4/3 Sensor Size Vs Full Frame

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Since 2016, a “
one-inch Type

sensor size
has optimized the portability of serioustravel cameras
(recommended here). In comparison, cameras using larger APS-C sensors require heftier 11x to 19x travel zoom lenses which struggle to sharpen the edges of the frame. Cameras using even bigger
total-frame sensors
 restrict zoom range and overburden travelers. Sensors smaller than “ane-inch” size can back up super zoom ranges, but at the cost of poor prototype quality, especially in dim calorie-free. Smartphones compensate for tiny cameras via computational power and instantly-shareable images, but zoom poorly and fumble in dim light.

The
archaic
inch-sizing

of camera calorie-free sensors is clarified in the illustration and table below, with relative sizes and millimeters. Legacy sizing labels such equally
1/ii.v″ Blazon harken dorsum to antiquated 1950s-1980s

Vidicon video photographic camera tubes!

For a given twelvemonth of technological accelerate, a camera with physically bigger sensor area tends to capture improve image quality by gathering more than light, but at the cost of larger-bore, bulkier lenses. Recent digital sensor advances have shrunk cameras and increased optical zoom ranges while preserving image quality. An evocative image tin conspicuously be created with any decent camera in the hands of a skilled or lucky photographer. Elevationsmartphone cameras
can potentially make good xviii-inch prints and share publishable pictures. Merely I recommend a bigger camera for superior optical zoom, improve functioning in dim calorie-free, and sharper prints.

Below, compare sensor sizes for digital cameras:

This illustration compares digital camera sensor sizes: total frame 35mm (which is actually 36mm wide), APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, 1-inch, 1/1.vii″ and 1/ii.5” Type. For new digital cameras, a bigger sensor expanse captures better quality, but requires larger-diameter, bulkier lenses. Equally of 2018, one-inch Type sensors optimize the size of a serious travel camera. “Full-frame 35mm” sensor (36 10 24 mm) is a standard for comparison, with a diagonal field-of-view crop factor = 1.0; in comparison, a pocket camera’due south 1/2.5” Type sensor crops the light gathering by half-dozen.0x smaller diagonally (with a surface expanse 35 times smaller than full frame).

Click here for Tom’due southlatest camera recommendations.

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one″-Type sensor size is now optimal for travel photographic camera portability

I upgrade my digital camera every 2-4 years because the latest devices proceed beating older models. Since 2016, 1″-Type sensors optimize the bulk of serious travel cameras, as in the following which capture fantabulous dynamic range (bright to dark) with exceptionally fast autofocus:

  • The all-time & brightest pocketable zoom camera is Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI (at Amazon) (2018, 11 oz, 8x zoom 24–200mm f/2.8-4.v) — my favorite backpacking photographic camera. Upgrading to
    Sony RX100 VII
    focuses even faster.
    Read my RX100M6 review.
  • Cheaper alternative: Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 camera (Amazon)
    (2016,
    11oz, 10x zoom, 25-250mm equivalent, 20mp). The
    pocketableZS100 (read my review) is not as sharp as the 3x-zoom Sony RX100 V, IV or III cameras, simply captures close macro at more zoom settings and enormously extends optical telephoto reach 70-250mm, which clearly beats digitally cropping those 3x-zoom rivals.
  • Capturing xx high-quality megapixels, both the
    Panasonic ZS100
    and superior
    Sony RX100 version VI rival the daylight image quality of all my camera systems used over 34 years until 2012 (beating my cameras upward to four times heavier, up to 11x zoom range, upwards to 12 megapixels, shot at base ISO 100). Since the release of Panasonic ZS100 in 2016 and Sony RX100 VI in 2018, publishable image quality tin now come from pocketsize cameras having versatile 10x or 8x zooms!
  • My principal photographic camera: Sony RX10 IV (toll at Amazon) (2018,
    37 oz, 25x zoom) is the
    globe’southward most versatile midsize camera
    for on-the-go photographers (read my RX10 Four review).


APS-C size sensor

Although I prefer the higher up portable all-in-1 solutions for travel convenience, a top APS-C-sensor camera (such as Sony A6300) lets you interchange lenses and capture less noise in dim light at ISO 3200+.

Traditionalists wanting an
optical viewfinder
, more lens choices, and nighttime photography may option a bulkier
DSLR-style photographic camera
with APS-C sensor:

  • Nikon D3500 mounted with versatile Tamron 16-300mm f/3.v-half-dozen.3 Di II VC lens is a expert-value 32-ounce DSLR travel arrangement.

