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This article was published in the January-March 2010 issue of 00 -00
Your camera’s sensor
Sensor size
The EOS range of cameras
Crop factor
APS-C
There is a lot of confusion about megapixels and sensor size, and
the impact each has on image quality. Andrew Gibson clarifies the
advantages of full-frame and cropped sensors.
ANDREW GIBSON
Measuring
approximately
22x15mm, the
APS-C sensor is the
smallest in the EOS
range. The smaller
the sensor, the less expensive it is to produce,
which is why APS-C size sensors are used in
Canon’s entry level and mid-range models.
APS-H
The APS-H sensor
is used in the
professional EOS
1D series cameras
and sits between
the other two sizes
at approximately 29x19mm. The information
from these sensors can be handled more
quickly by the camera’s processors than the
information from full-frame sensors – hence
the cameras are more responsive and have
the rapid frame rates required by sports, news
and nature photographers.
Full-frame
At approximately
36x24mm a fullframe sensor is more
or less the same size
as the frame on a
35mm film camera.
If all other factors are equal, larger sensors
produce better quality images, which is why
these sensors are used in the professional
EOS 1Ds series and high-end consumer
models like the EOS 5D and 5D Mark II. They
are also much more expensive to produce,
which is one of the reasons why these
cameras cost more.
The release of the EOS 7D has sparked a
debate about the merits of megapixels. How
many megapixels are enough? How many are
too much? Should I buy a full-frame camera?
To discuss the implications of these
questions we need to look at the advantages
and disadvantages of full-frame and cropped
sensors. Cameras with APS-C size sensors
perform differently from cameras with fullframe sensors. Whether these differences
are advantageous or not depends on your
viewpoint, the type of images you shoot and
the demands you put on your equipment.
Every time Canon introduces a new
camera, it designs a sensor to meet the needs
of the body. The sensor is one of the most
important components in the camera. It’s
effectively the camera’s eye – the quality
Above This portrait
was shot on an EOS 5D
Mk II camera, which has
a full-frame sensor (red
framing). The green and
yellow framing shows
how it would look if it
were taken from the
same position and with
the same lens on an
APS-H camera (green)
or APS-C camera
(yellow). The depth-offield stays the same;
the effect of using
smaller sensors simply
crops the image.
of the images the camera is capable of
producing depends on the sensor and the
circuitry that processes the data read from it.
It’s important not to be too worried
about whether your particular EOS model is
advanced enough to produce good images.
Digital cameras are still a rapidly evolving
technology, and while it’s easy to feel left
out as cameras evolve the upside is that we
can look forward to more advances in sensor
technology in years to come.
If you’re a professional or semi-pro
photographer your livelihood is dependent on
you producing images of the highest quality,
and so keeping up with the latest technology
is paramount. But for most of us, our skills
and artistic vision are just as important as the
electronics inside our cameras.
Image size
(pixels)
Pixel Pitch
(microns)*
Sensor Size
(millimetres)
Sensor
3.11
2160x1440
10.2
22.7x15.1
APS-C
6.3
3072x2048
7.4
22.7x15.1
APS-C
EOS 300D
6.3
3072x2048
7.4
22.7x15.1
APS-C
EOS 350D
8.2
3456x2304
6.4
22.2x14.8
APS-C
EOS 400D
10.1
3888x2592
5.7
22.2x14.8
APS-C
EOS 450D
12.2
4272x2848
5.2
22.2x14.8
APS-C
EOS 500D
15.1
4752x3168
6.4
22.3x14.9
EOS 1000D
10.1
3888x2592
5.7
22.2x14.8
EOS 10D
6.3
3072x2048
7.4
22.7x15.1
EOS 20D, 20Da
8.2
3504x2336
6.4
22.5x15.0
APS-C
EOS 30D
8.2
3504x2336
6.4
22.5x15.0
APS-C
EOS 40D
10.1
3888x2592
5.7
22.4x14.8
APS-C
EOS 5D
15.1
12.8
4752x3168
4368x2912
4.7
22.3x14.9
35.8x23.9
Full-frame
6.4
36.0x24.0
Full-frame
22.3x14.9
APS-C
28.7x19.1
APS-H
5184x3456
4.15
2464x1648
10.8**
8.2
APS-C
APS-C
4.3
21.1
18.0
EOS 1D
EOS 1D Mark II
5616x3744
APS-C
8.2
EOS 5D Mark II
EOS 7D
28.7x19.1
APS-C
3504x2336
8.2
8.2
3504x2336
8.2
EOS 1D Mark III
10.1
3888x2592
7.2
28.1x18.7
APS-H
EOS 1D Mark IV
16.1
4896x3264
5.7
27.9x18.6
APS-H
8.8
35.8x23.8
EOS 1D Mark II N
Above This diagram shows the relative sizes of the
three sensors that can be found in EOS cameras.
The APS-C sensor is shown in yellow, the APS-H
sensor in green and the full-frame sensor in red.
Medium and large
format cameras
Photographers who
use medium and large
format cameras will
be familiar with this
difference in the focal
length of the standard
lens. A standard lens
on a 6 x 6cm medium
format has a focal
length of 80mm, and
200mm on a 5 x 7 inch
view camera.
EOS D60
CAMERA
Effective
megapixels
Above The field-ofview of a 50mm lens
varies depending on the
camera. On a full-frame
camera it has a fieldof-view of 39° (red), 32°
on an APS-H camera
(green) and 25° on an
APS-C camera (yellow).
EOS D30
EOS 50D
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On EOS film cameras, compatible lenses
behave the same, no matter which body they
are used with. This is because the film frame
size is always 36 x 24mm (known as fullframe). It is different with EOS digital cameras,
because there are three different sensor sizes.
Take a 50mm lens, for example (or a zoom
lens set to 50mm). On a full frame camera
(film or digital) this is called a ‘standard’ focal
length, based on its horizontal field-of-view
of about 40° (supposedly similar to that of the
human eye).
With the smaller sensor of an APS-C
camera, however, the horizontal field-of-view
of a 50mm lens is only about 25°, taking it into
telephoto lens territory.
The lens which gives a horizontal field-ofview of around 40mm with an APS-C camera
is one with a focal length of 28mm. So with an
APS-C camera, the standard lens is 28mm.
You will often see a ‘crop factor’ of 1.6x
mentioned in connection with APS-C format
cameras. This tells you that if you multiply
the focal length of a lens used on an APS-C
camera by 1.6, you will find the equivalent
focal length of lens on a full-frame camera
which gives a similar horizontal field-of-view.
Or you can simply remember that, on an
APS-C format camera, any lens below 28mm
is wide-angle, any lens above is telephoto.
28.7x19.1
APS-H
APS-H
EOS 1Ds
11.1
4064x2704
EOS 1Ds Mark II
16.7
4992x3328
7.2
36.0x24.0
Full-frame
EOS 1Ds Mark III
21.1
5616x3744
6.4
36.0x24.0
Full-frame
Full-frame
* 1 micron = 1/1000 millimetre **The EOS 1D is the only EOS camera with a CCD sensor.
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