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Author Topic: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?  (Read 4381 times)

DanielW

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P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« on: February 27, 2013, 04:59:25 PM »
Dear CR gurus,
Technical question: for P&S cameras, is it better to have a larger sensor or a faster lens?
Background: I want to buy a decent P&S for my wife, but I've seen that truly pocketable cameras have either faster lenses or bigger sensors, but not both at the same time; e.g., the Canon S110 has a somewhat larger sensor than most P&S and is really small, but the max aperture of its lens is only f/5.9 at the telephoto end. On the other hand, a soon-to-be-released Olympus ZX-10 has a faster lens (f/1.8-2.7), but a smaller sensor.
(I'll get myself a Fuji X20 or an Olympus ZX-2 for carrying around later on, but she prefers something even smaller and cheaper.)
Any thoughts on larger sensor vs faster lens?
Thanks in advance!
Daniel

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P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« on: February 27, 2013, 04:59:25 PM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2013, 05:03:19 PM »
Bigger sensor would be the better choice, IMO.
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DanielW

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 05:15:23 PM »
Bigger sensor would be the better choice, IMO.
That's great news, because the S110 is a tad cheaper (and the S100 is a lot cheaper!).
Thanks! :)

neuroanatomist

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2013, 06:06:57 PM »
Personally, I'd get the S100 over the S110 - the improvements were marginal, IMO (unlike the S100 vs. the S95).

If I were to replace my S100 today, it would be with a Sony RX100 - same form factor with an even bigger sensor.
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elflord

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2013, 06:46:18 PM »
Dear CR gurus,
Technical question: for P&S cameras, is it better to have a larger sensor or a faster lens?
Background: I want to buy a decent P&S for my wife, but I've seen that truly pocketable cameras have either faster lenses or bigger sensors, but not both at the same time; e.g., the Canon S110 has a somewhat larger sensor than most P&S and is really small, but the max aperture of its lens is only f/5.9 at the telephoto end. On the other hand, a soon-to-be-released Olympus ZX-10 has a faster lens (f/1.8-2.7), but a smaller sensor.
(I'll get myself a Fuji X20 or an Olympus ZX-2 for carrying around later on, but she prefers something even smaller and cheaper.)
Any thoughts on larger sensor vs faster lens?
Thanks in advance!
Daniel

The bigger sensor will perform better in favourable lighting (e.g. when you don't have to crank up the ISO). In less than ideal lighting, it's a wash (though again the difference in maximum aperture may be smaller at the wide end in which case the camera with the larger sensor may still do better)

DanielW

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 07:14:55 PM »
Personally, I'd get the S100 over the S110 - the improvements were marginal, IMO (unlike the S100 vs. the S95).

If I were to replace my S100 today, it would be with a Sony RX100 - same form factor with an even bigger sensor.
As I understand IQ is the same, the S100 will most likely be my choice between these two.
The Sony is sure a great camera, but a definite overkill in my wife's hands, who's a frame-and-then-press-the-little-round-button kind of photographer.
Many thanks :)

JerryKnight

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 07:17:22 PM »
The bigger sensor will perform better in favourable lighting (e.g. when you don't have to crank up the ISO). In less than ideal lighting, it's a wash (though again the difference in maximum aperture may be smaller at the wide end in which case the camera with the larger sensor may still do better)

I'm not a P&S expert at all, but I think you got that backwards. A larger sensor, all else being equal, will perform better in low light than a smaller sensor. In bright light, every sensor tends to do well (again, not considering every other camera component). Even the microscopic sensor in my phone can produce decent images in full daylight.

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 07:17:22 PM »

DanielW

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2013, 07:18:18 PM »
The bigger sensor will perform better in favourable lighting (e.g. when you don't have to crank up the ISO). In less than ideal lighting, it's a wash (though again the difference in maximum aperture may be smaller at the wide end in which case the camera with the larger sensor may still do better)
If the bigger sensor wins in good lighting and it's a wash in low-light, well, that makes the decision a quite easy one.
Thanks!

JerryKnight

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2013, 07:37:24 PM »
If the bigger sensor wins in good lighting and it's a wash in low-light, well, that makes the decision a quite easy one.
Thanks!

