Astrophotography Gear Technology

Which Camera Sensor Size for Astrophotography?

Diagram explaing camera sensor size comparison between the most common types of digital sensors and the 35 mm full frame sensor.

Amongst photographers, the dialogue about digital camera sensor measurement and what implications it has for their images is all the time a scorching matter. On this temporary article, I’ll talk about the position of digital camera sensor measurement in images, with a specific give attention to astrophotography.

This matter can grow to be very technical in a short time and since many features of sensors, aside from its measurement, come into play when contemplating the general efficiency of a sensor, I’ll give right here just some basic tips.

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Bodily Size of Widespread Sensor Varieties

Traditionally, the digital camera sensor measurement of reference is that of the previous 35mm movie.

Relatively than utilizing the sensor bodily dimensions, when discussing and evaluating the totally different sensor varieties a extra generally used parameter is the so referred to as crop issue, CP, which is far simpler to recollect.

The CP is the ratio between the dimensions of a full body sensor (size and width) and that of the sensor beneath dialogue.

Right here is the crop issue for the most typical sensor varieties:

  • Full Body: CP = 1
  • Canon APS-C: CP = 1.6
  • Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Sigma APS-C: CP = 1.5
  • Panasonic and Olympus MFT: CP = 2
  • 1″-type: CP = 2.72
  • 1/three″; CP  = 7.7

The scheme under permits you to visualise the which means of the crop issue by evaluating the areas of the totally different sensor varieties.

Diagram explaing camera sensor size comparison between the most common types of digital sensors and the 35 mm full frame sensor.

Sensor measurement comparability between the most typical varieties of digital sensors and the 35 mm full body sensor.

What You Have to Know About Subject of View and Depth of Area

The digital camera sensor measurement, along with the lens focal size and aperture, distance to topic, and so forth. will have an effect on your photographs in a number of methods, the obvious of which is the sector of view.

With a view to keep away from confusion when illustrating how the sensor measurement will have an effect on your picture, we’ll put ourselves in particular circumstances, however in all instances we’ll assume that the focal size and aperture will stay the identical for all instances.

Subject of View

Yow will discover an in depth dialogue of depth of subject and subject of view right here. For this text although, all it’s worthwhile to know is within the diagram under.


diagram explaining depth of field and field of view - crop sensor vs full frame camera

When photographing the identical topic from the identical distance with the identical focal size, crop digital camera sensors provides a smaller FoV.

In apply, it’s simpler to speak when it comes to equal focal lengths, EFL. That is the focal size wanted to offer the identical area of view utilizing a full body sensor.

For instance, a 50mm lens on Canon APS-C digital camera will give a subject of view equal to 80 mm lens on a full body digital camera.

The calculation is straightforward: EFL=FL*CP

Briefly, the smaller the sensor, the narrower the sector of view is and the longer the EFL.

For extra on focal size, take a look at this text.

You don’t should be a math whizz to determine this out within the area. There are numerous on-line calculators you need to use when planning a shoot, or smartphone apps you should use on the go.

These come in useful when creating panoramas from stitching collectively a number of pictures.

Depth of Subject

Depth of Subject (DoF) is said to the main target/out of focus transition within the picture.

Technically, whenever you focus, you’re specializing in a single aircraft. No matter is in entrance of or behind stated aircraft is out of focus.

In actuality, issues are a bit totally different. We will nonetheless see some objects which are in entrance or behind the topic as being ‘in focus’, even when technically they’re not.

That is due to depth of subject. The DoF represents the world in your body whose contents we understand to be in focus.

Take a look at this diagram to know how sensor measurement impacts depth of subject, when focal size, aperture and body protection keep unchanged. The one variable right here is the sensor measurement.

When utilizing the identical focal size and aperture, as a way to fill the body in the identical method a full body digital camera does, the photographer utilizing the crop digital camera has to maneuver farther from the topic. This will increase the DoF.

In apply which means with a crop sensor it may be harder to acquire a pleasant bokeh.

That is fairly necessary in portraiture the place the goal is to isolate the mannequin from the background.

The Position of Sensor Size for Astrophotography

As talked about many time in our astrophotography associated articles, starry landscapes, star trails, planetary and deep area images are all a part of the style. And the sensor measurement can impression on these sorts of images in several methods.

The Position of Area of View in Astrophotography

Subject of view is clearly as necessary in astrophotography as in some other sorts of images.

In case you are after starry landscapes, you might discover it troublesome to go vast sufficient to border your complete panorama. Or to border each the foreground and Polaris, in order to have good round star trails.

Nocurnal landscape over water, creative motion blur star trails above - camera sensor size for astrophotography

Regardless of utilizing my Samyang 7.5 f/three.5 fisheye lens on MFT digital camera, I used to be not capable of get Polaris within the body.

On MFT cameras, for instance, a standard focal size for broad angle lenses is 14 mm (or 12mm). This corresponds to a not very broad 28 (24) mm on full body.

To go wider, you need to purchase fairly costly zoom lenses within the 7-18 mm vary. You will get a fisheye lens as an alternative, such because the Samyang 7.5 f/three.5 fisheye lenses.

Then again, for planetary and deep sky images, a cropped sensor may help to shut in in your goal higher than with a full body digital camera.

A somewhat cheap 200 mm on an MFT digital camera will give the identical FoV of a costlier, cumbersome and heavy 400 mm on a full body digital camera.

