The physical size of the camera sensor is an important factor to consider when selecting the best digital camera because it influences the choice of the lens, camera body, and the brand you choose for your camera. So, if you are an upcoming photographer looking to understand more about what is sensor size for a digital camera, you are in the right place.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The size of the camera sensor influences the quality of a digital image.
  • The digital camera sensor size determines the amount of light information that a camera can capture.
  • Sensor size affects the cost of the camera and the size of the camera body.

We are going to first discuss how the sensor size affects the quality of the pictures you take.

The Importance of a Digital Camera’s Sensor Size

Inside every digital camera is a sensor that captures the light that passes through the lens. To filter the incoming light, check out what does a digital camera uv filter do. The camera sensor works by capturing the light in photosites (light gathering cavities on image sensors.) The larger the photosites, the higher the amount of light information the sensor will capture to produce quality pictures.

A larger camera sensor also means that you have larger pixels that allow you to capture better images in low-light environments. On the other hand, smaller sensors also have their perks. They allow a camera to be smaller for mobility, as well as allow improved video quality because it reduces the rolling shutter. All in all, as a photographer, one of the most important features of a camera is the sensor size, because it will impact the type of images you want to produce.

Camera Sensor Sizes

We are going to discuss the sensor sizes in their categories, starting from the largest to the smallest.

Full Frame Sensor

This sensor size measures around 36x24mm, and it is found on pro-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras. You can also find it in high-end point-and-shoot cameras. If you are interested in cameras that do not use conventional image sensors, you can learn more about what does a 3d digital camera do.

APS-C Sensor

An APS-C sensor measures 22x15mm, and it crops the image of a full-frame sensor by approximately 1.5x. The APS-C sensor is common in entry-level to mid-level DSLRs. However, a high-end compact camera, as well as some mirrorless devices like Fujifilm use it.

Fourth Thirds Sensor

The mirrorless cameras launched the first Four-Thirds camera. It offers a sweet spot between image quality and camera size. The Four Thirds sensor has a 2x crop factor to a full-frame sensor, measuring 17.3mmx13mm. You can find this sensor on most Panasonic mirrorless cameras, as well as Olympus mirrorless cameras.

1-Inch Sensor

The 1-inch type sensor measures approximately 13.2×8.8mm, and it has a 2.7x crop factor to a full-frame sensor. A one-inch sensor is found in high-end compact cameras.

Insider Tip

If you plan to shoot in light-sensitive environments with high ISO levels, select a camera with a large image sensor to improve the quality of your images.

Smartphone and Compact Camera Sensor Sizes

This category has various sensor sizes, from the popular 1/2.3-inch sensor to the 1/1.7-inch sized sensor.

The Importance of Camera Size Sensor 

Let us now look at the relationship between the camera sensor size and some key camera features:

Sensor Size and Resolution

These two elements are not necessarily related. For example, if the phone camera and full-frame camera have 20MP, they do not have the same image quality. Why? Because the pixel size and the camera sensor sizes are different. Since a larger sensor captures more light, it gets sharper photos relative to a small sensor camera. The difference is seen in poor lighting conditions but marginal in good lighting.

Sensor Size and Focal Length

When you multiply the crop factor by the lens’ focal length, it gives you the equivalent of using a 35mm, i.e., a full-frame camera. So, for example, an APS-C camera sensor with a 1.5x crop factor is equivalent to 50mm on a full-frame camera.

Sensor Size and Depth of Field

Smaller sensor sizes provide smaller depths of field than a larger sensor size; this is after using the same focal length and lens aperture settings. 

Sensor Size Performance in Low Light Conditions

An ISO 800 setting on a Four Thirds camera sensor will not be as clean as the same setting on a full-frame sensor. In simple words, ISO speeds are not consistent across sensor sizes and even brands.

F.A.Q.S

What are the sized sensors common in different smartphone cameras?

Most smartphones like the iPhone 5 use the 1/3.2-inch sensor which measures 4.54×3.42mm. The HTC smartphone uses a 1/3-inch sensor, which is slightly larger, measuring 4.8×3.6mm. The smartphone that uses the largest sensor is the Nokia 808. It uses a 1.1.2-inch sensor measuring 10.67x8mm.


How can I determine the size of my camera’s image sensor?

The best way to determine your camera’s sensor size is by taking the pixel size on the sensor and multiplying it by the resolution. For example, if your camera has a pixel size of 3.55×3.75um, and a resolution of 1296×966 pixels, then your camera’s sensor size is calculated as 3.75um x 1296 by 3.75um x 966 = 4.86 x 3.62mm.


What is the size of a pixel?

Each pixel size is measured in Microns, with the symbol μm or μ. The size of the pixel ranges from 1.1 microns in a smartphone sensor to 8.4 microns in a full frame sensor.



STAT: Global CMOS image sensor sales are expected to get to $22.8 billion in 2021. (source)

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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