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Different sensor sizes - what is really big?



very often there are discussions on the net about the different sensor sizes and how much bigger is sensor x vs. sensor y. I remember an article/video from Zack Arias about sensor sizes and what in his opinion is really big. I liked this kind of perspective. If I find that video again, I will link it here.

So I got the idea to make a graphic sensor size comparison. I find it always easier to look at it this way, if you do not have the possibility to compare final prints next to each other. So here it is (you need to be logged in to see the image bigger):


What I find interesting is that looking at this graphic, the step from MFT sensor of Olympus and Panasonic cameras to APS-C sensor size (Nikon DX, Fujifilm X etc.) does not seem as big as the step from APS-C to fullframe (Nikon FX).

Also the step from 1 inch sensors to MFT is not as big as I expected it to be.

But the 2/3 inch sensors of the latest smartphones (i.e. Nokia Lumia 1020, but the sensor in the iphone is a lot smaller) are not that much smaller than the 1 inch sensors in the Sony RX100, RX10 or the Nikon 1 system.

And it is impressive how much bigger the sensor of the Hasselblad H6D-100C is. Even compared to the "smaller" Medium Format of the Hasselblad H1D and Fujifilm GFX.

Maybe 1 inch sensor cameras have a limited future, since it is too close to 2/3" and MFT?

But if that would be the case, what about MFT vs. APS-C? Are those APS-C lenses small enough and the better image quality of the APS-C sensor large enough to justify the bigger costs over MFT?

Fujifilm states that the reason why they do not offer fullframe cameras is, that the gap between APS-C sensor size and fullframe (35mm) is in their view not big enough in image quality to be worth it. That is why they offer the "small" Medium Format with its GFX system.

But the same could be said for the comparison MFT vs. APS-C, or in other words MicroFourThirds vs. Fuji X? This gap seems to me even smaller than the gap between APS-C and fullframe ;)
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It's only my opinion, but we live in a conflicting world.
With millions of phone users shooting stills and video clips via a tiny phone chip, that is where the future lies for most people.
Your conversation concerns those who can afford using the smart capabilities of modern digital cameras, ranging MFT to APSC with facial recognition and now follow-focus-video when the subject crosses the field of view. Amateur videomakers would like in-built zebra or slow speed optical zoom but that would detract from sales of video cameras.

I therefore submit that the world now offers these options

1. Smarter consumer phones masquerading as cameras.
2. Smarter cameras fighting in a divided market of hi-tech sensor designs.
3. Expensive prosumer camcorders where the design labs sensor capabilities are driven by makers to eventually target consumer cameras and ultimately affecting the technology in consumer phones.

and 4. (Compare your own current camera to) the Fujifim GFX 50s as an example of a computerised 50Mpixel medium format lens and sensor with a user price tag of $8000
versus (your own camera with) an add-on digital back like a Leaf Aptus.

My Sony VX1000 is positively stone age with its DV tapes.


I think it all depends on your personal needs and preferences. All cameras are good nowadays. There are differences between the different sensor sizes, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger. It depends on your preferences what size is the "minimum" you want to have. For amny this is the sensor size of smartphones, for others it is medium format and for some two different systems, with one small sesnor size system and the second system fullframe or medium format.

It is only important that you know what kind of results you do expect and what are you willing to pay for it and to carry around.

A few days ago Olympus announced its new professional lenses, the 17/1.2 and the 45/1.2. This makes with the 25/1.2 now 3 FFL for an M43 sensor, which are so big and heavy as fullframe lenses, that I wonder why I should buy them instead of fullframe or even medium format?

I mean it is great to have choice with the M43 system from small bodies and lenses up to big bodies and lenses. But If I would have a budget of around 4000.- USD to spent, I would rather buy a Nikon D610/D750/D810 or D500 with a 35/1.8G and 85/1.8G than a Olympus OMD EM1 MKII with those huge Pro lenses. No matter how good the Olympus lenses are, the fullframe sensor is just a too big jump in my view.

I personnally use M43 because of its size and weight advantage. If I am willing to carry more size and weight, I pick rather my Fuji X system or a fullframe system, than bigger lenses for M43.

My dream combo at the moment is a small M43 package for the family snapshots and one mirrorless medium format camera with maximum one or two lenses for the moments when you have time to shoot for fun. The Hasselblad X1D is opening a totally new way of shooting for many enthusiasts. It is what the Mamiya 7 was many years ago in a digital form.
The answer of course is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When women (and a lot of men) look at such a big hunk (of glass) Their intial reaction is, I imagine, ' Ooh look at that, I wanna be seen in public with one as buffed as him'.
And we look disdainfully as the little box Brownie in the room sits there.

But of course there are few who can afford to have such a big hunk around all the time and then we suffer performance anxiety when the camera work we do fails to produce the next big box office result. Arnold is not your Lawrence Olivier and his drawl is out of place anywhere but scenes where he can punch his way through the dialogue.

So, like it or not, that super wide Angulon can't be used for every shot or it looks odd, and it stays in its box ready for another day. The little workhorse 50mm f/2 does the job. Just give me the skill to create like Weegee or Louis Mendes with the hardware I have now, thanks.


In my opinion, sensor size is increasingly irrelevant.

For one thing, it's difficult and expensive (power-wise) to shake a sensor as big as FF. Thus the IBIS on µ4/3rds is best in industry. This means you can generally shoot much slower, which at least partially makes up for the larger dynamic range of FF — not to mention tricks like multiple 1/2-pixels shifts to give you an 80 megapixel image! Not to mention giving the sensor a good dust-shake every power-up. (Q: Why can't you date a Canon shooter? A: She always has to stay home and clean her sensor.) Not to mention using your IBIS camera with a half-press instead of expensive stabilized binoculars. (I can read the names on boats through the lens, when my 10x50 Leica binocs are shaking soo bad from my boat's engine that I can' see much of anything.)

Then there's the painless use of lots of legacy film glass.

And talking about lens size and weight… I LOVED the Zuiko 7-14mm ƒ4 zoom on the SLR 4/3rds system, and briefly considered simply adapting it for µ4/3rds. But µ4/3rds version is smaller, lighter, and a full stop brighter! I couldn't resist, and it is my most-used lens.

All in all, I'm happy as a clam with my OM-D EM1 Mark II. (Why couldn't they just name it "Fred" or something simple?)


New Member

To me this is not only a question of ”image quality” but perhaps just as important the effect film/sensor size had on the depth of field. On 35mm you have 50mm normal lens, on MF you use an 80mm for the same crop, on 4x5 you use a 150mm etc. The effect this has on the DOF and ability to make an object stand out is something I appreciate, combined with the quality of the out of focus parts which gives a feel of depth in the image.

This can really make or break an image more than pixels and ISO’s.

The big downside is portability, and weight. I have a Hasselblad/PhaseOne 60mpix which is hard to beat but needs the lugging and care in shooting similar to a 4x5 if you want to get the best out of it. Camera and one lens is about 1,5-2 kg plus tripod and the other lenses...

I also use my iPhone a lot, of course, and its good for what it is but... more like an Instamatic. But then again its always with me.

I have ended up shooting a lot with a used Leica M9 and a couple of lenses, which gives you some of that depth magic when shooting fully open aperture and is easy to carry, the lenses go in a pocket. Quirky but superportable.

Others will also weigh in High ISOs, frames per second, autofocus performance etc but those are all really low on my list. If you need them get a Canon or Nikon.

So in my mind there is no perfect camera, but hey it would be boring to own just one :)