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Thursday, 24 July 2008

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Just a tad off topic, but am I alone in finding the live view a BETTER tool for composing, focusing and otherwise dealing with a pre-exposure image than the view through an SLR pentaprism? Particularly now with autofocus, so SLRs are designed for maximum brightness rather than crisp focusing. Maybe its my old eyes, but manual focus is easier with my Sony R-1 than the SLRs I've tested.

I read the review before the video came up. I agree that he was smart about sensor size and the attractions of such a camera, but he didn't get why people who want such a camera might actually want a prime lens instead of a zoom, and there's really nothing wrong with a clip-on finder. They usually have a little more eye relief than built-in finders on little P&S cameras.

David,
Right, well, I'd quibble with those conclusions too, but then, he's a reviewer, and, as we've just been discussing, all reviewers have a right to the subjectivity of their opinions about features. I'd say that's just his take on those features, not a shortcoming of the review itself.

Anyway, that's my (subjective!) take.

Mike J.

Well, Pogue's review sounds fair to me. I don't think it's too much to ask for perfection! And what I really hope to see is for someone like Canon, who have the expertise in all areas of camera design, to take up the baton and do a proper job of it. Or Ricoh! GX200-APSC, anyone? I do hope Sigma sells enough DP1s to make a version 2 worthwhile (all I need is macro and IS and I'm in) and to convince other makers to compete.

Y'know, I wonder if there couldn't be some sort of noise per pixel per second figure-of-merit that would be better than a simple megapixel count? If we could get manufacturer's competing on that instead of pixels, we might get somewhere; it would be useful to have the measure even if we sometimes had to calculate it ourselves.

Maybe Sigma hired the laid-off P&S (POS?) designers from Polaroid, camera design not being their forte.

I,too, liked Mr. Pogue's review. His problems with the shoe-mounted viewfinder? Get a grip. Ever used one? Ever used a Leica with frame lines for multiple lenses? Which did you prefer? How hard could it have been for Sigma to stick a viewfinder on a one-lens camera? Kodak used to do it with a $9.99 Instamatic for crying out loud.

As for a zoom, well, do you really want to do all your photography at one focal length? I mean, do you really want "a" prime? Not multiple primes? Reeeeeally? No portrait lens? Or, no wide? On this item, however, I'm betting that Sigma (and any other manufacturer) is trapped. A zoom would probably require a smaller sensor. And, well, interchangeable lenses would be, um, an M8.

And, like Pogue, I'd also applaud Sigma for at least taking a stab at the concept of a small camera with a large sensor. Maybe this will be the start of something we've all been waiting for.

Even though I don't share your opinion of the NYT, as a DP1 owner I found the video to be quite fair...and to paraphrase an old saying.."any publicity is good."

I really want to know why any viewfinder can get away with costing $149.99? The Sigma aux VF doesn't even have "E. Leitz" so much as screen printed on it. For that price I'd want a 7 element, projected frame VF at least as good as the one on my 48 year old one lug Olympus Pen.

Dear Randolph,

Something like that would be an extremely good idea! I'm not sure exactly what the metric should be, but I do know that chip size, or pixel count, or even pixel pitch, are very unreliable indicators of image quality. Honestly, simple camera price is a better indicator than any of those, and we know how reliable that is.

If all the camera manufacturers' technologies were mature and of comparable quality, then those physical measurements would correlate well with image quality. Because they aren't, they don't. This is a large part of the reason why you see interminable online debates about this stuff; people are trying to compare apples to oranges to grapes to pears. It's no surprise there is no agreement on the answers.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com
======================================


To Rich:

Live View on my digicam has certainly improved my ability to compose a picture. I suspect one would get similar help from the inverted ground-glass image on a view camera, but that's beyond my ken.

Perhaps it's too much to hope for an "invert the live view" function on any upcoming camera...

For myself, I'd be surprised if focussing got easier on those little screens.

Y

What on earth is the point of a video review which takes so long to say less than the text one?

