From Tremendous 16 to IMAX, listed here are the most important variations in sensor sizes that you should know and the way to use them.

The dimensions of a digicam’s sensor determines how a lot gentle it may collect to create a picture, at the very least partly. Whereas it is sensible {that a} larger sensor can acquire extra info than a smaller one, producing higher photographs, there are main perks to a smaller sensor. 

The dimensions of the sensor space can range relying on the digicam you’re utilizing, with every sensor measurement or format having a subtly totally different look that may have an effect on the general visible tone of your mission. Whereas there are a great deal of totally different cameras with a great deal of totally different codecs and sensor sizes, there are 5 which are mostly utilized in movie manufacturing in the present day and have been standardized by movie historical past. 

In Depth Cine breaks down the 5 hottest codecs—Tremendous 16, Tremendous 35, Full Body, 65mm, and IMAX—and the consequences of every sensor measurement. Understanding which format will show you how to resolve which digicam and sensor sizes will greatest serve your manufacturing with ease. 

Why Sensor Measurement Issues 

Every sensor measurement format has distinctive traits, and it is essential to understand how they will have an effect on the subject of view, depth of subject, grain, lens alternative, and value level of your digicam bundle. 

Let’s begin with sensor measurement. The smaller the sensor is, the tighter the picture it is going to document. If we take a full-frame lens for example, with a picture circle of roughly 43mm, we’ll see {that a} full-frame sensor at 36mm by 24mm will be capable to seize your complete picture that the lens produces. Nonetheless, if we make the most of a smaller sensor, comparable to a Tremendous 35, Micro 4 Thirds, or Tremendous 16 sensor, they are going to seize a small space of the picture circle, in flip supplying you with a distinct subject of view. 

This impacts the sensation of depth and perspective in your picture, at the very least not directly, as you’ll have to reposition your digicam to attain related framing. Resulting from this, the sensor will have an effect on the vary of focal lengths that must be used on the digicam, as a 50mm lens will behave in another way on different-sized sensors. Check out this information from Abelcine to be taught extra!

The 5 hottest sensor sizes in movieCredit score: In Depth Cine

Area of View and Depth of Area

Let’s elaborate additional. To compensate for the distinction between the sphere of view, smaller codecs like Tremendous 16 want a wider angle lens to get a picture that sees the identical quantity of data whereas a bigger format requires an extended lens for that body. 

That is why the depth of subject can also be (not directly) affected throughout codecs due to the distinction within the subject of view. On a bigger sensor, creatives might want to make the most of longer focal lengths and reposition their cameras, which in flip might create a shallow depth of subject, that means that extra of the background might be out of focus and the topic might be additional separated from the background. Though there are a lot of attributes to a «cinematic» picture, this impact does enable a extra cinematic look because it creates a three-dimensional really feel to the picture.

The draw back of this, nevertheless, is that the job of the 1st AC will turn into tougher as it’s more durable to constantly maintain the main target sharp. Smaller codecs are sometimes extra forgiving attributable to them not directly making a deeper depth of subject, which retains extra of the picture in focus. Again within the days of celluloid, DPs who lower their enamel as ACs most popular working in Tremendous 16, because it was simpler to nail your focus.

ARRI Mini vs ARRI 65
Tremendous 35 ARRI Mini vs 65mm ARRI 65Credit score: manuelluebbers

Grain and Noise

Talking of celluloid, the grain and determination of a picture are additionally affected by the dimensions of the format (at the very least on movie). The smaller the movie inventory is, the extra noticeable the grain or noise texture will often be. Simply go and examine Tremendous 16 to IMAX. In flip, the bigger the movie detrimental is, the higher the decision might be, creating a transparent and crisp picture.

Nonetheless, in the case of digital sensors, smaller does not at all times imply extra grain (or noise). Whereas bigger sensors do have higher noise management due to extra floor space, cameras are getting so good that it isn’t the identical as again within the movie days. 

In fact, with digital, you possibly can at all times add grain in submit to create the specified stage of texture in case you are wanting a particular picture. Because of this even on full-frame digital cinema cameras, you possibly can mimic the feel and really feel of Tremendous 16! 

Present Me the Cash!

Lastly is the worth distinction. Clearly, the bigger you go, the costlier it’s to shoot on, with smaller codecs being extraordinarily budget-friendly.

Let’s take a look at celluloid movie for example. Tremendous 35 movie inventory is bigger, however can also be costlier, not solely to buy but additionally to course of and scan. Tremendous 16, alternatively, generally is a nice various and remains to be used to shoot indie options on a price range. This is an ideal breakdown from Noam Kroll on his experiences with budgeting for Tremendous 16. 

After we have a look at the digital world, the identical value patterns additionally sort of apply. Bigger sensors like full-frame (referred to as giant format within the cine world) require extra processing energy than MFT or Tremendous 16 sensors. This calls for extra advanced electronics and thus raises the worth. However as expertise will get higher, these costs will fluctuate loads. Simply have a look at the Fujifilm GFX 100s with its bigger than full-frame sensor! Getting that sort of tech earlier than Fuji would have been a rental solely (if we excluded Hasselblad, since its video choices weren’t nice).

