What do those camcorder sensor numbers mean?

I just bought a Sony HDRPJ260V. Manual says it has a 1/3.91 type, 4.2 mm sensor. 4.2 mm I hear means the diagonal of the image sensor. A Canon HF R300 camcorder has a 1/4.85 sensor. How can I tell what the diagonal is (isn't this the important thing, surface area of the sensor, one with 2X area should be 2X as good all other factors equal)? Should these numbers be proportional i.e. 4.2/(1/3.91)=X/(1/4.85)?

Seems like the manufacturers have conspired to purposely give you info that means nothing to you...or give you useful info but then conspire to not tell you how to interpret it. This reminds me of the megapixel hype nonsense in mini digital cameras but in reverse (manufacturers found higher MP ratings sold more cameras but more pixels in same size sensor does NOT necessarily mean a better image).

7 Answers

Relevance
  • 7 years ago
    Best Answer

    Hi again, Doug:

    The diagonal measurement on camcorder & camera sensors can sound a lot like the TV marketing hype used for television set sizes (also measured diagonally, to sound "bigger").

    Just like raw Megapixels specifications, the sensor size specs are only useful to a certain point. There are other minutiae like individual pixel size (in microns), Bayer color filter design, CCD versus CMOS, etc. Larger sensors can capture more light, helping with low-light sensitivity without "noise artifacts". But individual manufacturer's design & circuitry can affect this "signal to noise" ratio, as well as image detail.

    The actual tradition of the diagonal measurement spec for video sensors dates back to the days of Vidicon & Plumicon imaging tubes (which were round). These were measured by diameter (1/2", 2/3", etc.) which if you draw the rectangular TV frame on it is approximately the same as the box's diagonal size. What makes it even more confusing is the practice of "improper fractions" (e.g., 1/3.91", instead of 1/4" which --heaven forbid!-- is 0.09" smaller).

    You can peruse the excellent Wikipedia chart listing common sensor sizes (both diagonal & HxW meansurements): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensor_sizes#Table_of... One of the more illuminating (no pun intended) parts of the article text says,

    "sensor areas... are proportional to the maximum possible collection

    of light and image resolution [other things equal], but in practice are

    not directly proportional to image noise or resolution due to other limitations."

    You really have to look at 3rd party reviews (CNet, DP Review, Consumer Reports, etc.) to compare low-light image quality and lens/sensor image fidelity. Printed specs are a mere guideline, but you also have to "consider the source" when shopping.

    hope this helps,

    --Dennis C.

     

    Source(s): Video/film & photography professional over 4 decades. Used to sell & repair Vidicon cameras. Wikipedia "Image sensor format" article (table section): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensor_sizes#Table_of...
  • 3 years ago

    Camcorder Sensor Size

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    What do those camcorder sensor numbers mean?

    I just bought a Sony HDRPJ260V. Manual says it has a 1/3.91 type, 4.2 mm sensor. 4.2 mm I hear means the diagonal of the image sensor. A Canon HF R300 camcorder has a 1/4.85 sensor. How can I tell what the diagonal is (isn't this the important thing, surface area of the sensor, one with 2X...

    Source(s): camcorder sensor numbers mean: https://tr.im/xuJIH
  • Mmm J
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    1/3.91 is almost 1/4 inch.

    1/4.85 is almost 1/5 inch.

    When it comes to camcorders, the combination of larger lens diameter and larger imaging chip = better low light performance. The larger diameter lens allows more light in to the imaging chip. The larger imaging chip deal with what little light is allowed in by the lens. Good glass and good silicon yield are the important parts - and they are expensive. One *could* have a small lens and large imaging chip or large lens and small imaging chip - the trick is to find the balance between lens diameter (light allowed) and imaging chip size (light processed). Whether the imaging chip is square or rectangular will have little bearing on video quality.

    The Sony HDR-PJ260V and Canon HF R300 are consumer grade entry/mid-level camcorders. The lens diameter is small (37mm) as is the single imaging chip (the spec is not listed as "filter diameter" on the Canon because there are no threads surrounding the lens to mount a filter). As camcorders increase in price, the lens diameter increases as does the imaging chip size (and the ability to behave better when recording under low-light conditions).

    The imaging chip size (whether measured diagonally or otherwise), lens diameter, video compression used, lighting, use of a steadying device (not using the camcorder handheld) and other factors go into determining "video quality". The imaging sensor is only a part of the entire system that determine what you see - and whether it is "good" or not.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    I use a Canon Vixia HF R200

    I think the larger--the CCD(sensor)..the better../

    I have no problems with my camcorder..

    I sometimes film small birds at nearly 100-feet.

  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    1

    Source(s): World-Class Photography Training http://PhotographyMasterclass.enle.info/?WDey
  • 4 years ago

    It helped me, thanks Dennis!

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.