Why are there no digital cameras with ultra-bright integrated lenses, like f1.0, f1.2 or even f1.4?

One would think that with smaller sensors vs. film, it would be much cheaper to build an ultra bright lens. It's easy to find superzooms, 20X or 35X, but I have not been able to find a camera with a decent sized sensor and an f1.0 or f1.2 lens. There are also no EF-S lenses brighter than f2.8 I think. On the other hand, camcorders routinely have f0.95-f1.2 lenses. Does anyone know if there is a technical reason for this?

(from Ben Sherman via Quora)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Superfast lens for 35mm sensor: stevehuffphoto.com/2009/11/24/… \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2013 at 9:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where do you get this feeling that "Camcorders routinely have f0.95-f1.2 lenses."? How much are they? We are beginning to see fast lens for cameras on phones, e.g. HTC One. \$\endgroup\$
    – epoon
    May 18, 2013 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the lack of fast EF-S lenses is significant: the main advantage of EF-S lenses is the ease of making wide-angle lenses as the rear element of the lens can be closer to the sensor. A hypothetical EF-S 85mm f/1.2 (or similar) would be pretty much the same size as the existing EF 85mm f/1.2 as it's the front element which matters, not the stuff at the back. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    May 18, 2013 at 22:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I, too, was frustrated with the current offerings in compact cameras, so I gave up on them and moved to micro four-thirds. A Panasonic GF series with the 14-42mm PZ lens is scarcely bigger than a Panasonic DMC-LX7. The LX7's lens is brighter, but with MFT you have the freedom to swap in a Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 or adapt a wide-aperture lens from another system. And when you need better light gathering rather than soft bokeh, the superior MFT sensors allow that with higher ISO capability. Or, trade some compactness for an even better sensor, e.g. with the DMC-GX1. \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2013 at 23:08

3 Answers 3


I believe F1.4 is the best you can do on a compact so far:


You know from 35mm format lenses that it is hard to find those that are sharp wide open. it is hard to get all those rays of light to hit a single small dot. On a compact sensor, those dots are even smaller and you need a lot of glass to correct those rays to fit into a tight spot, making the lens design pretty expensive. Now, expensive components and compact cameras don't go hand in hand, because people who buy compacts, are usually not the type who wants an expensive camera - they go for DSLRs. So the F1.4 is pretty impressive for a 500-600E price point, but the lens does take up quite some space for a compact.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Correct. Canon used to offer a 50mm F0.95, it was fast, but soft. Even the new Canon 50mm F1.0 is much softer than the F1.2 or F1.4 \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2013 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The new Canon 50 1.0? The 50 1.2 is the successor of the Canon 50 F1.0 - made because it could be produced a bit cheaper (than the 1.0) but still has good enough optical abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shihan
    Sep 24, 2013 at 20:04

The larger the maximum aperture, the larger the lens. Therefore fitting an ultra-bright lens works against making the camera small. The size also increases in proportion to the focal-length, so the more zoom you fit in, the harder it becomes to make an ultra-bright lens can keep it compact.

There are a number of F/1.8 lenses in compact cameras but you will notice that most dim down quite a bit as they zoom in and rarely reach more than 4X optical zoom. A Fuji XF1 for example closes down to F/4.9. Notable exceptions are the Olympus XZ-1 / XZ-2, Pentax MX-1 and Panasonic LX7 which has the brightest lens on the market, an F/1.4 - 2.3, equivalent to 24-90mm.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Panasonic DMC-LX series is instructive here. The LX2's 28-112mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) had a f/2.8-4.9 aperture. The LX3 was a breakthrough model in the lens area, improving the aperture to f/2.0-2.8, but the zoom only went from 24-60mm. You can just see the designers cutting back on zoom to keep that big aperture spec. Then in the next model, the DMX-LX5, they extended the zoom to 24-90mm, but the aperture then went to f/2.0-3.3, a necessary consequence. The current LX7 has the same zoom range but they somehow achieved a f/1.4-2.3 aperture. Not sure how; the lens seems no bigger. \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2013 at 22:58

Two points:

  1. On "On the other hand, camcorders routinely have f0.95-f1.2 lenses", I simply dispute this finding. Take a skim at PL lenses available, there aren't any lens close to f1 that's economically reachable, which brings me to point 2.

  2. I refer to Erwin Puts, lens expert. In his Leica Lens Compendium, he mentioned many technical difficulties in achieving fast apertures beyond f1.4 e.g. Noctilus. The details are beyond the scope of this discussion; it suffices to say that making "ultra bright integrated lenses for digital cameras, like f1.0 f1.2" isn't feasible for consumer class small cameras (think phones). Stuffing and miniaturizing those glasses in a small package, while trying to make an acceptable image on a small sensor proves to be difficult for this price segment.


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