Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Perfect Camera

I've been mulling this post over for a while, but this announcement last week has prompted me to get off my butt and write it. I would like to tell you about my perfect camera. Perhaps I should be more specific. My perfect camera would capture flawless image quality in all lighting situations, shoot 4K video, have a 10,000X zoom range, and be built into my eye. That's not what I'm going to talk about here. What I want to talk about here is a camera that someone could conceivably build, today. I call it the Sigma DP3, and you can see it pictured here, above the Sigma DP1 for comparison.

The Sigma DP3, as compared to the DP1.

The larger size is necessitated by the addition of several features, including a full frame sensor. I don't know if I got the size comparison exactly right, but it wouldn't have to be too big. The Leica M9 has a full frame sensor, and it's only 5.5" x 3.1" x 1.5".

The Sigma DP3 Feature List
  • A full frame, 24 megapixel Foveon X3 sensor producing a final image size of 8 megapixels.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • 1080p video. (With an appropriate variety of frame rates, including 24 and 29.97, and autofocus, and manual exposure controls. And a microphone input jack.)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization.
  • Weather sealed body and lenses (for shooting in rain/dust storms).
  • Reasonably fast performance (meaning startup time, focusing time, shutter lag, shot to shot time, etc.).
  • A built in electronic viewfinder with sufficient resolution to allow it to be used for focusing.
  • A flip-out, articulated AMOLED screen.
  • Decent continuous shooting mode with a reasonable buffer size.
  • Raw+JPEG shooting (yes, it's true, the DP1 actually does not have this).
  • An autofocus assist lamp. Seriously, we all need one sometimes.
  • A nice assortment of lenses to go with it, including some fast, sharp primes.
  • And of course all the niceties already included in the DP1 such as great build quality, full manual control, customizable controls, hot shoe, good high ISO performance, stunning image quality etc., etc.
Did I forget anything? Let me know.

P.S. In case it's not abundantly clear, this is not a real camera. It's an example of what a camera that I would get excited about might look like. The image above is a composite of the Sigma DP1 and the Panasonic GF1 made using images stolen from Digital Photography Review.


  1. Why would you use a 24 megapixel Foveon sensor to produce an 8 megapixel image? There's no bayer pattern to be mitigated by downsampling and I don't see why you'd sacrifice dot pitch on the sensor for resolution you're not going to use anyway.

  2. Unlike conventional CCD and CMOS sensors, the Foveon chip uses three photo sites per pixel. The 24 refers to the number of photo sites, the 8 refers to the pixels in the final image. I picked those numbers fairly arbitrarily, just because it seemed a good compromise between resolution and pixel density. To gain a good understanding of color resolution vs. spacial resolution I recommend Mike Chaney's great SD14 vs. 5D comparison:

  3. I've got a GF1. Wish I had time to get outside and point it at things, but it handles pretty well. I can't see liking it anywhere near as much if it weren't for the pancake lens, though.

  4. Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. I've had a chance to play with the GF1, and I have to say, it seems like a really nice camera.

    By the way, you might want to check this out:

    It's manual focus, fairly long, and definitely not a pancake. But it's also probably the fastest lens you'll ever see. :-)

  5. Actually sounds like it'd be a pretty nice portrait lens, since that's a 100mm equivalent. Hmm...