Diptych deep space photos comparing M42 seen with a 200mm lens on full frame (top) and MFT (bottom) cameras. camera sensor size for astrophotography

M42 seen with a 200mm lens on full body (prime) and MFT (backside) cameras. (FoV simulated with Stellarium)

The benefit in utilizing cropped sensor digital camera is which you could simply shut in in your goal with a comparatively compact and light-weight photographic system.

It will make it simpler (and cheaper) to work with monitoring mounts to comply with star actions throughout the night time sky.

That is maybe the primary cause why planetary cameras have small 1/three″ sensors. On my telescope with focal size 1250mm, when photographed with my MFT digital camera (EFL 2500mm), Jupiter continues to be a brilliant, featureless dot surrounded by 4 smaller dots.

These are its 4 largest moons, the Galilean moons: Io, Ganymede, Europa, Callisto.

Jupiter seen with a Skymax 90/1250 on MFT camera - sensor size

Jupiter seen with my Skymax 90/1250 on MFT digital camera (FoV simulated with Stellarium).

In distinction, when utilizing my ZWO ASI 224MC planetary digital camera with 1/three″, due to the CP=7.7,  the EFL is a whopping 9625mm.

Jupiter reveals its colors, bands and the good pink spot.

Jupiter seen with the Skymax 90/1250 and ZWO ASI 224MC camera (1/3" sensor type).

Jupiter seen with the Skymax 90/1250 and ZWO ASI 224MC digital camera (1/three″ sensor sort). (FoV simulated with Stellarium).

Depth of Area and Astrophotography

Depth of subject isn’t one thing to fret about in astrophotography. The moon, planets, nebulae and stars are so distant that even in case you’re capturing at f/1.2, they are going to be all in focus.

In follow, for instance, each the Moon, 300,000km away, and Andromeda, 2.5 million mild years away, will each be in focus.

The one risk the place DoF can play a task is in starry landscapes and star trails. That’s, in case you are very near a foreground aspect.

If that’s the case, you possibly can take a photograph for the foreground after which transfer to photograph the sky. You possibly can mix the 2 pictures afterward in Photoshop.

Pixel Size

It’s typically stated that full body sensors have higher low mild efficiency. It’s because, often, they’ve bigger pixels than smaller sensors.

In apply, we will say that for a given aperture and publicity time, bigger pixels will acquire extra photographs. This implies much less noise, and a cleaner and extra detailed picture.

Pixel measurement can also be associated to the sensor dynamic vary. The bigger the pixels, the broader the dynamic vary. You’ll be capable of higher document extremely contrasted scenes.

In astrophotography, that is helpful to retain colors within the vibrant stars or galaxy core, whereas recording the faintest particulars.

Picture Decision

To not be confused with the decision in pixels, these depend upon the sensor measurement (or pixel measurement) and the focal lens used.

In astrophotography, sizes of stars, nebulae and galaxies are expressed as obvious angular measurement. The picture decision is expressed as arcseconds/px (additionally indicated as “/px). This will provide you with a measure of how massive the portion of sky you’ll document on every pixel is.

In follow, the a part of the sky that’s recorded in a pixel could have no particulars in it.

The message right here is that a low decision (giant “/px) will end in a smoother, however much less detailed picture. And a excessive picture decision (small “/px) provides you with crispy and detailed photographs.

The disadvantage of excessive decision setups is that poor seeing (i.e. poor visible circumstances for the sky) will null the good thing about such excessive decision. The quantity of particulars you’ll be able to see are restricted by the seeing circumstances.

Additionally, monitoring errors shall be rather more seen within the type of elongated stars.

Screenshot of an Image resolution calculator where the image resolution is compared with seeing conditions.

Picture decision calculator the place the picture decision is in contrast with seeing circumstances.

Greatest Cameras For Astrophotography

With the argument introduced above in thoughts, we will say that one of the best cameras for astrophotography are:

  • APS-C or FF cameras for starry panorama and star trails. It’s straightforward to get a big sufficient FoV they usually have considerably higher low mild performances and higher dynamic vary.
  • For planetary work, a small sensor planetary digital camera permits to shut in on the goal because of the small FoV.
  • Deep Sky Images can profit from a cropped sensor, like that in MFT cameras. It’s going to hold your photographic setup compact and light-weight. It will help you use lighter (and cheaper) monitoring mounts.
  • However, when you photograph with a telescope, then MFT have a too slender FoV and a full body digital camera shall be greatest.

Having stated that, keep in mind that these are very basic tips. Any sort of trendy digital camera will provide you with good outcomes, when you perceive the restrictions and the best way to work round them.

The Milky way at the Zenith. Camera sensor size for astrophotography

The Milky Method on the Zenith. Sony RX10, 28mm, fastened tripod. Andromeda Galaxy is seen as a small cloud close to the bottom-left a part of the body.


This text is just the tip of the iceberg. Issues such has quantum effectivity, learn noise, full properly, and so forth, are different elements that decide the sensor’s capabilities, notably for astrophotography.

However this a great broad dialogue of how sensor measurement can have an effect on your images. And tips on how to benefit from numerous sensor sizes for higher astrophotography.

Lastly, keep in mind that sensors are digital units. Their efficiency can differ dramatically with age. A full body sensor that may be a few years previous may carry out worse than a model new APS-C or MFT sensor.

Andrea Minoia

Andrea Minoia is an fanatic photographer based mostly in Brussels, Belgium. He’s primarily lively in portraiture and desk prime images, however he does take pleasure in to get busy with astrophotography and infrared images. You possibly can comply with his work on his commonly up to date photograph stream on 500px and comply with him on google+.You may as well get in contact with him by way of his private web site .