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Thread: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

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    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Visiting another site a few minutes ago, I clicked on this:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re..._promise.shtml

    I've always thought (admittedly biased) that Leica was over-rated and over-priced.

    BUT: Reading the blog about the newest Leica (I had time to kill), there is a statement a bit down in the post that piqued my interest (under CHOMPING AT THE BIT TO JUMP IN). Disclaimer: This isn't a post to cast aspersions on any brand, but this remark intrigued me,

    " . . . the sensor is only 10 percent of the equation and and the rest of the electronics and software represents 90 percent of the ultimate result."

    Frequently, and particularly in the past year or so, there are referrals to DXO Mark as to which camera has the "best" sensor, and the implicit message seems to be that the sensor is everything. Is it possible that some buyers are misled by laboratory tests of one element (sensor), megapixels, and advertising?

    Glenn

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Frequently, and particularly in the past year or so, there are referrals to DXO Mark as to which camera has the "best" sensor, and the implicit message seems to be that the sensor is everything. Is it possible that some buyers are misled by laboratory tests of one element (sensor), megapixels, and advertising?
    Entirely possible, Glen, IMHO. Having moved to the USA from England many years ago, I've become accustomed to regarding everything that a manufacturer (or vendor or even a sponsored reviewer) says as being a lie. No "trades descriptions Act" over here, could interfere with Corporate profit ;-)

    OTOH, the post on LL seemed genuine enough . . .
    Last edited by xpatUSA; 4th May 2013 at 08:20 PM.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Frequently, and particularly in the past year or so, there are referrals to DXO Mark as to which camera has the "best" sensor, and the implicit message seems to be that the sensor is everything. Is it possible that some buyers are misled by laboratory tests of one element (sensor), megapixels, and advertising?
    First, I don't think anybody has ever suggested that the sensor is everything. DXOMark concentrates on it largely because it is a very important part of the camera (10% is idiotically low) that is difficult for a customer to evaluate objectively on their own. Most folks have good information on how many focusing points a camera has, how big its buffer is, etc. But, before DXOMark began its evaluation, there was no place you could get that information in an objective, across-manufacturer way AFAIK. Certainly, if you don't much care about the sensitivity of the sensor, then don't read the DXOMark test results. But, for many people, they are as important a measure of the camera body's performance as MTF is for a lens.
    Last edited by tclune; 4th May 2013 at 09:33 PM.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Perhaps the premise of the statement is that you can get a quality image with whatever camera you have (compact, bridge, micro 4/3rds, DSLR cropped/full) provided the camera is capable enough to be able to control aperture, ISO, shutter speed, for a given time of day. Change any of those variables and the statement loses validity.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post

    " . . . the sensor is only 10 percent of the equation and and the rest of the electronics and software represents 90 percent of the ultimate result."

    Glenn
    I suspect that the claim is exaggerated to make the point that the sensor is certainly not the only factor in camera's performance. However from a photographers point of view it is only the outcome that is of true importance. In terms of cost 10% may be correct - in terms of necessity it is 100% but who cares.

    DX0 mark is performed with the sensor in the camera so it is not solely a sensor test.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 5th May 2013 at 01:49 AM.

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    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    I suspect that the claim is exaggerated to make the point that the sensor is certainly not the only factor in camera's performance. However from a photographers point of view it is only the outcome that is of true importance. In terms of cost 10% may be correct - in terms of necessity it is 100% but who cares.

    DX0 mark is performed with the sensor in the camera so it is not solely a sensor test.
    The statement was made by a chief technical officer of a major camera company, not some blog writer (he quoted it), so I see no reason to not take the ten percent figure at face value (without some firm technical evidence to refute it - feelings and beliefs don't count here).

    You are right - and most of us don't stop to think of this - DXO doesn't test the sensor, they analyze the output from the electronics that process the sensor data.

    On the comparison of the trees against the sky in the linked post, there's no question which one I would choose. My false opinion of Leica has been altered somewhat. Sadly the camera is not in my price bracket.

    Glenn

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    At least DXOMark produces what appear to be independent and objective test results rather than subjective opinions. The information they provide must be used sensibly however with proper consideration given to the significance of the measurements. I think it's a useful tool in assessing this important part of the camera, particularly when you are comparing various models which all have similar characteristics.

    For example, according to DXOMark's measurements, the Nikon D600 and D800 have 2 stops better dynamic range than the Canon 5D MkIII at ISO 100. As ISO is increased, this gap narrows until they are all much the same at ISO1600. Now some may say that this isn't terribly important given the current limitations of display devices and print technology however if you are buying a new camera and are not locked in to a lens brand,the sensor performance should surely be a consideration ? Who knows where technology may lead us in the future and how that extra DR may be useful ?

