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1 Inch Sensor Camera Guide

Updated on June 15, 2014

Large sensor unlocks better image quality

I have been waiting a long time for the camera market to wake up and offer mainstream gear with 1 inch sensors. Not long ago, the number of pixels you could squeeze in was the main selling point. While the megapixel race offered a lot of bragging points, it actually lowered image quality in most cases.

Times change though and buyers are now calling for image quality improvements.

It took a while for the market to step up, but then the race was on for more detail, better colors, and sharper rendition made possible with larger imaging areas. This trend has finally resulted in a tech jump that has quickly taken us from decent to great in the bridge and pocket camera category.

I've put stars on those I personally rate highest, but all large sensor builds offer a lot more IQ than earlier generations of zooms and compacts.

I really like this one. It is small, capable, allows you to switch lenses and has a flip-screen that makes selfies and macro shots a breeze. There are 2 Samsung lenses available from launch (with more to come), a prime which offers a wideangle view, and short zoom that covers a 24 - 73 range. Although the zoom offers more versatility the short prime is really, really small (half an inch thick and just 1 oz) and as every prime ought to deliver just a bit better IQ. Having a wide prime isn't for everyone but it is what most people used once upon a time, and my personal preference.

Samsung NX Mini 20.5MP CMOS Smart WiFi & NFC Mirrorless Digital Camera with 9mm Lens and 3" Flip Up LCD Touch Screen (Mint Green)
Samsung NX Mini 20.5MP CMOS Smart WiFi & NFC Mirrorless Digital Camera with 9mm Lens and 3" Flip Up LCD Touch Screen (Mint Green)

The best selfie camera? The NX mini is more than that and is a very capable pocket camera that also offers the ability to change lenses. Samsung is good at seeing where the trend goes and people now want better image quality, as well as ease of use. The Mini satisfies these requirements in a very small and friendly design that comes in several colors.

 
iPhone 5 - small sensor
iPhone 5 - small sensor

Why the trend is moving towards bigger sensors.

Phone for dreamy snaps. Camera for accurate memories.

If you pack the pixels too tight you get all sorts of effects that are not positive in the best interest of image purity. iPhone 5 for example takes marvelous photos, but try to blow them up and hang them on a wall and you might regret not having used a proper camera.

There are two critical problems with jamming a lot of pixels onto a small area:

1) Noise. The odd color patterns it produces are very hard to ignore and kill rendition when removed. Noise also cuts out a lot of the image detail since grouping of random colors blots out the actual color of what you shot.

2) Distortion The smaller the sensor, the wider the lens has to be to offer normal field of view. Wide lenses distort the image the in-camera software then tries to drag. twist and bend the captured data to flatten out what we finally get. all this manipulation stretches the distance between captured points of light and the result is loss of detail.

When you add 1 and 2 together, the result is a mushy blur that looks ok on FB and Instagram, but isn't anything I would recommend you to save important life moments with.

Most point and shoots, superzoom cameras and even iPhone have the small imaging area that does an ok job, but always leaves you wishing for more.

TIME FOR A CHANGE

A larger sensor captures more detail, serves a cleaner final image (due to less manipulation), and generally has more dynamic range (ability to render shades of brightness). Buyers are becoming aware of these benefits, and since their smartphones already offer the mushy, dreamy Instagram snaps,.. the demand is quickly moving to expectations of better image quality.

Luckily, the new one-inch cameras are already here!

Two generations of Sony RX100 - It keeps getting better

Sony hit all the right bases with their rx100 series which many consider to be the best point and shoot camera you can buy.

Sony RX100 II 20.2 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/ 1-inch sensor, MI (Multi-Interface) shoe and tilt LCD screen (DSCRX100M2/B)
Sony RX100 II 20.2 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/ 1-inch sensor, MI (Multi-Interface) shoe and tilt LCD screen (DSCRX100M2/B)

Offers excellent results with 20 megapixels set on a larger area than everyday point and shoots. This version has a 28 - 100mm lens that starts out as a bright f1.8. The big difference from the first generation is the addition of WiFi.

