7 TECHNOLOGIES:FULL-SCALE SENSOR Sometimes Bigger is Better. Image Sensors are a Case in Point.

Film or digital: big photoreceptors mean high image quality.

The bigger the film size, the better the image quality. That’s common knowledge in the world of film cameras. Even so, caught up in the powerful tide of digitization, and the feverish, single-minded competition to achieve the highest pixel count, most camera manufacturers seem to have lost sight of this obvious fact some time ago. Ever tried using a Brownie film camera to shoot high-quality photos? Then you’ll have a vivid sense of the exponential increase in image quality as film size increases. Basically, the same goes for digital cameras. In other words, sensor performance being equal, the image quality of a digital camera is determined by the size of the image sensor, be it CCD, CMOS or any other type.

In the era of film cameras, both SLRs and compacts using the 35mm system used the same size of film, and image quality was down to lens performance. There used to be compact film cameras that delivered high image quality despite their small body size, and those compacts had a large following among photographers. When cameras made the switch from film to digital, however, it was taken for granted that DSLRs and digital compacts would use different image sensors.

Startlingly evocative image quality

At 20.7 x 13.8mm, the DP1x's 14-megapixel image sensor, like the DP1's, is SLR-sized. This is about 12 times larger than the 1- to 2.5-inch sensor, and 7 times larger than a 1- to 1.8-inch sensor used in a conventional digital compact. This generous size takes the DP1x's image quality to a different dimension.

Picture this. Light traveling through a small lens is captured by a small sensor and turned into an image. Light traveling through a large lens is captured by a large sensor and turned into an image. What's the difference between these two images? Essentially, it's a difference in quality. In the case of the small image sensor, the image is magnified by a high ratio when it's printed or displayed on a computer screen. This makes it tricky to reproduce the dynamism and 3-D feel of the subject. Like the other DP cameras, the DP1x does just that, by using a large integral image sensor.

The natural blurring effect you get with an SLR.

The small size of the image sensor used in a conventional compact digital camera explains why it captures rather flat, unmodulated images. If the image sensor is small, the focal length of the lens is short. The shorter the focal length of the lens, the greater the depth of field – in other words, the greater the range of distances over which the lens can focus.

The prosaic quality of the images captured by an ordinary compact digital camera is caused by the depth of field characteristic of a small image sensor: the lens focuses evenly on everything between the subject and the background, eliminating any cadence within the image. Thanks to its DSLR-sized sensor, the DP1x can achieve SLR-worthy natural blurring effects, even at an aperture of F4.

Images of this astonishing quality and richness are only possible with a large sensor. You really need to see them for yourself.

SIGMA DP1x Special Contents

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