What really makes big sensors produce more appealing images? *Serious*

Started Mar 13, 2014 | Discussions thread
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 27,030
Re: Smoother, more natural, richer, better tonality

Ontario Gone wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

Well sensor efficiency is the key in my fairly limited understanding. Take for instance m4/3's, which I know very well. The EPL-1 had a relatively inefficient Panasonic sensor and has quite a distinctive contrasty image quality (one I quite like actually). Now compare it to an E-M5 (A camera which I also owned) and you will see much smoother results because it has a newer more efficient Sony sensor. The sensor size is the same but the difference in colour depth is 1.3 in favour of the E-M5 and the signal to noise ratio is also better on the E-M5 because of it's more efficient sensor. I can definitely see a difference in the files from these camera in terms of tonality and richness. My Canon 5D2, an older FF camera still outscores the current best m4/3's camera, the E-M1 in terms of colour depth. The difference is now pretty small but it will be larger on a newer full frame camera with a newer more efficient sensor so colour depth must have some correlation with sensor size ( Amount of light hitting the larger sensor ). Combine that with differences in dof and I believe that this is the difference you can see in the end results on the larger formats. For instance, wide angle shallow depth of field is a look you can achieve easily in FF, add the increased colour depth and you have your visible difference IMHO. Sometimes it is very minimal, at other times much more noticeable, depending on the lens and camera (sensor) used, which are both key variables.

Yes true, but again this has nothing to do with sensor size, it has to do with the specific technology of the brand of sensor. I see no evidence that FF sensors are made with superior generational technology than smaller sensors. In fact we kinda see the opposite, the EM1 has a Panasonic MFT sensor, and it's DR matches most current apsc sensors, by any manufacturer. This again doesn't prove anything about sensor size, which was more to my point.

That was effectively what I said with one caveat, assuming that two different size sensors are equally efficient, the larger one will perform better at the same gain on account of it receiving more light, in the case of FF vs m4/3's that will be 4 times more light at equal apertures. That translates into better colour depth and hence the appearance of a richer, smoother look.

To go a step further, if we are to believe Panasonic and Fuji, MFT is poised to get a huge boost in IQ. Between their color filter and organic sensor, both releases pending, they claim a massive DR gain and a 1.1 stop gain in noise performance. Now, imagine if they decided to make a FF sensor with this technology.

Absolutely, I fully expect my 5D2 to be surpassed in time by m4/3's cameras in terms of performance, it's inevitable. The dof control will still be better on the Canon, and some other physical advantages (well advantages for me anyway, such as battery life) but that'll be it. However, technology improvements in a smaller sensor can be made in the larger sensor as well and then the gap in IQ will remain ( depending on patents of course ).

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