Toecabulary: Camera Formats

Toecabulary: Camera Formats

December 27, 2018
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Camera format is a reference to the size of a camera’s sensor.

There are various camera formats in existence. The smallest being in mobile phone cameras, all the way up to large format cameras, which are used for making gigantic hoardings that you see in front of malls.

Before delving deep into the types, here are four cameras with different camera sensor sizes:

Nikon D850, a full-frame camera. Sensor size: 35.9 x 23.9 mm
Canon 7D Mark II, APS-C camera format. Sensor size: 22.4 x 15 mm
Panasonic Lumix GH5, Micro Four Thirds. Sensor size: 17.3mm x 13.0mm
iPhone XS, mobile camera sensor. Sensor size: 5.6 x 4.2 mm

But there are two popular camera formats in existence in digital SLRs today: the APS-C format and the 35mm format.

The 35mm format uses a sensor the same size as what used to be used in a 35mm film camera, and hence is called the full-frame format.

The APS-C format uses a sensor which is 50% or 60% smaller than full-frame, and therefore leaves out parts of an image that the 35mm sensor can capture, and hence is called the crop-sensor format.

How does camera format matter?

The camera format matters in three ways:

1. Angle of View

The larger the sensor, the wider the angle of view for any given focal length. And the smaller the sensor, the narrower the angle of view for the same focal length. That is, the angle of view is more when you use a 35mm full-frame camera than what an APS-C format camera is capable of capturing, all else being the same. To learn more about the relationship between the angle of view and the camera format, click here.

2. Depth of field

The larger a sensor, all else being the same, the lesser the depth of field and vice versa.

3. Image quality

The larger the sensor, the better the image quality, particularly in terms of dynamic range and noise performance (as shown in the image below, which was made using the full-frame camera, Nikon D850), and vice versa.

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