Micro Four Thirds Cameras

Over the years, I have seriously considered the excellent Panasonic and Olympus systems with
Micro 4 Thirds sensor, only so far, the timing hasn’t work out, every bit of 2022.

I’ve oft admired the solid quality of recent Micro Iv Thirds cameras such as Olympus, who made my beloved OM-1N movie camera dorsum in the 1980s. But Olympus upgrades take come too late for me, such as their sensor improvement from 16 to 20 megapixels (in Olympus M1 Mark Ii & III in 2016 & 2020, and in M10 Marking Four in 2020). In comparison, the Sony A6xxx camera serial is nearly as compact, nevertheless collects more low-cal onto a physically larger 24mp APS-C sensor. Pricing can also be similar comparing APS-C vs iv/3 when shopping for slightly older versions or used gear. And for zoom ranges larger than 8x, the i″-sensor Sony RX10M4 & RX10M3 cameras beat all comers anywhere virtually their weight class (37 oz), with a surprisingly sharp 25x zoom system.

During the by decade, the 16-megapixel sensor and performance of the early models of Olympus M1 (Mark I, introduced in 2013) and M10 (I-III) paled in comparison to the 24-megapixel sensor APS-C systems that I used from 2012-2016 (on Sony A6300 and predecessor NEX-seven, using Sony xviii-200mm lens, 11x). When I examine Micro Iv Thirds systems with interchangeable lenses like the Panasonic GX80 (2016), for that weight and expense grade, you get more for your money and a much larger sensor (APS-C) if you become with a Sony A6400 or A6300 photographic camera, which have similar arrangement weight, generally better quality images (24 MP vs sixteen MP), amend viewfinder, excellent hybrid focus organisation, and longer bombardment life (400 versus 290 shots per accuse).

Subsequently test trials in 2016, I switched from APS-C to the 20mp 1-inch-sensor Sony RX10M3, which more than doubled my optical zoom to 25x, while equaling or improving overall prototype quality from edge-to-edge. Upgrading to Sony RX10M4 in 2018 strengthened the deal past speeding autofocus. This abrupt
24-600mm f/ii.iv-4 zoom camera organization
weighing but
37 ounces
has been a game-changer for hiking & full general travel photography.

Caveat: although it’s one of the almost versatile cameras ever invented, Sony RX10M4 isn’t necessarily the most optimal for night photography, wedding photography, or certain other professional specialties that don’t need a large zoom range.

To emulate a 25x zoom with Micro iv/3 lenses is a heavier and pricier proposition (debatably without a commensurate proceeds in image quality) compared with Sony’s i″ sensor on RX10M4. For instance, consider this high-quality 69+ ounce system with two lenses roofing 24-800mm equivalent zoom range mounted on Micro Four Thirds sensor:

  • Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/four-half dozen.3 Power OIS lens (2016, 35 oz, 72mm filter size, 3.3 10 6.8″), mounted on Panasonic DMC-GX9 mirrorless camera (2018, 14 oz torso, 20mp, 260 shots per battery charge CIPA), both weather-sealed.
  • Add together 20+ ounces for one or more zoom lenses to comprehend 24-200mm equivalent.
  • That makes 69 ounces total for a 24-800mm equivalent zoom system (14 oz body + 35 oz + 20 oz), using two lenses spanning an impressive 33x. Although I wouldn’t desire to conduct it around my cervix very long while hiking, this organisation might be bonny for a vehicle-based professional photographer who might consider incremental epitome quality gains to be more important than the extra arrangement cost, bulk, weight, or inconvenience of swapping lenses.

Full-frame-sensor Cameras

Compared to APS-C, the step up tofull-frame-sensor cameras
costs extra, adds bulk, and is only needed if you regularly shoot
in dim light higher than ISO 6400 (such as for indoor action), or specialize in
dark photography, or oftentimes impress images larger than ii or 3 anxiety in size (to be viewed closer than their longest dimension by critically sharp optics).

Simply there’s no need to get overboard. Let’due south put this in perspective: huge effective billboards tin be printed from pocket-sized 3-megapixel cameras (read my article).

