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Considering noise when comparing sensor sizes

From: Video for Photographers: Shooting with a DSLR

Video: Considering noise when comparing sensor sizes

If you look at the advantages of a smaller sensor, it might seem that the smaller sensor has a distinct edge over the large sensor for video. After all, you can get more for your money in a smaller, lighter package, and with equal image quality. In fact, there is an important factor to consider with sensor size that may affect your choice of camera and how you shoot with it. That's noise. Noise is that granular pattern that occurs across the image. It looks like someone threw sand on your photo.

Considering noise when comparing sensor sizes

If you look at the advantages of a smaller sensor, it might seem that the smaller sensor has a distinct edge over the large sensor for video. After all, you can get more for your money in a smaller, lighter package, and with equal image quality. In fact, there is an important factor to consider with sensor size that may affect your choice of camera and how you shoot with it. That's noise. Noise is that granular pattern that occurs across the image. It looks like someone threw sand on your photo.

Just about every DSLR today does very well controlling noise at ISO settings of 400 or less and many do well above that. However, as you go above ISO 400, noise will generally become more visible. Larger sensors have less noise. There is no doubt about that. This means that you can shoot your video at higher ISO settings or in lower light levels with a Full Frame sensor compared to an APS-C size sensor or an APS-C size sensor compared to a Four Thirds sensor.

A qualification to that is that as new sensor technologies come onto the market, you may find that a new small sensor does better with noise than an older large sensor. Noise in a still photo is static, obviously, because the photo is not moving. Noise is more active in video, because it is moving and can become much more obvious. While noise is directly related to sensor size and ISO setting, it is also related to exposure, which means that the dark parts of a scene can have more noise than bright parts.

That can make the noise pattern change as you shoot. To be honest, that noise difference might not matter to your video shooting if you mainly shoot in bright light. We're talking here about conditions that require significantly higher ISO settings than what you might use in average conditions, settings that could be 800 or above. However, if you want or need to shoot in very low light conditions, such as shooting at night without adding light that might be distracting to your subject, then that large sensor size can be a big deal.

Ultimately, the benefits and disadvantages of small versus large formats comes down to three main points. One, small sensors need smaller lenses. So their systems will travel lighter and with less bulk. Two, larger sensors have much less noise at high ISO settings. Three, sensor size affects the focal length you can use for a given image area, which will affect the look of the shot.

So what should you do? That is something you have to decide for yourself. If you already have a camera, then these ideas may help you decide what your camera can or cannot do. If you decide to buy a new camera, perhaps this will assist you in that purchase.

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This video is part of

Image for Video for Photographers: Shooting with a DSLR
Video for Photographers: Shooting with a DSLR

33 video lessons · 24770 viewers

Rob Sheppard
Author

 
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  1. 2m 43s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
    2. What video can do for you
      1m 27s
  2. 23m 13s
    1. Stopping time in photography vs. recording over time with video
      4m 14s
    2. Shooting for movement over time
      3m 58s
    3. Composing for constantly changing visuals
      4m 42s
    4. Adjusting to shooting for a non-RAW medium
      3m 26s
    5. Understanding resolution for video
      3m 36s
    6. Choosing a video frame rate
      3m 17s
  3. 37m 21s
    1. Comparing DSLRs with traditional camcorders
      6m 18s
    2. Comparing sensor sizes among DSLR cameras
      5m 26s
    3. Considering noise when comparing sensor sizes
      3m 8s
    4. Choosing memory cards and batteries
      3m 33s
    5. Understanding video tripods
      6m 10s
    6. Working with other camera supports
      3m 19s
    7. Using focusing aids for shooting video
      5m 29s
    8. Choosing lighting gear
      3m 58s
  4. 26m 23s
    1. Adjusting how you shoot
      6m 11s
    2. Limited "fixing" of images
      3m 42s
    3. Understanding the challenge of shutter speed
      3m 56s
    4. Getting the right exposure
      6m 59s
    5. Setting the right white balance
      5m 35s
  5. 19m 39s
    1. Understanding the importance of audio
      4m 5s
    2. Learning to work with sound
      4m 54s
    3. Gearing up for audio
      7m 19s
    4. Recording with external audio gear
      3m 21s
  6. 33m 56s
    1. Basic shooting
      6m 12s
    2. Shooting video to tell a story
      7m 27s
    3. Shooting for coverage
      4m 52s
    4. Understanding how to shoot movement
      4m 10s
    5. Shooting the moving subject
      4m 17s
    6. Creating movement
      6m 58s
  7. 6m 57s
    1. Preparing for the edit
      6m 57s
  8. 1m 47s
    1. Stay focused
      1m 47s

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