
    the sensor).

    My point is precisely that --- for *film* cameras, the argument is
    perfectly valid that the camera is just a dumb box to keep the light
    out (or to keep the dark sealed inside the box) --- better cameras
    mean just better features that allow you to take good pictures without
    getting in the way; and better durability/etc.

    But with Digital cameras, it's not just a box --- the sensor *is part
    of the camera*, as well as the elecrtonics and software (firmware, if
    you will) that make the initial, low-level processing of the pixels'

    Carlos Moreno, Dec 9, 2006
  18. aniramca

    Rich Guest

    The sea-change in cameras was the sensor. Canon, always an "also ran"
    when it came to professional cameras in the SLR realm, took over from
    Nikon once it was realized Canon sensors produced better (cleaner)
    images. Of course massive Canon marketing and pro support helped as
    well. Lens design also plays part, but sheer imaging quality takes a
    back seat to functionality. What good is top flight glass if the AF
    doesn't work as well as the "B" brand? For those interested in the
    very finest image quality, the Canon 1DsMkII with its 16 megapixel
    sensor is the choice, along with lenses from Canon and other mfgs known
    for high quality. But, there are some interesting choices out there,
    depending on what you are looking for. Fuji is the king of DR, no
    doubt, and to some this is as important as resolution, especially given
    the conditions people face in photography.
    Rich, Dec 9, 2006
  19. aniramca

    jpc Guest

    Take the sensor off the camera and you have a mosaic of static
    electricity with no place to go. Take the lens off the camera and you
    gave a stream of photons with no place to land. It's the control chip
    in the middle and the firmware running it that makes static electricty
    and the photons into a simple image.

    And most important, it's the eye and brain of the operator using the
    camera-- someone who knows how to work around the camera's quirks
    and limitations-- that turns the simple image into something
    approximationg a photograph.

    jpc, Dec 9, 2006
  20. aniramca

    Gerald Place Guest

    My that's a complicated question! . Surely the skill and aesthetic judgement
    of the photographer will always outweigh the any technical considerations.

    Gerald Place, Dec 9, 2006
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