How to compare cameras

  • My CAMERAS commodity updates
    Low-cal Travel camera recommendations several times per yr.
  • If possible, compare cameras shot side-by-side under a diverseness of actual field conditions (which I do just before selling a sometime camera to confirm the quality of the new replacement camera). I like to “pixel-peep” a side-by-side comparison of ii different cameras capturing the same subject under same lighting conditions in the field. Exist certain to mentally or digitallynormalizeany ii given shots to compare their fine item equally if printed with equal overall image size.
  • Judge epitome quality and resolution at 100% pixel enlargement at the administrative dpreview.com (owned by Amazon since 2007) and handy Comparometer at imaging-resource.com, using standardized studio test views for many cameras.
  • Check other review sites comparing telephoto capabilities of different cameras side-past-side. This comparison is often disregarded, despite being crucial for zoom cameras.

Yearly advances of 2014-16 put the sweet spot for serious travel cameras between i”-Type and APS-C size sensors. Then from 2016-2021, photographic camera designs using 1”-Type sensors surpassed the portability of APS-C models for capturing publishable images within a wider zoom range.

Almost cheaper meaty cameras accept smaller merely noisier sensors such every bit

1/2.3″ Type

(vi.17 ten four.56 mm) — tiny enough to miniaturize a superzoom lens, only poor for capturing dim light or for enlarging prints much beyond 12-18 inches.

Smartphones can have even tinier sensors, such every bit
one/3.0″ Type
 (4.eight mm 10 3.6 mm) in Apple iPhone versions 5S through 8. Remarkably, top
smartphone cameras
take improved miniature sensors to the point where citizen journalists can capture newsworthy photos with image quality skilful enough for fast sharing and quick international publication. The all-time cameras are in the latest Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and Apple iPhones. My erstwhile Samsung Note5 smartphone (same camera as in S6 & S7 with 1/2.6″ sensor) captures sunny sixteen-megapixel images sufficient to make a precipitous xviii-inch print, virtually indistinguishable from that taken by a larger camera.

Smartphone tips: To isolate subjects, avoid the digital zoom on smartphones, which records extra pixels without adding quality. Instead motion closer earlier shooting, or crop at editing time. Utilise your phone’s 2x telephoto camera (~50mm equivalent lens), if any. Tiny subjects tin can exist enlarged best at close focus using the 2x tele lens, every bit on Samsung Galaxy S9+ or my Note9.

Read this pointed perspective on how far image quality has progressed from early DSLR to 2014 smartphone cameras. Historically, evocative images can clearly be captured regardless of camera size or modernity. Simply for a given year of technological advance, tiny-sensor cameras tin can have severe limitations compared to physically larger cameras in terms of print enlargement, autofocus speed, blurred performance in dim/indoor light, and so along. The “best” travel camera is the one that you are willing to carry.

More details:

The non-standardized partial-inch sensor sizing labels such as
1/2.5-inch Type
 and

i/i.7″ Blazon

confusingly refer to blowsy 1950s-1980s

Vidicon video photographic camera tubes
. When you run across those primitive “inch” size labels, instead await up the actual length and width in millimeters reported in the specifications for each photographic camera:

Table of photographic camera sensor size, expanse, and diagonal ingather factor relative to 35mm total-frame

Sensor Type Diagonal (mm) Width (mm) Pinnacle (mm) Sensor Area (in square millimeters) Full frame sensor area is x times bigger Diagonal crop gene* versus full frame
1/3.2″ (Apple

iPhone five
smartphone 2012)
5.68 iv.54 3.42 15.50 55 7.half dozen
one/iii.0″ (Apple

