Gary’s Parries 20/05/07

May 20, 2007 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | 13 Comments |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. Next Big Camera Feature – Automatic Mic Removal
2. Sigma DP1 v. Ricoh GX100 – Too Many Bells & Whistles
3. Human Rights For Chimps (Yes, You Read Correctly)

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, inventor, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to: garysparries@photographyblog.com , and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing. A preview of the photo will be displayed with your question, and a full-sized version will be just a click away. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email, which may be further edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.

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*** QUESTION 1—- NEXT BIG CAMERA FEATURE - AUTOMATIC MIC REMOVAL
***

Hey Gary,

I’ve noticed that last year’s big feature for cameras was Optical Image Stabilization. This year’s big feature seems to be Face Detection.  Any idea what next year’s big feature might be?

Thanks for a great column.

Jim

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*** ANSWER 1
***

Well, Jim, that’s an excellent question. I personally was hoping for the next big camera feature to be a pocket-sized DSLR, but don’t hold your breath. :)

However, one camera feature that is long overdue for digicams is the replacement of standard CCDs with CMOS Image Sensors (CIS). This trend has already taken hold in the camera phone market (largely due to the smaller circuit geometries achievable with CMOS technology), and to a lesser extent, in the DSLR market, but hardly anything in the digicam market. Expect that to change in 2008. We have already seen numerous digicam CIS announcements from sensor manufacturers such as Sharp, Samsung, and Sony, just to name a few, and that trend will only continue to grow.

One advantage of CISs over CCDs is better signal to noise ratio. This is due to the fact that CMOS technology makes it very easy to include additional noise-reduction circuitry directly on the CIS chip, something that is not feasible with standard CCD technology. And what digicam would not benefit from lower image noise?

Another advantage of CISs over CCDs is increased light sensitivity, again due to the advances made possible with CMOS technology. One CIS that takes this to the extreme is the Planet82 SMPD Image Sensor, which made its debut at CES 2007, claiming over 2000 times the light sensitivity of a standard CCD. With such technology, flashless low-light photography has become a reality.

An additional advantage of CISs over CCDs is increased image processing speed, and again, you guessed it, due to the advances made possible with CMOS technology. One CIS that clearly illustrates this advantage is the recently announced Sony IMX017CQE 1/1.8” CMOS Image Sensor. This sensor is so fast that it enables shooting 60 fps video at the camera’s full 6.4-MEGAPIXEL resolution! If, like me, you have resisted shooting videos for fear of losing that once-in-a-lifetime still shot, your worries are now over.

The advantages of CISs over CCDs do not end there. For example, one of the biggest drawbacks of camera phones is their inferior image quality compared to conventional digicams. With CMOS technology, expect that to change. There will be no difference in image quality between camera phones and standard digicams, so expect to see many more camera phones being sold in place of digicams.

Similarly, with smaller sensors comes the possibility of higher zoom lenses in smaller camera bodies. 3x zoom lenses, the current digicam standard, will be a thing of the past. Expect 10x zoom lenses to become the new digicam standard, and not just the more easily attained 35-350mm zoom range, even the more difficult 28-280mm range.

Once CISs replace the CCDs, there will be a whole slew of new features possible for digicams. I, personally, am holding out for an ultra-compact, 10-megapixel, 10x zoom camera phone with ISOs usable all the way up to 6400 (for my wife, of course :)).


***
*** QUESTION 2—- SIGMA DP1 v. RICOH GX100 - TOO MANY BELLS & WHISTLES
***

Dear Gary,

I am looking to purchase a digital camera, but cannot decide between the Sigma DP1 and Ricoh GX100. There are just too many bells and whistles on these cameras from which to choose. Any recommendations you could make would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,
Geoffrey

***
*** ANSWER 2
***

Geoff, it is difficult to make any type of camera recommendation without knowing more about your intended use; however, having said that, I would definitely NOT recommend the GX100 to anyone, with two possible exceptions: (1) if you were my worst enemy, or (2) if you really needed the GX100’s 24mm wide-angle lens (and/or its 19mm ultra-wide-angle converter) and had loads of free time to spend post-processing your images with noise reduction software.

