Transit and Trails Adventure through the East Bay – size does matter

Sensor photo by Andrew Magill

Gear Talk

Sensor size does matter.

This is probably the most important but least uttered pair of words for the average camera consumer.  The devil’s in the details right.  Yes, and by the way, those details don’t get any better if you’re collecting light (a photographic image) at 10.1 MP or 14.1 MP or 39.1 MP on a 7.6 X 5.7 mm sensor typical of most compact cameras.  Yup, that Nikon Coolpix 8000X you just paid double for (because it now has 14.2 MP) is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  Get this – the sensor is only about 5 x 3.5 millimeters. Yup, that’s the size of  pluto on a clear night.  Tiny.

Do yourself a big favor, if you’re interested in a new camera, then read thisRead it again in case you skipped it.  [Yes, that was the same link twice, but I was always taught to ask twice.]

14.2 megapixels of resolution on a sensor that’s 5 mm on its long size is no beuno.  Save your $400 and get a used Canon XS DSLR from Craiglist (or save another $100 and get it from numerous stores).  Guess what – it’s almost the same price, but only 10 MP.  Seems like the Canon’s a ripoff right – yeah, until you learn the Canon Xs sensor is roughly TEN TIMES THE SIZE of the Compact Nikon!  [Didn’t you look at this link?] Now guess what that means in terms of resolution on a 10 MP picture – yup – it’s about 10 times better, and if not ten, at least 5.  The benefits of the DSLR extend much beyond just the sensor, of course.

The Transit and Trails Ride

So, this said, I enjoy using compacts for so many types of events.  Like biking, for instance.  Yesterday, Dan Dedrick (fellow photographer/bike rider) and I were thankful for both public transit and two sets of healthy legs that took us from Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre to Inspiration Point, then San Pablo Dam, north of Briones Park, finishing at Pleasant Hill BART.  These were 40 chilly miles.  We’re celebrating the Transit and Trails organization.  I couldn’t image a better way to start off Thanksgiving.  Here’s our photo log: LN – my photos taken with an Android Incredible phone and DD – Dan’s photos taken with a Canon 10.2 MP Powershot ELPH.  Not bad for the little guys!

TnT Ride starting at Lake Merritt/Grand Lake Theatre (DD)

Long morning shadows while riding up Tunnel (DD)

New bikeway signs on Oakland roads! (LN)

View of Oakland from Old Tunnel road (DD)

Oakland, SF and beyond (LN)

Dedication bench at Inspiration Point, Tilden Park (LN)

Biking along Alhambra Valley Road, near Briones Park (DD)

Awaiting BART at Pleasant Hill, taken via "Retro Camera" (LN)

Conclusions (Gear)

I love the Canon ELPH powershots.  They are fantastic compacts.  Hands down, my favorite.  I’ve owned 2 of them over the past 4 years and they both still crank out great shots.  ELPH’s are reliable, durable, and have great image quality.

Now the Android phone was also a pleasant surprise.  The high resolution photos were pretty good.  I believe these small sensor cameras are actually pretty good when there is alot of available light (read: outside, in the sun). It’s when you get away from optimal light that they get noisy.  In fact, the “Retro Camera” program worked really well with the slightly hazy/digitally oversharpened photos that come out of the phone.  I wouldn’t exactly print large and hang one of these on my wall, but they sure do look nice on a blog. Here’s a parting shot from the Retro Cam, reminding you to connect with the ones you love.  Happy Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful for all the good we have!

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