iPhone 8, vii, 6, 5S
smartphone)
6.00 4.80 three.sixty 17.30 fifty 7.2
ane/2.half-dozen″ Type (Samsung Galaxy S9, Note9, S8, S7, S6, Note5) 6.86 v.v 4.1 22.55 38 6.iii
one/2.5″ Type 7.18 v.76 4.29 24.70 35 6.0
1/2.3″ Type (Canon PowerShot SX280HS, Olympus Tough TG-2) vii.66 6.17 iv.56 28.07 31 5.6
ane/1.7″ (Canon PowerShot S95, S100, S110, S120) 9.30 vii.44 v.58 41.51 21 4.7
1/one.seven″ (Pentax Q7) nine.50 7.lx five.70 43.30 20 iv.6
ii/3″ (Nokia Lumia 1020
smartphone with 41 MP camera; Fujifilm Ten-S1, X20, XF1)
eleven.00 8.80 6.60 58.10 xv 3.nine
Standard 16mm Film Frame 12.vii x.26 7.49 76.85 xi 3.iv
1” Type (Sony RX100 & RX10, Nikon CX, Panasonic ZS100, ZS200, FZ1000) 15.86 thirteen.xx 8.80 116 7.iv 2.7
Micro Four Thirds, 4/3 21.60 17.thirty 13 225 3.8 two.0
APS-C: Canon EF-South 26.lxx 22.xx 14.80 329 ii.6 i.6
APS-C: Nikon DX, Sony NEX/Alpha DT, Pentax K 28.2 – 28.4 23.6 – 23.7 xv.60 368 – 370 2.3 1.52 – 1.54
35mm full-frame (Nikon FX, Sony Alpha/Alpha Fe, Canon EF) 43.2 – 43.three 36 23.9 – 24.3 860 – 864 1.0 1.0
Kodak KAF 39000 CCD Medium Format 61.30 49 36.80 1803 0.48 0.71
Hasselblad H5D-60 Medium Format 67.08 53.7 40.two 2159 0.40 0.65
Stage Ane P 65+, IQ160, IQ180 67.forty 53.ninety 40.twoscore 2178 0.39 0.64
IMAX Film Frame 87.91 lxx.41 52.63 3706 0.23 0.49

*
Crop Factor: Note that a “total frame
35mm” sensor/film size (nearly 36 x 24 mm) is a mutual standard for comparing, having a diagonal field of view
crop factor
of 1.0. The debatable term

crop cistron
 comes from an attempt past 35mm-film users to sympathise how much the

angle of view

of their existing
full-frame
lenses would narrow (increment in telephoto power) when mounted on digital SLR (DSLR) cameras which had sensor sizes (such every bit APS-C) which are smaller than 35mm.

With early DSLR cameras, many photographers were concerned about the loss of prototype quality or resolution by using a digital sensor with a lite-gathering area smaller than
35mm flick. Notwithstanding, for my publishing needs, APS-C-size sensor improvements hands surpassed my scanning of 35mm picture by 2009.

An interesting number for comparing cameras is “Full frame sensor surface area is ten times bigger” in the above tabular array.

  • In comparison to total a frame sensor, a pocket camera’s

    1/ii.v-inch Type

    sensor
    crops the low-cal gathering surface six.0 times smaller diagonally, or 35 times smaller in area.
  • An

    APS-C
     size sensor gathers nearly fifteen times more light (surface area) than a
    1/2.5” Blazon

    sensor and ii.4 times less than full frame.


    • APS-C

      sensors in
      Nikon DX, Pentax,
      and
      Sony E
      take 1.5x diagonal field of view crop factor.

    • APS-C

      sensors in
      Canon EF-S DSLRs
      have i.6x diagonal field of view ingather gene.

  • 1 stop

    is a doubling or halving of the corporeality of gathered calorie-free. Doubling a sensor’s area theoretically gathers ane stop more than light, but depends upon lens blueprint.

Lens quality & diameter also affect image quality

For improving paradigm quality, thequalityand
bore of the lens
 can rival the importance of having a
physically larger sensor area.
Prime
(non-zoom) lenses commonly are sharpest for larger prints, simply
zoom lenses are more versatileand
recommended for travelers
.

A small sensor can crush larger with newer pattern (BSI) plus faster optics:

In my side-by-side field tests, the sharp,
bright 25x zoom of Sony RX10 Three (read my version 4 review) resoundingly beats the resolution of
11x SEL18200 lens on APS-C Sony A6300 at 90+ mm equivalent telephoto, even as high every bit ISO 6400. (Wider angle zoom settings show little quality difference.) Apparently RX10’s
faster f/2.four-4 lens plus
behind illumination
(BSI) applied science magically compensate for

the sensor size difference,i″-Type versus APS-C. Like virtually APS-C-sensor cameras in 2016, A6300 lacks BSI. Surprisingly little noise affects RX10’s image quality at high ISO 6400 in dim light. Its
larger lens diameter gathering more low-cal
as well helps in this comparison (72mm filter size
of RX10 3 versus
67mm
SEL18200 on A6300).

Larger lens diameter tin help dim calorie-free photography:

In my field tests, the sharpness of Sony’southward loftier-quality SEL1670Z
 3x zoom f/4 lens
on A6300 isonly about v% improve than Sony RX10 III f/2.four-4 in vivid low-cal in the wider half of its 24-105mm equivalent range,
but no meliorate in dim light. I wait thatRX10’s catch-up in quality under dim light
is due to superior light sensitivity of BSI sensor plus
larger lens diameter gathering more than light, 72mm versus 55mm.