DZO Pictor Zooms
DZO Pictor Zooms for Tremendous 35 Credit score: DZOfilm

That is additionally the place lenses turn into an enormous issue. Whereas you need to use full-frame glass to shoot on any sensor smaller than the picture circle, these lenses aren’t at all times the most affordable. You are additionally leaving loads of picture cirlce on the desk for those who shoot on a smaller sensor. That is why some lenses are constructed for particular sensor or movie format. Most notably, Tremendous 35 and Tremendous 16. Lenses for these codecs produce a picture circle that completely nestles the body inside it, with none additional.

These lense are most frequently cheaper to supply, are lighter, and should have higher picture high quality than their larger brothers. This would possibly not even have an effect on your focal size, since a 50mm is a 50mm, because the outdated saying goes. 

Tremendous 16

Tremendous 16 movie is the smallest frequently used format in movie manufacturing. The movie’s smaller measurement of 12.5x7.4mm makes this an affordable choice as a result of much less bodily movie inventory is required. Resulting from its accessibility, Tremendous 16 was typically used prior to now to seize lower-budget productions. 

Since digital cameras have overtaken movie, the Tremendous 16 is principally chosen for its optical traits reasonably than its value level. Its grittier picture high quality produces lovely movie grain and is commonly used in the present day to evoke a rougher sense of nostalgia with the deeper depth of subject it not directly produces, which retains extra of the picture in focus.

Some digital cameras like the unique Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digital camera have a Tremendous 16 sensor, with the newer iterations carrying MFT and Tremendous 35-sized sensors. Cameras just like the ARRI Alexa Mini LF, which have larger sensors, can document in specialised recording modes that pattern a Tremendous 16 measurement space of the sensor.

‘Moonrise Kingdom’ shot on Tremendous 16Credit score: Focus Options

Tremendous 35

Tremendous 35 has turn into probably the most generally used format in the present day and is predicated on the 35mm movement image movie measurement that covers an approximate space of 24.9×18.6mm. Whereas the movie inventory is identical measurement as common images movie, the movie is uncovered with the reel working vertically as a substitute of horizontally and may seize totally different quantities of that horizontal house relying on the price range, side ratio, and lenses used. 

The body may also be cropped to make use of much less movie inventory or to extract a widescreen picture when used with a spherical lens. Capturing with an anamorphic lens will use your complete space of the detrimental, optically squeezing the picture. This must be de-squeezed in a later stage to get to a 2.39:1 side ratio. 

Many digital cinema digicam sensors are modeled on this sensor measurement, with some minor measurement variations, just like the ARRI Alexa Mini, RED Dragon S35, and the Sony F65. The format is extraordinarily widespread for its movie grain and simplistic but beautiful depth of subject, which might be why this format has the widest number of cinema lenses obtainable.

‘Licorice Pizza’Credit score: United Artists Releasing


This measurement, often known as giant format, as we talked about earlier than, is modeled on nonetheless images movie or a 35mm picture sensor format, such because the Canon 5D. Full-frame can also be across the identical measurement as 8-perf Vista Imaginative and prescient movie, which runs the movie horizontally like a daily images movie digicam. Though digital sensors differ a bit relying on the specified side ratio, it’s often about 36x24mm.

Some cameras with this sensor measurement embrace the Alexa LF, Sony VENICE, and the Canon C700 FF. This huge format is positioned within the center floor between the Tremendous 35 and the 65mm, making a shallower subject depth with a bit little bit of movie grain or diminished noise.

‘The Possession of Hannah Grace’Credit score: Sony Photos Releasing


Initially, this format was primarily based on 65mm gauge movie, which was 3.5 occasions as giant as the usual 35mm, and measured 52.6x23mm utilizing 5 vertical perforations with a widescreen side ratio of two.2:1. 

The Alexa 65 has a digital sensor that matches 65mm movie and is a viable digital model of this format, regardless that it is rental solely at this cut-off date. Utilizing a 65mm format digicam will produce a wider subject of view than the 35mm format whereas sustaining a shallower depth of subject and a extra compressed rendering of house. This implies you possibly can see wider with out going wider in your lens!

‘The Hateful Eight’Credit score: The Weinstein Firm


That is the most important movement image format you possibly can shoot and does not actually have a digital equal. Usually reserved for big-budget movies or documentaries that look to reinforce the movie-watching expertise, IMAX movie requires specialised cameras to shoot it and somebody who is aware of the way to work with the movie and cameras.

With an infinite 15 perforations per body, an IMAX body covers a 70.4×52.6mm picture space. Resulting from its enormous detrimental measurement and the specialised cameras required to shoot it, this format is pricey and is out of the price range vary for many productions. 

IMAX has seen a little bit of a resurgence lately with Christopher Nolan utilizing the format to shoot his Darkish Knight trilogy and Jordan Peele utilizing it on his upcoming horror-epic Nope.

‘Nope’Credit score: Common Photos

Meals for Thought

Does sensor measurement matter in the long run? Sure, in case you are seeking to obtain a particular visible and cinematic tone.

However is one sensor measurement higher than one other? No! It is simply the consequences every one offers are totally different. The format that can work greatest for you is fully depending on what the mission wants. At all times select what will serve your story reasonably than obtain a particular visible language that doesn’t work with or for the story. 

Realizing what is going to work greatest for the mission is at all times nice filmmaking data, and may take you far within the business. Tell us your ideas within the feedback!     

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