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Old October 10th, 2006, 09:56 PM   #1
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Expensive CCDs are totally bogus, Dude!

Okay, seriously, I'm getting irritated that camera manufacturers haven't made any progress in imager quality/size in the past several years. I don't understand why increasing the imager by one size more than quadruples the cost of a camera. I like small format cameras, but the small size of the imager is again starting to be a problem now that these tiny chips are being cut up into so many pieces for HD.

Here is why it is bogus:

I just bought a digital camera with a 1/1.7" CCD which is larger than a 1/2" CCD and the whole package cost $300 including a gigabyte of memory. The low-light sensitivity is similar to the VX2000 I recently sold. While I agree that the video quality is nowhere near the same, some of that is due to the extreme compression. If we start at $300 for the cost of a 1/2" CCD, it should cost well under a thousand dollars extra to upgrade a 1/3" came to 1/2". These chips are being created in vast quantities for low dollars and this is nothing new.

I can only conclude that the video camera manufacturers are artificially fixing prices into four brackets centered around ~1/4", 1/3", 1/2" and 2/3" chips. I don't understand why less-expensive small form-factor cameras can not be outfitted with larger chips except for all the companies agreeing not to compete in an area where serious image quality enhancements would be seen.

I'm excited about the new cameras coming about, but I think it is nonsensical to forbid smaller cameras to have decent-sized imagers.

Thanks for letting me vent.
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Old October 10th, 2006, 10:22 PM   #2
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Oh boy... I dont, for the life of me, understand why electronics get this rap and not every other product! Why does a Rolex cost more than a Timex? They are the same size, both tell time the same. Why does a Porsche cost more than a Ford Festiva? Both are made from metal, plastic and rubber. Even among the same brands there are different "luxury" options. You want power windows but not power locks...just wont happen. Not only do the imaging chips cost much more than you estimate, they inherently attract more pros who want more pro options, most higher end professionals are not looking for camcorder form factor.

What people do not understand is that on a quality range from 0-100, getting above 50 it pretty cheap, getting it to 80 can still be affordable, getting it to 90 it becomes "prosumer" but that last 10 may require TEN TIMES the R&D, TEN TIMES the manufacturing costs, etc.

There is no camera selling for more than it's worth... period endstop. If it really wasnt WORTH it to at least some people, it would not sell at all. There are now 12 megapixel cameras on eBay for $79 with 1/2" CMOS imagers... you think those are as good as a Canon DSLR??



ash =o)

Last edited by Ash Greyson; October 10th, 2006 at 11:02 PM.
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Old October 10th, 2006, 10:28 PM   #3
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Old October 10th, 2006, 11:18 PM   #4
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Talk to the people at RED. They started with the same idea of developing a cheap large chip camera- a 35mm size chip.... Last time I looked, the camera without lens was around 17K, and lenses were pushing to 5 to 10 k.
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Old October 10th, 2006, 11:31 PM   #5
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Having come from the semiconductor industry, I can tell you that it is easier to put a given number of pixels (or transistors) on a larger piece of silicon. The process tolerances are much more difficult to maintain with higher density devices such as smaller CCD's.

So it may be true that the actual CCD's are cheaper to manufacture, but it's the rest of the camera they build around it that costs more. Even the lenses are easier to manufacture for larger sensors.

There is a premium to be paid for the resultant quality that you get from the camera.


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Old October 11th, 2006, 03:46 AM   #6
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Okay, I get what you all are saying. I thought of those things and I understand there are many factors that bring up the cost of a camera. I think the combined factors should determine the price and not that:

1/4" CCD cameras cost under $1500.

1/3" cameras cost between $2000 and $9000.

1/2" models are $10k-25,000

2/3" will cost you $25k-100,000.

There seems to be no overlap due to other features even though the other factors are what brings up the cost to manufacture. The imager chip size seems to be the all-inclusive factor of price. I think I miss my VX2000 and, although they are nice cameras, I wish the new HDV cameras had decent low-light capabilities. Lower light capability means less power needs on set and that adds up to an easier and cheaper shoot when going on location.

I guess I just need a bigger crew and more $$$...
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Old October 11th, 2006, 05:55 AM   #7
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There is a premium to be paid for the resultant quality that you get from the camera.
So in other words we are paying for the priviledge of using them rather than the technology.

