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Author Topic: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)  (Read 1408 times)

UrbanVoyeur

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Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« on: May 04, 2012, 01:05:35 PM »
I wonder how long it will take before we come full circle and are able to upgrade/ change sensor packages and sensors become like film. After all, full frame lenses have the same minimum circle of coverage by definition, as do to all APS-C and 4/3’s lenses.

Not necessarily upgradeable by the end user – sensors still require precise alignment & a dust free environment – but say by a repair shop for $300-500 - what they charge in labor to replace a damaged sensor on a DSLR. (Though a very clever inventor might develop a way to auto align a sensor.)

Then you could buy the body features you want and select from either the OEM sensors or get an after-market. Sensors could be selected on size, MP count, DR and noise without regard to body make. Sony sensor in Canon. Canon sensor in a Pentax. No different than Fuji film in an Olympus.

Frames rate would be function of the amount and location of high speed memory and the speed of the digital processing chip, more than the sensor itself. High frame rates would still require expensive high speed RAM and processors – as they do now.

Other than standardizing the sensor pin-outs and some of the firmware API calls, there’s no serious technological hurdle. All sensors are mapped arrays like LCD screens or scanners. The power and cooling requirements are all roughly the same across comparable sensors, because ultimately, they all have to work with the same size batteries and bodies.

Metering and auto focus are sensor independent.

The various image processing chips are more about the firmware than the actual semi-conductors. They all have to do the same functions. Performance appears to be mostly a matter of software - from DIGIC 3 to DIGIC 5, the chips had only a modest increase in clock speed. And as hackers have shown, the chips and software are fairly standard across a given OEM’s models – it’s only a matter of unlocking features in the firmware.

You could even go further and make the digital processing chip upgradeable, though I suspect you would have to continue using a Canon processor in a Canon body.

The obvious place to start would be the 4/3’s cameras, which already maintain standards and interoperability.

Why would the camera manufacturers do this?

It would free the body development cycle from the sensor development cycle. Since the days of film, camera makers always made money from selling bodies, and this is no different. Canon for example, could refine its bodies and digital processing in response to market demands much more quickly, without having to wait on a new sensor.

Manufacturers like Nikon already source their sensors from Sony, allowing Nikon to focus on bodies and processing software, and letting specialized companies with more resources focus on sensors. This is just another step in that direction.

Camera makers could continue to make money selling various sensor and digital processing upgrades. When you figure that most of the retail price (not cost!) of a given SLR is digital components, breaking that out into its own product line makes sense.

It also opens up the possibility of putting higher end sensors in lower end bodies. There is no physical reason why a Rebel Ti, a 60D or 7D is limited to a APS-C size sensor other than the sensor itself and the choice of prisms.

10 years?

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Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« on: May 04, 2012, 01:05:35 PM »

awinphoto

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2012, 01:12:34 PM »
This is something I floated a while ago... a fully customizable camera body...  From AF to FPS to sensor to softwarepack.  Add as much or as little to suit your needs and wants and pay for just what you want and if you outgrow something, upgrade later...  Of course the logistics, and the delicate nature of all of this can be in question and who could install it?  Canon?  "authorized service centers"?  User?  I think it could have a lot of potential but whether it's better and actually more profitable than mass production now, is what will drive any likeliness of it ever happening. 
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 01:16:56 PM »
Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)

Wish granted.   :P
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Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2012, 01:18:03 PM »
There is no significant advantage.  The processor would need to be part of the sensor package, reliability would be poor, and you would be locked into old technology which would likely stop being made after 4 years.
 
There have been attempts to make modular cameras, none of them financially successful, and, they are very expensive for what you get.
 
I'd much prefer to get a whole new camera every three - four years.  switches wear out, LCD's develop bad pixels, the body wears and gets scratched up, it isn't just about the sensor.
 
You cannot just change sensors from one type to another, they have totally different technology, different pin-outs, different numbers of readout channels, etc.  Only by locking in a fast changing technology could you do it, and that would not sell.

nitsujwalker

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2012, 01:22:04 PM »
Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)

Wish granted.   :P

Dang.. You beat me to it!  I was just going to post the Ricoh.

UrbanVoyeur

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2012, 01:23:06 PM »
Wish granted.   :P
Close. Maybe the ideal is not that far off.

UrbanVoyeur

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2012, 01:38:00 PM »
The processor would need to be part of the sensor package, reliability would be poor, and you would be locked into old technology which would likely stop being made after 4 years.
Not really. Senors are just arrays. The conversion to image is math. If you present the array to the software, along with the measured characteristics of the sensors and the location map of the pixels, then the processing to an image is a calculation, independent of the sensor. A firmware upgrade would be needed with a new sensor, but in many cases, probably not a new processing chip. The DIGIC 5 is much faster than DIGIC 2, even though the processing chip used is only slightly faster.

I'd much prefer to get a whole new camera every three - four years.  switches wear out, LCD's develop bad pixels, the body wears and gets scratched up, it isn't just about the sensor.
That is more an issue of the build quality. More expensive bodies have longer duty cycles. I've burned out Rebel shutters in as little as a year, where my EOS 3 shutter is still perfect after 12 years. Same with LCD's. Scratches? Well, those happen.

 
You cannot just change sensors from one type to another, they have totally different technology, different pin-outs, different numbers of readout channels, etc.
Pin outs yes - that of course would need to be standardized.
Technology no. Sensors in DSLR's these days are almost all CMOS. CMOS sensors essentially all work the same - light enters, voltage comes out. They are all designed in a rectilinear or hexagonal array. They all map each pixel to a single physical location and to a hard wired pin out. They all have fixed physical dimensions (FF, APS-C, 4/3, etc). They all must output RGB. They all have similar power and cooling requirements (they use nearly the same batteries and fit in the same relative body sizes) The rest is software interfacing.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 01:52:46 PM by UrbanVoyeur »

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Re: Upgradeable / Interchangeable sensors (a wish)
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2012, 01:38:00 PM »