Image Sensor Format: A Consideration When Choosing a Camera Sensor 

image sensor

If you are seeking out a camera, you might find yourself confused when reading the specifications of a camera pertaining to image sensors. 

It’s okay; you’re not the only one. The purpose of image sensors, and how they work, are not fully understood by many people. Today, we’ll explore some of the‌ ‌inner‌ ‌workings‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌camera, especially about sensor formats. In this article, we’re here to give you a quick and easy introduction to‌ ‌image‌ ‌sensor formats. We’ll talk about the different types and sizes available.  

Overview of Image Sensor 

The component at the heart of your camera that’s in charge of capturing light when the shutter opens and turning it into a picture is called an image sensor. The light that enters your lens is collected by an image sensor, which then turns it into an electronic signal. After analyzing the signal, the camera converts the data into colors that approximate to the real image seen in the camera’s view. The clarity of your images as a whole is determined by the image sensor in your camera, which has an impact on things including depth of field, dynamic range, resolution, and low-light performance. It then delivers it to the camera’s CPU for processing into an image that we see. 

What is Image Sensor Format?

Image sensor format corresponds to the dimensions of the active area of the sensor. It is usually addressed in terms of Optical Inches. Each Optical Inch corresponds to 16mm.

The angle of view of a certain lens when used with a specific camera is determined by the image sensor format of the digital camera. Despite the fact that there are only two primary types of image sensors (CCD and CMOS), they come in a wide range of formats. Selecting a lens and other camera optics requires knowledge of the sensor format.

The overall size of a sensor is determined by its resolution and pixel size, with larger sensors typically having better resolutions or relatively large pixel sizes than smaller sensors. Particularly, image sensors in digital SLR cameras frequently have smaller imaging areas than full-frame 35 mm cameras, which have an image area of 24 mm x 36 mm. So, higher-quality photos are often produced by larger image sensors. 

Overview of Photosites and Megapixels


Although megapixels do play a role in the creation of clear images, they are not the only factor. The size of the sensor is important. 

The sensor is a photosensitive tool that can record both colour and light. However, the sensor does not have a flat, smooth surface. On the sensor are several small light-capturing areas known as “photosites.” Each of these cavities records data for a single pixel. 

The smallest component of a digital image that may be displayed on a display device is a pixel. One megapixel is equal to one million pixels. Therefore, the number of these photo-sensitive spots on your sensor is represented by your megapixel count. 

The photosites plays a major role in megapixels, for instance, an 8-megapixel camera is equal to 8 million photosites. As a result, your megapixel count represents the number of photo-sensitive areas on your sensor. 

How does the sensor size impact the image quality?


There is typically a correlation between the size of the sensor and the size of the camera. The bigger the sensor, the bigger the camera. Smartphones and compact cameras usually have smaller sensors than mirrorless and DSLR cameras. In spite of this, there are smartphones with surprisingly better results on the market because of advancements in technology.  

It is critical to consider the sensor size when selecting a camera. Let’s take a look at what determines sensor size.

  • Resolution: The sensor’s resolution is the number of pixels it can support. Sensor size determines how many pixels and how big each pixel is. 
  • Sensitivity: Pixel size and number are closely linked to sensor size, as mentioned earlier. It is the pixel size that dictates how effectively the pixel can accept the photons falling on it during the exposure process, which affects the sensor’s sensitivity. 
  • Optics: Sensor sizes determine compatibility with various optics standards, such as M4, M6, M7, M8, M12, and C/CS mounts. Optics diameters cannot be smaller than sensor diagonals. 
  • Low-Light capabilities: As was already stated, megapixels are a measurement of your image’s resolution, but a bigger number doesn’t imply that they address every issue. We need to consider the size of each pixel. In comparison to a smaller pixels, a larger pixel based sensor enables greater photosites and the capacity to capture low light conditions. 
  • Depth of field: To capture a depth of field, or to focus a subject by blurring a background, a larger sensor would be the right choice. Smaller sensors require more distance from the subject to execute this or by using wide angle lens.
  • Angle of view: Angle of view describes most of that frame will be visible after the image has been taken.
  • Dynamic range and image noise: Larger sensors have more photosites, which broaden the dynamic range of the camera and reduce image noise. The maximum variation among a photo’s lightest and darkest tones is called dynamic range, therefore a higher range is a huge benefit. 

What are the factors to consider when choosing a camera sensor?  

Let’s say you want a compact camera with higher resolution. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Higher resolution – 4K or 13MP 
  • Compact Optics – M6 standards with 6 mm diameter 

In this case, we are looking at an 8MP or 13MP sensor with a sensor size of 1/3″ or less, since the optical diameter is 6 mm. We have worked with options such as AR1335, OV13850 based camera modules. 

In another scenario, you need a low light camera with a wide field of view, then you may go for the following solution:

  • Higher pixel size means Higher sensor size 
  • A resolution of 2MP or 3MP would suffice. 
  • In M12 Standard, we have many FOV options to choose from. 

This leads us to a 2MP or 3MP sensor-based camera with a M12 lens holder and Wide FOV lens. We have worked with options such as IMX291, AR0233, AR0234, OV2312 based camera modules. 

Each of the types has its own purpose and use case. No one type fits all requirements. According to the use case, we must choose which type of sensor best meets our needs.  

Wrapping Up 

Understanding the technologies of digital sensors can help you find the most suitable camera for your application. The proper lens, as we have seen, will be determined by pixel size and sensor type. If you’re ready to talk about your camera needs, Vadzo’s team will be happy to assist you. Vadzo has the pleasure of working with imaging sensors from businesses such as On Semiconductors, Sony, Omnivision, and others.  

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