I can appreciate that he's aiming at a wider audience who've probably forgotten that there were ever cameras which don't zoom, so fair enough. But some of his criticisms seem odd to me. "There’s no autofocus lamp, alas, so focusing is slow" - since when was the lamp the most important feature in focus speed? Weak video - come on, it's a pocket camera, the daft thing is that it attempts a moving image at all. It has a lens cap - pardon? They're not exactly rare, neither are shirt pockets. Yes, the camera leaves something to be desired and has a hell of a lot of room for improvement, but these are strange nitpicks.

(I'm prepared to admit that I'm probably the only person in the world who *likes* accessory finders, though.)

Rich,

Live view on my digicam (Fuji F31) has detracted from my ability to compose a picture. Nevermind the LCD brightness in daylight, the real problem is that I need reading glasses to see something that small that close to my face and I don't want to walk around with reading glasses when I am looking at things that are far away. Taking pictures with it is a lot like using film, I don't really know what I shot until I get the pictures back from the "lab".

And another thing. Since you have to vary the LVD brightness on these things so much, depending on where you are, why don't they have a simple button to control that, instead of burying it in a menu?

David mentions in the piece that one of the hurdles in designing a small camera with a large sensor is that it is difficult to design a compact lens with an image circle large enough to cover the whole sensor. Whenever I hear this argument, I always think of older 35mm cameras like the Olympus XA and Nikon Ti models. They were very compact cameras with great optics, which covered an even larger format. So why is it so much harder to cover a digital sensor than it is to cover 35mm film? In all the discussion of large sensor/compact cameras I've read, I've yet to hear a good explanation. I assume it has something to do with the angle at which the light must strike the sensor but that's my only guess. Any of the enlightened readers/contributers here at TOP care to explain?

I like Pogue

I am tired of the whiners who proclaim his opinion moot because he is "not a photographer"

The internets are stealing the life out of me this week.

Great. I almost emailed you this review, but I was afraid you were gonna nitpick on him again, and I love David too much. (I've been reading his books for fifteen years now, and he and I share our birthday and -year.)

Two comments:

1. In TOP's shoot-a-picture-with-an-old-camera program, I'm planning to use a Kodak Retina, which is a 35mm interchangeable lens rangefinder camera that is (gasp!) smaller than a Leica M. It's not impossible to make small cameras with good lenses that will cover a 35mm rectangle, although it's more difficult with a digital sensor because of the way the light rays must fall. Still, APS-C is smaller than the sensor used in the Leica M8, which is smaller than a 35, so you should be able to squeeze an APS-C camera into a pretty small box, and stlll use a zoom lens. No, it won't be a shirt-pocket camera, but it could be, as Pogue says, a jacket-pocket camera. My Retina's lens folds back into the camera body, so it definitely is a jacket-pocket camera (though heavy.) The question is, are people waiting for a shirt-pocket camera that gives DSLR results? Or would they take a jacket-pocket camera? IMHO, the new Panasonic with the short zoom may be a step toward the latter; I was never much interested in the DP1. Too crippled.

2. Randolph's figure-of-merit idea is intriguing, and the interesting thing is, there's actually a website -- Digital Photography Review -- that is big enough that if it instituted such a measure, it could force manufacturers to pay attention. I don't know if DPR would be interested in such a thing, but it might be worthwhile calling it to Phil Askey's attention.

Stephen Connor said "As for a zoom, well, do you really want to do all your photography at one focal length?"

I have been doing just that for more than a year now and have found it very liberating.

Cheers.

And thus was peace made in the land. Kudos Mike for calling them like you see them.

Ben

I think Pogue has hit the critical nail on the head but I don't think it will be widely recognised. The One Right Thing being the large sensor. Unfortunately, everything else seems to be the Wrong Thing by which the efforts at a large sensor small camera will be judged.
Like so many other things, right technology in the wrong package is still a failure and that label will likely hang on the core goodnes for a long while yet.

