sensor size

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by John, Jan 7, 2006.

  1. John

    John Guest

    What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    size sensor more preferable?

    Thanks,
    --j
    John, Jan 7, 2006
    #1
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  2. John

    rafe b Guest

    On 7 Jan 2006 01:20:47 -0800, "John" <> wrote:

    >What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    >a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    >getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    >size sensor more preferable?



    In the same way that bigger film formats
    are better than small ones.


    rafe b
    www.terrapinphoto.com
    rafe b, Jan 7, 2006
    #2
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  3. rafe b wrote:
    > On 7 Jan 2006 01:20:47 -0800, "John" <> wrote:
    >
    >>What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    >>a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    >>getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    >>size sensor more preferable?

    >
    >
    > In the same way that bigger film formats
    > are better than small ones.


    Not exactly. But in a way yes.

    A larger sensor is just that a larger sensor. Assuming the same number
    of pixels and equivalent lens focal length and aperture you may expect at
    least one difference and that would be a reduce DOF of the larger sensor
    system.

    However other dynamics come into play and usually full size sensors
    (same number of pixels) will produce a better result do to physical
    constraints. However a larger sensor will often have more pixels so it will
    be recording more information.

    The best way to answer this question is to actually work with both
    combinations and see what works best for you. It is the same sort of
    questions about using 4x5 or 2¼ and using a faster film speed in the 4x5 or
    not etc. Much of the difference is very difficult to describe or quantify.

    >
    >
    > rafe b
    > www.terrapinphoto.com


    --
    Joseph Meehan

    Dia duit
    Joseph Meehan, Jan 7, 2006
    #3
  4. "Joseph Meehan" <> wrote:
    > rafe b wrote:
    >> On 7 Jan 2006 01:20:47 -0800, "John" <> wrote:
    >>
    >>>What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    >>>a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    >>>getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    >>>size sensor more preferable?

    >>
    >> In the same way that bigger film formats
    >> are better than small ones.

    >
    > Not exactly. But in a way yes.
    >
    > A larger sensor is just that a larger sensor. Assuming the same number
    > of pixels and equivalent lens focal length and aperture you may expect at
    > least one difference and that would be a reduce DOF of the larger sensor
    > system.


    With the larger sensor, you just stop down one more stop and use a higher
    ISO. The smaller system gets bitten by diffraction earlier than the larger
    one, so can't be stopped down as far, and the larger pixels in the larger
    sensor mean that you get the same image quality (noise) at the higher ISO
    that the smaller sensor gets at the lower ISO. The larger format gives you
    the option of using a lower ISO (with better noise) at a slower shutter
    speed, of course.

    That's assuming the pixel count is the same. With a higher pixel count,
    things are a tad more complicated. Then it's more like film, where you have
    to work harder with the larger format to get the full advantage of that
    larger format.

    > However other dynamics come into play and usually full size sensors
    > (same number of pixels) will produce a better result do to physical
    > constraints. However a larger sensor will often have more pixels so it
    > will be recording more information.
    >
    > The best way to answer this question is to actually work with both
    > combinations and see what works best for you. It is the same sort of
    > questions about using 4x5 or 2¼ and using a faster film speed in the 4x5
    > or not etc. Much of the difference is very difficult to describe or
    > quantify.


    It looks to me that larger formats are even more of an improvement in
    digital than they are in film. In film, larger formats have worse film
    flatness problems, both at capture and during projection printing or
    scanning, and lenses are often funkier. But digital resolutions are so low
    that providing adequate contrast at the max resolution of the sensor usually
    isn't terribly difficult.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Jan 7, 2006
    #4
  5. John

    rafe b Guest

    On Sat, 07 Jan 2006 13:34:42 GMT, "Joseph Meehan"
    <> wrote:


    > The best way to answer this question is to actually work with both
    >combinations and see what works best for you. It is the same sort of
    >questions about using 4x5 or 2¼ and using a faster film speed in the 4x5 or
    >not etc. Much of the difference is very difficult to describe or quantify.



    It's not really all that mystical, except maybe to
    Ilya. It's a good question and worth debating,
    because it's so fundamental.

    As photographers, we're gatherers of light.
    Big cameras gather more light than small ones,
    and it almost always shows in the end, if you
    care enough to look closely. This applies in a
    totally fair, just, equitable and non-discriminatory
    manner to both film and digital cameras.

    [A serious question to the OP: do you care
    enough to look closely?]

    It goes without saying that "bigness" is a mixed
    blessing. Think about it. It's not about f-stops
    after all, is it? It's about how much glass you're
    willing to carry to get the shot.

