Quick Sensor Size Recap, Universal Measurement

With all the talk of new cameras i thought it might be beneficial to go over sensor sizes again. This time i’ll make it really down and dirty and try to use as close to a universal measurement standard as i can. This is NOT scientific. When it comes to truly measuring image sensor you have to be far more precise and take into account variables such as aspect ratio and active pixel areas. This is the “quick guide” if you will, purely for the sake of giving some kind of universal language to work off of.

1/3”- Measurement diagonally is 0.22 of an inch. This is the standard found in most under $10k traditional ENG video cameras, hand held or shoulder mount.

2/3”- Measurement diagonally is 0.45 of an inch. This is the standard found in most full size shoulder mount broadcast ENG cameras. Typically these cameras start at least $15,000.

Super16mm- Measurement diagonally is 0.55 of an inch. This is classic film standard that is used less commonly these days. Interestingly enough there has been a bit of a “digital resurgence” of late. The BMD Pocket and the Digital Bolex are both natively this size and the Sony F5 & F55 can underscan and offer Super16 lens compatibility.

Micro Four Thirds- Measurement diagonally is .85 of an inch. This format was first created by Panasonic and Olympus for the still photo world. It has made inroads in cinema cameras both as a sensor size and as a lens mount style.

Super35mm- Measurement diagonally is 1.15 inches. This format has been and continues to be the most commonly used format for motion picture creation for the past 70 years. It is an industry standard with a high degree of lens compatibility. It is very similar to APS-C, a still photo standard that measures about 1.04 inches.

Still Photo Full Frame- Measurement diagonally is 1.7 inches. This format has been a universal format for still photography for over 70 years. It is till held up as the “gold standard” for still photo digital SLRs. It is also the standard by which most people think of when the envision lens focal length to angle of view ratios. It as little application for motion picture, the depth of field is considered to be almost too shallow for common use. But people continue to have success using cameras such as the 5D and the new Sony A7s for Full Frame video acquisition.

Anomaly Format: BMD 2.5K- Measurement diagonally is 0.7 of an inch. Some formats are really only used in 1 or 2 applications. So far the original BMD 2.5K sensor size has not seen any forward momentum and most likely will fade away. Post by Eric C. Petrie


NAB ’14 Camera Recap: What Did We Really Get

The annual NAB show has come and gone. It was a good year for cameras and it also saw the spreading of some interesting trends:

Dockable Cameras: What’s old is new again. The two piece camera concept, something big up through the late 90’s, is back. We saw two piece, head-dock combo cameras from Blackmagic Design with the URSA and from Panasonic with the new VariCam system. We’ll see if these dock systems catch on with more manufacturers and more models and if these docks actually pay off with the flexibility the makers claim 

High Speed: We’re starting to get to a point where 60p is just expected in a professional camera. But we’re also introducing the concept that to make a “high speed” camera you don’t have to be Phantom creating thousands of frames per second. Most users are very excited about 120 or 240. For a lot of camera makers frame rates in this range are now becoming very tangible specifications. AJA, Panasonic, Sony, and even JVC all showed cameras that could reach the 120 threshold.

ProRes & Other Beefy 10-Bit Codecs: ProRes is starting to become the closest thing the video industry has ever had to a high end “universal standard” codec. Blackmagic, AJA, and even Sony and Panasonic all showed ProRes recording cameras. And we have more options for ProRes external records then ever, thanks to AJA and Atomos. Beyond ProRes the theme was 10-bit. XAVC and AVC-Ultra where shown off on many new models, all recording in 10-bit. In some cases the compression schemes have become so good we can get a 10-bit signal out of a 25mbps package. RAW recording is starting to become more readily available, though i wouldn’t quite call it a “common” feature yet.

Super35mm: Large sensor “cinema” cameras have been the growing trend for the last 3-4 NAB shows. This year the ratio of cameras that specifically use the Super35mm standard compared to smaller sensors was the biggest it’s ever been. Panasonic, AJA, Blackmagic Design, JVC, and Sony all showed new cameras that make use of this format. There were very few cameras shown with smaller traditional broadcast 1/3” or 2/3” sensors.

Shoulder Mount/ Improved Ergonomics: Generally speaking there weren’t too many cameras that required kitting out shown this year. There was a very pleasant uptake in ready to go cameras. The Blackmagic URSA, The AJA CION, the new VariCams, and the new JVC all use shoulder mount designs. Sony’s even gone to the lengths of improving the F5 & F55 shoulder mount. Those cameras are already shoulder-mountable, and always have been. But now they’ve gone totally ENG with a new control layout and new features via a docking sled. JVC even showed an economically designed hand-held camera with a large Super35mm sensor. For some reason that’s a concept that hasn’t really been that prevalent before.

Post by Eric C. Petrie


So Many Freak’in Sensor Sizes!

Now that the latest Blackmagic camera is upon us we now have another “new” sensor size for the video industry, 16mm. But what the heck is 16mm? How does it compare to the Blackmagic Cinema sensor with the 2.5 “conversion” factor? How does that compare to that super popular Canon C100 or my buddies 5DmkIII? Lets find out.

This is a fantastic chart that was assmbled by Abel Cine (our friendly competetors) a couple years back. The information is still mostly relevent but it doesn’t have 16mm or the Blackmagic Cinema camera on it. Still i like this chart because its graphical interface is super clear. Yellow=traditional Super35mm motion picture film, Blue=digital sensor. You can see that the APS-C used in a lot of DSLRs is the closest thing in the consumer world to Super35. You also can clearly see that Micro 4/3, while smaller, is actually closer to Super35 then the 5DmkIII.

Here is another chart that shows the Blackmagic Cinema sensor and the Suepr16mm size. Super16 is smaller then the existing BMD Cinema sensor. S16 comes in at just under 1″ on the diagonal. This puts it right about middle ground between a traditional 2/3″ broadcast camera and a 4/3″ sensor. Super35mm measures 1.7″ diagonal. While it may be bigger then a broadcast sensor it’s not a ton bigger. Will this limit you creativly? No, not if you know ways around it’s limitaions. Another consideration is your field of view is affected by a near 3x “conversion” compared to Full Frame still photo 35mm. Field of view is changed roughly by a 2x “conversion” to Super35mm motion picture. Want a nice wide angle to get interior shots? You’re going to want something below 10mm. That can be a tad tricky to find.

Study up on the sensor sizes. Don’t worry about it too much though. With everything there is a balance, bigger is not always better. Post by Eric C. Petrie