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The future of lenses on digital cameras.

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by grepmat, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. grepmat


    May 5, 2008
    I’m interested in trends in digital imaging. One problem 35mm digital faces is lens vs. sensor resolution and similar trade-offs.

    On DX, something like 16 Mp will be the upper limit beyond which only a very small handful of very specialized lenses will be able to provide enough resolution to keep up. The end is near, folks!

    On FX, in the center (a DX crop), roughly that same limit on the cropped sensor will apply, leading to something of order 32 Mp total. However, by then the corners will be a catastrophe in all but a small handful of the most exotic and expensive lenses. Perhaps variable resolution between cropped and full-frame modes will become a norm. Still room to grow, but the noose is tightening here too.

    At that point, there will be only a few possibilities:

    Perhaps the best possibility is that people will accept that it's over-all quality that counts, not mere resolution. People will accept that something like 10 Mp on DX and say 16 Mp on FX provides the best over-all corner to corner quality in a compact (35mm DX or FX) format. A number of existing lenses will be able to cope well, and peace and prosperity will reign.

    A more likely possibility is that most people will do what they have always done: buy the specs that are pushed (24+ Mp cameras in the near future), put a super-zoom on it, complain, and go on to make their 4x6" prints or low-resolution myspace pictures anyway.

    Another possibility is that some people will go back to using primes or limited-range (~2x) optimized zooms, which would hopefully be redesigned to offer sufficient performance on high-resolution full frame. These will be very expensive, large and heavy to cope with the sensor demands.

    Another possibility is that lenses will become slower and slower in an effort to provide sufficient resolution in compact, lighter and relatively inexpensive packages (a trend we have seen already in variable maximum-aperture zooms). Given digital's high low-light quality, there isn't as much need for f/1.4 primes and f/2.8 zooms now except for specialized applications.

    And, the most likely possibility of all: Still cameras will become an anachronism. Point and shoots, SLR's and video cameras will merge. People will focus on HD digital video for their web sites and home theater servers. Video cameras will be able to take individual very high quality still pictures, but this will be a rarely-used feature and will be the result of merging video frames together anyway. People will stop printing photos almost entirely as they transition to ubiquitous wireless digital photo-frames. Most lenses will suffice to take HD+ quality.

    In the last stages, the few cranky old men who scoff at video (I will be one of them!) will fawn over Nikon’s final few dedicated still camera models (selling used for pennies on the dollar just as film bodies do) or migrate to even crankier use of medium-format digital.

  2. marioni


    Jan 22, 2006
    Except when you want that thin dof thingy, which for me is always. And in low light, F/1.4 lens will still wipe the floor with slow zooms. Come to think of it, the only thing good about slow lenses is their price. ;) 

    I love how we've gone from "does anyone need faster than f/2.8" to "there isnt much need for f/2.8 anymore".. Oh boy. Honestly, with IQ of D3/D700's full frame sensors fast lenses are needed more than ever.

    As for the resolution, with 16mp DX resolution will probably be the least of your worries. The real question is will you be able to shoot that thing over iso200-400 considering how bad it's gonna suck..
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2008
  3. MikeG76


    Jun 11, 2008
    Middletown, NY
    I believe that the sensor resolution will continue to scale up very slowly, a lot slower than it has been lately. The only reason resolution needs to be so high is for blow ups and that's it.

    I think that honestly, they are going to continue to tweak the new sensor and low noise ISO will be a focus for a while.

    At the same time, I think that they are going to try to improve many Pro lenses by allowing their apertures to open wider while holding onto the same or better quality. f/2.8's would come down to f/1.4's, etc. This would allow them to bring the f/4's down to f/2.8 and such.

    At least, that's my take on it. I agree with Marioni about the need for more lower light lenses. They compliment the new CMOS sensors nicely.
  4. i may be really thick but why are new lenses needed?
  5. You're assuming that there is an ever-increasing horizon for quality. It isn't clear to me that many users need more than 10+ mp. I can barely tell the difference between 4mp and 12mp on a print many times, partly due to subject choice but partly simply due to how we perceive images. I don't have many 40mp images (just some stitches), but if one doesn't print them at 20x30 there isn't really that much difference between them and a 12mp image in a print. Really. Certainly there's a difference if you're making a 48" print, but how many of those do we make? Even most pros?

    I also see no logic in "we now have ridiculously high ISO so now we need superfast lenses" - huh? With an f/2.8 lens at ISO 25600, we can shoot a hand-held shot lit with nothing but the full moon. Do we really need to shoot hand-held lit with nothing but a candle at 50 feet?