The reason I am so negative on the GX100 has more to do with Ricoh, the company, than with the camera itself. Ricoh has introduced some of the noisiest digicams to the market; to the point where they have taken their excellent reputation garnered in the film camera industry, and completely destroyed it. And the fact that the GX100 is based on the Ricoh GX8 certainly does not instill confidence.

The only way I would recommend the GX100 is if three reviewers reported its image noise to be acceptable, the chances of which are extremely rare, since it will be difficult to even find three reviewers of this camera in toto.

So, Geoff, that leaves the DP1. I might recommend this camera to you if you were the type of user that likes to get close to their subject, or shoots a lot of landscapes; otherwise, you will be severely limited by the camera’s 28mm fixed lens. Also, the DP1’s lens is pretty slow, and has no optical image stabilization to compensate, which places restrictions on your low-light shooting, although the DP1’s larger APS-size image sensor will enable higher ISO shots with less noise than cameras with typical 1/1.8” and 1/2.5” sensors.

Bottom line, if you can live with the restrictions of its somewhat specialized use, the DP1 promises to be an excellent camera. If not, wait for the reviews of the GX100.


***
*** TOPIC 3—- HUMAN RIGHTS FOR CHIMPS (YES, YOU READ CORRECTLY)
***

In last week’s news, there was an article about a campaign by a group of animal rights activists in Vienna, Austria, to have a 26-year old chimpanzee Hiasl legally declared a “person”. Their argument is that he needs that status to become a legal entity in order to accept donations under Austrian law so that he does not end up homeless if the shelter in which he lives should close. They contend that Hiasl is very much like a human because chimps share 99.4 % of their DNA with humans. They also contend that, because Hiasl exhibits many human-like qualities (he likes pastry, painting, and television, and enjoys clowning around in knee-high rubber boots), he is an individual with a personality, and therefore deserves more legal rights than say “bricks or apples or potatoes.”

As an animal lover and devout vegetarian, I was struck by the absurdity of this article. After all, anyone who has ever owned a pet knows full well that they are all individuals with personalities, and that they all exhibit a wide range of human-like qualities. Okay, so maybe dogs do not share 99.4 % of their DNA with humans, but I would feel much safer with a dog protecting my home and my family than a chimp. Not that I have anything against chimps, mind you. It’s just that there exists no stronger inter-species bond than that of dogs and humans (cats and humans would be a close second).

So, while I sympathize with the plight of Hiasl (and all chimps, for that matter), I think it is absurd to limit this campaign to chimps, and I would therefore like to see legal rights extended to all animals, regardless of race, color, creed, or DNA origin. :)

[Note: If you are wondering what this topic has to do with Gary’s Parries, it’s just that, in addition to his painting, Hiasl likes to dabble in photography, mostly self-portraits (see accompanying photo), and he is a huge Gary’s Parries fan. – GP]

***
[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]



Your Comments

13 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Alex Muller

I don't know if anyone has seen this person's blog yet but he provides some great tips on what to look for in a digital camera. He's also got some great links to some articles and he's got some video on there that really explains the new technology. Check it out: http://www.mypowernetworking.com/

4:39 am - Sunday, May 20, 2007

#2 Olivier_G

After playing with many samples from Sigma DP1 and Ricoh GX100:
- Sigma DP1 wins for low ISO use (sunny landscapes, etc...)
- Ricoh GX100 wins for low light use (f/2.5 +stabilisation +good 400 ISO with NeatImage/NoiseNinja)

Gary: you should emphasize that it's not all about "no noise". For example, I consider the Fuji F30 1600 ISO to be unusable due to blurred details, whereas I can still save a 800 ISO from a GX100 with noise and details. Moreover, images should be compared at same viewing size and not 100%.

9:27 am - Sunday, May 20, 2007

#3 Gary's Parries

Good point, O_G. Even worse than noisy images is overly aggressive
in-camera noise reduction.

12:14 pm - Sunday, May 20, 2007

#4 Paulo

Regarding the GX100, I think that you are way off the target there. At this point, all digicams with tiny sensors are noisy to start with. Some companies decide to treat noise in-camera, and by doing so, detail is lost.

