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Thread started 10 Jul 2009 (Friday) 10:36
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The Evolution of Sensor Sizes - 2001 to Present - Personal Archive.

Everlasting Gobstopper
6,455 posts
Likes: 30
Joined Jun 2003
Location: Trantor
Jul 10, 2009 10:36 |  #1

All my sensors on one composite. When I look back, I am very impressed at the astounding rate of evolution of sensor size. Time was a good camera would be a useful tool for years and years. In fact, I still have, and occasionally use, the FTb that I got in 1975. The adolescence of digital technology has certainly shrunk that time horizon. Here are shots from all of the digital cameras I have had, compared to one another. Hope you find it mildly interesting and that you are able share your thoughts - especially people who made the transition from film to digital.

So, after decades of film, our story drops us smack into 2001, and I got my first digital camera - a Kodak point and shoot. I got the big one, the 2.2 million pixel model. (My other choices were a 1.8 million pixel model, but I thought that might not have the "legs" to last 10 years or so, and there was a 3 million pixel model [megapixel, what's a megapixel], but the 3 million pixel one cost almost $500.00. That was substantially more than my latest SLR, and Élan 7.

The Kodak came with a 32 megabyte compact flash card. Even though that allowed me to take more shots than a roll of film, I am still greedy by nature so I went to Samys and bought a 128 megabyte card. Set me back well over a hundred bucks, but who cares - I will now be able to shoot long past the batteries' (4 AAs) life span without having to swap out the card. But damn, 128 megabytes! Thinking of the progress at that time, I realized that I could put the entire hard drive contents of my first computer - a 486DX 33 - on only two of these babies! I knew a guy at the time who knew a guy who used a 512 megabyte flash card - a half a gig! But that guy is a professional and can afford almost a thousand dollars for media.

So in the lower left corner is a lingerie shop in Berlin. "The soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window." Wow. This was the one shot more than any that got me into digital. I brought the Kodak to back up my Élan 7. Of course, I didn't have the Élan with me - after all, it was night, and we were going out to dinner. I did put the Kodak in my pocket, and when I saw the low light potential of digital - that was it! Digital, to my amazement, could be a very viable adjunct to actual photography.

Next up (or rather, the landscape behind that) - some time in 2002 - the Olympus. A 5 megapixel beast. Bigger than a pack of cigarettes, and built like a brushed steel tank, and almost $600. But most important, this was no point and shoot - see, via on screen menus, I could actually set shutter speeds and apertures. Just like on a real camera! It was great - the control of an SLR, and the convince of digital. This was it, I could not imagine needing another digital camera - ever! Despite how enamored I was with the "best of both words" the Olympus brought - the "on screen" controls quickly got tiresome when compared with a flick of the thumb on my Élan, so deep inside, I was ready for what happened next.

I managed to suffer through the on screen menus for the better part of a year. In June of 2003, I saw my first 10D. (Image example shown here as the white building with the dark roof behind the landscape shot). I was at a concert, and there was a pro there shooting a concert with his new 10D. I asked him how he liked it and he explained it this way, "I've had the 10D for a week now, and I put all my film gear on EBay 4 days ago." I looked up the specs on the camera: 6 point friggin 3 megapixels! Good God! A digital sensor that huge, built into an honest to god SLR. I could use all the lenses I have for the Élan! It took a week to find a camera shop that had one, $1600, but it didn't matter - this was the zenith of photography. I popped on one of my most versatile lenses - the 28-200, and learned the meaning of the phrase "Error 99". A day or two of Google searches, and I found POTN in late June of 2003. I became member 10,194, and now we are at 204,351

At this point, we start to lose the "every camera is a revelation" excitement, the cameras have matured, but the sensor size keeps on keeping on.

Now, out of chronology, but in ascending size - the prairie shot is my 400D Rebel, 10.1 megapixels I think. Then you can just barely see the 12 megapixel street shot (literally, it is the street) taken with the 12 megapixel G9. Then behind and to the right you can see a fretboard of a bass guitar - that is from the 12.1 megapixel 5D "classic". Finally, behind it all is the 22 megapixel 5D Mark II with a beach sunset.

