I've been pondering this question now for over a year...
Why hasnt anyone come out with a DSLR with a fixed lens or a superzoom compact with a sensor size the same as a DSLR and a few more of the extended features of DLSRs?
The only things I can come up with are:
1) The technology isnt here yet
2) No demand for such a camera
3) the impact this would have on the DSLR market and the loss of revenue when it comes to accessories for DSLRs such as lenses.
Any thoughts? I know would be willing to pay 1000.00 or more for such a camera with no problem at all.
Good question. I think the answers from popo and Bob Anderson are smack on the money, in that it all gets down to the size of the lens. Your question is of interest to me because I also would actually prefer to buy a top class fixed lens style camera, rather than any of the existing SLRs. I have given some thought as to what is technically possible.
Why hasn’t anyone come out with a DSLR with a fixed lens …
The most compact SLRs presently available use a 4/3 size sensor. Examples are the new Panasonic DMC-G1, and the Olympus E-420 & E-620. Despite popular belief, it is the physical size of the lens that primarily sets the low light / image noise performance of any digital camera, rather than the sensor size as such – see the recent thread on “Large sensors and Image Noise”. The lenses on these cameras are already as small as it is possible to make them, consistent with the level of performance (especially image noise) that is expected from an SLR camera. Even then, the zoom range has to be compromised to a modest 3:1 for “standard kit lenses” in order obtain a compact size of lens. If you want SLR performance, then I can’t see much of a market for a fixed lens camera having only a 3:1 zoom range. However, if you are talking about a BRIDGE camera with say 5:1 zoom, with performance significantly better than any existing point and shoot, but still under SLR standard, then the possibilities become interesting, and I’ll talk more about that later.
Why hasn’t anyone come out with a superzoom compact with a sensor size the same as a DSLR ….
There is a VERY good reason for that. At the risk of being repetitive, it is the physical size of the lens that primarily sets the low light / image noise performance of any digital camera, rather than the sensor size as such. Therefore, rather than asking what could be achieved with a larger sensor, it makes much more sense to look at specific existing models of point and shoot cameras, and ask what scope there is for using larger lenses. Some examples :-
(a) Consider a typical superzoom point and shoot, such as the Fuji Finepix S6500. The x10 zoom lens on this camera is already quite large, to the point where it would be impractical to make it larger, or the camera would become larger and heavier than the smaller SLR cameras. As the low light / image noise performance is set primarily by the size of the lens, and the lens cannot be made larger, there is simply no significant improvement to be had – end of story. Note that consideration of sensor size did not even enter the discussion.
(b) Consideration of what improvement in IQ could be achieved with a moderate zoom range (x5) camera such as the Canon G10 is more tantalizing. Personally I could live with x5 zoom range, so this example is of interest to me. The G10 is quite compact, literally large pocket size, so there is definitely scope here for scaling up the size of the lens (= larger absolute aperture) and still ending up with a camera of similar size to, say, a Finepix S6500. This could in principle be achieved by a “faster” lens, but this would likely be uneconomic. The other way to get a larger absolute aperture is to scale up the lens and the sensor together, and maintain the same f/number. Like most of the better point and shoot cameras, the G10 uses a 1/1.7” sensor. Here is my dream camera. Get Canon to instead drop in a 1” sensor, which is larger in dimension by a factor of x1.7. For the same f/number, this means the lens would also be larger by a linear dimension of x1.7, which would provide a substantial gain in light collection and, therefore, image noise performance. Yes, I reckon that would work out rather nicely, producing a camera with similar dimensions to existing point and shoot superzooms such as the S6500, which I could live with just fine. In terms of low light and image noise performance this camera would be superior by almost two full stops (actually 1.7) Or, if you prefer, as the gain in light goes as the aperture area, the improvement is by a factor of 1.7 squared, which is a factor of 2.9, relative to a Canon G10. That level of improvement is definitely worth having, and there is presently nothing in the non-SLR segment that even comes close. I believe there would be a significant demand for such a camera, and I predict that eventually such a camera will be built. I know I would buy one, even if it cost half as much again as a G10.
To rave just very slightly more, it would be possible to produce a 5:1 zoom lens for the existing 4/3 SLR cameras, that is no larger than the kit 3:1 zoom lenses. Of course, it would need to be a slightly slower (= higher f/number) lens compared to the 3:1 zoom kit lens, but for me that would be more than a good trade. In effect, what you would have here is an SLR version of the “dream” G10 bridge camera that I described above. So why don’t Olympus and Panasonic get off their backsides and make such a lens available? I suspect the reason has mostly to do with marketing, and the psychology of customers. Rather than see such a lens as producing the perfect “bridge” camera, the public and reviewers would more likely see it as an inferior SLR lens, and few people would buy it. That is a great shame.