    Also, the DXOMark measurements indicate that the D600 and the D800 have virtually identical DR despite the D600 having a resolution of 24MP and the D800 36MP respectively. Now there are other differences between the cameras of course but it is conceivable that some people would be quite happy with the 24MP D600 sensor and this could have an influence on their choice between these two cameras.

    Some may dispute these examples however all I'm really trying to say is that if you can get reliable quantitative information on the sensor, this can be useful in making a choice between cameras, at least for some people in a position to use the information wisely. I fully acknowledge that this is only one of many factors to consider.

    Dave

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    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    The fact that the comment was made by a technical guy from a major camera company detracts from rather than adds credibility in my book. Camera companies (some of which use similar sensors from a limited range of manufacturers) are bound to assert that their intellectual property (electronics and software design) is far more important than the sensor. It is this that delivers some of the brand differentiation.


    I think many web commentators get far too hung up on technical specifications. The input of the photographer is the single most important factor in delivering an excellent image in any creative environment. Differences in technical specifications in the inert tool (camera) have far less influence than the photographer and whoever is doing post processing. This is why I find the canon v nikon v fuji v leica v anything at all continual internet debate so peculiar. It is taking a small part of the picture equation and concentrating a disproportionate amount of the analysis on that.

    I am using the same camera and same lenses as (say) Colin on this forum. I have a fairly strong feeling that his skill level is somewhat above mine. That makes a considerable difference to the final image outcomes and is by far the biggest variable.

    The technical debates are interesting I admit, but we should not give them more weight than they deserve: which is not a lot

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
    Differences in technical specifications in the inert tool (camera) have far less influence than the photographer and whoever is doing post processing. This is why I find the canon v nikon v fuji v leica v anything at all continual internet debate so peculiar.
    Just to add my 10c worth ...

    If I - as a Canon shooter - place my tripod and camera in a certain position for a landscape shot, then focus correctly and take a 30 second shot @ ISO 200 @ F11 with a 16-35mm Lens set to 19mm - and then the next guy comes along with a Nikon and frames exactly the same composition and also takes a 30 second shot @ ISO 200 @ F11 with a 16-35mm Lens set to 19mm - and then a Sony guy steps in and does the same thing ...

    ... how different will those RAW files look when we open them in Photoshop? Any significant differences? (answer, no -- none what-so-ever) (assuming similar quality lenses).

    On the other hand, if I'm shooting the high dive at the olympics, a camera with a high frame rate (eg 14 FPS) and lethal AF is probably going to trump and entry-level 4 FPS camera with an "entry-level" AF. Is a top-end Canon going to do any better than a top-end Nikon sports camera? The manufacturers want you to believe so - and to be honest, there probably would be SMALL differences, but by and large, the differences are more a reflection of a model's (not a brand's) position within the lineup;

    - Entry-level cameras have very capable sensors, but less firmware options - lower materials quality - and lesser specifications (especially in terms of frame rate and AF performance).

    - Prosumer cameras are DAMN versatile (which is ironic because it's probably the most popular range among serious shooters, and yet so many worry over "this brand/model" over "that brand/model" when 99% of the specification is is common to both (or 97% anyway), but usually the sensors aren't a great deal better (if at all) than entry-level cameras; again, it's the firmware option, build quality, and additional specs such as AF, frame rate, weather sealing etc that make the difference.

    - Professional cameras are another level again; they're heavy - built like tanks (and cost almost as much as some I'm sure) - best weather sealing - most firmware features - killer AF - but is, say, the sensor on a 1D X any better than a Canon 650D? Probably not.

    Or put another way, if we were to get a bunch of brands and models & mix all the sensors up, but keep everything else the same, what differences would we see in the images? My guess is that 99% of photographers wouldn't even notice the difference.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    The statement was made by a chief technical officer of a major camera company, not some blog writer (he quoted it), so I see no reason to not take the ten percent figure at face value (without some firm technical evidence to refute it - feelings and beliefs don't count here).

    You are right - and most of us don't stop to think of this - DXO doesn't test the sensor, they analyze the output from the electronics that process the sensor data.

    On the comparison of the trees against the sky in the linked post, there's no question which one I would choose. My false opinion of Leica has been altered somewhat. Sadly the camera is not in my price bracket.

    Glenn
    Sorry Glenn I always remain skeptical of unnamed sources and 10% is the sort of figure that may have been plucked out of the air. If the figure had been say 8.2% or 13% I may have been a little less suspicious. However I agree completely with the point being made which was that the sensor is only one of a number factors contributing to the performance of the camera.

    I also agree strongly with Adrian's comment that the photographer is the main link require to produce a successful image.