Yeah, you might want to check that claim first. I won't repeat my earlier post, but I claim that larger sensors make the biggest difference in low light.

pwp

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2013, 07:38:40 PM »
I went for the bright lens option in the form of the G15. This camera will be perfect for plenty of photographers. But it didn't really work for me and was moved along after just a couple of months. I should have gone for a bigger sensor. The G15 was neither here nor there. Not as compact and pocketable as an S100/S110 and failing to deliver on the IQ my fussy standards require. Compared to what I was used to (5D3 & 1D4), the limited dynamic range and shutter lag were the deal breakers. This won't apply to everyone. The G15 is a very cool little camera.

This is a roundabout way of saying that sensor size and lens brightness are not the only things to consider when choosing a compact. Being pocket or purse size means it will get more use. Demonstrably fast AF and minimal lag need to be considered if catching that magic moment is important to you.

RX100 anyone? Leica M9 for the cashed up?

-PW

DanielW

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2013, 08:02:07 PM »
Yeah, you might want to check that claim first. I won't repeat my earlier post, but I claim that larger sensors make the biggest difference in low light.
Yes, a bigger sensor is sure better; the thing is, I couldn't come to a conclusion about sensor size being more or less important than the max aperture of the lens. Anyhow, it looks like its unanimous, so I'm going with the larger sensor.
Thanks!

DanielW

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2013, 08:16:34 PM »
I went for the bright lens option in the form of the G15. This camera will be perfect for plenty of photographers. But it didn't really work for me and was moved along after just a couple of months. I should have gone for a bigger sensor. The G15 was neither here nor there. Not as compact and pocketable as an S100/S110 and failing to deliver on the IQ my fussy standards require. Compared to what I was used to (5D3 & 1D4), the limited dynamic range and shutter lag were the deal breakers. This won't apply to everyone. The G15 is a very cool little camera.

This is a roundabout way of saying that sensor size and lens brightness are not the only things to consider when choosing a compact. Being pocket or purse size means it will get more use. Demonstrably fast AF and minimal lag need to be considered if catching that magic moment is important to you.

RX100 anyone? Leica M9 for the cashed up?

-PW
Leica M9, hmmm... (Even though I'd be a happy camper with any one of those little toys of yours, namely 5D3 and 1D4...) :)
And yes, being pocket-size will be really important for my wife, hence the Canon S100/S110 (blue corner, bigger sensor) vs Olympus XZ-10 (red corner, faster lens) contest!

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2013, 09:29:32 PM »
A large sensor has better IQ in good light, and is more sensitive in low light.  A faster lens may help a smaller sensor operate in low light, but it will not improve the IQ to that of a large sensor.
A P&S with a APS-C sensor is always going to beat out a tiny S100 sixed sensor.  A fast lens on a small sensor is nice, but it can only help in some areas.

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2013, 09:29:32 PM »

CanNotYet

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2013, 12:05:06 PM »
The answer is: fast and accurate Autofocus, that is sensitive and do not hunt in bad light.
For a P&S, this will be the thing making or breaking the pictures.

Back to topic, a bigger sensor (by 2x), equals a stop faster lens. All things equal (noise processing etc.) it should always be able to have a stop higher ISO with same noise, thus enabling same short shutter speeds as the brighter lens. But it will always have more flexibility at base ISO.

In reality, this scenario is very rare, so go with whatever feels right. There are more things to a camera. Color output, flash, handling/ergonomics and so on...

But my (admittedly biased) view of wives in general, they value responsiveness, simplicity and end IQ. So, G1X with large sensor, but complicated controls and slow AF would maybe not be a good buy, even if it has a large sensor and good IQ. :)
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 12:07:17 PM by CanNotYet »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2013, 12:16:55 PM »

But my (admittedly biased) view of wives in general, they value responsiveness, simplicity and end IQ. So, G1X with large sensor, but complicated controls and slow AF would maybe not be a good buy, even if it has a large sensor and good IQ. :)

The G1X I bought my wife has basically the same controls as her G11 and S90.  AF is slightly slower, but typical for a P&S.
 
What is it that you find on your G1X that is much more complicated??
 

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Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2013, 12:16:55 PM »