The perfect compact digital camera – Sensor Size


This is the second part of the series in finding the perfect compact digital camera.

Sensor size is one of important factors in regards to the image quality your camera can produce. Sensor size determines the quality of the image, your camera produces more than the number of pixels. The bigger, the sensor of the camera is, the better the quality is: Sharpness, detail, colour, the ability to photograph in low light are all affected by the sensor size.

I am waiting for getting access to the cameras to test in real life situations, so I decided to discuss some technical factors in non technical language.

Choosing the right camera is based on many factors and it is important to know which factors count. Sensor size is an important factor, as is lens quality.

Last week, I presented following contenders:

Fixed lens, high end compacts

4/3 Format cameras with interchangeable lenses

Zoom lens cameras with compact size sensors

This week, I will add another contender:

Small Built Camera with APS-C Sized Sensor

I stated last time, that I simply did not like the NEX series cameras. This is not reason enough to exclude it from the selection. These cameras have something unique to them, a big sensor with small camera size and interchangeable lenses. Sony also just announced the Sony NEX-C3 last week, which has some interesting features.


I am a visual person. This comparison helped me to see the difference.

Sensor Size Comparision

I included the sensor of the iPhone for good measure. To get an idea on how big differences are, I compared the different volumes (width x height) with each other. The sensors in the Canon S95, Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 are 2.8 times bigger than the iPhone sensor. The sensors in the Olympus XZ1, Leica D-Lux 5 and the Panasonic LX 5 are 1.12 times bigger than the Canon S95, G12 and Nikon P7000.

The sensors in the 4/3 cameras (Olympus Pen E-PL 2 and 2 and Panasonic GF-2) are 4.6 times bigger than the sensors in the Olympus XZ-1, Leica D-Lux 5 and Panasonic LX5.

The sensors in the APS-C sized cameras (Leica X1, Fuji X100 and Sony NEX-C3) are 1.6 times bigger than the 4/3 sized sensors.

The factor between and APS-C sized camera sensor and the sensors of the smaller cameras (Olympus XZ1, Leica D-Lux5, Panasonic LX5) is 8.5! The APS-C sized sensor is 23,9 times bigger than the iPhone’s.

You might understand now, why the quality of the pixel on a small sensor is not as good as the one on a big sensor. This is not the ultimate measure for the quality of a camera. There are other factors, that play into it. A low quality lens paired with a good quality sensor produces only average quality images.

I said it before, I am comparing cameras in different classes, but I want to find the perfect compact digital camera in this price range and camera size.

How do I compare sensor size of these cameras with each other. Obviously, the cameras with the big sensors are better. Another factor, I defined in my mission is the compact size of the cameras.

To rate the cameras, I decided to compare the volume of the sensors (width x height in mm) with the size of the cameras (width x height in mm). I calculated the relationship between sensor size (volume) and camera size (volume). The result is expressed in percent value.

In other words, how much space of the camera does the sensor occupy. How good is the design of the camera to fit a big sensor into a small camera body. Here are the results.

The bigger number is the better result:

  1. Sony NEX-C3: 5.62%
  2. Leica X1: 5.01%
  3. Fuji: X100: 3.93%
  4. Panasonic GF2: 2.94%
  5. Olympus Pen EPL2: 2.68%
  6. Canon S95: 0.74%
  7. Panasonic LX 5: 0.68%
  8. Leica D-Lux 5: 0.67%
  9. Olympus XZ1: 0.65%
  10. Canon G12: 0.51%
  11. Nikon P7000: 0.49%

Today’s winner is the late entry, the Sony NEX-C3

Please note that I updated the 4/3 cameras with the newer models.




Leave a Reply