The Tao of Small Sensors

No idea what 'Tao' means, but my old small sensor Samsung EX1 produces brilliant results across the board when viewed on a 24 " monitor - might be a problem with life size images ?
F1.8 lens means I can shoot hand held in very dim light utilizing dual image stabilization, and I can shoot ground level or from the hip using it's articulated screen. Macro shots are brilliant..
I tend to shoot RAW but even jpegs look good.
Iv'e recently been looking at a 2006 copy of ' What Digital Camera' and the images are easily as impressive as many posted here . I would imagine those sensors would all be considered small by
today's standard.
Getting as close as possible to a large subject that still allows you to focus using the macro setting gives a very impressive 3D bokeh effect.
Small sensor? Like everyone else says... shoot RAW. And don't forget that if you decide to drop the camera into an auto mode, it will likely drop to JPG. My black shouldered kite was shot on auto everything and jpg. Don't be afraid to do some editing. GEtting it right in camera is all very well but few of us are that good. Don't be afraid to crop. DO keep the ISO as low as possible. If, like me, you hate using flash and prefer to use ambient light... dont use a small sensor camera.

I still have the EM5 for low light. I admit to the lure of the challenge, however. The Stylus is fun but also requires me to be more careful. The funny part is that if I switch back to the EM5 it's a very similar body.
Now, having said that my XZ-1 was up for sale, the fact is it didn't, so I'm using it and getting the Olympus 12-42 EZ lens to make a "compact" with the quality I crave. Meanwhile the ZX-1, like always, can do quite well. These are at base Iso and developed to tiffs from raw, fiddled with in photoshop and then saved. Then I made the jpegs. To me, at least, the results are pleasing. One is a desert rose in bloom, the other is a century plant, past bloom. - a fin de siècle, so to speak.

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The XZ-1 did finally sell, and I have another X10 on the way. And yes, I'm a bit neurotic about the quest for the small take anywhere camera.

The XZ-1 is a very nice camera, but finally the lure of the X10 was too much for me. Next to my E-M5 (which makes a very small kit with the new 14-42 EZ pancake), the X10 and the DP2 Merrill are the cameras I've most enjoyed shooting with. I'd try the Sony RX100 III, now that a viewfinder is included, but the budget won't allow it.
Small sensors can also be nice for black & white.
In general you have to be more careful with small sensors about taking your photo at the intended exposure.
But you can always make blown out highlights or blocked up shadows a part of your image...

These have all been shot with the Fuji F30 (jpgs processed with Nik/Google SilverEfex)


friendly by tilman paulin, on Flickr


heaven and hell :) by tilman paulin, on Flickr


Ouse river fishing by tilman paulin, on Flickr

To play devils advocate on the "only shoot raw" mantra... I stopped shooting raws with my Pentax MX-1 a while ago - the MX-1's jpgs are really good and still play nice with additional processing :)
I almost always shoot raw&jpeg no matter what camera I am using, but with the X10 some of the advance shooting modes that only allow jpeg produce such fine files that I don't hestitate to use them -- pro low light mode in particular.

My new X10 arrived today, and I was delighted to see it had a serial number 22xxxxx. The thing is, for me, so much darned fun to use that I'm keeping this no matter what.
Make peace with the limitations that small sensors provide, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Dynamic range, subtle colour gradation and noise characteristics will never be as good as with a larger sensor, not with current technology. But when you understand and accept this, you will be pleased with the results you can get.

Use the best small sensor camera you can acquire/afford. "Best" means the one that meets your (appropriate) standards for utility and image quality. For me, that camera is the Panasonic LX7. Even though I shoot with m43, aps-c and full frame cameras, I'm often surprised at how good the LX7's images can look in the right conditions. It's small, quiet, fast, and has a very bright wide angle lens. I used to use the Ricoh GRD III all the time, and I also have a Fuji X10, but the LX7 has taken place of primacy in that range.

Try to avoid scenes of very high contrast as the relatively lower dynamic range won't help you. Otherwise, shoot at least three bracketed exposures in RAW and use the Enfuse plugin for Lightroom to blend them. Export to TIFF, and the result is a much wider dynamic range and less noise, to boot. Many cameras have a good bracketing function, and the LX7 gives you the option for five or more bracketed exposures. Ricoh cameras allow you to adjust the EV gap between bracketed exposures, too. Try to avoid HDR with small sensor cameras as the results can look even worse than large sensor HDR images.
I am so happy to find this thread! I have been so caught up lately in trying to make sure that I have the right APS-C kit that I had forgotten how much I absolutely love shooting my X20! Even more so, I think I just might pull out the old Sony DSC-W290 which has given me some of my absolute favorite images over the past years of film and digital. Now, where is that little guy at?