Understanding Sensor Size & Crop Factors (Camera Lesson 08)

Summary: Ryan helps you to understand sensor sizes, crop factors, and why they matter.

Length: 5:03 minutes

Video Lesson

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Super 35, full frame, micro four thirds, 2.6x, and 1.6x: these are all terms that refer to sensor sizes and crop factors. In this video I’ll help you understand what they mean.

Sensor Size

Camera Sensor Sizes: Photography Film Sizes

When film was first developed for photography, there were a number of different frame sizes. Everything from really big sizes in the inches down to small millimeters. It wasn’t until around 1910 or so that one format seemed to take off–and that was the 35mm full frame format which was 36mm x 24mm. And it is this frame size that became standard in the photography world, and it has been that way ever since.

In motion picture film, the standard changed back and forth over the years as sound was added to the film, different cropping techniques were used, and anamorphic lenses were introduced. Eventually, a format that came to be known as Super 35 became the most popular, and it measured at just under 25mm x 19mm. So when we think of watching movies, it is the Super 35 format that we are used to seeing.

Camera Sensor Sizes: Motion Picture Film Sizes

And those are the two sizes that many camera manufactures seek to emulate. Which is how we ended up with cameras that have APS-H sensors, which are slightly smaller than really full frame, and APS-C sensors which are slightly smaller then the super 35 frame. And of course, as with all things digital, we are never left without choice.…

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5 replies
    • Ryan E. Walters
      Ryan E. Walters says:

      It all goes back to film and what the original frame sizes were / are for film. Things of course get adjusted and modified to better fit what the technology can deliver, but it started with the desire to match film. 🙂

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      That is a difficult question to answer because it depends on the sensor. There are some great full frame sensors and some great super 35 sensors. Vice versa there are also some bad full frame and bad super 35. Also, quality includes accurate color, anti-aliasing, moiré, resolution, etc.


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