I wish some technically knowledgeable person could explain why the DP1 is so much slower in just about every category than an entry level DLSR, and then write a letter to Sigma with that information. I am waiting for the DP2 and hope they deal with these seemingly simple to fix problems.

Sam,

I had an Olypus XA for a while, but returned it to the store. I thought it would make a terrific camera for canoe trips, and in fact I found it very easy to whip out for a shot from under the canoe while I was portaging. However, it had terrific light falloff, not only in the corners but around the edges -- maybe a stop or more. In contrast, my Nikonos V -- my other canoeing camera at the time -- had no obvious falloff. (My tests included a lake scene shot in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with both cameras.) I always attributed the falloff to the nearness of the rear element of the lens to the film.

Aside from that, it was a nice little camera.

"In all the discussion of large sensor/compact cameras I've read, I've yet to hear a good explanation. I assume it has something to do with the angle at which the light must strike the sensor but that's my only guess. Any of the enlightened readers/contributers here at TOP care to explain?"

That is exactly it. The light needs to strike the sensor in as perpendicular an angle as possible. Those film point and shoots didn't have that requirement.

The only other (current) option is to build sensors with off-set micro-lenses like the Leica M8. And for that, of course, the sensor cost rises considerably and so would the camera price.

"I do hope Sigma sells enough DP1s to make a version 2 worthwhile"

Well, have you done your part?

Anyone making cameras today has to know that they have to find a market for the feature set they have to offer, and make a feature set that meets the needs of that specific market. If they can't hit the mark, they won't get positive word of mouth where it counts. I don't hope the DP1 sells enough "to make a version 2 worthwhile", I hope the reviews they get show them the right way to build version 2 to meet the market they have identified. This is valuable market data, this review, and this discussion. 1) Find reviewers who understand the market you're aiming at (primes) 2) Don't skimp on the speed, 3) The size and image quality is OK, and 4) You still need the preponderance of current pocket camera features to meet basic expectations (build quality, image stabilization, arguably viewfinder, and possibly video capabilities if offered at all). And I'd say 5) Don't saddle your compact with expensive add-ons (and keep the price down). The G9 is at a good price point, for instance, without needed extras to buy.

With regards to phule and SamG, it is the angle of incidence of the light striking the sensor that is the issue, and that's with regard to reflectance. The DP-1 has an interesting flare issue (if you point it into the sun, you get a bunch of pink circles in a square grid... it looks like a magnification of the microlenses.

Offset microlenses are an excellent idea---that's why they're on top of the DP1's sensor. The beauty of this fixed focal length imaging path is that everything can be optimized for the lens---and the images that come out of the DP1 are 'better' than the SD14 with any 16.7 mm lens in the front because of this ability to optimize.

I thought the review was really quite funny. The nibbling of cheese-its and triscuits to demonstrate sensor size was great, and the 'zoom' did crack me up. As a fan of the camera, I'd say that not everything is lost---this camera has the best manual focus system of any small compact. It can rapidly take 3 shots in a row, but ONLY in autobracketing mode. If Sigma figured out a way to deal with an interrupt system to allow for a 3 or 5 shot buffer to be triggered in any mode, and if they put a better LCD screen for use in a number of conditions---they'd have it very close. Throw in IS (which they do in lenses, but not in body cameras yet...), nearly perfect. It's not clear to me that with the current build there is room in the camera for an optical viewfinder, so the clip-on one is nice. The addition of that hotshoe coupled with the electronic shutter means that strobists have a very nice compact system that can sync at high speeds (1/2000) for eliminating the sun in outdoor shots... And one of our Sigma users has removed the IR filter and now has an IR-DP1---very cool because it's IR with 'live view'

I applaud Sigma for this first effort, but it's clearly not for everyone. I'm hoping for a next gen model with the 40mm f2 and some of the mentioned fixes---that would really suit my needs.

Robert Roaldi -- off topic a bit, but: your Fujifilm F31fd *has* that capability. Just hit "Up" on the four-way controller while shooting, and the screen increases in brightness.

