On Moore’s Law and Camera Size

Don’t get me wrong, am an admirer and fervent user of these compact new system cameras that are technological proof of Moore’s law, the law that says the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years in a computer. And with cameras becoming, in fact, more and more computerized, one of the most noticeable effects of Moore’s law are faster, more powerful and, of course, smaller cameras. But it’s high time that camera makers rethink the miniaturization trend. It’s getting difficult to properly hold those things! Instead of shrinking those bodies even more, dear camera makers give us a reasonable size and cram useful stuff into it, such as extended battery life, more processing power and, of course, better grip.

Our society’s slimming craze doesn’t stop at camera design. Just picked up a Fujifilm X-T1. Marvel of a camera. Fast, well built, with the dials and controls one needs. The camera’s a lightweight and size-wise, well, borderline. Perfect, if you ask me. But once cameras get even smaller they definitely become toys.

With the X-T1 Fujifilm clearly aims at the Olympus OM-D E-M1‘s style and size. The former Fujifilm X lineup with classic linear shapes was more Leica-like. Not that the X-T1 is an E-M1 clone, but its latest X camera is even slightly larger than the X-E2, Fujifilm’s former flagship:

Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Olympus OM-D E-M1 | camerasize.com
Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Olympus OM-D E-M1 | camerasize.com
Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Fujifilm X-E2 | camerasize.com
Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Fujifilm X-E2 | camerasize.com

Looks like it has finally dawned on camera makers that too much compactness isn’t the strategy to pursue. Not that I have big hands, they’re actually smaller than my 15-year-old son’s. But a camera needs a certain size and weight to be comfortable to work with. Now don’t call me the devil’s advocate for the sake of this short rant’s argument. But yes, the enviously laughed off Nikon Df, that’s a size and weight I can peacefully live with:

Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Nikon Df | camerasize.com
Fujifilm X-T1 vs. Nikon Df | camerasize.com

The Nikon looks like a monster beside the Fujifilm. Things aren’t always what they seem — which in fact is one of the reasons why DSLRs still hold their ground. Mirrorless, compactness and innovation, that’s all well and good, but DSLR have their size and form factor for a reason.

Moore’s law would allow for even smaller cameras with the nearly power of a DSLR under the hood. As the megapixels race has come to a halt, thank goodness so does the miniaturization race.

Or does it?

Here’s DigitalRev‘s unmistakable Kai look at the Sony A7 and Canon 5D Mark III and ponder whether full-frame mirrorless, with the Sony A7 and A7R, is making full-frame DSLRs pointless:

These days most cameras are decent performers. In the end the question whether you should buy a full-frame mirrorless or DSLR is a lot about size. The 5D has lots of it. Mirrorless competitors, on the other hand, could benefit from gaining a bit in size and weight. Don’t you want to “feel” the camera?

  • Bengt Nyman

    In regards to the DigitalRev/Kai video: Why even re-publish this kind of crap ?!

  • David Holliday

    My Nikon DF arrived last week and I also have the Fuji X100 S and the XE1. I enjoyed the x10 too. I do not find the DF to big with just a 50mm 1.4 d on it. The grip is amazing I can carry it on a photo walk with ease.I do not know why this camera has been knocked so much on the web and forums. I am sure the XT1 is also an amazing camera but I will stay with the Leica shape as in XE1 XE2 for the mirror-less cameras and the a real DSLR for the DSLR shape. The X100S does feel small now.

  • “Don’t you want to “feel” the camera?” – yes, but I also want to get it and all its lenses on a plane in a carry-on bag, fly with it half way around the world, and not made to feel like some kind of criminal. Incidentally, I saw an X-T1 for the first time today…next to a Nikon D3100 DSLR (I think) … they’re almost exactly the same size. Personally I think manufacturers are dancing around the ideal form factor but not quite getting there. I’m not so taken with retro for retro’s sake – I just want a high quality, compact system with excellent lenses and handling. And I’d rather some forward thinking in the handling department than retro. Seems to me that Olympus & Sony are the best bets, but neither are quite there yet.

  • I thought it was quite funny… especially the “good for sports” bit.

  • There you go David, of course glass is an all-important, determining factor. Add the shooting style and requirements. I’m pretty happy with the larger sensors’ more limited depth of field. Mostly avoiding zooms, that already keeps down size substantially. I couldn’t care less about the superficiality of a retro look. Still, the Df gets it mostly right. Add some fine prime glass and the bag to travel the world is only a bit larger.

  • Andy Umbo

    BTW, lot’s of people LOVE Kai, and love to watch his videos. A buddy sends me the ones he thinks I’ll like all the time. He’s got a lot of fans…

  • Bengt Nyman

    He’s a clown. Children love him.

  • Bengt Nyman

    About camera size.
    Make the camera as small as possible, add a universal grip mount and offer a range of optional grips for hands from 6 to 12.