    The technology has already grown to cover at least 95% and probably closer to 99% of what most users do. (Probably even the D40 covers 90%.) Expanding the feature range of cameras in the traditional dimensions will soon be like the increasingly ridiculous horsepower race in cars. 600hp isn't enough, got to have 680hp. 680hp isn't enough, go for 750hp. Yeah, the F1 and NASCAR guys still need another 20hp, but for those of us running in club racing or even SCCA, the practical difference between 350hp and 370hp is insignificant. Seriously: is there going to be any material difference in a pro's final output between 12mp and 16mp? I seriously doubt it.
  6. Nikkor AIS

    Nikkor AIS

    Jun 5, 2008
    No matter how good the sensers get, I'll still be using my classic Nikkor AIS lenses on Nikon camera's. Im curious to see what 16-24 meg pixals will do with the my Nikkor AIS glass. But in the end its what I can do:biggrin:. And I like that.

  7. arela


    Jan 15, 2008
    The new Hasselblad has 50 mp, so i don't think Canon, Nikon & the others will stop this race. They need to sell!
    Big aperture is for me a question of composition, more than low light.
    As Nikkor AIS said, i'll be using my oldies as long as I can.
  8. Julien


    Jul 28, 2006
    Paris, France
    Pro zooms have been "limited" to 2.8 for a reason. Wider apertures would mean much more glass. Just compare the 18-70 to the 17-55 and now imagine a zoom in that range that would open at 1.4 … I'm not even imagining a zoom in the 70-200 range or more. That would be madness :biggrin:

    Oh and that's not even speaking of the eventual price tag …
  9. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    Hi, I am completely ignorant when it comes to this stuff, in the true sense of the word, so I was wondering if you could explain a bit more about this statement. Is there a direct relationship between sensor size and noise? The larger the sensor the more noise?

    Sorry if my question seems naive, but I guess it is!

    Also, I understood that with the higher ISO capabilities of the cameras being released to the market these days, there is less of a need for faster lenses (i.e. the coveted 1.2) because you can accomplish the same image qualities (save the thin depth of field thingy referred to by another reader) with a slower lens... so a 50mm f/1.4 with D3 high ISO performance would obviate the need for the 50mm f/1.2. OK, sure, I think each lens has unique optical signature, but just speaking solely about f-stops...

    Anyway, I'm just trying to understand this tech debate.

    Also, have there ever been zooms faster than f/2.8? I've not seen any in my brief time in photography.

  10. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    Digital changes absolutely nothing for lenses because a smaller sensor requires a larger aperture to get the same results. Equivalent 35mm, medium format, and large format lenses are the same size. FX shooters have the 85/1.4 for example. If an Olympus 4/3 shooter wanted an equivalent, that person will have to buy a 43mm f/0.7 lens, which will be about the same size. By equivalent, I mean same DoF and overall low-light performance.

    Bottom line is, lenses will always be the same. Sensor size and resolution have nothing to do with it. BTW, you can get over 100MP on 35mm B&W microfilms, so we've had higher resolutions for a long time. I measured the Nikkor 85/1.8 to measure over 230 line pairs per mm, so it can easily keep up with any sensor developments.

    Also, I'm rather excited about the D90's video capabilities. That alone is worth the $1100 Nikon is charging for it. It's the best thing since sliced peanut butter.
  11. marioni


    Jan 22, 2006
    I'm not very technical either, I just go by what I see in practice. For example, I was talking about a possible 16mp DX camera - Sony already has a, I think, 14 or 15mp DX camera - it's image quality is horrible, from the samples I saw. Cramming more megapixels into the same sensor size doesnt help the IQ, infact usually it's just the opposite.

    Again, I'm not the expert, but I'm under the impression that larger sensor = less noise. I'm sure someone will now mention digital medium format to counter this. :wink:

    People need to understand that some of us do want the fast (F/1.2 and F/1.4) lenses, and it has nothing to do with ISO.

    Yes, Olympus has them for their 4/3 system.

    14-35mm F/2 - 2,000$ (28-70mm F/4, FF equivalent)
    35-100mm F/2 - 2,200$ (70-200mm F/4, FF equivalent)

    Perfect example why no one else bothered to make F/2 zooms. Too big, too expensive.
  12. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    Having more smaller pixels on a sensor will increase interference between them, thus at higher ISOs where the power has to be boosted, there will be more noise. This is why the D3/700 have such good high ISO capabilities, their pixel density is about the same as a 6MP DX camera.

    And marioni, I think you have confused 4/3 and FF equivlence with apertures, which do not change. The 14-35 f/2 will produce the same amount of light as a FF f/2 lens, just in a smaller circle (thus why the 4/3 format was invented).
  13. marioni


    Jan 22, 2006
    I was talking about dof.. F/2 zooms sound impressive for 4/3 system, but I sure as hell wouldnt pay 2,200$ for a 70-200/4 equivalent on FF.. For a system that was invented with the idea of being smaller and more compact, Oly sure made a wrong turn somewhere..

    P.S. Luckily this isnt dpreview with Canon/Oly users debating like insane over equivalence. :) 
  14. SP77


    Jun 4, 2007
    Rockville, MD
    I make great looking 20x30" prints from my 6MP D40. This is nothing but mega-pixel hype.
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