Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

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What do the different sensor size names used by Canon mean? There's APS-C, APS-H and full format? What are the standards used by Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, and others?

What are the effects of these different sensor sizes (and the corresponding "crop factor") on lenses?

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The question reads like two questions but I think could be asked more succinctly with something like: "What are the different sensor sizes used by Canon and Nikon?" –  matt burns Aug 25 '10 at 16:41
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

These are the different sensor sizes:

  • Full frame sensor (Nikon's FX, Canon does not use special term): 36 x 24mm, no crop (actual size might differ slightly between brands and cameras)
  • Canon's APS-H: 27.9 x 18.6mm, crop factor 1.3
  • Canon's APS-C: 22.3 x 14.9mm, crop factor 1.6
  • Nikon's DX: 23.6 x 15.8mm, crop factor 1.5 (23.1 x 15.4mm, crop factor 1.55 for Nikon 3100)

The effects of crop factor to the lenses is that the smaller sizes lessen the angle of view, but as the focal length is universally adapted to represent the field of view, you can multiply the focal lengths by the crop factor to get the indication for angle of view.

In example if you take 18-55mm zoom, it's effective angle of view on APS-C is equivalent to 18x1.6-55x1.6 ~ 28-90mm lens on a fullframe camera.

You might find this discussion about focal lengths and their equivalents useful.

When shopping for lenses, one should keep in mind that when you have camera with cropped sensor, both fullframe (Canon's EF, Nikon's lenses without DX marking) and cropped sensor (Canon's EF-S, Nikon's DX) lenses are usable on your camera, but lenses made for cameras with cropped sensor are not usable on fullframe cameras.

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thanks Karel, just one more doubt cropped up after going through sensor formats. I am planning to buy an entry level DSLR, my choice was Canon 500D. The confusion is because of difference in sensor sizes used by Canon and Nikon. Nikon uses slightly larger size sensors than canon in their entry level DLSRs. Which one should i go for, more importantly how much it matters ? –  intoTHEwild Aug 25 '10 at 12:08
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@intoTHEwild: It doesn't matter, it's a fairly minimal difference and both make good cameras. I'd suggest, however, that you handle the various entry-level cameras in the store and read up on their features, these are more important than the slight sensor size differences. Also, don't necessarily limit yourself to Canon or Nikon, there are other options worth checking. –  John Cavan Aug 25 '10 at 12:16
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You're welcome. The difference in sensor size between APS-C and DX is so small it doesn't really matter. You can compare cameras by pixel density (ie dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Canon & /Nikon/) and even the relation of pixel density to final output quality is far more complex than could be described in this comment space. –  Karel Aug 25 '10 at 12:30
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