The megapixel myth has treated camera manufacturers well over the years, those ever increasing, and often meaningless, numbers have sold millions of cameras. But consumers are getting wise to it. We’ve all seen dodgy images from loftier megapixel cameras and know that after a indicate, megapixels don’t thing for near people – a 16 MP meaty isn’t always going to exist equally expert equally a 12 MP Full Frame DSLR. What does affair is sensor size!
Why is camera image sensor size of import?
The size of sensor that a camera has ultimately determines how much light information technology uses to create an paradigm. In very simple terms, image sensors (the digital equivalent of the moving picture your father might have used in his camera) consist of millions of calorie-free-sensitive spots called photosites which are used to record information about what is seen through the lens. Therefore, it stands to reason that a bigger sensor can proceeds more information than a smaller one and produce improve images.
Think almost it this style, if you lot had a compact photographic camera with a typically pocket-size image sensor, its photosites would be dwarfed past those of a DSLR with the aforementioned number of megapixels, but a much bigger sensor. Able to gain more than information, the large DSLR photosites would be capable of turning out photos with better dynamic range, less noise and improved low low-cal performance than its smaller-sensored sibling. Which as we know, makes for happy photographers.
Larger sensors as well permit manufacturers to increase the resolution of their cameras – significant they’re able to produce more than detailed images – without sacrificing too much in terms of other image quality attributes. For instance, a Full Frame camera with 36 megapixels would have very similar sized pixels to an APS-C camera with sixteen megapixels.
But I thought megapixels didn’t affair!
Megapixels are a passionate effect for photographers; they’re upwards there with the “which is better, Canon or Nikon?” debate. Some fence that no-ane needs more than 16 megapixels (a couple of years ago it was eight) while others are of the opinion that the added particular is worth the trade off in terms of noise and the computer processing power needed to handle the extra big files.
The truth is that it’s always going to exist a balancing human action between the efficiency of sensor applied science, lens quality, image sensor size and ultimately what you want to do with your photographs. If you’re going to heavily ingather images or impress them very big, extra resolution could be useful, if y’all’re only sharing them online or producing normal prints, not so much. What we tin can conclusively say is that you can only make a phone call on megapixels in conjunction with considering sensor size.
What are the other characteristics of bigger sensors?
Then larger sensors can help you capture better quality images, but they bring with them a number of other characteristics, some good and some bad. The start, and most obvious impact of a bigger camera sensor is that of size; non only will the sensor take up more room in your device, but it volition too need a bigger lens to cast an paradigm over information technology.
This is why smartphone makers by and large stick with very small sensors, they want to proceed devices pocketable and not deal with the bulk of larger lenses. It too explains why professional photography gear is notwithstanding so big and heavy. The cost of producing bigger sensors besides means that devices packing them also accept a bigger price-tag.
Bigger sensors can also be better for isolating a subject in focus while having the balance of the image blurred. Cameras with smaller sensors struggle to do this because they demand to be moved farther away from a subject field, or use a wider angle (and much faster) lens, to take the same photograph. Replicating a Full Frame 28 mm f/ii.eight shot on a mobile phone-sized 1/three-inch sensor would have a 4 mm f/0.iv lens!
Angle of view is also something to consider when looking at cameras with unlike-sized sensors, especially if using the same lenses betwixt them. Cameras with smaller sensors than Full Frame 35 mm format (seen equally the standard) have what’south described every bit a crop gene. So an APS-C DSLR has a crop factor of i.5×1.6x meaning that information technology crops into the Full Frame image – using a 28 mm lens on an APS-C giving a view similar to a 45 mm lens on Total Frame.
The paradigm above shows what smaller sensors would take captured if using the same lens to take this photo. You tin see why devices with smaller sensors utilise much wider angle lenses, especially by the time you lot reach smartphones. The lenses on these cameras are ofttimes detailed past their 35 mm format equivalent focal length to give a improve idea of the angle of view they give.
The trend for cameras with bigger sensors
In contempo years, camera manufactures have realized that more than and more than photographers are wanting the sort of ameliorate quality images that only come up from having a bigger sensor. As such, nosotros’ve seen devices (from smartphones to DSLRs) being sold with bigger sensors than in the past.
Inside the smartphone market, Nokia has led the way with larger sensors – currently peaking with the Nokia 808 Pureview, which has a ane/ane.two-inch sensor and tin produce images to rival many meaty cameras. In terms of point-and-shoot cameras, the Sony RX100 brings a 1-inch blazon sensor to the party, and Canon has released the non-quite-a-meaty G1 X with a one.5-inch sensor.
Mirrorless interchangeable lens systems have also seen pocket-size-bodied cameras fitted with larger sensors, typically ranging from Micro Four Thirds to APS-C … which accept also made it to enthusiast compacts like the Fuji X100 (now the X100S) and the Nikon COOLPIX A. At the aforementioned time, the price of Total Frame DSLRs has also fallen, with the likes of the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D, bringing the affordability of big sensor shooting to a much wider market.
What practise dissimilar sensor measurements mean?
Manufacturers can sometimes be strangely coy virtually revealing exactly how big a photographic camera’s image sensor is. And even when they do volunteer this information, it’s often in a hard-to-sympathise naming convention … as the last department may have proved. Seriously, how many people would exist able to tell you lot exactly how big a ane/ane.2-inch or Micro Four Thirds sensor is without consulting the internet?
