Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Mystery of Sensors

When I used film I did not always find it possible to fully understand all of the technical data, but enough of it to choose film without too many surprises. The sensor in a digital camera is the digital equivalent to film in many ways. With the right sensor most photographs look technically accurate. But what should be watched - megapixels or the size of the sensor? Sensors are measured by diagonal size. Most point and shoot camera sensors have a diagonal length of 7.7mm. An SLR camera might be 25mm. To make matters worse there are "Bayer pattern sensors". There are two types of these - CMOS and CCD. And then there are Foveon X3 sensors.

If you have a 10 megapixel camera with the smaller sensor the pixels are smaller and of lower quality than a 10 megapixel DSLR. This is one of the principal reasons point and shoot cameras don't always produce photographs like those made with larger sensor SLR cameras. Sensor size is more important than the number of megapixels. The best choice would be a large sensor with lots of megapixels.

I work with both a SLR camera and a point and shoot camera. I have found that with the point and shoot camera if I work in low contrast light and keep the ISO at 100 I get some pretty accurate photographs. For more technically demanding situations, of which there are many, I use the SLR.


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