Here is another update about camera sensors in cameras as tested by DxO Labs (www.dxomark.com). DxO’s test essentially covers the noise and dynamic range of cameras – it doesn’t cover resolution, focus speed, ease-of-use, etc.
Modern cameras span a range of over 70 points in this pretty rigorous benchmark. In reality the range is larger because DxO doesn’t test camera phones and other good-enough-for-a-selphie models. A 3 point difference is barely visible to specialists, 10 points is readily visible, 30 points tends to be noticed by everyone.
Since my previous posting, 18 new cameras have been tested by DxO Labs. I also rescaled the graphs to allow for scores above 100 and extended the timeline somewhat. For an in-depth explanation of what you are seeing here, check my January 2013 article at either DxO Labs or Luminous Landscape.
Some of the highlights hidden within the newer benchmark results:
- Epic Dragon scores 101 points
The 19 MPixel Epic Dragon video camera can take better stills than any existing still camera. This is especially usual given that the Epic Dragon has a moderate sensor size. Because it is only a prototype, DxO did not include the Epic Dragon in its normal test result database. After all, you can’t buy it.
Note that the Epic Dragon is a component of a modular video system: without a lens, we probably wouldn’t recognize it as a camera.
But its score demonstrates that today’s APS-H (1.3x) and larger sensors can break the psychological 100 point DxOMark barrier. So it is only a matter of time before we see commercial cameras scoring over 100 points in this benchmark. This may be asking too much for the expected Canon 7D Mark II with a 1.5x sensor, but could be achievable for one of the new 50 MPixel medium format cameras with a Sony sensor (Hasselblad, Phase One, Pentax).
Some of the top models (highest performance in its price class) are now mirrorless cameras. Somehow these are all Sony models (A3000, A5000, A6000, A7, A7r). Sony is currently the leading sensor manufacturer. Manufacturers like Nikon use Sony sensors mainly to boost the image quality of their existing SLR product lines.
- Sony A7s
The Sony A7s has a very low resolution (12 MPixel) for a full-frame camera launched in 2014. Its score is a bit low for a modern-full frame sensor (except for its High ISO subscore). From a still camera perspective it is not obvious why Sony introduced a sensor with such large pixels: it already supplies higher image quality at with higher resolution sensors (e.g. A7 and A7r). The answer to the puzzle may be probably related to the A7s unique 4K video capabilities. I wouldn’t be surprised if the A7s is also partly intended to test the market.
- Nokia Lumia Pureview
The Nokia’s Pureview smart phone models caught quite some attention with their 41 MPixel resolution. They score somewhat lower than cameras with a similar sensor size (e.g. Fujifilm X10). This is likely because the pixel size of just over 1 μm gives fill factor issues: a non-negligible percentage of the sensor area is lost as overhead and not used for light gathering.
Here is another update about new cameras tested by www.dxomark.com. The test only looks at the noise and dynamic range performance of cameras – it doesn’t cover resolution, speed, ease-of-use, durability, etc.
Since my previous posting, 5 new cameras have been tested by DxO Labs. Modern cameras span a range of over 60 points. A 3 point difference is barely visible to specialists, 10 points is readily visible, 30 points tends to be obvious even when someone is not paying attention to image quality at all:
- Sony A3000/A5000 (78 and 79 points).
The pricing of APS-C system cameras with a state-of-the-art sensor has dropped below US$ 500 with the introduction of the Sony A3000 and A5000. Despite the Alpha branding, these are basically NEX models (Sony has dropped the usage of the NEX brand). They thus have E lens mount (as used in the NEX series) rather than the A-mount (as used in the Alpha 77).
- Leica S medium format (76 points).
The Leica S medium format camera, despite its $28,000 price, does not really have a state-of-the-art sensor. It “still” uses a CCD sensor technology, although recently medium format models with a Sony-built CMOS sensor have been recently announced (by Hasselblad, Phase One and Pentax). CMOS sensors should manage to make medium format cameras more all-round cameras again. Arguably, because medium format cameras are often used in studios or tripods, they historically had more emphasis on resolution, color fidelity and lens quality than on low light or high dynamic range.
- Leica X Vario (78 points).
Leica also gives you the option of buying the X Vario which actually performs similarly to the Sony A3000 or A5000, but at a Leica price.
- Olympus Stylus 1 (51 points).
The Olympus Stylus 1 scores surprisingly low for a new camera with its SLR-like looks. But looks are misleading here. If you look carefully at the specs, it turns out to have a very small sensor with a 4.66x crop factor. This puts in in the same league as the Canon Powershot S120. The Stylus 1 (51 points) is outperformed by the more compact S120 (56 points).
See http://peter.vdhamer.com/dxomark_nov13/ for the previous snapshot and some explanatory text.
In this January update, ten new cameras and four extra labels were added. Sorted on descending price, these are:
- Sony A7 (a 24 MPixel full-frame mirrorless camera)
- Sony DSC-RX10 (performs like Sony’s two RX100 models)
- Sony NEX 5T (likely the last NEX-branded model)
- Sony A3000 (great image quality at low cost)
Note that all four happen to be Sony. I add labels in the (a) graph to cameras that are notable from a technical perspective, and to the (b) graph when they have an interesting price for their performance level.
Although not tested yet, it will be very interesting to see how the two medium format backs perform with Sony’s new 50 MPixel sensor. They might becoming the new record holder (although the Phase One IQ250 doesn’t allow you to shoot about 6400 ISO).
Sony RX1r raw image @ 1/80, f/4, 125 ISO.