Bizarrely, the mostly partial measurements used to detail sensor size date back to the age when vacuum tubes were used in video and television cameras. But the size designation is still zilch similar as uncomplicated as the diagonal measurement of the sensor. Instead, information technology’due south the outer diameter measurement of a tube needed to produce an prototype, when the usable image takes up two thirds of the circumvolve. Yes, it’s that crazy.
It also doesn’t help that different manufacturers use the aforementioned championship to refer to dissimilar sizes, such every bit APS-C. While a Canon APS-C sensor measures 22.2 10 14.eight mm, the offerings from Sony, Pentax, Fujifilm and Nikon (DX) vary from 23.5 x fifteen.6 mm to 23.7 x 15.6 mm.
While we’d similar to meet all photographic camera manufacturers listing the size of their sensors in millimeters, nosotros can’t see it happening whatsoever time soon. And then, in the hateful fourth dimension, hither’s a couple of graphics showing some of the most mutual sensor sizes in relation to a Full Frame one.
Obviously there are also Medium Format cameras with even bigger sensors than those shown hither, only if you’re in the market for one of those, hopefully you already know how they differ.
What sized sensor is typically used in different cameras?
– Most smartphones, including the iPhone v utilize a tiny i/three.two-inch image sensor. In real terms this measures just iv.54 ten iii.42 mm and explains how they are able to keep devices so slim and light, but too why image quality and low light functioning suffers, specially when they tin have as many as 12 megapixels. The HTC One uses a slightly larger 1/three-inch sensor (4.8 x 3.six mm) and fewer pixels to combat this. The undisputed king of smartphone sensors, the Nokia 808, has a 1/one.two-inch sensor (ten.67 ten 8 mm).
– With sensors starting equally modest as one/2.7-inch (5.37 10 4.04 mm), it’s piece of cake to see why smartphones are making many compact cameras redundant. Budget compacts but don’t have sensors big enough to produce significantly better images. Typical compact cameras such as the Canon IXUS 255 HS and the Samsung Galaxy Camera utilize ane/2.iii-inch sensors (six.17 x 4.55 mm) while more competent ones similar the Catechism S110, Panasonic DMC-LX7 and the Nikon P7000 come in at a larger i/1.vii-inches (7.6 x 5.7 mm).
– With demand growing and the price of producing larger sensors falling, there are a growing number of higher-finish meaty cameras with larger sensors. For instance the Fujifilm X20 has a 2/3-inch (8.8 x six.6 mm) sensor while the Sony RX100 has an fifty-fifty bigger 1-inch sensor (thirteen.2 x 8.eight mm). The Canon G1 X even boasts a 1.5-inch sensor (18.vii x fourteen mm).
Ultra High-End Compacts
– Increasing sensor size again are the growing range of ultra high end compacts. These are cameras such as the Leica X2, Fuji X100S and Nikon COOLPIX A, which all feature an ASP-C sensor (23.7 ten fifteen.6 mm) along with a fixed-focal-length lens. There’s likewise the Sony RX1 which does the same, but with a Full Frame sensor (36 x 24 mm).
Mirrorless Camera Systems
– Inside the mirrorless camera marketplace, there is a wide range of sensor sizes. The smaller ones include the 1/2.3-inch (6.17 x 4.55 mm) sensor seen in the Pentax Q, and the 1-inch (12.8 x 9.6 mm) sensor used in the Nikon 1 Serial. Panasonic cameras such as the LUMIX GF5 and offerings from Olympus (including the PEN series and the OMD EM-5) utilize a Micro Four Thirds four/three-inch (17.3 x 13 mm) sensor.
Getting larger still are the APS-C offerings which include the Catechism EOS One thousand (22.ii x 14.8 mm) along with the NEX range from Sony and those those from Fujifilm (23.five x 15.6 mm) … aye, non all APS-C sensors are the same size. Leica rangefinders such as the Leica 1000 have a Total Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor.
– Past the time you become up to DSLRs and other professional person cameras, the sensor size has obviously increased. Well-nigh DSLRs whether from Canon, Nikon, Pentax or Sony use either an APS-C (22.2 10 14.8 mm Canon and 23.5-23.7 x 15.6 mm for others) or a Total Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor. While Full Frame DSLRs take been the reserve of professionals for a number of years, more than consumer-focused models such as the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D are now being released.
Summing Up …
It’southward clear that more people are realizing that bigger image sensors mean improve quality photographs (at to the lowest degree every bit much every bit, if not more than than, megapixels) and thankfully manufacturers are get-go to cater to this need with cameras like the Sony RX100 and Nikon COOLPIX A, which are presumably just the outset.
That said, we’d similar to see camera and smartphone makers existence a bit more transparent about what size sensor is used in different devices and non hiding it away on some spec sheet in a difficult-to-decipher format, or omitting information technology altogether. Retailers also need to footstep upwardly and showtime publishing details on sensor size. It’s but knowing (and agreement) this information that will allow consumers to brand an informed decision on what they are purchasing.
Obviously, non every device can pack a considerably bigger sensor – as other issues such as class-gene and cost come into play – but practise the sensors in smartphones and nigh compact cameras yet need to exist then tiny? Yes, the bigger sensor on the Nokia 808 added a pregnant bump, but few users seem to heed when looking back at their photographs, and a bigger sensor doesn’t necessarily mean jumping to those proportions.
As sensor technology improves, nosotros’re seeing much better performance out of smaller sensors, only bigger will always be better. Does improved image quality justify the bigger device and price for y’all? Only you know the answer … but nosotros hope that this guide will help yous better understand the importance of sensor size when making your next camera buy.