 
Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/1-inch sensor and 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 ZEISS zoom lens (DSCRX100M3/B)
Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/1-inch sensor and 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 ZEISS zoom lens (DSCRX100M3/B)

The third generation delivers what so many have asked for: a large sensor point and shoot with built-in viewfinder. The pop-up design makes the III just as pocket friendly as the earlier versions. This version has a new, even wider 24 - 70, lens with f1.8 - 2.8.

 

Camera sensor size comparison - Fact: the bigger the better.

A 1-inch sensor is more than 4 times larger than an average point and shoot compact, and even more compared to smartphone cameras.
A 1-inch sensor is more than 4 times larger than an average point and shoot compact, and even more compared to smartphone cameras.

Pansonic FZ1000 - The 1-inch Beast - The new grab-and-go that sets the standard.

Pansonic FZ1000 bridge camera
Pansonic FZ1000 bridge camera

Longer, faster, more versatile and more affordable than the competition. The Panasonic FZ1000 continues the ever popular FZ range and this time they have almost gone overboard with the features it offers. Let's tick off a few goodies:

- 1 inch large sensor

- bright lens with 25 - 400mm zoom range

- viewfinder + fully articulating screen

- WiFi + remote shooting app

- 4k video

4K video is the new and emerging standard that has previously only been available in true high-end gear and the movie industry. It lets you shoot at very quick frame rates and captures a lot more detail than other video formats. We will see more and more consumer cameras support this format but for now not many can handle the heavy loads of data that 4k imposes.

What do I think? I rate the FZ1000 as the best and most complete bridge camera you can buy. The only downside is that it's so new you will have a hard time getting your hands on one.

There are a lot of features that make it great but I particularly like the every-angle flipscreen (fold, flip and turn), the fact that it supports remote shooting (great for macro bugs), the 12 fps drive, the panorama mode and, it has a time-lapse mode!

Sony RX10 with Zeiss lens - Stylish design with great performance

Sony RX 10 large sensor camera
Sony RX 10 large sensor camera

This is a new generation bridge camera with a 24 - 200 lens and a one inch imaging core. The RX10 was the first to offer a long and fast lens in this category. The RX 10 offers the same 20 megapixels as the pocketable RX100, but a longer lens.

A bright viewfinder and a 3 inch vertically tilting screen makes it as complete a photography kit as you may need. The bright lens means that maintains a f 2.8 aperture through the range means there is a lot of glass in there and yet the whole package with batteries is just 1.8 pounds (813 g ). Wrap it all up in the clean, techy Sony design and it should come as no surprise that leading photography review sites rank it as one of the better recent cameras (dpreview gave it a 80% rating which puts it among the top rated).

One thing I like is the 11 inch close range that lets you take closeups without having to switch to a macro mode.

The RX10 is one of the better large sensor cameras with zoom you can buy. But, it comes at a hefty pricetag.

Nikon 1 series has interchangeable lenses - 1-inch mirror-less compact system

Nikon 1 V3 Digital Camera with 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm PD-Zoom Lens
Nikon 1 V3 Digital Camera with 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm PD-Zoom Lens

Brutally expensive! But the build quality is fantastic and the AF speed the best of the lot. This is the compact system camera to choose if you shoot a lot of wildlife and sport with long lenses.

 
Nikon 1 AW1 14.2 MP HD Waterproof, Shockproof Digital Camera System with AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 1 NIKKOR Lens (Silver)
Nikon 1 AW1 14.2 MP HD Waterproof, Shockproof Digital Camera System with AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 1 NIKKOR Lens (Silver)

My opinion is that when Nikon adapted their 1 series to be a rugged underwater camera - that's when the 1 series finally found its right place. It's the perfect kit for beach and reef explorations. Waterproof to 49 feet and has a built-in GPS.

 

The new era is here. - What do you think about it?

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      With the big push for people to toss their cameras in favor of iphone technology I am really happy to see some logical talk on why this is not such a good idea. I have my camera always near me and continue to use it faithfully. Until other technology can prove it is better I am not switching.

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