Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Nikon speculation - Global Electronic Shutter time?

Even before their new toy is launched specualtion begins on what is next.

I don't think we are going to see quite the same pace of new product launches that we have been used to in the past. What changes we do see are likely to be directed at cost and weight reduction rather than more meaningless megapixels.

But one change we could see is the replacement of the legacy mechanical shutter system with an electronic version. This has many advantages in budget models:

  • Cost - the shutter is the last major mechanical component in the camera. Dispense with the shutter and the camera can be made cheaper.
  • Video performance - the DSLR wobble is due to the way that the imaging chip is being read out. A global electronic shutter eliminates that problem.
  • Weight - Although the shutter itself is very light, the mechanical support required adds weight and requires space which constrains other components.
  • Cleaning - remove the shutter and you can seal the imaging chip completely with an easy to clean transparent shield.

The downside of an electronic shutter is that it takes up some pixel imaging space that is going to effectively reduce ISO performance somewhat. I am not sure we will see it on the pro-end cameras at first, but there are a few advantages there

  • Space - the space saved means it would be possible to fit a full frame viewfinder and electronic cleaning at the same time.
  • Electronic flash sync at all every shutter speed.
  • Even higher shutter speeds.
  • Noise - turn on live view and the camera becomes totally silent.
  • Make infrared photography possible with a stock body by simply changing the sensor filter.

The last would be fun. There are already several folk who will modify a camera for infrared use. But it is somewhat involved and cannot be reversed easily. Making the filter user swappable would make this area much more accessible.

I doubt we will see it on a budget model. But we might see it on a pro-model.

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