Sunday, November 23, 2008

State Of The Art - From 1998!

I've been going through some of the photo equipment of David Levine, who's widow Elinor asked me to find a home. One of the interesting pieces was "David's first digital camera", a 10-year-old Sony Mavica MVC-FD91. I haven't a clue when it was last used, but David, ever the organized one, had charger and manual with the camera so I charged up the battery and it works fine!

The camera seems big and clunky, but has a 14X optical zoom, quite a long variation, and it also has what must have been one of the first image stabilization systems. The size of the camera is determined by the media size used, which is a 3.5" floppy. Those in the know realize that they only hold 1.4MB, but the sensor size is a whopping .8MB so with JPEG compression you can get up to 8 "high res" images per disk, and up to 40 for "standard" resolution. David evidently moved on to something else pretty quickly (cameras were evolving rapidly, as now), because the first test exposure I took was #197 (files have an internal number system). Compare that to the 3200 photos I've taken with my XSi since June, and the 9100 with my 20Da in 3 years... The camera also has a reasonable 2.5" screen, though no optical viewfinder - it has a smaller digital display when looking through the eyepiece viewfinder. Though physically larger, it weighs very slightly less than the XSi with a 5X zoom.

So how does it's performance compare to this year's model (the Canon XSi). In 10 years the Sony's .8 megapixels (1024X768 pixels) moved up to the Canon's 12.2 (4272X2848). I would expect a much better image, but where would the separation occur? I took a test image from the same location for both cameras, in the center of the zoom range of each, in program mode (auto exposure), in the finest JPEG setting on each. The results were quite comparable - though the Mavica shot (right)has a little lens flare from shooting up sun, the background is sharper because of the shorter focal length lens' (for the smaller sensor) greater depth of focus. Also, any differences would be impossible to see at this scale, because as a matter of course, I reduce the images on this blog to 1000 pixels wide, effectively reducing the resolution of the full Canon image by about 16 while keeping the full resolution of the Sony Mavica.

So it is not until you zoom in onto a small section of the image that the differences appear. Now you still see down to the limit of the pixels with the Canon (left photo) while you can clearly see fuzziness from lack of pixels of the Mavica sensor. Still, limiting yourself to hand prints, the Mavica would still be a perfectly functional camera, if restricting yourself to daytime shots (longest exposure is 1/60 second). Checking around they are still available for $35-$100. Would I advise getting one - likely not, as the 3.5" floppy readers are not generally available. I had to turn on my desktop for the first time in 6 months to read the images off the camera and the situation will not improve in a few more years! Still, it is fun to use somewhat dated equipment - when was the last time you shot film?!

1 comment:

Tuguldur said...

wuoooouw! you should keep that thing further, and sell it later!