Nikon D70

Ivy and box hedge

I watched a video of a photographer talking about CMOS versus CCD sensors.

CMOS stands for ‘complementary metal-oxide semiconductor.’ A CMOS sensor converts the charge from a photosensitive pixel to a voltage at the pixel site. The signal is then converted by row and column to multiple on-chip, digital-to-analog converters that can transfer voltage read-outs at high speed, with low sensitivity, and high, fixed-pattern noise.

CCD stands for ‘charged coupled device’. A CCD sensor is a silicon chip that contains an array of photosensitive sites It is an analog device and its output is immediately converted to a digital signal by an analog-to-digital converter. The voltage is then read from each site to reconstruct an image.

The bottom line is that CCDs are slower to read out, consume more energy than CMOS sensors, and are more expensive to make – but they have higher capability to send a clean signal to the card.

Nearly all digital cameras nowadays have CMOS sensors, and the advantage of them apart from any other consideration is the speed with which the signal can be taken off the sensor and stored on the card.

The faster the signal can be taken off the sensor, the faster the camera can take photos one after another. It is not uncommon now for cameras to be able to take anywhere from ten to twenty frames a second.

And a photographer might want to take many photos in rapid succession for rapidly-changing events such as gymnastics, or wildlife in motion.

CMOS sensors can transfer information of the card in one batch. In comparison, CCD sensors are read line by line, so cameras cannot read photos from the sensor to the card at the same rate. If the information is still on the sensor, the photographer cannot take the next shot until the data has been transferred.

So why the interest in CCD sensors?

Well, the photographer in the video thought the photos from CCD sensors had a certain quality, a more film-like quality than photos from CMOS sensors.

As with many things, going from there to deciding I wanted to find out for myself was a matter of money and convenience. I have Nikon lenses, so it made sense to buy a used Nikon camera with a CCD sensor.

In fact I used to have a Nikon D70, which has a CCD sensor. It was the second digital camera I owned. If I had kept it I could have begun the experiment straight away. I didn’t keep it, so I turned to eBay. The camera was very cheap. After all it only has six mega-pixels. Smartphones have twice as many pixels – albeit much smaller sensors.

Here is a list of Nikon cameras with CCD sensors

D100
D200
D40
D40x
D50
D60
D70
D80
D3000

The photo at the top of this article is a sample shot from the D70. For the technical info – I shot at 1/125th of a second at f5.6 and ISO 200 with a 35mm f1.8 lens.

I leave it to you to judge whether the photo has a quality that is somehow pleasing and more satisfying than from CMOS sensors. Of course, one swallow does not make a summer, and one photo does not describe all images. One has only to put the name of a camera into Flickr or some similar site to see how varied photos are even from the same camera. Still….

Fuji X-E3 with 27mm f2.8 lens

I bought a Fuji X-T2 long before buying the X-E3, and it makes sense to say a bit about that camera first. I remember the first proper shot I took with the X-T2. It was this photo I’ve put here of sheep in a field.

When I put the photo up on the screen I was struck by how different it looked from a shot I might have taken with a Nikon. I was in two minds about whether I liked it. In was artistic but less accurate, if I can put it that way. So why did I buy it? Like most things, I bought it on a recommendation. And I felt I needed something different because the Nikon wasn’t giving me what I wanted.

sheep at Wimpole Hall

I still have the Fuji X-T2, and I will talk about that in another article. For this article, I am now going to get to the reason I bought the X-E3.

That leads me to another camera. Before I had the X-E3, I had a Fuji X100s as a carry around camera, and I liked it a lot. I bought it as a ‘temporary’ choice while I figured out what system to go with, and I ended up using it for everything for years. I am not sure how many years, but I think it was more than six or seven years with that one camera.

The 35mm full frame equivalent lens was just right – not too wide and not too tight. And I liked the look of the images.

The only downsides were size and weight. I don’t like to expose my cameras to knocks and scrapes if I can help it, so I had a Fuji leather case, and that made the camera an easy package to carry around. But it was not that light; the camera in its case weighs 605g (21.4 oz).

And that brought me to the X-E3. It has more pixels than the X100s and it is a bit smaller. The X-E3 with the 27mm lens weighs 415g (14.6 oz). But then is has no protection against bumps and scrapes, and I ended up carrying it in a camera bag, And that completely defeated the object of a small carry around camera.

The X-E3 is too bulky to fit in a trouser pocket, and really it is too bulky to fit in a jacket pocket. The 27mm lens is a pancake lens, but there is no way it is as flat as the built-in lens on the X100s.

So, what to do? Well, that is for another article on the camera that replaced the X-E3 for a short while, and then the camera that replaced that camera. For now, what do I think of the X-E3?

Handling

It doesn’t have a dedicated ISO button, so I assigned the function to the Fn button on the top plate near the shutter button. You press the button while looking through the viewfinder and twirl the dial. It is easy to do without taking the camera from your eye.

And that gets over the only feature that is not obvious when using the camera. And yes, the X-E3 has a touchscreen, but I turned that off in settings because I don’t like touchscreens on cameras that you stick up against your eye. They are great on iPhones, but not for cameras.

Some people use a hotshoe grip, to make the camera more secure to hold, and I tried it but it obstructs part of the top plate, so I didn’t use one. It doesn’t feel like the camera is going to slip from your hand, but on the other hand it doesn’t have a deep grip. Overall, It feels OK, but not super secure, and I had a wrist strap permanently attached to the camera. Oddly – perhaps not that odd – the times I appreciated the wrist strap most was when changing SD cards. It is nice to be able to leave the camera hanging from your wrist while you put away an SD card and get out another one.

Image Quality

Because I only ever used the 27mm f2.8 lens on it, I can only comment on that combination, and the image quality is spectacular. This photo of ivy leaves is a crop of about one third of the frame.