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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:22 pm 
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Can anyone explain why bright lenses for compacts never come with high zoom (more than 5x). Is it something that manufacturers are deliberately avoiding because such a camera would compete with compact system and d-slr cameras, but at a lower price? I would love to see a compact camera (one that can fit in a normal-sized pocket) which had a large 12Mp sensor and a bright lens that gave 12x optical zoom. I believe that if the sensor size and lens brightness were fully optimised for such a camera, it would be about as good as a compact camera could be.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:08 pm 
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A compact with a wide focal range wouldn't directly compete with a DSLR or CSC as you won't get like for like performance from the image sensor in terms of dynamic range, low light performance, noise management, etc.

To provide a wide focal range becomes impractical on a compact because of the need for larger components to increase the front element's distance from the sensor. In doing so, the camera would cease to be compact. Even if you could make lens elements that need only a small change in distance from the sensor to provide a wide focal range, they would probably be so expensive the camera would be competing with a DSLR in terms of its price.

If by bright lens, you mean one with a constant bright aperture throughout its focal range, it probably wouldn't work in practice on a compact as you would need more elements in order to maintain a wide aperture throughout the range.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:24 pm 
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Well... the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 has a constant 2.8 aperture combined with a 24x zoom - but it's the only camera I know of.

Why? I guess it has something to do with size and price ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:58 pm 
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Jiko wrote:
Well... the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 has a constant 2.8 aperture combined with a 24x zoom - but it's the only camera I know of.


Yeah, most superzoom or bridge cameras can't hold their brightest aperture through their whole focal range. For example, my Canon SX20 IS has a focal range of 28-560mm (in it's 35mm equivalence) and it starts out with f2.8 but at 560mm, the brightest aperture is f5.7, that's 2 stops of light less. Not good :/

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 9:32 pm 
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I just guess you didn't want to send me a PM but answer here...?

Ron G. wrote:
Subject: Bright lenses for compacts.

Jiko wrote:
Well... the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 has a constant 2.8 aperture combined with a 24x zoom - but it's the only camera I know of.

Why? I guess it has something to do with size and price ;)



Hi, Speyer, thanks for the response. I've checked out the FZ200 and I noticed that it was not unusually large for a bridge camera. However, the web site didn't show how big the lens was at full extension.
I know that sensor size and lens aperture aren't the only factors to consider when designing a camera, but I suspect that these factors have been given less priority in the race for more pixels and more zoom - a decision no doubt made by the pen-pushers rather than the designers. I was hoping that someone would be able to specify details as to why bright lenses for compacts don't come with high zoom, and I was hoping that the answer was that no-one has tried because they have been given other priorities (as described above). As you suggest, it is probably a mixture of optics, mechanics and economics.
To optimise a compact camera as described, I suspect that you would have to set a maximum value of optical zoom (my suggestion would be 12x, which would probably be a generous value for most people, but it sounds so much better than, say, 10x). I have also noticed that 12Mp is a common value of resolution for high end cameras, so I suspect that it is the "sweet spot".

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:26 am 
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Thanks for the above comments. It will be interesting to see if Panasonic start a trend with the lens for the fz200. Camera shake is worst at high zoom in low light conditions, so a lens that stays bright throughout its zoom range makes good sense (not forgetting the benefits to image quality). It would be nice to see the idea find its way into compacts.

As I've seen in other reviews, if the fz200 had come with a larger sensor, it would have been even more impressive and a real dslr-challenger. It seems to me that a bridge camera gives the opportunity to use a larger sensor, so I'm left wondering all the more why camera manufacturers are so slow to go down that road.

(P.S. I would like to apologise to the above contributors for the slow response).


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:10 am 
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Short answer: it's physics. The larger the sensor, the larger the lens needs to be to cover it.

Longer answer:

Quote:
if the fz200 had come with a larger sensor, it would have been even more impressive and a real dslr-challenger.


First, note that the FZ200 is already not "a compact camera (one that can fit in a normal-sized pocket)", as you said in your first post. And that becomes even more true with the lens fully extended.

Second, note that the FZ200 is not f2.8 at 600mm, it's f2.8 at 108mm or f16 at 600mm. (Crop factor applies to both or neither, but not just one.)

Third, it would help to define "large" sensor and "12X" zoom. i.e. is a 1" sensor "large"? m4/3? APS-C? And technically, 1-12mm is 12X zoom. So is 100-1200mm.

But for the sake of discussion, let's look at the Sony NEX line--small camera bodies (that will fit in a pocket) with APS-C sensors--but once you add, for example, their 18-200mm lens, not so much pocketable anymore. Also, not so much affordable anymore. And that's at f3.5-6.3!

So yes, you could have "a real dslr-challenger" in both price and size, at which point, most folks would probably be better off buying an interchangeable lens camera to gain the ability to use different lenses. So I guess you could say "that manufacturers are deliberately avoiding because such a camera would compete with compact system and d-slr cameras", but the price would be roughly the same, not cheaper.

Mark


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:27 pm 
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Thanks, Maestro.
I would like to make clear that my original point was about optimising compacts. Some of the points that have been raised apply to other formats (bridge etc), but I am still hoping that someone can say authoritatively that it is possible to have 12x optical zoom in a compact camera that has a bright lens and a large sensor. I suspect that this process of optimisation might produce a non-standard sensor size.
I am also hoping that since some manufacturers have already produced small (if not compact) cameras that have APS-C sensors and bright lenses (but never more than 5X optical zoom), there are possibilities that have yet to be explored.
The current trend in compacts is for lenses that start at a focal length of 24-25mm (35mm equivalent) and whose focal length rises as high as the optical zoom dictates (for 12x that would be 288-300mm equiv.). The camera that I am envisaging would fall into that category.

