Recording Photons

Let's talk about photography.


As you all know, the 2 major camera companies now are Nikon and Canon. Others don't really come close. Olympus used to be very popular, but not now. Sony never make camera until recently. This is the same for Panasonic, Samsung, BenQ and all other brands. Those brands focus more on technology, not real cameras. Real camera companies don't make other fancy stuffs such as LCD TVs or audio systems. Real cameras companies develop their own cameras, image sensors, lenses, processors and all.

For instance, Nikon develop their cameras all by themselves. Nikon has been making lenses for more than 75 years, and produced more than 45 million lenses. How about Sony? Panasonic? Hmm. Remember Kodak, and Fujifilm? Those are also real camera makers, but became less popular since the dawn of digital age.

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About the current market status, camera companies have been making more and more fancy stuffs to suit the mass. Even compact cameras have 24x zoom, ISO 12800 and 15 megapixels! For God's sake, with 24x zoom on a compact the colour rendition will suck; ISO 12800 will give you noise pollution, and 15 megapixels on such tiny little sensor means super low light sensitivity and more noise. Even ISO 12800 on a typical DSLR sensor which is 15 times larger yields crappy results. Imagine the results on a compact.

Recently Canon announced its EOS 500D with sensitivity up to ISO 12800. Excuse me, ISO 12800 on a 15 megapixel, 1.6-cropped image sensor? I'm very sure that it'll be useless and unacceptable. To me, ISO 3200 is already barely acceptable under low light. Super high ISO, Mega-gigapixels are just marketing strategies used by camera companies. Yet, many people still thinks that more megapixels means better image quality and higher ISO- IS-what? aiyah, "higher" is definitely better lah! Hmm.

I have a compact camera (Nikon P5000) which has light sensitivity up to ISO 3200. Image quality? It's not acceptable even at ISO 800! What's more, P5000's sensor area is 50% larger than most of the current compact cameras (but still very small).

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More pixels give you more details, but as the size of the sensor is limited, it means lower ISO and more noise. It's like a bucket of water divided into many cups. With the same amount of water, more cups means less water per cup. With the same amount of light, more pixels means less light falling on each pixel- and thus lower ISO. Simple mathematics. Therefore to achieve the same light sensitivity as pixels of larger area, the camera will need to increase the amplification of the digital signal- and the process creates noise.

I use Nikon cameras, because I'm psychologically inclined towards it. The image quality of cameras of the same class from both companies are identical. The quality of their lenses are similar too. I just prefer Nikon because it has been making cameras and lenses decades longer than Canon, and I just love the red arrow on Nikon DSLRs.

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I was browsing through my old files and found these images. The above images were taken with my compacts (P5000; P5000; P5000; E5200). I used only 5 megapixels, ISO 100 for the first 3 images, and only 2 megapixels, ISO64 for the last shot. Megapixels mean nothing.

P.S: I never claimed that the above shots are good. You judge it yourself. But one thing remains true is that it's the photographer who takes the pictures, not the camera.

P.P.S: On a side note, Canon is a little frugal in their products' cosmetics. Canon's pro "L" series lenses use lame red paint instead of gold rings of Nikon's pro lenses. Also, Nikon has gold plates on their pro lenses, gold wordings on most lenses while all Canon has is paint. Of course the gold plates and all on the Nikons are chromed, but still it's way better than petroleum paint. Maybe that's why Nikon lenses are always more expensive.. hmm. By the way, cosmetics is not related to lens quality, so that's not a problem for Canon users.

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