UNDERSTANDING CAMERA SENSOR SIZES

It used to be easy to figure out what format of camera you should buy. Back in the film days, you had 35mm film, and all cameras made cameras that worked with full frame 35mm film. And some people didn’t know this, but most cameras did NOT actually give you the full image of what you saw in the viewfinder. BUT, you could get a full frame photo of the image you saw with the professional version of cameras.

35MM WAS THE STANDARD SIZE OF SENSOR (OR FILM).

I remember working for a camera store, and seeing the specs that said that with certain cameras you got 91% of the actual image. Some cameras bragged about 96%, and then the pro cameras from Nikon, Canon, and Pentax would talk about 100% of the image would go on to the film.

Now we have this digital world, and the camera manufactures have come up with mirrorless cameras that actually do not have close to the full frame sensor at all. And how do they compensate for that? By increasing the sensor sharpness. So, if you have a camera that is from Canon or Nikon, and they produce the APS-C format digital sensor, and they have made their sensors sharper, even up to 60MP, can you get that photo to look as sharp as the full frame cameras. Theoretically yes!

As you can see, the size of cameras can be changed quite a bit by decreasing the size of the sensor. Thus, lens sizes also come down. Olympus and Panasonic are sticking with the “Micro Four Thirds” format. And they are having great success with that format. It is obviously a smaller camera, and both these cameras are extremely well-built. And there are professional photographers using these cameras religiously.

Canon, Nikon, Sony use the larger format APS-C format, and they are producing some incredible cameras.

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS ARE NOW THE BIG THING:

Most camera manufactures now are pushing the “Mirrorless” format camera, which means, when you look through the back viewfinder of the camera, you look at a small screen, similar to the one on the back of the camera. You never look directly at the image, you just look at what it should look like on the viewfinder.

PENTAX STAYS AWAY FROM MIRRORLESS TO GIVE YOU THE ORIGINAL VIEWFINDER.

Pentax cameras are the only manufacture bucking this trend. And I like their thought process. You still get the nice screen on the back of the camera to see what it should look like as you click the shutter release, but, it just seems nice still to look through the back viewfinder of the camera and see the actual image the camera sees, and not a screen shot.

Pentax K-3 camera shown with optional high speed motor drive

Here is another look at the different size sensors and the brands that use them:

There is no digital camera today, that I could find that uses the 35mm format. And I could not even find that Canon makes the APS-H format anymore. Most camera manufactures have opted with the APS-C format.

The smaller the sensor, the harder time you will have getting a great enlargement from it because of it’s size. Notice you can see the size of the sensor with your smartphone. Yes, it may have a high resolution camera now, but, it is still so small. If your phone has a 60Mp sensor, and the APS-C format has the same resolution, you would definitely want to pick the APS-C format.

Now you can have a little more knowledge about how you pick your camera by looking at the size of the sensors.

person holding black dslr camera
Photo by Mohamed Almari on Pexels.com

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