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Does sensor size really matters



Erwin Puts wrote an article about pro and cons of the differnt sensor sizes and the needed lenses and whether there is really a difference in image qulaity or just in print size in his opinion:

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Well-Known Member
There are important parts of this articles which I have to disagree entirely.

"The only good reason for a big sensor at this current state of the art is the reduction of noise."

This is very wrong. I hope other members of this forum would not think in this way. We have gone through in this forum many times in the past concerning the sizes of the sensor and I would not go through this again. For those who still do not trust me my recommendations is just to try it out yourselve. You will see the difference, it matters not only because it has less noise, but it excels in all aspects of image qualities.

''A case in point is the introduction of the new Canon macro lens 2.8/60mm that offers vastly improved performance compared to the older 2.5/50mm macro lens for film based photography. Canon explicitly states that the lens cannot be used on large image areas (be they silver halide or solid state). Canon therefore implies that it is impossible to deliver the equivalent quality when having to cover larger capture areas.''

Canon 2.8/60 cannot be used for 24x36 because the images it produce are not as big as 24x36. The implication that it is impossible to deliver the equivalent quality when having to cover larger capture areas as suggested by Erwin cannot be established. My C-Y 60 2.8 Zeiss lens and Leica R 60 2.8 are as good as my Canon EF-S 60 2.8 and they could cover 24X36 and 17x24 at the same time. 50mm/2.5 is less good because it is optically less good.

Stop talking, stop writing just go and shoot. You will see the difference. When I was shooting only 24x36, I used to wonder why others could produce images with such good qualities. One I started using Contax 645 and Hassy I began to understand why. Do not be obsessed with Leica M lenses. Some of them are the best in 24X36, but once you go medium format, the air you breath becomes different.


Well-Known Member
Yes, medium format rules and I find it's not that much more expensive than 35mm because you take fewer pictures and each one is more considered only having 12 (in my case) on a role.
Projected medium format slides are wonderful, which reminds me. I must dig out my old projector and do that again.


Well-Known Member
The Canon 60/2.8 Macro is simply an EF-S lens designed for the 1.6X cropped frame digital cameras. This doesn't fully imply that it impossible to produce a macro lens of the same focal length that would equal or surpass it and cover a full 35mm frame. Canon is just supporting (exploiting?) its digital customers.

For ex&le, the older Leica R 60/2.8 macro was specifically designed for close work with less worry about performance compromises at infinity. As a result, in Macro mode it out resolves any film ever produced and can see beyond what any human eye can resolve. This is a legendary lens sought after by discerning professional photographers. Like some other legendary Leica lenses, the production costs of the lens outstripped what it could be reasonably sold for, and like many other lens makers they replaced it with a more versatile 60 Macro that had excellent performance over the entire focus spread. Floating elements are the lens designers attempt to improve performance of the more general lenses at close focusing.

Another "famous" Leica Lens with a similar dedication is the old R180/3.4 APO lens originally designed for military use to make photographs from airplanes. It was optimized for infinity focus and was less steller when used close up. It remained the ch&ion of long distance photography in that focal length only until the most recent APO lens offerings.

Another fallacy is that MF lenses are better than 35mm ones. 35mm lenses must resolve much finer detail than MF lenses which have the luxury of a huge film area. MF looks better because the capture area is many times larger than that of 35mm, not because the lenses are better. The fantastic Hasselblad/Zeiss 100/3.5 CFi lens is NOT a better lens than a pro level 100mm lens for 35mm photography ... when you use an adapter to put the MF 100 on a 35mm camera.


Active Member
Sensor size or should I say the size of the photosites does matter. I am an owner of a Nikon D2X and this camera is clipping the highlights more harsh compared to for instance a Canon 5D. I also own a Fujifilm S3 which is amazing in covering the highlights in a scene. The highlights from the S3 are smoother compared to the D2X.

The drawback with the Fujifilm S3 is that I do not get light metering with my Zeiss ZF Planar 50/1.4 :-(

One camera that can be promising is the new Pentax 645D which will be announced at Photokina. A very large sensor with large photosites. If the Pentax K10D will deliver certanly the 645D will also.


Well-Known Member
I can understand why Leica chose Erwin in the past. He had no idea how important the size of the format.

Leica had to choose someone who thought one format can do everything. They employed Erwin to brainwash the customers, so that they won't upgrade to medium format.


Well-Known Member
Sorry, but that is a ridiculous statement disparaging Erwin Puts who knows fully well the advantages and disadvantages of MF compared to 35mm.

And to say Leica set out to deliberately "brainwash its customers" so they wouldn't "upgrade to MF", disparages both the company and paints it's customers as being stupid ... neither of which is true.

Everything is a trade off. With the advantages of larger film or sensor area comes the disadvantage of size, weight and slower control ... and in the case of digital MF, substantially higher cost. If ultimate image quality is your absolute goal, then an 8X10 View Camera is the way to go. If capturing fast breaking news or events is the task, then an AF 35mm SLR is the tool. If you want an highly portable, unobtrusive camera then a rangefinder is a consideration. Horses for courses.

However, digital technology is indeed redefining many photographic principles. What seems impossible today, becomes an everyday solution tomorrow.

A digital Leica M was not possible just a few years ago because Rangefinder lenses sit much closer to the sensor surface than do SLR lenses. This made wide angle lens use with a digital rangefinder an issue due to the severe angle the light was hitting the far edges of the sensors available at the time. Technological advances in sensor design has solved that to the degree that Leica can now bring a reasonable digital solution to its rangefinder customers.