And all this in less than 8 years!

For me, I think the 5d Mk II will be a keeper for a while. It already out resolves most every lens I have, and most every lens Canon makes - if you believe the people who know these things.

So what about you - where did you start? Where are you now? How much do you think will be "enough".



Left to Right, across the bottom -

Lingerie Shop - Kodak P&S - 2.2 Million Pixel
Blue Sky Landscape - Olympus - 5 Megapixel
White Building - Canon 10D - 6.3 Megapixel
Prairie Landscape - Canon 400 DReb - 10.1 Megapixel
Sliver of Asphalt - Canon G9 P&S - 12 Megapixel
Bass Guitar - Canon 5D - 12.7 Megapixel
Ocean Sunset - Canon 5D Mk II - 22 Megapixel

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Be humble, for you are made of the earth. Be noble, for you are made of the stars.

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Admin (type T-2000)
51,892 posts
Gallery: 190 photos
Likes: 8763
Joined Apr 2003
Location: Rhode Island USA
Jul 10, 2009 11:20 |  #2

I'm going to need to do some digging to find images from my old Olympus and Agfa P&S digitals...
I'll get some images later, but here's the break down

Fujitsu fixed focus digital (no idea on the name) 320x240 = .07MP fixed lens
Agfa ePhoto 1280 (external link) 1024x768 = .78MP 3x Zoom
Olympus C2100 UZ (external link) 2.1MP! 10X Zoom! :)
EOS 10D  (external link)6MP DSLR
EOS 1D Classic (external link) 4.5MP DSLR
Elph S400 (external link) 4MP 3X Zoom compact
EOS 1D Mark II (external link) 8.2MP DSLR
EOS 20D (external link) 8MP DSLR
EOS 1D Mark III (external link) 10MP DSLR

Jake Hegnauer Photography (external link)

Senior Member
601 posts
Joined Jan 2007
Jul 10, 2009 11:51 |  #3

An interesting post. My digital journey was pretty similar to yours:

2001: 1.3 megapixel Sony CyberShot
2003: Canon G5
2004: Canon G6 / Canon S2IS
2007: Canon A620, Rebel XT / XTI / 30D
2008: 40D (x2)
2009: 5DII (x2)

So that's 10 different cameras in about 8 years. But now with the 5DII I can finally say I am content. With all my other cameras there always seemed to be something lacking. With the 5DII I have all the resolution and low-light capability I will need, and Canon will not be able to tempt me with incremental improvements. I can't imagine needing a new body within the next 3 years, which is an eternity since the previous lifespan of my bodies is less than a year.


Senior Member
336 posts
Joined Jun 2007
Location: Newcastle, UK
Jul 10, 2009 15:48 |  #4

Nice story. Mine's short and sweet:

2002: Olympus C350 3.2 MPx
2004: Fujifilm S5500 4 MPx
2006: Canon 400D 10 MPx
2008: Canon 450D 12 MPx

The last step was clearly less of a quantum leap than the others... had intended to use the 400D until it died and then upgrade to at least an xxD series. But the 400D was stolen and the 450D was *much* better value than the 40D at the time. Turns out it really is a better camera.

As for future camera resolutions... well TBH for handheld SLR 12 MPx is probably more than enough. I'd like a full frame sensor but I'd like that for bigger pixels... I think the current FF models probably have more pixels than really necessary.
Until the format changes (and I'm thinking a much bigger change than simply chucking in bigger sensors or increasing noise handling) I'm really not interested in a higher resolution sensor... although I know that it will be a necessary evil of my next upgrade. (Hell, it'll probably be a necessary evil of my next phone...)

Canon EOS 450D | Canon 18-55mm, 55-250mm, 50mm | 430EX

Cream of the Crop
14,685 posts
Likes: 27
Joined Dec 2006
Jul 10, 2009 17:16 as a reply to  @ timmyeatchips's post |  #5

A quick history of our digital cameras is as follows:

[1995] Early Casio: less than VGA resolution, but one of the best for under $1000 (barely).