Lots of discussion about the DP1 which I think is a good thing. The "Reality" of digital photography is that big sensors make better images than small sensors. I don't like it any more than anyone else, but ....

All of the discussions about the DP1's lens choice, feature sets, lens speed is just noise really. They could have, should have, might have...but they didn't. The darn thing still delivers the best digital images I've ever taken and the "Slow" f4 fixed lens just may be the greatest piece of glass I've owned in 45 years of photography.

New releases of cameras with feature sets to envy but small sensors are even more noise. They remind me of the time when auto manufacturers released half yearly models.... Who needs them?

In my opinion Sigma has taken a large gamble. I think they will lose. That's a pity. I don't see how they will be able to offer a DP2 if the DP1 fails. Current wisdom is that the market needs more features and more pixels and OF COURSE giant zoom lenses. Why on earth would anyone want an image of friends and family around a table when they can have noisy images of their nose hairs instead.

Robert Roaldi,

Ah, but my Sony R1 has live view through the eyepiece. So it has Eye corrections and shading from outside light, as well as an articulating screen for all angle shooting.

Regarding the menu items, I won't presume to say that cameras with live view are better designed overall than dSLRs (or even well designed), but I still think that SLRs are last century. When nothing like live view was possible (no electronics, you know), an SLR gave the best view possible (I loved my Nikon Ftn). But with the electronic sensor, live view (which will continue to improve) is the better way.

My 2 cents, anyway.

"But with the electronic sensor, live view (which will continue to improve) is the better way."

I currently use two digital cameras: a Canon 40D dSLR and an old (antique in camera salesman terms) Nikon E8700 p&s. The Canon is technically a far superior camera, but the fold-out-&-twist LCD screen on the Nikon makes it vastly superior for many jobs. It allows me to accurately frame views in cramped situations where I can't get my head in to see the viewfinder (or the live view LCD) on the Canon and not having to lie on oily floors and muddy pastures for low views of machinery &c is great. I also find that looking down into the folded-out LCD, with the camera braced by the neck strap, in traditional Rolleiflex mode often allows me to hold the camera more steadily in low light (if there isn't a convenient post or whatever to brace against) than I can manage with the dSLR, despite its IR lenses and higher ISO capability. However, the electronic viewfinder in the Nikon is c**p compared to working with the optical viewfinder in the dSLR (and both it and the LCD are p**s poor for any work that requires accurate judging of the point of focus and depth of field).

Matthew,

Thanks very much. My fault for not looking at the manual since that first weekend.

Rich,

I also own an R1 and like it for much the same reasons that you state. I've hardly ever used its flip-up screen though, only a couple of times when a stiff back and aching knees made it convenient, but I still needed my reading glasses.

I've been wondering lately if at the low end of the market the DSLR might disappear and be replaced with a large-sensor compact with interchangeable lenses.
Live View seems to be a must-have feature, but with many live view systems I've heard of there's a lot of mirror flapping going on when you press the button.
So why not get rid of the mirror? Get rid of the mirror box, and the pentaprism bump. Redesign lenses to fit closer to the sensor (now you've got no mirror to clear), stick an electronic viewfinder in the corner, and you've got something smaller than a DSLR but capable of producing the same quality pictures. Somewhere between a DP1 and an M8.
Not likely to happen due to innate conservatism in the camera industry, but to me it seems possible, mind you I'm no expert!

Anthony,

You said what I was only hemming and hawing about. The digital image capturing device is NOT a film camera, and paradigms based on the old technology are are blind alley. Cell phone cameras, hybrid video/still cameras point the way. What happens in a few years when 'cameras' can capture infinite focus, HDR images continuously as long as the operator holds the button down?

Rich

Mike goes on holiday, and Olympus announce their Micro Four Thirds system, doing away with the mirror box and pentaprism, and using new design smaller lenses (and an adaptor for old 4/3rds lenses).
That comprehensively beats the DP1 into the ground!

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