Size matters, or maybe not! All about sensor sizes!

Published on 21 May 2020 at 22:20

And they say that size does't matter!

OK we will talk about the sensor size! Often you hear the terms like "crop sensor", ''full frame camera'' or even ''medium format''. So what are all these terms?

All these refer simply to the size of the sensor, each device has.

As we covered in a previous post, the sensor is responsible for capturing the light and making the final image.

According to the device, sensors come in different sizes. 

What really matters, is how the size will affect your photos. 

The basic difference between sizes, is the quality. Larger sensors offer better quality because they can absorb more details. They also have better low light capabilities, so less noise.

What is also important is the crop factor!

By crop factor we name the ratio of the sensor size and a 35mm film.

According to the focal length of your lens, crop factor will determine also the size of the picture in the end.

Lets see some examples:

  • For a medium format camera with 0,64 crop factor and a 50mm lens, the 50mm focal length translates to 50 x 0.64= 32. So the subject you are photografing will appear as if you were using a 32mm lens.
  • For a full frame camera that has a crop factor of 1, with a 50mm lens, you guessed it right it will be the same!
  • For a crop sensor (APS-C) with a crop factor of 1.52, the 50mm of focal length will translate to 50 x 1.52 = 76mm. So it will appear as if you are zooming.

If you put lets say the same 50mm lens to a full frame camera and then to a crop sensor camera

  • in the first case your picture will appear to be at 50mm 
  • in the second one with the crop sensor it will appear to be, as if it is zoomed at 76mm.

Your subject would appear closer.

So you get the picture! The smaller the sensor the bigger the crop factor will be. This translates to two things: Quality and distance.

As you see in the table above, there are 6 categories of sensor sizes. So let's see briefly each category.


It's the biggest one, with a size of 53 x 40.2 mm  (we won't be talking about large format here). This translates in amazing low light capabilities. You can forget that annoying noise in your pictures and also get a greater quality in your pictures. The bigger size means that the sensor is able to absorb more details. Medium format sensors have a crop factor of 0.64.

All these of course come with a price. A pretty big one. The price range starts from 4.000 $ and goes up to 15.000 $

Hasselblad medium format, mirrorless camera X-1 DII

Nikon D750 can be found new online at 1300$


Full frame cameras are the second in line, with a sensor measuring 35 x 24 mm, which is the size of the standard film. The sensor size provides amazing resolution and stunning results, satisfying professionals and of course photography enthusiasts! Coming with a crop factor of 1, basicaly you shoot what you see.

The price range for these bad boys is from 800$ up to almost 10.000$


A bit smaller than full frame, commonly found in entry level DSLRs, crop sensors are becoming more and more capable! Their quality can not fully compete with that of the full frame, but they still make a formidable opponent! They have a crop factor of 1.52, slightly varrying from manufacturer to manufacturer. Their price range of course is lower. Starting from 400$ and can go up to 3.500$

Nikon d3500, the entry level model of Nikon can be found for 450$ along with a lens.

Sony Digital Camera Cybershot DSC-HX60B

MICRO 4/3:

You will find this sensor in point and shoot cameras. Nowawdays their capabilities are pretty great. Of course you don't have the control over the image like you do on a DSLR camera but the results are pretty good, especially if you aren't a professional. They come with a crop factor of 2 and the price is quite afordable. They start from 250$ and can go up to 1.500$


These are found to some high end drone cameras today. Quality is pretty good, even for small prints. They have a crop factor of 2.7 but if you are flying with a drone, that will not concern you that much

Dji's Mavic Pro 2 comes with an 1" camera sensor, making it a great choise!

The new Galaxy Note10 can deliver amazing results!

Last but not least, the 1/2.55 or 1/2.3 sensors:

These are found in mobile phones and in GoPro cameras. The smallest of the kind, but that doesn't mean that they don't perform. They might be small but quite capable! Especially if you are looking to keep your photos in digital form and post them or share them in social media. Smarphones are becoming closer to implemending a 1'' sensor. They use advanced computation technology to stack up images and give great results.

So to summarize, the size does matter! In many things in life! Sensors being one of them!

The bigger the sensor, the greater the quality, dynamic range and low light performance you will get.

One more thing to consider as well is the crop factor. Each sensor size comes with a crop factor that will determine how your camera will ''see'' the picture.

The smaller the sensor though, the more reach you will have because of the crop factor

e.g a 70-200mm lens will be 105-300mm in a crop sensor.

Many full frame cameras actually offer the ability to use your sensor as a crop one, giving you the sense of that extra reach.

The bigger the sensor the smaller the crop factor, with full frame being in the sweet spot capturing pretty close to what our eyes see with a 35mm lens.


Happy shooting!

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