Ricoh, starting with the GRD, have chosen to preserve detail by combating noise in a light-handed way. Therefore, the images are much more "processing-friendly" in the RAW converter and/or PS. The GX100 is much more similar to the GRD, than to the GX8. The images at 400 and 800 ISO clean up extremely well, and there is still detail left in the end.

I think the advice you gave to the original poster was very biased, and worst of all, not based on any experience with the camera. My advice is based on actually owning and using the GX100, and all I can say is that it is a fantastic little camera, with everything a serious photographer might want in a compact form factor.

On top of that, who knows when the DP1 will be actually out?

12:27 pm - Sunday, May 20, 2007

#5 Gary's Parries

Paulo, in the first paragraph of my reply to Geoff (Answer 2), I say
there ARE two instances in which I WOULD recommend the GX100.
Okay, I agree with you that in the first instance, where I would only
recommend the GX100 "if you were my worst enemy," there might
some bias here against Ricoh. :)

However, in the second instance, where I would also recommend a
GX100 for its wide-angle lens (a feature that separates this camera
from the rest) and where I further point out I would only recommend
the GX100 for this feature if Geoff had the time to post-process his
images with noise-reduction software, I think says exactly what you
are saying when you point out that, based on your 'experience', the
GX100 images "clean up extremely well."

And your point about experience is well taken, which is why the last
advice I give Geoff is to "wait for the reviews of the GX100."

1:29 pm - Sunday, May 20, 2007

#6 Greg Lorriman

" and I would therefore like to see legal rights extended to all animals, regardless of race, color, creed, or DNA origin."

My nutter-detection antenna are twitching violently at this moment in time.

And could you folks choose better targets for the ISO tests. The roof tiles seemed pretty good to me, and made comparison between cameras easier. I can barely see any difference with the new targets. And why is the ISO 200 test seemingly always blurred? It's weird. And could you write more. More is better, like roast chicken. Yum yum.

9:17 pm - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

#7 Chema

I was in the same dilema choosing betwen these two for mi first compact digicam.
I finally decided for the Ricoh (that will arrive in 2 or 3 weeks in my local shop) for these reasons:
My favourite zoom range (at least!)
Fast AND stabilised lens, this means in MOST ocasions one can shoot at lower iso than with the sigma so the noise isue is less of a problem. (shooting 400iso sigma = shooting 100iso ricoh?)
Ricoh is half the price!
The foveon sensor is something, but I think I will be using the ricoh a lot more.
500euros is just the highest I can give for a compact, for 1000 I'll take a DSLR or if I realy want the foveon add 300 and go for the SD14.

10:30 pm - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

#8 Gary's Parries

Chema, I think the Ricoh is definitely the more practical of the two, and
after reading Mark's favorable review of the R6, it may be that Ricoh is
starting to come out of their image noise slump.

http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews_ricoh_caplio_r6_2.php

Greg, I kind of liked those roof tile ISO comparison shots myself. :)

11:25 pm - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

#9 Greg Lorriman

"Greg, I kind of liked those roof tile ISO comparison shots myself."

<sigh> It wasn't just my antenna twitching. And I'd like to see those rights extended to maggots. <violent wiggling>

11:49 pm - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

#10 Greg Lorriman

wiggling of maggots on the end of a fishing line, that is.

1:13 am - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

#11 Gary's Parries

Glad you cleared that up. :)

2:24 am - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

#12 Chema

Well finally I ended with non of these two. I wanted a compact zoom with raw support and flash shoe and got a Olympus E-410. when I saw the image comparison... well the ricoh had a lot of after processing to do as Gary sayd, and even after it was not as good.
Not a pocket cam but almost, and is almost the same price.

6:59 pm - Monday, May 28, 2007

#13 Gary's Parries

A complete about face; however, you cannot go wrong with a DSLR,
especially one with a Live View, 4/3 lens, and compact body like the
Olympus E-410. Good choice.

4:40 am - Tuesday, May 29, 2007