Do You Need a Big Sensor for Big Photographs?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace, photo by Mark Toal

My friend Jack, who is an actual published photographer, thinks that all mirrorless cameras have small sensors, like Micro Four-thirds’ 18 × 13.5mm. Regular readers know that some mirrorless cameras have ASPS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm) and some even have full-frame (24x36mm) sensors. Medium format? That’s a whole ‘nother question: Read my surprising comparison of so-called Medium Format camera sensor sizes in ‘What’s So Medium About Medium Format’ on our sister blog ‘Saving the World, One Pixel @ a Time.’

And speaking of sensor sizes, I am getting so tired of reading about how wonderful the camera in the iPhone 7 is. Let’s take a look: The sensor measures 4.15 x 7.21mm and the lens produces an equivalent of 29.92mm. Not the perfect lens for portraiture, yet people love to use their phone to make distorted portraits all the time. And selfies? Don’t get me started.


p1000287-editDoes size matter? Without accessories, an Apple iPhone 6 measures 5.44 x 2.64 inches; an iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22 x3.06 inches. My old Panasonic Lumix GX1 measures 4.6 x 2.7-inches and the (now discontinued) Lumix GM1 is 4.6 x 2.7-inches. And while you can’t make a phone call on a GM1, it has Wi-Fi and makes awesome photographs using interchangeable lenses.

I guess what gets my goat is the same Internet pundits that proclaim how wonderful the iPhone’s camera is are also the same geniuses that say the sensor in Micro Four-thirds cameras is too small to make good pictures and that you need APS-C and full frame sensors in camera like Sony’s to make really great pictures. And yet they have no sense of irony in denigrating the results from a 18 × 13.5mm sensor while saying one that measures 4.15 x 7.21mm is just ducky.

Way back in the early days of this blog, Mark wrote a great post all about this subject called ‘Making the BIG Print.” And it’s still worth a read today. Also if you in a reading mood, check out my attempt at humor about sensor size in my post, ‘What’s a MegaPixel Anyway?’

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I used all kind of cameras (and sensor sizes) along with different and inexpensive lighting techniques, in my book, “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as It will make a really nice Christmas or holiday gift for your favorite photographer or yourself.