Photo Technical

Internet full of camera info, if you know how to read it – A40

I have wanted to go through things I like to do to research a camera I’ve heard about and may be interested in buying.  I think it would be really useful and helpful, but procrastinated on it only because I did not know how it could be presented in newspaper columns, that is, going through a list of specifications and adding clarification to what each spec means.  It’s important so here we go.

For writing this article I visited  www.dpreview.com.  It’s a terrific resource link for all sorts of photographic equipment information.  Using the “camera database” on this web site I scrolled down to Panasonic and looked into the specifications of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150, which is given in a table form with columns and rows. Working my way down this list I’ve italicized” their specification and  information, then follow up with my clarification, and here’s what I found:

More information: July 21, 2008 Let’s the reader know that this camera was introduced July 21, 2008.  This was followed with links to Panasonic forums, users’ ratings and a list of dealers with their price to buy.

Discussion

Format: Ultra Compact – Price (street) $268.49 – This is the type of camera most of you are looking for, as opposed to an SLR or full size point and shoot.

Also known as: N/A – It could be listed under another nomenclature.

Release Status: N/A –  If it is announced, but not yet available.

Max resolution: 4416 x 3312 – This is the largest file achieved by the camera, which closely matches the “Effective Pixels” specification below.  You can also divide each number by 300 to calculate the maximum optimum print size (without further enlargement software), which is 15X11 inches.

Low resolution: 4416 x 2944, 4416 x 2480, 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432, 3648 x 2056, 3072 x 2304, 3072 x 2048, 3072 x 1728, 2560 x 1920, 2560 x 1712, 2560 x 1440, 2048 x 1536, 2048 x 1360, 1920 x 1080, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480:  – These are other file size options available with this camera.  You might ask why all these are needed?  They’re not (all needed), but let’s say you just need some photographs for your web site, then a setting of 1600X1200 (for instance) can be useful, saving memory space and time later making file size conversions.

Image ratio w:h: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9: – The “w:h” of course representing width and height. The 4:3 is the old TV format, 3:2 the 35mm format, and 16.9 the new available panorama format.  Note that the maximum “effective pixels” is only reached with this latter format.  Using the other two will lower the “effective pixels” used, but it will not be a significant factor.

Effective pixels: 14.7 million – This is the number of tiny light sensors used in wide angle 16:9 format on this sensor, which is a lot.  A different image ratio, focal length and aperture will vary this number to something less, but since the overall “effective pixel count is large; you can expect quality performance throughout.

I mention this count (of pixels) is a lot and large, and you may wonder, relative to what?  Most compact cameras manufactured today have a pixel count of 7 to 10 million pixels.  The best professional 35 SLR cameras have approximately 21 million pixels.  Medium format digital cameras can reach 40 million and higher…. But, as you read “sensor size” below, the number of pixels is only part of the measure to over all quality.  And the quality that is needed is another consideration as 21 megapixels returns excellent quality results, and 40 megapixels are necessary for limited applications.

Sensor photo detectors: 15.0 million – This is the actual count of pixels, a 100% on the chip, were 98% maximum “effective pixels” are actually used. 

Sensor size: 1/1.72 ” (7.40 x 5.55 mm, 0.41 cm²) – This is less than ¼ of a full size 35mm size sensor.  In other words you have a lot of pixels, 15 million in total, on a small sensor.  This means the quality is good, but if these same number of pixels were on a 35mm (full size) sensor the picture quality (and there are still other aspects) would be significantly better.  This is why an SLR digital camera with a full size sensor is more expensive even if it does not have more effective pixels.  Another thing to note with a sensor smaller in size than a full        size is the lens conversion factor.  Lens specifications use to say a lens was a 38mm equivalent, but I see less of this nomenclature.      

Pixel density: 36 MP/cm² – If I have to wrestle with the technical aspects of specifications, I will simply tell you more is not necessarily better if the space allotted remains the same.  Larger pixels capture light better with less noise.  It is what it is, a great little compact, but it doesn’t match a full size SLR sensor. 

I will continue going down the list of specifications (below), providing clarification and information to help you make better camera buying decisions, but for now ask for permission to go ashore.