Gary's Parries 20/05/07

May 20, 2007 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | Comment |

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: , 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.


garys_parries_200507_q1.jpgHey 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.


*** 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 :)).


garys_parries_200507_q2.jpgDear 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.


*** 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.


garys_parries_200507_q3.jpgIn 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.]

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