In many cases with current digital offerings, the camera's firmware and processing software has a lot to do with end quality.

Again, it is often a matter of trade-offs. Fuji S series digital cameras are known for their dynamic range compared to many other competitors but they are a bit slower in handling. The Canon 5D has an amazing high ISO functionality, but is considerably slower than it's 1 Series siblings and produces softer initial files in need of post processing work.

Like with film based cameras, MF digital cameras with their larger sensor size produce smoother tonal gradations and slightly better dynamic range then even the full frame, 16 meg Canon 1DsMKII. However, all MF solutions now available are limited to lower ISO ability and like their film counterparts are slower, larger and heavier systems.

I speak to these subjects not in theory, but in application. I currently have and use many of the various systems or have had and used them. In my gear closet sits a full Leica M system soon to be augmented with the new digital M8 rangefinder; A Leica DMR9 and slew of stellar R lenses; A full Canon DSLR kit including the 1DsMKII and 5D sporting nothing but fast L primes and a few L zooms; A full system of Hasselblad MF (500 series and 200 series cameras and complete range of Zeiss lenses) with an Imacon CFV digital back; A Hasselblad H2D/39 645 digital camera and full range of HC lenses, A Mamiya RZ 6X7 studio system with a 33 meg Leaf Aptus 75 digital back.

I do not confuse any of these solutions with one another. Which to use is dictated by the application needed.


Well-Known Member
Sorry Marc, I do not believe Erwin do understand fully the advantages and disadvantages of medium format compared to 24X36.

Please look at the kind of statement he is making.

Erwin wrote,""The only good reason for a big sensor at this current state of the art is the reduction of noise."

He wrote this in
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If you go to his sites , I have never seen him talking about medium format. He wrote lots about Leica, some on Canon, Olympus and Zeiss. None of these were bigger than 24X36.

There is some fudamental problem in his logic of reasoning. Please read the following he wrote in the same site.

"A case in point is the introduction of the new Canon macro lens 2.8/60mm that offers vastly improved performance compared to the older 2.5/50mm macro lens for film based photography. Canon explicitly states that the lens cannot be used on large image areas (be they silver halide or solid state). Canon therefore implies that it is impossible to deliver the equivalent quality when having to cover larger capture areas.''

I believe it is very wrong of Erwin to deduce that Canon made the implication that it is impossible to deliver the equivalent quality when having to cover larger capture areas.

I believe it is definitely possible to deliver a better quality when having to cover larger capture areas.

Erwin tends to nullify the advantage of having a larger sensor. If one becomes enthusiastic with Erwin's ideas, they could become restricted with small area capturing. If you really trust what Erwin wrote, there is no need to have medium format. This is like a brainwash.

Erwin wrote many pages on photography, it looks as if he is very good at it, but you can find materials from him which are fundamentally flaw.


Well-Known Member
What you say is true Joseph, no one is flawless.

Erwin does have his opinions, and isn't afraid to voice them. Most of his writing was about 35mm because his sponser for many, many years was Leica. That doesn't mean he doesn't know and respect MF.

Your belief that it is possible to deliver better quality when having to cover larger capture areas is borne out when you consider some of the great large format lenses. However, those lenses on a 35mm camera may not produce as good results as a lens designed specifically for 35mm.

I think maybe the debate on sensor size is a moot one. Smaller sensors can deliver excellent results as long as the % of meg count isn't to ambitious (given the current state of sensor design and manufacture). The only issue with this size to meg count is one of noise and tonal gradations.

However, full frame 35mm is what the photographers want, so those companies that cannot eventually deliver it, or something close to it, are going to suffer in the future as the meg count continues to increase ... Canon will continue to place pressure on the others as they relentlessly lift the bar on digital capture. The next 1 series cameras will see to that.

Unfortunately playing in the area of digital MF has become the domain of the wealthy. Hasselblad/Imacon, Phase One and Leaf have raised the bar with near 1 to 1 sized 645 sensors now well into the 30+ meg range and thus regained the supremacy of MF that cannot be matched by 35mm (given the state of current technology).

Even larger MF sensors once thought relatively impossible are now on the horizon ... as shown by this monster 6 X 17 format panoramic digital camera from Seitz that delivers images from a 160 meg sensor : -)

I would kill to have that camera, but then I would have to live in a cardboard box and eat oatmeal and hotdogs for the rest of my life.



Well-Known Member
Of couse it matters. It will always matter unless new technologies completely over-throw all conventional wisdom as it now stands.

All I want at this stage is a 60 meg or so 6X6 sensor for my Hasselblads.

I'm currently using a hybred system that consists of a Mamiya 645 AFDII body, a Leaf Aptus 75 digital back, and Zeiss lenses. No current 35mm sized DSLR can come close in image quality, and probably never will (until that tech breakthrough happens).


Active Member
A new Sinar has been announced:
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Also, leica (or their new owners) has just announced the purchase of Sinar.

This new sinar looks to have a lot of Rollei DNA in it (note the Francke und Heidecke reference).

I can't tell from the photo, but i'd guess Rollei bayonet...and therefore Schneider/Zeiss lenses. Mmmmm....and Leica as new owners.


Active Member
re the Seitz...
it looks like the shutter mechanism would be near silent. that, combined with the extremely high ISO settings possible, this could be excellent for inconspicuous street photography.