    P.S. I have just seen Colin's post and as it is supplied by a very well known and respectable source I am happy to agree with it.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 5th May 2013 at 09:49 AM.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    While I think the 10/90 distinction is hyperbole, there's probably some truth in it. Reminds me of working with motorsports data-logging systems. Pretty much anything can tell you that the oil gallery pressure is 45lbf/in^2, but only higher-end systems can record that at 1kHz and wirelessly upload the data. If you need that data as an amateur, it's easy to record within the sensor's accuracy. If you're a pro and you need to monitor that data in real time, you may use a higher-end sensor, but the bulk of the difference is how the system handles the data.

    The connection to photography is that the sensors may be similar (or even identical), but the electronics and software supporting them are also hugely important. Witness the 36MP Nikon D800's very good low-light performance despite relatively small pixels, or the Canon 1D X's 14FPS drive speed. While these advantages are clearly related to the sensor, they'd be impossible without the right software, algorithms, and processors.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    I don’t think that the sensor itself can be looked at in isolation; it is part of the imaging system that also includes the A/D converter and the image processor. Let’s not discount the hardware circuitry that connects these components and then outputs the data into something useful; i.e. the file containing image data. Obviously, there are different levels of software running in the camera that will also affect the final image. What matters is the overall system performance, not how individual system components perform in isolation.

    When I carefully read the DxO remarks, I’m fairly certain that they measure the imaging system output, not just purely the sensor output; there is certainly wording on the website that makes me think that they are working with RAW files when they do their analysis.

    Getting back to the sensor being 10% of the image; this in itself is a pretty meaningless number; is this going back to the cost, where the processing occurs, the amount of engineering effort expended to get the output? I did read the Luminous Landscape article and the context of the quote is rather ambiguous.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    The idea that any part of the system could be quantified by a percentage is ridiculous. None of it works without a battery so what's that worth?

    This is one reason that I tend to become evasive when people ask me what camera I use.

    It's just a tool and while some tools are better than others you wouldn't hear an artist bragging about which brand of paint brushes he uses.

    I recently bought a new body because I was starting to exceed the limits of what my old body could do. It wasn't just the sensor but the ADC and main processor have moved on too and probably a whole load of stuff that I can't give a name to but none of it works without the fuse in the plug for the battery charger. How much is that worth then?

    Seven years of progress have made a big difference it is certain but my old body will still see use for the stuff that is within it's capabilities. It may even get modified to open up new posibilities in the future as well. I guess that would make it worth 110%

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayland View Post
    The idea that any part of the system could be quantified by a percentage is ridiculous.
    If I were the engineer who had made the "10%" comment, I'd be meaning it to be taken in the context of not 10% but in the context of "a very small part of the overall system".

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    If I were the engineer who had made the "10%" comment, I'd be meaning it to be taken in the context of not 10% but in the context of "a very small part of the overall system".
    If I were the engineer who made the comment, I would have made sure the context was understood; like 10% of the cost of the image processing side of the camera, 10% of the image processing engineering effort, etc. Putting out a number without any context just adds to the confusion. On the other hand, this may have happened and what we are reading is what got lost in translation.

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    I suspect we're analyzing a bit of hyperbole designed to illustrate the engineer's point. I am putting words in their mouth, but I'd bet they meant that the sensor gets too much attention in the image-processing stream.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    If I were the engineer who made the comment, I would have made sure the context was understood; like 10% of the cost of the image processing side of the camera, 10% of the image processing engineering effort, etc. Putting out a number without any context just adds to the confusion. On the other hand, this may have happened and what we are reading is what got lost in translation.
    Or perhaps it was just a throw-away/passing comment by the engineer that didn't need to be over-analysed?

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    I suspect we're analyzing a bit of hyperbole designed to illustrate the engineer's point. I am putting words in their mouth, but I'd bet they meant that the sensor gets too much attention in the image-processing stream.
    That would be my guess.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    That would be my guess.
    It is a pretty safe guess we only have to analyse what was said " . . . the sensor is only 10 percent of the equation and and the rest of the electronics and software represents 90 percent of the ultimate result." to realise that it is a figure of speech/metaphor/hyperbole not a scientific statement. The equation? - meaningless without a definition. 10%? meaningless without the unit of measurement it relates to.

    The statement does make the point that the sensor is not the only item that contributes to the performance of the camera before we take a lens (or photographer) into account.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 7th May 2013 at 08:47 PM.

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    Re: The Sensor is Worth Ten Percent?

    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    It is a pretty safe guess we only have to analyse what was said " . . . the sensor is only 10 percent of the equation and and the rest of the electronics and software represents 90 percent of the ultimate result." to realise that it is a figure of speech/metaphor/hyperbole not a scientific statement. The equation? - meaningless without a definition. 10%? meaningless without the unit of measurement it relates to.

    The statement does make the point that the sensor is not the only item that contributes to the performance of the camera before we take a lens (or photographer) into account.
    You're probably quite right. Personally, I would have put the sensor at 11.0137%, but that's just me.

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