[1997] Sony Mavica: VGA resoultion and storage on a floppy disk. Wound up doing such a good job (for the time) that the Arizona Department of Corrections (for whom my wife worked) purchased several for recording prisoner identification marks and temporary id badges for work details.

[2000] Sony Cybershot: with 2MP resolution and a good 400mm+ zoom lens, our first birding camera. Actually quite good.

[2002] Nikon CoolPix 5700: very good 6MP camera for the $$$, but very, very poor manual focus system (had to reset for each shot).

[2004] Casio Exilim: 8mp, good camera overall, but terrible for our purposes (birding), bad choice on my part. We got it as a pocket-sized backup to the Nikon, and sold it for a song in about 6 mos (along with aux wide-angle & telephoto lenses).

[2005] Canon EOS 20D: excellent 8.2MP camera (now dead).

[2008] Canon EOS 30D: another, even better 8.2MP camera (our primary camera).

Senior Member
336 posts
Joined Jun 2007
Location: Newcastle, UK
Jul 10, 2009 17:44 |  #6

Wow the 20D and 30D were really the same resolution? Blimey imagine how many morons would run screaming to Nikon if that happened these days =)

Canon EOS 450D | Canon 18-55mm, 55-250mm, 50mm | 430EX

Senior Member
542 posts
Likes: 1
Joined Jul 2008
Jul 10, 2009 20:02 |  #7

Hehe, I have a 20mb and a 32 mb flash card sitting on my dresser.

My digitals:

An HP point and shoot that was .9mp, did 1200x800. It didn't zoom. Because media was so expensive then (1998 ) I shot mostly at 640x480. But I wasn't into photography then.

A Kodak p&s that was maybe 1.8mp. It might have been the 2.2, though. That was actually a pretty decent p&s, IMO; nice color.

A Fuji 602z; that was one really nice camera, 3.8mp with internal software extrapolation to 5mp. It shot RAW. It shot 5 frames per second, and had very little shutter lag. Nice lens, 6x zoom. It took really nice pictures, but had trouble making red red; it was more like an orange-red. But it was a nice camera. Note here; I got my first "big gig", a 1G microdrive, for somewhere north of... $200! I still have it. I figure to use it if I've filled up all my 4G and 8G and 2G cards, and still need more photos.

A Nikon P5000. The bad thing about the Fuji was that it was really big. I wanted a camera that I could take to Disney but not have to put in a locker to go on the coasters and other rides. I really like this little camera, and still use it to this day. It has decent autofocus capability in low light, and takes nice food pictures, and the D-Lighting function is really good for the tyoes of shots it takes.

The G9. This was because I wanted to get into real photography but didn't want to foot the freight for a DSLR, and I was still hung up on size. I got the G9 as an open box, with under 200 clicks, at Best Buy for $299. This is the camera I take on vacations. And no, I don't use Av, or Tv, or M. I use either full auto or P. I concentrate on getting a good composition and let the camera do the rest.

The 40D. I got this to learn about real photography. After a year, I'd say I have the equivalent of a primary education. I can take decent pictures if I have enough time to think about them and compose them. I find I don't really burn to take photographs, though. I just like to take snapshots with a 40D!

Too much gear and not enough brains

Cream of the Crop
14,685 posts
Likes: 27
Joined Dec 2006
Jul 10, 2009 20:38 |  #8

timmyeatchips wrote in post #8259230 (external link)
Wow the 20D and 30D were really the same resolution? Blimey imagine how many morons would run screaming to Nikon if that happened these days =)

Not only that, they have exactly the same sensor. There is a marked difference between the cameras, though. "Upgrade" does not have to mean "more pixels."

Cream of the Crop
6,148 posts
Likes: 7
Joined Oct 2007
Location: Canada
Jul 12, 2009 00:47 |  #9

That was a great story Radtech1! The illustration really makes it interesting!

