How to Choose a Digital SLR Camera – All About Sensors

When you set out to choose a digital SLR camera the technology and terminology can be quite baffling. Many people get confused by terms like ‘megapixels’ and what they actually mean to your photography.

When it comes to the quality and results you will get from a digital SLR it is down to two key components. These are the lens on the front of the camera and the sensor inside which captures the image.

Modern digital SLRs have ranges of lenses available for different focal lengths and zoom options. The quality varies but lenses from the major brands generally produce excellent results and capture sharp, clear images.

The sensor inside a digital camera has become the more important consideration when it comes to image quality. Several years ago sensors were smaller than the size of traditional 35mm film and this limited their capabilities.

A so called ‘cropped sensor’ is limited in the amount of data it can capture and this in turn limits the results it can deliver. Full frame sensors have appeared in recent years and these deliver far superior image quality. In the world of digital camera sensors size does matter and bigger is better.

In low-light conditions cropped sensors produce images with ‘noise’ and colour distortion. Full frame sensors operate more effectively and are still capable of producing detailed images.

If you need to print large images, full frame sensors are the only option. Images captured on modern 24 megapixel sensors can be printed up to twenty by thirty inches with no loss of quality. Leading manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon and Sony all offer digital SLRs with sensors of this quality.

Images captured on a full frame sensor can be cropped with little loss of quality. Even the best and most experienced photographers do not get framing and composition right every time and being to crop in this way is very useful.

Most modern digital SLR cameras are compatible with the lenses from traditional 35mm film cameras. This is great news for photographers upgrading from film to digital as they can use their existing collection of lenses. However, unless you upgrade to a camera with a full frame sensor the image will not produce the same results. A wide angle lens will not capture the same field of view on a camera with a cropped sensor.

Understanding the impact of a digital camera sensor on the image results is a key consideration when you come to choose a digital camera.

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