Using the 35mm f/2.0 lens (fixed lens, non-zoom camera). The shop in the middle is incidentally a building on 5th Avenue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Scribner%27s_Sons_Building).
I updated my overview chart with available high-end cameras. See http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Camera-Sensor-Database for detailed benchmark results for specific cameras. As usual, there is a lot of interesting information in such an overview:
- Assuming you care about low light and high dynamic range performance, the best cameras have full-frame sensors (the blue dots). You knew that – right? Well, surprisingly full-frame sensors beat even larger (purple, pink, red) sensors. So don’t bother spending big money on a medium format camera unless you really need the super-high resolution. Or need it show that your equipment is clearly on a price class of its own.
- The so-called APS-C cameras with 1.5x or 1.6x sensors have improved. Examples: the Nikon D5200 and D5300.
- The Sony NEX-5R mirrorless (which is 1.5x) has a slightly higher price than an APS-C SLR, but the body is smaller and the performance is competitive. Mirrorless models should have the same performance as an SLR with a comparable sensor. A mirror doesn’t add image quality – it just makes a click sound like ke-lick.
- Canon still has a long way to go to catch up with its APS-C sensors (1.6x). The Canon 70D performs slightly better than the old Canon 7D, but a comparison to Nikon or Sony tends to be embarrassing.
- Recent Micro Four Thirds cameras (Olympus & Panasonic) have improved and are even ahead of Canon’s APS-C (1.6x) models.
- The Sony RX100 and RX100-II are still doing fine – at least considering their small sensor size (2.7x or 1/1″ ). The Nikon Series 1 is technically not state-of-the art, but nice if you like white or pink gear: it targets a young Asian lifestyle market.
- The premium pocket cameras have improved. Especially the 1/1.7″ sensor models such as the Canon Powershot S120 and G16 and their Nikon equivalents.
- The best deals if you need a high quality model can be found at the top edge of the cloud in diagram “b”: you get the highest quality in that price range. Note that the prices shown are official prices at introduction, and will differ from current street prices. These deals include:
- The Nikon D600 and D610. These are essentially the same camera, but the D610 resolves a dust issue.
- The new Sony A7R mirrorless. Note that this model uses Sony E-mount lenses, but actually requires new Sony full-frame E-mount lenses called “FE”. So it will take a while until there are enough lens options.
- The Sony RX1 and RX1R. These look overpriced (and probably are – although I ordered one myself), but their price does include an excellent 35mm Zeiss f/2.0 lens. On the other hand, they do not come with an optical or electronic viewfinder. These cost about 500 US $ or Euro extra. Lens hood pricing is joke (so look into the Photodiox accessories).
- The Nikon D5200 or D5300. Both have a 24 MPixels state-of-the-art sensor, but the newer one gives sharper images (no AA filter) if your lenses are up to the challenge.
- The Nikon D3200. Also 24 MPixels with state-of-the-art sensor technology.
- The Pentax K50 and K500. A somewhat overlooked brand.
- The Nikon Coolpix P330. A “take me everywhere” camera at a lower price point than the excellent Nikon Coolpix A or FujiFilm’s X-100s models.
Note that some major new camera models are not shown because DxO Labs simply hasn’t tested them yet. These include:
- The new full-frame Nikon Df (with the professional Nikon D4’s 16 Mpixel sensor). It should score about 89 (D4) for $3000 – nice, but not sensational unless you insist on a retro look and feel.
- Most FujiFilm X-Trans models have not been tested. Tests may be delayed because they have a non-standard color filter array (complicating raw conversion). The CFA design allows the sensor to work without a low pass filter. Alternatively, the missing tests may be because FujiFilm is not enthusiastic about their cameras’ DxOMark scores (pure speculation on my part, but the FujiFilm X-100 didn’t score exceptionally well). FujiFilm high-end cameras are getting a lot of attention from serious photographers who prefer small, unobtrusive cameras with a classic mechanical feel.
- The Sony A7. Many people wouldn’t really benefit from 36 MPixels (Sony A7R) without an image stabilizer or a tripod or high-end lenses.
For a detailed explanation of what the benchmark itself means, see http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/dxomark_sensor_for_benchmarking_cameras2.shtml. Note that the number of tested cameras has meanwhile increased from 183 to 236 models.
My latest photo exposition starts on October 28th and lasts until December 15th (2013).
It features a (baker’s) dozen photos between 50×50 cm and 50×70 cm (frame sizes). About half of these works were created in the past year and have not been presented at galleries before.
Mijn huidige fotoexpositie loopt van 28 oktober tot en met 15 december. Het bestaat uit 13 werken met een lijstmaat van rond de 50 cm bij 60 cm. Ruim de helft van de werken zijn nieuw en niet eerder tentoongesteld.
Numbered copies (e.g. #2 of 10) of the limited edition prints are for sale. In case you haven’t followed the fine art photography market in the past years, these prints are highly fade resistant due to the use of pigment dyes and acid-free archival paper. In practice the works can easily last a lifetime without visible fading.
De werken zijn te koop in een genummerde oplage. De nieuwe werken zijn #1 van 10, terwijl bijvoorbeeld bovenstaande foto “Granada” er hangt als (#3 / 10). Het is wellicht nuttig te vermelden dat moderne kleurenfoto’s voor galerietoepassingen niet meer verbleken. Dit komt door het gebruik van anorganische pigmenten en pH-gebufferd papier.
Ds. Th. Fliednerstraat 5
5631 BM Eindhoven
http://www.vitalisgroep.nl/vitalis-peppelrode.html Openingstijden: de gehele week, overdag en ‘s avonds.