Using sweetness spot of full-frame lenses on APS-C may not improve quality:

In principle, you might expect a slightly sharper epitome on an APS-C sensor when using the sweet spot of a lens designed for a total frame (which has a larger imaging circle), only results actually vary, especially when using older film-optimized lenses. In fact, a lens which is designed and optimized specially “for digital, for APS-C” can equal or exceed the quality of an equivalent full-frame lens on the same sensor, while likewise reducing bulk and weight (as in the Sony E-mountain example farther below).

Theoretically, new total-frame lenses “designed for digital” (using
image-infinite telecentric
pattern) may perform better on a digital sensor than would older lenses designed for film:

  • Unlike moving-picture show,
    digital sensors receivecalorie-free
    best when strucksquarely rather than at a grazing bending.
  • Digital cameras perform all-time with lenses optimized specially “for digital”, using
    image-space telecentric designs, in which all the rays state squarely on the sensor (as opposed to having incoming rays emerge at the same angle equally they entered, as in a pinhole camera). The light buckets (sensels) on digital sensors require light rays to be more parallel than with film (to enter at close to a 90 degree angle to the sensor).
  • Film tin record light at more grazing angles than a digital sensor. Because
    older film-optimized lenses
    bend light to striking the sensor at more of a glancing bending, they reduce light-gathering efficiency and crusade
    more vignetting
    around the edges (which is somewhat mitigated by the prototype circle beingness cropped by the APS-C sensor, which uses just the eye part of the full-frame lens).
Side-by-side testing works meliorate than theory to distinguish lenses:

Compare the following two Sony E-mount zoom lenses, full-frame versus APS-C:

  1. 2015
    full-frame
    “Sony E-mount FE 24-240mm f/3.5-half-dozen.3 OSS” lens (27.v oz, 36-360mm equivalent).
  2. 2010
    APS-C
    “Sony Due east-mount 18-200mm f/iii.5-six.3 OSS (silverish SEL-18200)” lens (18.5 oz, 27-300mm equiv).

Both lenses are optimized for digital, even so the
APS-C lens is much lighter weight
and
performs equal

to or better than the full-frame lens. Side-by-side comparisons and also DxOMark tests on a Sony A6000 photographic camera evidence that while they are about
as sharp, the Sony 24-240 has more distortion, vignetting and chromatic abnormality than the 18-200mm.

Raw format and advantages of large sensors over small

For a given angle of view, cameras with larger sensors tin achieve a
shallower depth of field
than smaller sensors, a feature which
movie makers
and
portrait photographers

like to use for blurring the background (at brightest aperture setting, smallest F number value) to draw more attending to the focused subject. Conversely, smaller-sensor cameras like the Sony RX10 III and RX100 III tend to be much better at capturing close-focus (macro) shots with
keen depth of field
(peculiarly at wide angle), at ISO upwardly to 800. Just the
macro advantages of pocket-sized-sensor cameras tin can diminish in dim calorie-free
or when shooting at ISO college than 800.

Landscape photographers frequently prefer to capture a
deep depth of field, which can exist achieved with both modest and large sensor cameras. Optimal edge-to-border sharpness usually occurs when stopping down the discontinuity once or twice from brightest opening, such every bit between f/4 to f/5.half dozen on ane-inch Type sensor, or between f/5.6 to f/eight on APS-C (which also helps diminish chromatic aberrations). Stopping down farther with f/numbers larger than this increases depth of field, simply worsens diffraction through the smaller pupil opening (such every bit at f/11-f/16 on ane″ sensor or f/22 on APS-C), noticeably softening item.

To maximize raw

dynamic range
 of brightness values from vivid to dark, utilise
base ISO
 (around ISO 100 or 200 in most digital yet cameras), rather than higher ISO settings which amplify

noise

(blotchiness at the pixel level, most-visibly in shadows). However, using the latest
full-frame sensors
at
loftier ISO values 6400+
can capture unprecedentedly
low noise
and opennew possibilities for dim-low-cal action photography
at hand-held shutter speeds, indoors or at night.

