Comparing sensor sizes from Medium Format to Micro Four Thirds – Can you tell the difference?

May 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Comparing sensor sizes from Medium Format to Micro Four Thirds – Can you tell the difference?

May 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The title of this post is a somewhat rhetorical question, because whether or not you’ll be able to tell the difference largely depends on what you’re shooting, the lens you’re using, the level of tech in the sensor and how the final image is going to be displayed. But there are definitely some differences between sensors at different sizes.

In this video, The Slanted lens takes a look at four cameras with different sensor sizes in various conditions to see how they stack up against each other. Interestingly, they don’t just pixel peep on the computer screen, either. They also make 24″ prints to see if you can really spot the difference in the real world.

The four cameras compared in the video are the 50-megapixel Hasselblad X1D II 50c, the 61-megapixel Sony A7R IV, the 24-2-megapixel Sony A6600, and the 20.3-megapixel Panasonic GH5. The latter of those four is optimised more for video than it is for stills, although it seemed to hold its own quite well given its obvious disadvantages.

The primary goals here were to test for sharpness and dynamic range between the different sensor sizes. In all of the situations the pair shot, there are some notable differences between the different cameras, which isn’t much of a surprise. But some of those differences are perhaps greater than we might have expected.

Although physical size will play some part in the abilities of each sensor, we also have to remember that not all of the sensors contained within these cameras are made by the same company, nor are all the same generation of sensor technology. So, a different Hasselblad, a different Sony, a different Panasonic will show different results.

That being said, it’s a pretty good guide. It would be interesting to see more sensor tech comparisons like this as new cameras are being released, and I’m sure many are particularly keen to see how Canon’s upcoming EOS R5 would stand up to those shown in the video above, too.

When Sigma finally gets around to releasing its full-frame Foveon camera, that’s one I definitely want to see compared. Especially against Sigma’s own Bayer filter camera, the Sigma fp.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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9 responses to “Comparing sensor sizes from Medium Format to Micro Four Thirds – Can you tell the difference?”

  1. WillMondy Avatar
    WillMondy

    It’s not a hugely scientific test, because you can’t keep the lenses the same, but it was interesting to see the difference in colours between the Sony and Hasselblad.

  2. samagon Avatar
    samagon

    very surprised to see M43 have so many users, not surprised to see medium format.

    1. NacMacFeegle Avatar
      NacMacFeegle

      My thoughts I would thought it would have placed third behind APS-C anf FF.

  3. John Scales Avatar
    John Scales

    Sensor size and DR are critical. Fuji doubled the number of pixels in their “medium format” but kept the same sensor size so noise went up and DR went down. 60 mm x 60mm and 15 stops of dynamic range seem to be a good target. Canon just announced a 200×200 mm sensor. That could be a game changer. But since no one but Elon Musk or NASA could afford one, I’ll stick to film.

  4. Greg Silver Avatar
    Greg Silver

    Went from APS-C down to a 1″ sensor (Sony RX10 IV) and absolutely love the quality. You don’t need to go full frame to get great quality.

  5. Clint Johnson Avatar
    Clint Johnson

    Well ,,since your intention was to do to a large print comparison I am absolutely befuddled that you didn’t choose a micro four-thirds camera that plays to that strength. Instead of using a video focused camera that has stills capability as a secondary priority…I’m amazed that you did not use something like the new Olympus EM1 Mark 3 which has a hand holdable 50 megapixel mode (using pixelshift).. or a tripod mounted 80 megapixel mode. At the same time, you seem to have skipped that high res feature as well in the Sony. If you look at your own poll results.. at least at the time that I put in my two cents..micro 4/3 was by far the dominant format being used by your poll respondents. If you’re going to do the test with big deal equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars like the Hasselblad you should have at least brought a gun to a gunfight and not a pocket knife. Obvious sensor size differences aside,,,I also question your choice of lenses on the non Hasselblad cameras to establish any kind of fairness… Seriously Tamrons and Sigmas ?? Readily available Zeiss and Leica would have been a more fair comparison… Perhaps that’s out of your ability to put together. I think this kind of exploration of possibilities is obviously wanted by those of us out here… But for the 99% of us that are not going to be able to afford Hasselblads,, a real world comparison of readily available equipment and features would have been a much better and more useful…. And to be honest….a much more valid contest

  6. Yoga Saja Avatar
    Yoga Saja

    Currious if using GFX 50s, Alpha 7III, X-T30 and OM-D with same frame. Is it the same result or not?

  7. Bryan Lowry / lavapix.com Avatar
    Bryan Lowry / lavapix.com

    The GH5 puts out great large prints. Even with night shots. I will only replace it with the GH6. I switched from FF back in 2017 and haven’t touched my D800 in 2 years.

  8. Piotr Stepien Avatar
    Piotr Stepien

    Comparison of Sony a6600 with a7r4 shows interesting thing that wasn’t mentioned… Looks like raw files in a7r4 are denoised. Picture looks softer that raw from a6600 although less noisy. Due to high megapixel number on a7r4, DR and noise level should be comparable with a6600.