The big question is what will happen once Red is released. Forget the form factor of that camera. In terms of sensor technology there will have to be some changes because people will ask why the Red sensor performs as it does for much less cost to buy than most 2/3" cameras. Whether Sony and Panasonic like it or not they will have to answer such questions.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 07:48 AM   #8
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in fact he is partially right.
There are some products that are linked to a form factor (like CD-R for example).
Then everybody must build the product on same specs. Then you can compare price, and then prices go low automatically.
just imagine that everybody agrees to use the same CCD size (let say 1/2).
Then production would go better, price levelled and lower and you could compare. Ok there still will be a gold plated camera with many options that will cost 10x the cheapest plastic model, but at least, it would not be due to the sensor.
Look at the LCD or PLASMA screens, despite the wide range of producer, many different sizes, prices does not vary so much.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 08:02 AM   #9
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"Talk to the people at RED. They started with the same idea of developing a cheap large chip camera- a 35mm size chip.... Last time I looked, the camera without lens was around 17K, and lenses were pushing to 5 to 10 k."

I think for a camera that meets their targets, that is still cheap. If it is anywhere close to it's claims/goals, it will be competing with $50,000 models.

I'm not trying to start a flame war. I'm only trying to get camera users and producers to stop having low expectations of imaging devices that are not based in the facts. The facts are that fairly large CCDs that have decent quality and light sensitivity are being produced cheaply. Putting smaller chips in prosumer cameras should barely lower their production costs so I don't understand why they still insist on keeping with these standards now that they are not really relevant.

I really think that an HDV equivalent to the PD170 with the same light sensitivity (for more portable lighting rigs) would make tons of money for Sony.

That said, I am probably going to get the new V1 as I put exposure latitude up there right next to light sensitivity as a desireable characteristic.

EDIT: I just checked prices on some ENG-style >1/3" cameras and they are not as expensive as I talked about. I guess prices have fallen in the mid-range field.

Last edited by Marcus Marchesseault; October 11th, 2006 at 09:06 AM.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 08:59 AM   #10
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Also keep in mind that not all CCDs are created equal. CCDs used in scientific cameras (for microscopes and telescopes) have a fairly substantial range in quantum efficiencies as price goes up, ranging from 20% to 80%, giving a 4x increase in sensitivity. Part of that increase comes from cooling (which is noisy and consequently prohibitive for videography), but part also comes from more sophisticated chips, lower tolerances, and improved gain circuitry. So don't assume that the CCD going into a $300 point-and-shoot still camera is equivalent to the CCD(s) going into a $5000 prosumer video camera.

Case-in-point: The VX2100/PD170 is considered to be at least three-times more sensitive than other 3-CCD 1/3rd inch SD camcorders. There are a lot of variables that help its sensitivity, but I think better CCDs have to account for some of it.

That said, I wish the V1 had bigger chips. Or maybe submerging the camera in liquid nitrogen would quiet the noise in the +36 dB gain mode enough to compensate....
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Old October 11th, 2006, 07:47 PM   #11
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Read somewhere that we could expect that an NAB 2007 in successor to Z1
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Old October 11th, 2006, 08:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
Read somewhere that we could expect that an NAB 2007 in successor to Z1
What, more sensitivity or stylish portable nitrogen tanks? :)
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Old October 11th, 2006, 09:30 PM   #13
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I'm damn tired of waiting for Sony to get on the ball! I'm heading out to get some liquid Helium!

I expect to see cameras with quantum DSP chips with photon wave-guide interconnects by NAB 2007.

I guess the advice I have heard repeated around here to buy a camera that does what you want right now is the path to follow. I can't get everything I want now, but maybe it will happen on my next cam. Until then, I have a movie to make! :)

Again, thanks for letting me vent and also for setting me back on track.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 10:06 PM   #14
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For some reason people forget that products are not priced to cost, but usually to market. The concept of cost plus rarely applies to high tech products
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Old October 12th, 2006, 04:12 AM   #15
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As I heard an Intel guy once say "The first chip off a production line costs you $25,000,000. The second one costs a nickel."
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