Sensor Sizes – why do we care and does it impact video?

by planetMitch12 Comments

With all the excitement coming from the Canon announcement this afternoon (updated rumor from, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a bit about sensor sizes and why they're important in shooting stills as well as video. Rumors are that today's video cameras will have a ‘super35' size sensor – which is just a bit bigger than the Canon APS-C sensors (the Canon EOS 7D, 60D and others have that size) but the same size as other cameras recently in the video market like the Sony F3. Note the Panasonic AF-100 is a micro 4/3 camera for an additional comparison.

Demo from LensProToGo

I found this demo from the folks over at LensProToGo and tho the ending shows an example of the depth of field difference in stills, you can certainly extend that to video.

DSLR Sensor Sizes from LensProToGo on Vimeo.

A tutorial demystifying the concept of different sensor sizes in modern day dslr cameras.

Sensor size chart

And, what better way to see the differences in the sensor sizes than a chart from wikipedia?

Digital Sensor Size chart (from wikipedia)

Digital Sensor Size chart (from wikipedia)

We obviously don't care about the medium format size in the chart above, but it helps to see the APS-C size (don't know why this chart didn't show the super35 size) and the smaller current senors like the micro 4/3rds. Actually, here's a better chart that shows the digital video sensor sizes from creativecow:

DSLR Sensor Sizes from Creative Cow

DSLR Sensor Sizes from Creative Cow

There's also a good article by Matt Jeppson on the AF100 sensor size comparing it to others.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. Good write-up Mitch! That full-size sensor in our beloved 5D Mark II’s affects video in two ways that simply outruns all the other sensors: 1, larger sensor means larger cells, which means more light-gathering capability which means cleaner low-light capture, and we sure see THAT in the 5D2. 2nd, the larger the sensor, the thinner the depth of field you get. So my 50mm f1.2 is going to get a narrower and arguably more compelling (depending on the shot) image than on a 7D. That also applies to f2.8 lenses and right on up the line. New slogan: “Full frame or forget it!” Can we have T-Shirts made? lol!

    Now, if we can just get the entire 5616×3744 5D2 image into video and not have it squashed down to 1920×1080, we’d REALLY be in antoher dimension. Can you imagine the battery power and the CF card space you’d need?? Canon will have fun trying to solve full-frame video in a DSLR, what a feat.

    Enjoy your time there! 30 minutes until the announcement begins!


  2. Full sensor meaning a 35mm still frame. On a 35mm cinema frame the crop factor comparison will be minimal when compared to Super 35 and other DSLR sensor. So if you come strictly from a cinema film environment the Super 35 field of view will not look any different. Too many 5D fans mistake a cropped sensor as a thing a lessor camera would have. When compared to 35mm cinema film the 5D has the odd field of view.

  3. Thanks for the clarification Almo. All of us photographers ARE coming from a still way of thinking, not cinematic. On a DSLR the crop sensor is VERY much a lessor for the reasons I mentioned, and as you explained it only pertains to stills cameras, shooting video or not. It’s not a mistake on our part, just how WE experience it. I’m not making any comparison to true cinema gear in my previous post. Besides, none of us every-day photographers could AFFORD real cinema gear, lol! Canon’s announcement tonight proves it: $20K for the new cinema body, $45K per lens. Yowza.

    1. Agreed. Just wanted to make it clear. It took me a while to figure it all out and I see too many DSLR video enthusiast talk about how the latest large sensor video cameras have a crop factor and advertise it as a negative for the camera. Many actually consider that as a huge factor when making a purchase decision. Some even saying the picture is softer because of the crop factor. Probably because the term crop communicates the video is being zoomed into which is not the case here.

      I personally only do video but own both video cameras and DSLR’s. I believe having full frame sensor as in the 5D is not an absolute must but a niche tool for real tough to get to places where rigging a bigger camera might be challenging and getting a wider field of view is necessary. I use them all the time on mounts for car commercials.

      Yes and you stills guys have it easy on the wallet that is for sure. 🙂

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