'Digital only' lenses - are they a good investment


Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 14:31
The growing range of 'digital only' lenses makes me wonder, are they really a good investment ?

The current plethora of digital SLR bodies mostly have APS sized sensors, IE: smaller than 35mm full frame which has spawned a range of lenses to suit this reduced size, but these lenses exhibit vignetting and possibly other issues when switched to a full frame body.

Personally, I don't think it'll be many years before sensor technology has matured enough to allow good quality 35mm Digital sensors to be the 'norm'.

If you draw a parallel with the growth of CPU speed in a PC, the first commercially available being a lowly 4.77MHz in the IBM PC back in the early 80's (yes, sadly I remember them, and that's Megahertz, not Gigahertz) to the 4GHz approx. that we have today, this represents a 1000 fold improvement in around 25 years.

So, the maths is not difficult, the demand for better digital cameras will probably drive the development of the sensors at an ever increasing rate, possibly making APS sized sensors, and hence the so called 'digital only' lenses, out of date in next to no time.

I'm aware that other factors contribute to the 'digital only' label, like additional coatings etc. but it worries me that an investment made now might not be an investment at all, more a waste of money.

This all occured to me because I'm thinking of shelling out the housekeeping money on a SMC Pentax 16-45mm DA lens. Should I, or shouldn't I, and who's offering the best deals at the moment (and has one in stock)?

Lastly, when you all decide to offload your 'digital only' Pentax lenses on ebay, please let me know
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Daniel Bridge

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 21:14
Well, I hope they're a good investment, 'cos I just got one (Park Cameras, in stock at 299.99 + 6.99 P&P). I know what you mean though, but as the new Pentax is shown with a 16-45, hopefully we're going to be 'stuck' with the smaller sensors for a while yet.

I bet Canon users are more worried, as the 5D is full frame, and that's at the 'mid-range' price point - so it's far more likely that the next budget models from them will use the bigger sensor.

I would say that it's advantageous to Pentax to stick with the smaller sensor - there are more than enough 35mm lenses out there to mean that if they produced a camera with the larger sensor, no-one would feel the need to buy any new lenses. Smaller sensors guarantee that the likes of you and me go out and make further purchases, to give us the proper wide-angles again.

And of course, it means that we can get 'longer' lenses in a more compact form, which we like!

Just don't blame me if you get the lens, and then they announce the 'D2' is full frame

Dan

Joshua Hakin

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 21:46
I wondered about this too before I got into digital. But it appears as though Pentax is investing a lot into the DA lenses, so there's no need to worry about being abandoned in a useless lens format.
So with this development in DA lenses it tells me that Pentax doesn't consider 35mm full-frame digital to be top priority, nor will it ever be!
I'm sure they are currently concerned about how to make APS sensor quality equal to 35mm sensor quality, THAT'S where the technology is going! This means the continued use of smaller lighter lenses, which is a much more tasty feature than simply having a bulky 35mm sensor and bigger lenses.

Technological advancement through history was always: smaller, faster, better quality... so, there's no need to step back to the 35mm size... they're gonna work on better quality in APS and try to overcome the troubles of high rez - small size. 35mm digital is a waste of time if all you're after is trying to avoid buying a new-wide angle lens! ... it's a little silly too!
Are people more determined to spend 4000 to 5000 on a full frame so they wont need a new wideangle, than spend 1000 TOPS on a great wide angle lens for their aps DSLR?? (conversely, it's also cheaper to buy a wideangle than to invest in a 750mm if you catch my drift )
The few advantages of a digital 35mm full frame will soon be overcome by APS sensors increasing quality.
You can quote me on this.

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:09
Daniel Bridge wrote:
if they produced a camera with the larger sensor, no-one would feel the need to buy any new lenses.
Dan


Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:12
Oops.

Daniel Bridge wrote:
if they produced a camera with the larger sensor, no-one would feel the need to buy any new lenses.
Dan

Excellent point and one which had not occured to me.

I'm not actually sure who drives who in the digital imaging game. Is it the sensor manufacturers who decide what will be available to camera manufacturers, or do the camera manufacturers tell the sensor bods what they want/need?
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:24
Joshua Hakin wrote:
Pentax is investing a lot into the DA lenses, so there's no need to worry about being abandoned in a useless lens format.

Pentax doesn't consider 35mm full-frame digital to be top priority, nor will it ever be!

I'm half inclined to agree with your first point quoted above but I think your second statement is a tad shortsighted . . . unless you know something that Joe Public (me) doesn't.

To say now that 35mm full frame digital will never be top priority to Pentax is like Bill Gates saying all those years ago that "nobody would ever need more than 640Kb of memory in their PC." (or something similar). OK, he got very rich after that so it wasn't such a big gaff after all.

If the Canon and Nikon camps decide to abandon APS sized sensors in favour of 35mm full frame, I'm pretty certain Pentax will do the same . . .
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Joshua Hakin

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:32
Mannesty wrote:
To say now that 35mm full frame digital will never be top priority to Pentax is like Bill Gates saying all those years ago that "nobody would ever need more than 640Kb of memory in their PC."

Perfect analogy!
Computers are getting smaller! The small computers of today have exceeded the large computers years ago!