Without the assist of a flash,
night and dim indoor photography is all-time with a full-frame sensor to gather more light with less noise. Depression-dissonance
night photography is usually best shot on a tripod at slow shutter speeds in raw format between ISO 100 and 800 (or as loftier as 1600-3200 on the latest large sensors).

For a given year of technological advance, cameras with
larger sensors
typically capture a wider

dynamic range

of brightness values from brilliant to dark per image than smaller sensors, with less
noise. In 2016, Sony’s one″-Type
backside illumination
(BSI)
sensors capture sufficient dynamic range for my needs.

Photographic camera

raw format

allows editing recovery of several stops of highlight and shadow item which would be lost (truncated) in
JPEG file format (if overexposed or underexposed). Alternatively, PC software or camera firmware using HDR (Loftier Dynamic Range) imaging lets whatever size of sensor greatly increase an image’due south dynamic range by combining multiple exposures. Only for me, the cracking dynamic range of a unmarriedraw file (from 1″-Type BSI or APS-C sensor) normally makes shooting extra images for HDR unnecessary.

Despite advanced circuitry, cameras are not smart plenty to know which subjects are supposed to be
white,
black, or
midtone
in
brightness. By default, all cameras
underexpose
scenes where white tones (such as snow) predominate, and
overexpose
highlights in scenes where black tones predominate.
IMPORTANT TIP:
To correctly expose for all tones, y’all need to

lock exposure

upon a perceived

midtone

(such as a gray bill of fare; or on a line halfway betwixt light and shadow)

in the same lite every bit your framed subject
.

For greatest editing flexibility, rather than shooting
JPEG format, serious photographers should record and edit images in

raw format
, which is supported in advanced cameras (only often not in small-sensor devices). Editing raw format fully recovers desperately-exposed images − allowing yous to “point and shoot” more freely than with JPEG. Nonetheless, I carefully shoot to expose each
histogram
to the far right while avoiding truncation of highlights, in social club to capture the
highest betoken-to-noise ratio
in each scene. Attempt to
stay close to base of operations ISO
100 or 200. I typically first shoot a exam shot on automatic Aperture-preferred priority, inspect the histogram, bank check any blinking highlight warnings, then compensate subsequent shots using Manual Exposure (or temporary Exposure Lock grabbed from the scene). Tonal editing ofJPEGs
can apace truncate color channels or accrue round-off errors, often making the prototype appear
pasty, pixelated,
or
posterized
.
White Remainder (Colour Residuum)
is easily adjustable
afterwards
shooting raw files, but tonal editing oftentimes skews colors oddly in JPEG.
12-bit Raw format
has sixteen times the tonal editing headroom and color accurateness compared to
JPEG
(which has only 8 $.25 per pixel per ruby, green, or blueish color channel). In their favor, automatic signal-and-shoot JPEG camera exposure modes go smarter every year, making avant-garde larger cameras less necessary for many people.

Detailed full-frame comparing of low-lite Sony A7S 12 MP versus A7R 36 MP

How can we distinguish the image quality captured by different cameras? Images are best compared at a
normalized
pixel level (with fine detail examined on a monitor as if printed with equal overall image size) latershooting side-by-side in the field
with comparable lens and shutter speed settings. Consider two sibling
full-frame-sensor
cameras:

  1. Sony Alpha A7S
    (12 MP of large-bucket photosites
    optimized for loftier ISO, low light, and videography plus stills, new in 2015) versus
  2. Sony Alpha A7R
    (36 megapixels of smaller-bucket photosites
    optimized for high resolution, new in 2014)

Despite its tinier but denser
photositebuckets
(also called
sensels
or

pixel wells


for catching light photons), the 36 MP Sony Blastoff A7R beats the dynamic range of 12 MP Sony Blastoff A7S in a normalized comparing of raw files (see dpreview article). While both cameras spread their photosites beyond the same surface expanse of afull-frame sensor, the 36 MP A7R trumps the 12 MP A7S for
exposure latitude
flexibility in raw post-processing at ISO 100 through 6400. Overall paradigm quality of the 12 MP A7S doesn’t beat the A7R until
ISO 12,800 and higher (but only in the shadows through midtones nether low-calorie-free weather condition). Sony A7S is better for low-low-cal
videographers, whereas A7R is better for low-light
landscape photographers
who value high resolution and dynamic range.

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Source: http://photoseek.com/2013/compare-digital-camera-sensor-sizes-full-frame-35mm-aps-c-micro-four-thirds-1-inch-type/