    In the specific context of digicam sensors, what
    reallly matters most is the size of the individual
    sensels. If you cram more sensels into the same
    area, each one then gets smaller and thus collects
    less light. Better to use more silicon, but that gets
    expensive, etc.

    Ilya thinks we can make sensels infinitesimally
    small. Methinks he's been hitting a bit heavy
    on Ye Olde Cracke Rock.

    Some of the best minds on this NG have tried
    argue with him, but he persists. Ilya knows that
    light is the thing, but he thinks we can just harvest
    less and use it more efficiently. Or something.

    The only way around this is to address the
    underlying physics and technology. That
    doesn't happen from one product cycle to
    the next.

    Back to the OP. Full frame sensors have
    the advantage of working "as designed"
    with existing 35 mm lenses. Which, amazingly,
    is also hotly debated around here.


    rafe b
    www.terrapinphoto.com
    rafe b, Jan 7, 2006
    #5
  6. John

    rafe b Guest

    On Sat, 7 Jan 2006 23:00:00 +0900, "David J. Littleboy"
    <> wrote:


    >It looks to me that larger formats are even more of an improvement in
    >digital than they are in film. In film, larger formats have worse film
    >flatness problems, both at capture and during projection printing or
    >scanning, and lenses are often funkier. But digital resolutions are so low
    >that providing adequate contrast at the max resolution of the sensor usually
    >isn't terribly difficult.



    Good point about the film flatness issues.

    The theoretical advantage of "more film" is
    never fully realized because bigness has other,
    unintended consequences.


    rafe b
    www.terrapinphoto.com
    rafe b, Jan 7, 2006
    #6
  7. John wrote:

    > What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    > a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    > getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    > size sensor more preferable?
    >
    > Thanks,
    > --j


    At the pixel level, given the same number of pixels between the
    two cameras, the larger camera has larger pixels which collect
    more light giving a higher signal-to-noise ratio and larger
    dynamic range, See:

    Digital Cameras: Does Pixel Size Matter?
    Factors in Choosing a Digital Camera
    http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/does.pixel.size.matter

    Larger pixels also are more forgiving regarding lens
    aberrations, and diffraction. Its a quality win win situation
    at the cost of bulk, weight, and cost of the larger camera.

    The D200 has 6.1 micron pixel pitch and the 5D has 8.2. Both are
    working in the sweet spot for great imaging (6 to 9 micron range)
    which gives great signal-to-noise and large enough pixels that
    lens performance is great. The 5D, having more pixels and
    that are slightly larger has theoretically better numbers (but I
    don't know for sure because the full well capacity and read noise
    have yet to be published). In any case both should be great
    cameras, given good lenses. Some more info with digital camera
    specs:

    The Signal-to-Noise of Digital Camera images
    and Comparison to Film
    http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/digital.signal.to.noise

    Roger
    photos at: http://www.clarkvision.com
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 7, 2006
    #7
  8. John

    Scott W Guest

    "John" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    > a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    > getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    > size sensor more preferable?
    >
    > Thanks,
    > --j
    >


    Large sensors make the optics a lot easier. It is much easier to make a high
    f number

    lens then a low one, as the sensor size get larger you can go to higher f
    number for a number of reasons, the light gathering of each pixels is larger
    so you need less light, diffraction is less of a problem, and you can still
    get small DOF when needed with out going to very small f numbers.

    As a reference point the cameras on the mars rover use 12 micron pixels and
    an f 20 lens. Because of the high f number they can get away with using a
    Cooke triplet and still be diffraction limited.

    Scott
    Scott W, Jan 7, 2006
    #8
  9. In article <>,
    rafe b <rafebATspeakeasy.net> wrote:
    >As photographers, we're gatherers of light.
    >Big cameras gather more light than small ones,
    >and it almost always shows in the end, if you
    >care enough to look closely. This applies in a
    >totally fair, just, equitable and non-discriminatory
    >manner to both film and digital cameras.


    Except that if you fix subject distance, field of view, and depth of field,
    the total amount of light across the frame tends to be more or constant
    (independent of the frame size).

    Larger formats can 'store' more light. But once you find a system that is
    big enough to handle the amount of light you've got, there is no point of
    selecting even bigger systems.


    --
    That was it. Done. The faulty Monk was turned out into the desert where it
    could believe what it liked, including the idea that it had been hard done
    by. It was allowed to keep its horse, since horses were so cheap to make.
    -- Douglas Adams in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
    Philip Homburg, Jan 7, 2006
    #9
  10. John

    Scott W Guest

    "Philip Homburg" <> wrote in message
    news:d462hmvbr30ei9gack853ajd53@inews_id.stereo.hq.phicoh.net...
    > In article <>,
    > rafe b <rafebATspeakeasy.net> wrote:
    >>As photographers, we're gatherers of light.
    >>Big cameras gather more light than small ones,
    >>and it almost always shows in the end, if you
    >>care enough to look closely. This applies in a
    >>totally fair, just, equitable and non-discriminatory
    >>manner to both film and digital cameras.

