excerpts, quips, and musings on the production and post-production industry, and other stuff of interest

Does Sensor Size Matter?

So that brings us to the physical size difference. Is that such a big deal? The thing that I would first consider is depth of field. The larger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field you get at a given aperture. I’ve run a few tests for myself and I have yet to see a big difference in this regard from APS to full frame. When I jump to the Phase? That’s when it shows up. Night and day difference on not just the amount of fall off with focus, but the way the focus falls off. I hate the term bokeh because 99% of the time I hear people use that word they have no idea what in the hell they are talking about. It’s become this catch phrase for “out of focus” or “shallow depth of field.” When people say, “Wow. I love the bokeh in your pictures,” that’s a pretty good sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s how much focus falls off then there’s how it falls off.

There's always quite a debate when any new camera is announced about how big the sensor size is. Terms like full frame, crop sensor, Super 35, Micro 4/3, or Super16 get tossed around on blogs (like this one) and forums. Having shot many of the formats above sensor size does make a difference, but I don't think it makes as big of a difference as the pixel peepers would like to make it out to be. I think Zack has some good illustrative pictures on his post that support his claim that sensor size just doesn't matter that much. Nearly, all of the movies shot digitally are technically shot on a crop sensor camera, Super 35 (i.e. not full frame) - Skyfall, Gravity, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain America, World War Z, Guardians of the Galaxy (and that list is just the Arri Alexa, not counting RED or Canon C cameras). I don't remember thinking in any of those movies about how bad the falloff looked due to a Super 35 sensor....!