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An old Navy buddy of mine just asked me a camera buying question on Facebook. For years camera makers have hyped megapixels. Camera buyers are finally starting to realize that mp is only part of the equation and the question of sensor size is at least equally important. I’m going to share my answer in hopes of offering some perspective on the whole issue of buying a camera (something hobbyists often over think).

“Hi Jeff, you’re right, sensor size is more important than megapixels, especially since we’re at the point where the megapixel count is over 6 mp or so. Still, it is possible to over analyze the subject.

Generally you don’t see a different in sensor size between cameras in the same class (point and shoot versus point and shoot, pro dslr versus pro dslr). Instead, this becomes a factor when you’re considering cameras from two different classes such as whether to go with a p&s versus an entry level dslr. 

When comparing cameras within the same class, a bigger concern can be the age of the sensor/camera. Generally, if the camera has the manufacturer’s latest sensor, you’re fine. It’s cameras that have older sensors that can show the most dramatic difference. 

The good news is that all this is kind of academic. While in lab tests it’s probably possible to see the difference, for the average user, it’s not going to be a big deal unless you’re choosing between a five-year-old used p&s versus a brand new just released dslr. 

I would place a greater emphasis on finding a camera that feels good in your hands, does what you need it to do and that you like using. The truth is that any of the big name brands are excellent choices. The whole issue is figuring out which camera helps you enjoy shooting the most. 

DPreview is an excellent resource for camera shoppers who do want to delve deep into camera specs. I’m adding a link to the site’s info on one Sony camera, which will give you an idea of what kind of resource this can be. (It does include sensor size btw).

This is an interesting topic btw. I’m probably going to adapt this response for my blog because the question of how to buy a camera is certainly a popular one for most hobbyists.

Let me know if you have any other questions.”

Readers of this blog are also welcome to add their own questions.