    >
    > Except that if you fix subject distance, field of view, and depth of
    > field,
    > the total amount of light across the frame tends to be more or constant
    > (independent of the frame size).

    This is true

    > Larger formats can 'store' more light. But once you find a system that is
    > big enough to handle the amount of light you've got, there is no point of
    > selecting even bigger systems.


    This is not complete true. If you fix the subject distance, field of view
    and depth of field then a larger sensor will be using a lens at a higher f
    number, this can either reduce the cost of the lens or if you keep the cost
    the same improve the quality. There is a limit to this of course since the
    lens can get pretty large, but not as large as you might think since the
    aperture of the lens would stay the same.

    In the end there is a trade off between the cost of larger sensors and the
    cost of the lenses that are used. As the number of pixels increase the need
    for a larger sensor is going to also increase, not just for capturing more
    light but also to keep the cost of the lens within reason.

    Scott
    Scott W, Jan 8, 2006
    #10
  11. "Scott W" <> wrote:
    > "Philip Homburg" <> wrote:
    >> In article <>,
    >> rafe b <rafebATspeakeasy.net> wrote:
    >>>As photographers, we're gatherers of light.
    >>>Big cameras gather more light than small ones,
    >>>and it almost always shows in the end, if you
    >>>care enough to look closely. This applies in a
    >>>totally fair, just, equitable and non-discriminatory
    >>>manner to both film and digital cameras.

    >>
    >> Except that if you fix subject distance, field of view, and depth of
    >> field,
    >> the total amount of light across the frame tends to be more or constant
    >> (independent of the frame size).

    > This is true


    Right. It also means that the claim that smaller formats have more DOF is
    false.

    >> Larger formats can 'store' more light. But once you find a system that is
    >> big enough to handle the amount of light you've got, there is no point of
    >> selecting even bigger systems.

    >
    > This is not complete true. If you fix the subject distance, field of view
    > and depth of field then a larger sensor will be using a lens at a higher f
    > number, this can either reduce the cost of the lens or if you keep the
    > cost the same improve the quality. There is a limit to this of course
    > since the lens can get pretty large, but not as large as you might think
    > since the aperture of the lens would stay the same.


    In real life if you actually take pictures, one either has enough DOF or not
    enough, and linear changes in DOF tend to be relatively small compared to
    the size of what that "enough" is. The experience here is that up to 645,
    lack of DOF isn't really a problem, and only becomes an issue at 6x7.

    > In the end there is a trade off between the cost of larger sensors and the
    > cost of the lenses that are used. As the number of pixels increase the
    > need for a larger sensor is going to also increase, not just for capturing
    > more light but also to keep the cost of the lens within reason.


    Another thing here is that the amount of charge you can store is
    proportional to the area of the individual pixel, so the best SNR and
    dynamic range you can get from a sensor is limited by the size of the pixel.
    I've seen comments from D2x users to the effect that it requires correct
    exposure and has very little room for boosting shadows without noise, and
    even the 20D has worse noise at ISO 100 than the 10D/300D.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Jan 8, 2006
    #11
  12. "John" <> writes:

    > What is the main difference between a full size sensor (EOS 5d) and
    > a smaller sensor size (Nikon D200). Is a smaller sensor worse in
    > getting light/resolution compared to a full size sensor? Why is a full
    > size sensor more preferable?


    For any given resolution, a larger sensor is prefereable (larger pixel
    wells on the sensor are less noisy).

    For people with a full set of 35mm lenses, a full-frame sensor leaves
    all the lenses doing what the person is used to them doing, and lots
    of people really like that idea.

    For people working with extreme wide-angle lenses in 35mm( beyond
    15mm) (or, until fairly recently, beyond 18mm), there's no solution in
    the small-sensor world (nobody has yet built an 8mm rectilinear lens
    for cropped-sensor DSLRs). (There are a number of 14mm and 12mm
    rectilinear wideangle lenses out there for 35mm cameras.)

    In addition, many people seem to have taken on a political position
    that "full frame" is somehow "right" and anything less is somehow,
    well, less. This adds considerable heat to the discussion.
    --
    David Dyer-Bennet, <mailto:>, <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/>
    RKBA: <http://noguns-nomoney.com/> <http://www.dd-b.net/carry/>
    Pics: <http://dd-b.lighthunters.net/> <http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/>
    Dragaera/Steven Brust: <http://dragaera.info/>
    David Dyer-Bennet, Jan 9, 2006
    #12
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