Super 35 size me
Sometimes bigger can actually mean better.
By The Sony Tech Guy | January 27, 2011
Next month marks the debut of Sony's first handheld Super 35mm model for professionals: the PMW-F3. It's also Sony's first such camera with XDCAM EX recording and first with CMOS technology. And the F3 starts at just $16,000 MSRP. The new camera is beginning to make a name for itself after some sweet pre-production tests and first-on-the-block Vimeo posts. In this article, we'll take a look at the new camera's Super 35mm image sensor, and see exactly what Sony means by "Super 35."
Sensor dimensions are more than specsmanship. Larger sensors help photographers limit depth of field. As you learned in Photography 101, shallow depth of field enables you to direct audience attention toward in-focus subjects and away from out-of-focus foregrounds and backgrounds. Simply changing focus over the course of a shot can help tell the story, for example revealing a relationship between one person in the foreground and another in the background.
In addition, the sensor size has a direct effect on the lens field of view. Smaller sensors impose a crop factor that pushes any given lens toward telephoto. And other things being equal, sensor size has additional effects on image noise, dynamic range, resolution and freedom from diffraction-induced blur. For all these reasons, we devoted a previous article simply to cataloging sensor sizes.
The Super 35mm image sensor of the PMW-F3 is enormous in comparison to the 2/3-inch type sensor that is popular for documentaries, natural history and many other genres. (Note: All the diagrams in this article are on the same scale with the exception of the diagram that shows 35mm Full Frame versus 35mm Motion Picture frame.)
The Super 35mm image sensor of the Sony PMW-F3 has an effective area that measures 23.6 mm wide x 13.3 mm high-essentially the same size as the Super 35mm CCDs of the Sony F35 and SRW-9000PL, cameras that have become mainstays of high-end production in narrative features, episodic television, commercials and music videos. The dimensions are also very close to Sony APS-C class DSLR sensors. But the new sensor is not taken from Sony's DSLR parts bin. It was developed from the ground up for motion pictures. As a result, the individual photosites-the micron-scale diodes that do the actual work of converting light into electric charge-are a honking four times the size of the photosites on Sony Alpha DSLR sensors.
To put the PMW-F3 sensor into perspective, we'll compare it to 35mm motion picture film.
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Disclosure, to comply with the FTC’s rules 16 CFR Part 255 This article was either written by Sony employees or for Sony by an outside contractor. It is intended for the Sony Channel on ProVideo Coalition, which Sony sponsors.