Understanding Camera Sensor Sizes

Have you ever stared at camera specs and felt like you were decoding an alien language? Those mysterious fractions next to sensor sizes – 1/1.56″, 1/2.3″, 1″ – what do they even mean? Well, this …

Have you ever stared at camera specs and felt like you were decoding an alien language? Those mysterious fractions next to sensor sizes – 1/1.56″, 1/2.3″, 1″ – what do they even mean? Well, this is what this article is all about – understanding camera sensor sizes.

There’s a video at the end of the article too!

What Are Camera Sensor Sizes?

Whenever I look at a camera or a new phone, those weird fractions like 1/1.56″ always annoy me when Iā€™m looking at camera specs. The simple rule: if it’s a fraction, the bigger the bottom number, the smaller the sensor. And that matters.

Think of a camera sensor like a window that captures light. The bigger the window, the more light it lets in. That means better low-light performance, shallower depth of field (that blurry background effect), better dynamic range allowing for more detail in shadows and highlights, and usually higher image quality.

Decoding the Fractions

Now, these fractions can be confusing! They actually refer to the diagonal size of the sensor, measured in inches. But here’s the catch: they don’t directly translate to inches like you might think.

For example, a 1/1.56″ sensor is actually smaller than a 1″ sensor. It’s all relative! Remember, the smaller the bottom number in the fraction, the larger the sensor size. For example, a 1/56″ sensor is smaller than a 1/2.3″ sensor, which is smaller than a 1-inch sensor.

Sensor SizeRelative Size
1/1.56″Smallest
1/1.23″Smaller
1″Larger
Full FrameLargest
An example of how to think about sensor sizes. The bigger the bottom number in the fraction, the smaller the sensor!

Full Frame Sensors

But what about full-frame sensors? In the context of cameras, a “full-frame” sensor refers to a sensor that is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, which is 36mm x 24mm. This size is considered standard for high-end digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras.

Comparatively, a “1-inch” sensor, despite its name, is not actually 1 inch in any dimension. Instead, it typically measures around 13.2mm x 8.8mm. This size is commonly found in high-end compact cameras and some bridge cameras.

Why Sensor Size Matters

When looking at a camera, DSLR, mirrorless, point-n-shoot, or even phone cameras, a bigger sensor is usually better and quite an important factor, but it’s not the only factor. Lens quality, megapixels, processing power, and post-processing also play a huge role.

Conclusion

Next time you’re camera shopping, you’ll be able to decipher those sensor sizes like a pro! What other camera questions do you have? Let me know in the comments on YouTube!