So, if APS can match... sometime down the road... the quality of 35mm sensors, then what's the point of being bigger as far as millimeters are concerned?

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:37
Good point. I personally would see no need to switch sensor size if the output quality of the APS sensor improves, as I'm sure it will in time.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Joshua Hakin

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:49
Check out this article:
http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/22468.html?cprose=daily

Great info here!
A couple comments made:
"Canon and Nikon have proven that you can get excellent, perfectly usable images from an APS-sized sensor, and with Canon smartly addressing the lens selection question, the drive toward full-frame seems far less pressing.
Ben Long

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 22:49
Joshua Hakin wrote:
Computers are getting smaller! The small computers of today have exceeded the large computers years ago!

And another thing . . . did you ever consider that with each new increase in HDD capacity and reduction in its physical size . . . you would ever need more storage space? That's what I (and many others) thought . . . about a 10Mb drive (yes, 10Mb, not Gb). Now that was shortsighted.

That point comes into play when, in years to come, we have 20Mb, 50Mb, 100Mb etc. APS sensors. Lets hope disk technology continues to move as fast, else we will not have anywhere to keep our treasured pics.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Mannesty

Link Posted 08/04/2006 - 23:11
Joshua,

Interesting article which in many ways answers my questions (allays my fears more like).

I think the last paragraph of the article has helped me come to a decision, I'll go for the 16-45 DA and I just hope I can get more than a fiver for it on ebay in a few years.

Thanks for all your interesting comments.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Flink

Link Posted 09/04/2006 - 00:38
I would surely buy it off your hands for more than a fiver! Current APS sensor quality and image size are at a good compromise for me now; I'm quite happy with my DS! I don't think I'll need any more than this for quite some time...

George Lazarette

Link Posted 09/04/2006 - 00:51
The sensor is just film in a new guise. 150 years ago, film came in huge sheets. Around 100 years ago, Kodak introduced the "minature" 120 or 126 size (I forget which), and everybody flocked to the new, smaller, lighter, cheaper, format.

Then Oscar Barnack had the idea of using cine film for an even smaller film format, and 35mm still cameras were born.

The quality was much worse than 120, but the convenience of the smaller format outweighed the lower quality.

As time went on, better film technology allowed 35mm to make inroads into even professional niches like fashion.

By about 1970, film technology had got to the point where further development yielded little improvement, and cameras stopped getting smaller (formats such as 110 and APS failed because the smaller sizes resulted in unacceptably lower quality).

Now that digital has arrived, we find that the most popular cameras are smaller again. In fact, some are too small to allow for any manual controls.

So the whole history of photography has been about better film/sensor quality permitting a reduction in the size, weight, and cost of cameras. This trend will continue until cameras become so small that any further reduction will result in them being too small to use conveniently.

Rather than aiming for 35mm sized sensors, my bet is that camera makers will reduce sensor size as soon as quality permits.

I can see a situation in a few years time where Pentax bring out a 4mm DM wide-angle to provide a wide view on its new half-APS sensor, fitted into a body with speech control which will be virtually invisible behind its huge K-mount.

I don't think there is a hope in hell of a Pentax 35mm-sized sensor, and I wouldn't buy it if there was one. I have never needed or wanted 6x6 or 6x7 in the past, and I won't want or need 35mm in the future.

Almost all the FA lenses have been discontinued, and next year I have no doubt that new long DA primes (perhaps 300mm and 500mm) will be announced. That will more or less complete the lens line-up, which is beginning to look pretty impressive (provided the 31mm and 77mm FA Limiteds continue in production).

And finally, a year ago there were three companies making 35mm-sized DSLRs. Now there is one, and Nikon shows no sign of producing a body with a larger sensor than APS. That looks like a trend to me.

G
Keywords: Charming, polite, and generally agreeable.

photo*ist

Link Posted 09/04/2006 - 07:07
Have you seen the Pentax DA roadmap at this site?
http://www.digital.pentax.co.jp/en/lens/roadmap.pdf

Mannesty

Link Posted 09/04/2006 - 07:49
George,

Thanks for the history lesson. That magnesium flash powder was a real so 'n so though.

I remember 10 X 8 plate cameras well. I used a Gandolfi monorail camera back in my City & Guilds night school days, a beautiful wooden camera.

The concensus so far then is that APS sized sensors are here to stay for the foreseeable future, for the likes of most of us anyway. I'm sure the pro's armed with their 1DS Mk II's et al will continue to believe they need the larger 35mm format for their work.

When then, do you think the lens manufacturers will start to re-label their lenses with the correct focal lengths for it's intended body. It's not a huge issue now but why are they labelling the 16-45 for instance as a 16-45, when for the body it is intended to be used on, it becomes a 24-70mm'ish lens. That's always puzzled me.

I suppose the imminent arrival of the 645D will satisfy the larger format users lust for a digital body and I can see that Pentax probably will not bother producing a third range that fits between the APS and 645D, which I believe is going to be slightly larger than 35mm but not as big as 6 X 4.5, sized sensors.

Looking at the lens roadmap (thanks to photo*ist) when the 70MM DA Limited lens is in production I guess the 77mm FA will no longer be needed, existing owners and 35mm users excepted.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream
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