September 02, 2005

The Nikon D50

Posted by Scott at 07:04 AM

Megapixel Myth - In the earliest days of digital camera evolution, one thing that really mattered was how many megapixels a camera was. Within the past year or two most cameras have easily hit the 3 megapixel range and above. And yet, the camera makers know that consumers have megapixels on the brain and so they keep pushing the numbers up but they want to keep the cost of the camera down. A significant portion of the camera cost is the imaging sensor. What many camera manufacturers have done is to make the individual sensors for each pixel smaller. That way they can fit more megapixels on less silicon. Less silicon means less cost for the camera's image sensor.

The problem is that when you make the individual pixel sensors smaller, the sensors tend to be more susceptible to noise. It's almost like having a smaller antenna — less space but less able to pick up signal. One of the thing I noticed with my 5 megapixel Nikon 5400 is that I see more noise in the image than I did with my 2 megapixel Canon ELPH I had purchased years earlier. It's especially noticeable in low light situations.

Before I had either of these cameras, I used a Nikon 35mm SLR — the one dad now uses. I purchased it when Abigail was born and really liked it. Yesterday I was reading a review of the new Nikon D50. It's an “affordable” 6 megapixel digital SLR camera. In the domain of digital SLRs “affordable” is defined as less than $1000 because until recently digital SLRs were all four figures. So no, I don't plan on buying one. For me reading the review was like the 15 year old who reads exotic car magazines.

The review had mentioned the following:

The D50 has excellent image quality. The camera’s defaults produce nicely saturated, sharp images. [...] As with most D-SLRs these days, the D50 yields images with extremely low noise, even at higher ISOs.

I decided to compare the image sensor (called the CCD) of my Nikon 5400 with the D50. Digital Photography Review had the specs for my 5400 and specs for the new D50. Compare the difference:

  • 5400's CCD: 5 megapixels at 7.2 x 5.3 mm, or ~38 sq mm
  • D50's CCD: 6 megapixels 23.7 x 15.6 mm, or ~370 sq mm

Wow! It's one megapixel higher in resolution but has nearly ten times the sensor area. No wonder the images are so low in noise, even in low light situations. The sensor array CCD chip on that camera is a monster! Speaking as someone who works in the silicon chip business, that's a big piece o' silicon in that camera. No wonder the camera is still ~$600-700 without including a lens.

So if I could conclude with one message, it's that there's more to camera buying than megapixels. Almost every camera out there has sufficient pixels to make decent 4x6s, 5x7s, and 8x10s. Don't necessarily get excited by that new 8 megapixel model. So many other factors matter now. I mentioned the sensor size above, but there's also the optics, the color balance, the speed transferring to the flash card, the shutter lag from button press to picture taken. Don't go into a store and do a pure megapixels per dollar tradeoff. It is meaningless!

2006 Civics - On a completely different thread, the new Civics are out. I've been watching for their release this past month and yesterday I got an email from Honda letting me know the new web site is live.


Scott- that link for the honda wont work for me- i really want to see it!

Posted by: Suzy at September 2, 2005 09:40 AM

I'm not sure why the link didn't work for you. I tried it on another machine in two different browsers. Both worked fine. It is primarily a Macromedia Flash presentation, but most PCs have Flash built into their browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox/Netscape/Mozilla). Perhaps try another machine. Or try the vanilla Honda site at:

and then try to find the link about the Civics.

Anyone else having troubles following the link?

Posted by: Scott at September 2, 2005 09:52 AM

PS. You might have to do a refresh/reload a few times at the main Honda automobiles site until the ad for the 2006 Civic shows up. It might also show their new Accord or their new truck or... It changes after reload events.

Posted by: Scott at September 2, 2005 09:57 AM

My work computer must be messed up- all i have to say is that they'll probably come out with some awesome colors for 2006 b/c the 2005 one's stunk

Posted by: Suzy at September 2, 2005 04:59 PM

I hear ya! When I bought my Accord, all they had were boring colors. When I bought the Odyssey, all they had were boring colors. Later when dad bought the exact same models, he got a nice red both times. And the Odyssey he bought has leather, which wasn't an option when we bought. I would have preferred leather interior for its durability amidst the things kids do (dirty feet, food spills, etc.). I asked but all they could say was "Sorry".

Posted by: Scott at September 2, 2005 05:36 PM