How Big is the Sensor in Your Compact Camera?

How many megapixels does your camera have? Most camera owners can easily answer that question, as the number of megapixels is often one of the top factors consumers look for when buying a camera, and it’s one that manufacturers also advertise heavily to promote the quality of their models. But do you know how big the sensor is inside your camera? Most consumers have no idea and don’t understand the importance of sensor size.

Digital cameras use either CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor)sensors to capture light and convert it into a digital signal that can be translated into an image file for the human to see. Bigger sensors have more surface area to capture light, making them more effective. Smaller cameras typically have smaller sensors, while larger cameras have room for larger sensors. That’s one of the reasons DSLRs are bigger and bulkier than other cameras – they need room for larger sensors that can capture more variance and nuance in light and color, thus producing better quality photos.

compact camera with big sensor - nikon j1New technology, however, is making it easier for manufacturers to make compact cameras with big sensors. For instance, the new “Four Thirds” cameras have more room for bigger sensors because they don’t use mirrors.

The Nikon J1, for instance, is a new mirrorless compact camera with big sensor. The 10.1 MP CMOS sensor measures 13.2 x 8.8 mm. The more traditionally styled Nikon CoolPix L26 has more megapixel (16.1 MP ), but its sensor is only 1/2.3 inches (6.17x 4.55mm), significantly smaller than the sensor in the J1. Accordingly, the price on the CoolPix L26 is much lower than that of the J1.

Of course, many factors go into photo quality, so if you’re looking for a new camera, you should consider the number of megapixels and sensor size along with other features such as the type of lens, available ISO settings and other technology before making a decision. But if you have to choose between two cameras with similar features and you can’t decide which one to choose, you’re likely to get better photos if you choose the compact camera with big sensor.

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