Saturday, 9 July 2016

Formats Compared - Blue Sky Thinking

I dream of a day when a camera maker produces a true multi format camera, a day when I don't have to try to make my own.

Having examined the three common format options, (you can start with part one here; )  I am no going to indulge my sensor fantasies and put forward my idea of what the ultimate sensor format/camera could be.  Of course no company is likely to ever fulfil my wish list and no doubt there would be some serious technical difficulties but what the heck, let's just dream a little.

What do we want?

A camera with the ability to take all modern system lenses and operate with full auto focus and aperture control, dream on Braddles!

Oh and also an excellent ability to use manual focus lenses.  

I can imagine a few ways in which this could be achieved but as said the technical challenges and likely cost would be prohibitive, anyway lets just think about the sensor side of things rather than the lens mount and the attendant electronics.  I will add however that I think the camera should have a body size about the same as the Sony A6000, meaning the whole rig could be quite small if you choose to fit it out with pancake lenses or other compact lens options.  If you chose to use small M4/3 pancakes, like the 12-32 Panasonic then you would hardly add anything size or weight wise to the body.  In other words we could dress this baby up or dress it down dependent on what we wanted to do with the camera.

Body depth would of course need to be shallower than the current Sony E Mount bodies, with mount adapters to space the lens mounting plane out to M/43, Fuji X, Sony E, Nikon 1, Nikon F, Canon EF etc.  In other words I am proposing a digital back which has all the electronic connections to interface with all the current lens systems.  It is unlikely any of the current mainstream camera makers would do this of course, most will simply want to protect the sales of their own lens systems, but then maybe someone who has a reputation for doing some off the wall things could give it know someone like say...Sigma.  Oh and imagine if the sensor was actually some sort of super duper Foveon hybrid.  Yes, now I am just being silly.

It goes without saying that the camera must have a state of the art EVF, anything less and my enthusiasm will fade away to nothing.

I feel the target resolution should be 32 megapixels, thus heavy cropping would still give plenty of resolution and flexibility.

And whilst I'm dreaming, why not have the ability to add grips etc built into camera, a bit like some video cameras currently do, where tripod sockets adorn the top surface of the body, but lets go one better and put them on the side so hand grips can screw straight into the body.  Yeah I know, tell him he's still dreaming.  Of course it would make great sense for the camera maker to also sell the grips and rigging to optimise the camera, this could add on an enormous number of post purchase sales for the maker.

But here is the most radical thing, I want a square sensor, look you may not have thought of this but us old film guys cut our teeth on medium format cameras that shot in squares, it was simple, no turning the camera awkwardly sideways and best of all we could crop the final image to any ratio we pleased.  Squares are good, long live the square, I'm happy to be square!

Here I will make it even easier, I think the sensor should be 24 by 24mm, trust me it will have some advantages, first of all many photographers crop FF to square anyway, which means a 24mm by 24mm crop, but starting with a square like this will mean Full Frame lenses will all be using the sweet spot in the middle and many APSC lenses will almost cover the new format as well, probably with some vignetting of course.

But just take a look at the crop options!

APSC 3:2 24mp  (so no loss against the current high end for APSC).

APSC square crop 20 by 20mm  Aprrox 24 megapixels,  (better than the puny 16 megapixels you get now).

Full Frame square crop 24 by 24mm is exactly the same as we get now from 36 megapixel sensors.

M4/3 17.3 by 13mm crop gives 14.3mp, very close to what most M4/3 camera are now.

APSC 16:9  20.3, no change from the current 24 megapixel APSC cameras 

APSC/FF 4:3 crop  24mm by 18mm  27mp. More than we currently get and probably easily within the reach of the current APSC image circles.

Full Frame/ APSC 4:5  24 by 20mm   30mp. Again probably possible with many APSC lenses as they stand, likely to get a little vignetting, but chances are many wide angle zooms can easily cover this at the wider end of their zoom range.

Of course we can crop with abandon within the constraints of the format, 24 by 12 (2:1) for 15 megapixel, 1' sensor equivalents for about 5 megapixel and crazy focal lengths equivalents from even 50mm lenses.

To go with all this super flexibility it would be essential the camera can shoot downsized RAWs to allow for "crops offs" with the smaller lens formats but also include the option to record larger sensor areas than the lenses image circle to allow for lenses with wider image circles than their nominal coverage suggests, i.e. Some M4/3 lenses that can cover say 20 by 20 mm at certain focal lengths.

So there it is, I would love someone to take it on, think of the excitement it would create, think of the wallets opening and the possibilities, think of the practical applications.

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