I suspect that my use of the expression "d-slr challenger" may be giving the wrong impression. I suggest that a bridge (or very good compact) would NOT have to be every bit as good as a dslr or CSC in order to compete in the same arena. If it came even moderately close in terms of image quality (including images produced in low light situations), some potential dslr buyers may wonder if it was worth paying the extra hundreds of pounds for what could turn out to be very marginal improvements. I'm not suggesting that a professional or keen amateur photographer would think that way, but not every buyer of high end cameras falls into those categories.
Now that I've cleared that up, I promise not to use the expression "d-slr challenger" again.

I think that the Panasonic fz200 (which I was referring to as a bridge camera) was an interesting subject to raise (thanks, Jiko) because it has the sort of technology which may find its way into compacts (here's hoping). I've been back to Panasonic's website to confirm that they are claiming a value of f2.8 throughout the entire optical zoom range. I'm not sure what values you were referring to, but I didn't see anything like them on the website.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:15 am 
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Ron G. wrote:
... I am still hoping that someone can say authoritatively that it is possible to have 12x optical zoom in a compact camera that has a bright lens and a large sensor.


You're in for a long wait. My guess is that it's going to be 3-5 years before liquid lenses (and batteries to drive them) have developed enough for a pocketable camera to have a lens with the specs you describe. Until then (or until some other new tech comes along), I can say authoritatively that it is not possible to have a camera/sensor/(glass) lens combo like you describe.

Quote:
... some potential dslr buyers may wonder if it was worth paying the extra hundreds of pounds for what could turn out to be very marginal improvements.


Which brings up another point: new tech is almost always expensive. So even when advances in technology make such a camera/sensor/lens combo possible, it will probably cost as much or more than a DSLR. Eventually, yes, costs will likely come down (as they almost always do), but now you're looking at maybe 5-8 years.

Quote:
I think that the Panasonic fz200 (which I was referring to as a bridge camera) was an interesting subject to raise (thanks, Jiko) because it has the sort of technology which may find its way into compacts (here's hoping).


Hoping can't change physics. There's no way a glass lens with the specs you want can be made small enough to fit into "a normal-sized pocket".

Quote:
I've been back to Panasonic's website to confirm that they are claiming a value of f2.8 throughout the entire optical zoom range.


Yes, and that optical zoom range is 4.5-108mm. Because of the smaller sensor, that 4.5-108mm range has a 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm, but when you apply crop factor you must apply it to both focal length and aperture, not just one. So the FZ200 is either f2.8 at 4.5-108mm or f16 at 25-600mm. It is not f2.8 at (25-)600mm.

Mark


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:50 am 
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Thanks, Maestro, for clarifying.

Having thought about what you said, I have decided that I'll go on hoping, especially if it is only a matter of time. I would be happy to see only a partial improvement along the lines of what I was querying. For example, the sensor in Fuji high zoom compacts (f800 etc) may only be 10% larger in area than the usual compact sensor size, but it is still a step in the right direction. And I still suspect that there is more optimisation that can be done within current constraints.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:43 pm 
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I'll be waiting right along with you. I recently purchased a Sony RX100 because, like you, I believe pocketable, large sensor cameras with bright lenses are the way to go. I just wish the technology would get here already!

Mark


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:07 pm 
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A further query for Maestro.

If I gave in to the temptation to buy such a camera now, how much would I regret having a mere 3.6x optical zoom? There's obviously a limit to how far digital zoom and image cropping can take you.

I suspect that cameras like that are excellent for indoor and studio shots but would find the great outdoors a bit challenging. I get the impression that it would feel like a step back to the days of fixed lens cameras, but I realise that it must be more than just a nostalgia trip since they manage to sell them despite the high price.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 2:28 am 
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On one hand, you're right--because of the short zoom range (and variable aperture--the RX100 goes from f1.8-4.9), the niche for this type of camera is "social candids"--indoor/night gatherings of family/friends--up close concert photography, and perhaps night street photography where the unobtrusive profile would be a plus. But they will definitely struggle with anything that needs a long lens--e.g. wildlife, sports, etc.

Personally, I do use it just like you said, like a fixed lens camera (with a wide, fast prime). If I need something other than that, I'll try to use my GH2 or T4i. (Emphasis on "try"; circumstances may not always enable me to use something else. Which leads to...)

On the other hand, as the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. So if the choice is the RX100 or nothing (actually, these days, the choice would probably be the RX100 or a cell phone camera), I'll take the RX100, which is why I bought one instead of waiting for something better. IMO the experience you gain and the moments you are able to capture that you otherwise wouldn't, make up for the shortcomings.

YMMV - Mark


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 12:34 pm 
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Thanks, Maestro, for another clarification.

Actually, I think you inadvertently gave me the answer that I was beginning to suspect. I think that cameras like the RX100 are not intended to be anybody's first camera. Rather, they are intended to be pocetable back-up cameras for people who already have a good dslr or CSC, and who want a back-up camera that can deliver good (or even professional quality) images. So they were never intended to be all-singing, all-dancing go-anywhere cameras (for someone with huge pockets).


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:27 am 
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Ron G. wrote:
I think that cameras like the RX100 are not intended to be anybody's first camera. Rather, they are intended to be pocetable back-up cameras for people who already have a good dslr or CSC, and who want a back-up camera that can deliver good (or even professional quality) images. So they were never intended to be all-singing, all-dancing go-anywhere cameras (for someone with huge pockets).

With tastes and requirements varying so much, I don't think you can pigeonhole cameras or photographers so readily.

There will certainly be situations where cameras such as the Sony RX100 would be purchased as a second/backup camera to their DSLR/CSC but there are also those who don't like the comparative bulk of either and would happily trade off some image quality if they can get something portable even if it is priced in a similar region to an entry-level DSLR.

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