I'll start my digital journy with my "pre-hobbist" cameras. In other words, I used them to take snapshots before the photo bug got me!

early 2000s - Make/model ???
A cheap plastic thing I bought at Walmart for $25 or $50. I think it was basically a webcam and shot 640x480! Took 2xAAA batteries and had 2 digit LCD on the back to show how many pictures was left. I didn't really consider this a real camera, just something to take snaps of my old car to put on the computer.

2003 - Samsung Digimax 240- 2.1mp (bought used)
This was my first "real" digital camera. What can I say... it sucked! very slow, terrible battery life, and I didn't get many good pics with it. I sold it to my friend and hey...I think he still owes me $50 for it. Too bad it's only worth NOTHING now.

2005 - Canon S200 ELPH 2mp (bought used)
I thought this would be a nicer camera then the Samsung, and I was right. Lith-Ion batteries and faster operation made this camera much nicer to use. This is also when I discovered Canon QUALITY. At only 2mp, it took better, more natural looking pictures then my next camera the Sony. This thing is a TANK. Dropped on concrete twice (thanks to it's slippery metal finish) and only the plastic CF door broke. The second time it broke I ordered an extra door (just incase) off ebay cause it was only a few bucks.. lol. This camera has been in the glovebox of my car for about half a year, since I bought my last P&S (the SD700IS).

2007 (Christmas of 2006 actually). SONY H5 SUPERZOOM. Wow... 7.1 megapixels, holy cow! 3inch LCD, never seen that before!! 12x optical zoom with Steady Shot.. incredible! Why could *I* ever need a better camera then THIS? Okay... so the big LCD and flashy looking features won me over the Canon S3 IS.. my bad.
---start photo bug disease here--
This camera was both a curse and a blessing. with it's larger "form", multitude of buttons, and large multi-purpose lens, this made for a great beginner tool into photography. Although it wasn't alot, i learned a fair bit about photography from scratch. Had some fun in Av and Tv modes. Took some nice pictures and learned some of the fundamentals of photography. This was also the worst $500 PILE OF CRAP I ever owned! The first week i exchanged it because the shutter button (half press) didn't work properly. During the summer I was shooting a wedding (as a guest obviously) and it was starting to malfunction from the hot weather and constant usage. This camera used 2xAA batteries (hey just like my old samsung!) which was terrible!!! The flash took FOREVER to charge. this camera basically ANNOYED me into my next purchase...

2008 (Chistmas 2007 actually) - Canon Rebel XTi
FINALLY something that would not let me down!! Startup speed-instant!! Using the flash-instant! 3fps-OMG what do I need that for??? The Sony had ISO1000 but I can actually USE high ISOs on this thing!!! All was not lost for the Sony... Henry's had a "Half Back" program if you trade your camera in within the first year you get half the money towards a new camera. So $250 went towards the Xti, not bad!

2008 - Canon SD700IS. Needed a P&S that was a bit faster/better then the "outdated" S200 ELPH. I really haven't used it much but it's a nice little upgrade to the S200 anyways.

2009- Canon 30D
I had been planning on buying a second body sometime this year, either a 30D or 40d because I had shot a wedding with the XTi (it did just fine BTW) but swapping lenses during a wedding is just not viable. My wedding photographer bought a 5DmkII so he sold me the 30D.. which happened to be one of the cameras he used to shoot my wedding with! Pretty cool! I adore this camera, I find the colors are a bit more accurate then the XTi, and it's just plain nicer to use because of the controls.

Megapixel timeline:

2003- 2mp samsung digimax 240
2005- 2mp Canon S200
2007- 7mp Sony H5
2008- 10mp Canon rebel XTi
2008- 6mp Canon SD700IS
2009- 8mp Canon 30D

next.. something that is likely 12mp or 15mp.. Canon DSLR.. you can likely guess. lol

Sony A6000, 16-50PZ, 55-210, 35mm 1.8 OSS
Canon 60D, 30D
Tamron 28-75 2.8, Tamron 17-35, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 85mm 1.8

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The Evolution of Sensor Sizes - 2001 to Present - Personal Archive.
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