Does size really matter? I'm in the market for my first DSLR and read in a review that the larger the size of the pixel the less noise. They were comparing the Nikon D5000 to the Canon t1i. From what I've read, Nikon, which has the larger pixel size, but fewer overall megapixels is supposed to have less noise. Canon on the other hand, has smaller pixel size, but keeps increasing overall number of mega pixels on their sensor.
Please enlighten me before I make a camera purchase.
I'm no tecchie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's my understanding that larger pixels are capable of capturing more information with regard to highlight and shadow detail simply because there is more space on the pixel to do so. A larger number of pixels gives you more places to capture information. So the ideal situation is to have a large number of large pixels!!!! which is exactly what cameras like the Nikon D3 and D3s have. That combo also allows you to shoot in much lower light than was ever possible before, especially with film cameras. The D3 has been touted by Nikon to have the ability to shoot at an effective ISO over 100,000!!!!
Freddieg got more or less to the meat of the issue.
All things being equal meaning the same technologies used, a larger pixel will gather more light, therefore giving less noise. All things equal (lighting, noise, focal length, sensor size etc) A sensor with more pixels in the same area can capture more detail.
Not all things are equal....
You def. have to compare current gen to current gen. The technology in sensors is changing rapidly, where once micro lenses were just an imaginary concept now they are common, and do amazing things to decrease noise on the same sensor size... it will continue to change.
But within a generation of sensors the basics are as stated.
"I'm in the market for my first DSLR and read in a review that the larger the size of the pixel the less noise."
This is generally true if the two sensors being considered use the same technology. However, technology constantly evolves and unless both sensors were made by the same manufacturing methods at about the same time, the two different sensors are not likely to have exactly the same level of technology. Note, however, that every camera is a compromise of many factors, including sensor resolution, noise at various ISO values, the in-camera image processor's capabilities, etc.
When reviewing the various camera specifications, the best sources of information are tests by labs that have the ability to perform quantitative analysis (like the Popular Photography labs) rather than reviews that are based largely (or solely) on judgement. Once you have gathered the information about image resolution and noise, you then must seriously consider your own needs and desires to determine which compromise is most suited to your style. When you know what your image needs are, and you know how various cameras perform, you can make an informed decision on which camera may be best for you.
Another critical item to consider, however, is that when you purchase a DSLR you are not buying just the camera. You are investing in a camera system. Part of the criteria for picking a first DSLR is to make sure the system will support you into the future with whatever you want to do with photography.
There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. -Ansel Adams
It's also worth thinking about what kinds of photography you're likely to doing. If the bulk of your shooting will be in low light and/or at night, then it makes sense to look at the camera that can offer the best low light performance.
OTOH, if you plan to mainly shoot in daylight or with flash, then pixel size becomes less of an issue than potential resolution. More pixels means potentially bigger enlargements.
The main thing is to remember that no one camera model can "do it all." Each one focuses on near perfection of certain qualities and, to some degree, sacrifices that perfection in others.
Editing and cropping defined:
You know what to leave out, and less will often communicate more.
If it's less noise you're after, consider a full-frame FX sensor before you go to pixel size for camera body purchase criteria. There is a big difference between DX and FX-sized sensors. Research this and you are sure to have your noise concerns addressed.
I think pixel size is a little like piston engines. It is possible to get 400HP our of a 3 liter engine. Getting 400HP out of a 7 liter engine makes for a more reliable higher torque power plant.
As drag racers say, there is no substitute for cubic inches.
Sinatrafx, the size of the sensor is irrelevant. What is relevant is the size of pixels on the sensor. An APS-C sensor and a full frame sensor with the same sized pixels (which will equate to a different number of pixels) should have, essentially, the same results. Same light gathering capability, same noise characteristics, same dynamic range - all else being equal. Full frame sensors tend to exhibit better performance in these areas because for the same number of pixels, the pixels on the full frame sensor will be larger.
Oncewas, there is a tradeoff when it comes to pixel size. Smaller pixels will be better at rendering fine detail. The tradeoff is, generally, lower dynamic range and higher noise. Look, for example, at a 10MP P&S and a 10MP APS-C DSLR. The P&S will capture fine detail better but because the pixels are so small, because the light gathering capability of the pixels is so much less and because the signal from the pixels has to be boosted so much compared to the larger sensor at every ISO, the signal to noise ratio is so degraded that the P&S isn't usable over 200 ISO where the DSLR will be effective to 800 ISO and perhaps beyond.
The difference in fine detail between the two will be difficult to discern at all but full magnification and pixel peeping with a magnifier but the difference in dynamic range and noise will be easy to discern in most all situations.
In terms of which is better, you'll have to decide that based on the type of shooting you do or plan to do. If you're coming from a P&S to a DSLR, the performance will be so much superior because the size of the pixels in the DSLR are so much larger that you'll be overwhelmed by the increased image quality and the point will, for all intents and purposes, be moot.
Thanks for all the info. I'll be shooting primarily landscape and nature shots in the woods and fields. Occasionally I'll be taking pictures of my son racing his mountain bike in the woods.
Sounds like I should go with a camera with less noise, since speed isn't my main concern. I'm leaning toward the Nikon D90 now.
Thanks again. I'm sure I'll be posting soon about lens.
Some of the Fuji cameras (like the Fuji S5 digital SLR) have sensors with both small and large pixels.