Camera Image Sensor:
How Well Can Your Digital Video Camera Record the Scene?

Camera image sensor

The type and size of your camera image sensor can greatly affect the quality of the image you will get.

Let's take a look at the different types, how they work and which one may be best for you!

Types of Camera Sensors...

CCD and CMOS – two main types of camera sensorsCCD and CMOS – the Two Main Types of Camera Sensors!

Most higher-end video cameras today are fitted with a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) type sensor. The top higher-end cameras are fitted with 3 or more separate CCD sensors (Red, Green, Blue) to better detect the color in an image. The CCD is small, compact, rugged.

For the smaller video cameras and handheld devices a rapidly  growing type of camcorder sensor is the Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS). Digital camera and camcorder manufacturers are starting to use them almost exclusively now for smaller cameras as they are easy to make, have a low-power consumption and there been improvements in their image sensing ability. CMOS chips traditionally have been more susceptible to electrical noise lowering the quality of the image however... The technology in this area has significantly improved and they are now used extensively.

CMOS chips consume as much as 100 times less  power than a CCD and cost less to produce. They are rapidly becoming the sensor choice for the major camera makers. However, CCDs have been used for a much longer period of time and so are much more developed and proven... so you will not see them completely disappear. Historically, they (the CCD) tended to have much higher quality, but the CMOS is gaining ground rapidly in that area.


Quick Pros and Cons of CCD Versus CMOS Camera Sensors...

CCD versus CMOS – pros and cons'sCCD Versus CMOS – Pros and Cons!

CCD Sensors...

  • Create high quality, low noise images as they tend to have more pixels, separate color better and a higher-quality image duplication and output.
  • Can consume up to 100 times more power than the equivalent CMOS sensor. Not ideal for small cameras or digital devices.

CMOS Sensors...

  • Consumes little power making them ideal for smaller cameras and digital devices that don't have a robust power supply.
  • Lower light sensitivity than CCD sensors.
  • A little more susceptible to electrical noise within the camera that can possibly degrade the picture quality.
  • Inexpensive to manufacture comparison to CCD sensors.

Here's a nice quick little video that will show you the difference between CCD sensors and CMOS sensors! Enjoy...


How Do Image Sensors Work?

Camera image sensor – operationHow Does an Image Sensor Record an Image?

The sensor chips used in camcorders typically include hundreds of thousands of tiny independent sensor cells (called Sensor Elements ).

Each sensor cell develops an electrical charge according to the strength of the light that falls on it. The result is a pattern of electrical charges that corresponds to the light and dark areas of light from the image the camera is shooting. The image sensor circuitry reads this information and turns it into the image that is recorded.

Because of cost considerations... most consumer cameras are equipped with only one sensor chip, which limits the quality of the image. Although picture detail clarity is reduced by using one sensor chip, the final product is good enough for most purposes. 

The more expensive professional cameras however not only employ a larger camera image sensor, but they utilize three or more chips to enhance the image quality and color reproduction. Multi-chip cameras use one chip per color, then combine the separate outputs to form the final color picture. Single-sensor cameras use a segmented multi-color filter placed over the single chip to achieve color separation that way.


Camera Image Sensor Chips Sizes… Size Does Make a Difference!

Camera image sensors – size comparisonThe Size of Your Camera Image Sensor Does Make a Difference!

Quarter-inch chips are the sensor chips most frequently used in camcorders, digital cameras and smart phones. They are inexpensive, record images well and generally are in focus from close-up to infinity.

The drawbacks are that the camera operator has limitations placed on his creative ability because everything is in focus and the picture quality isn't as good as with the larger sensor chips. The larger the chip - the more ability the camera operator has to selectively focus on the subject and the picture itself will be sharper and clearer with better definition.  Of course, the larger chips are also more expensive, and are found mainly in the more high priced professional cameras.


Digital Camera Image Sensors Should Be Cleaned Periodically… Here Is How!

To keep your pictures sharp and clear you should clean your image sensor periodically. Here is a nice little video that will show you just how to do that!


I hope this info on the camera image sensor will help you when you're looking for just the right digital camera for you…!

It's an integral part of the camera and is greatly responsible for the quality of the image that you will get!


Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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