FF, APS-C, MFT and 1″ sensors compared

Sensor size is a topic that’s discussed daily on social media. In almost every group you’re in, even ones dedicated to cameras of a specific sensor size, scroll far enough down the posts, and you’ll see one. There are a lot of myths around sensor size, but also some important factors.

In this video, photographer Tom Calton looks at four different sensor sizes. Included are full-frame, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds and 1-inch. He illustrates the differences between each from a practical real-world standpoint.

Sensor size matters – except when it doesn’t

For a lot of things that people shoot, particularly things that have a lot of depth of field, the sensor size doesn’t really matter. Assuming you can get enough light for good exposure, they’re all capable of producing similar results. The big issue comes when you want that shallower depth of field.

A shallow depth of field is much easier to achieve with a larger sensor. It’s not impossible to get a shallower depth of field with smaller sensors, but it is challenging. Smaller sensors are more limited in terms of depth of field due to how physics works.

Sometimes, smaller is better

Sometimes, however, this increased depth of field can be an advantage. For example, many prefer Micro Four Thirds for video specifically because of its smaller size. I’m one of them. I bought six Micro Four Thirds Panasonics in 2020 for video, despite using full-frame Nikons for stills. I wanted the smaller sensor.

For things like interviews, events, and many spoken pieces to the camera, having a slightly greater depth of field without having to stop down your aperture and lose light is actually an advantage. Macro photography, too, will often benefit from a smaller sensor. It allows you to get more of your subject in focus, requiring fewer images for focus stacking.

It’s an interesting video, and Tom goes pretty in-depth for almost 18 minutes. It busts a few myths and clarifies a few common misunderstandings. Particularly interesting is the print comparison at the end. The difference isn’t quite as big as many people would think.

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