A CMOS Sensor Size Comparison and Format Type Look-Up Table

The Image Sensor Size and Pixel Size of a Camera is Critical to Image Quality

The sensor format size and pixel size of digital camera impacts nearly every performance attribute of a camera.

There are general rules of thumb for how the these will impact the image quality of a camera. Each of these will change the form and function of camera. The tradeoffs tend to be uniformly continuous over multiple degrees of freedom.

Each camera application has different requirements, so the selection of a CMOS image sensor needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. We've done our best to categorize the trends of sensor-type adoption by industry.

A CMOS Image Sensor Size Comparison to Explain Digital Camera Sensor Size Tradeoffs

Digital Camera Sensor Format Types are confusing because of Cathode Ray Tubes

The format type of a digital camera sensor is one of the most confusing and ridiculous concepts in the vision industry. This is a result of approximations made in the early-to-mid 1900s when electrical-based sensors were first invented.

For example:

  • A 1″ Type image sensor with 4:3 aspect ratio is 12.8mm Horizonal * 9.6mm Vertical * 16mm Diagonal
  • A 1/3″ Type image sensor with 4:3 aspect ratio is 4.8mm Horizontal * 3.6mm Vertical * 6mm Diagonal

Well that doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it? 1" is 25.4mm and 1/3 of 1" is 8.5mm! Even 1/3 of the 1" Format Diagonal should be 5mm! 

Digital Camera Sensor Size Comparison Formula

Let's take the 1" format type as an example. Part of the cathode ray tube's diameter was the tube wall, and was not used for imaging purposes, reducing from 25.4mm to 16mm.

So, a lens suitable for a 1" Type cathode ray tube did not need an image circle that extended to the entire 25.4mm tube diameter.

Unfortunately, the formula for the digital image sensor type has a discontinuity occurring between the 1/2" and 1/2.3" format size.

We surmise (perhaps incorrectly) this may have been a result of the manufacturing process for early television cathode ray tubes. Other experts in our network have noticed that the equation is approximately divided by the square root of 2, however, it is still unclear to us what the original motivation was.

What this means when someone references a CMOS Image Sensor Format Type

This subjective classification means that manufacturers can apply 'best judgement' when publishing a Format Type for their sensor.

The means that engineers should use the exact output pixel count and pixel pitch (size) when considering a lens, such as a CS Mount Lens or M12 Lens.

The majority of sensors on the market approximately adhere to the Format Type dimensions below, which are calculated from the formula above:

The Take-Away: There is no substitute for exact values when selecting a lens

Most manufacturers are consistent and accurate with their Format Type classifications. However, we've run across numerous specification sheets which are mis-classified.

To repeat, always use the exact output pixel count and pixel pitch (size) when finding a lens!

If you've figured out which sensor you're using and want to calculate the 35mm Format Type Equivalent EFL, check out our Camera Field of View Calculator.

What's Your Camera Application? Our Optics Cover the Spectrum.

Aerial Robotics?

Our light-weight, miniature lenses are ideal for collision avoidance, long-distance viewing, and end-customer viewing.

Small 2.1mm M12 Lens

CIL821-F2.4-M12B650

A 2.1mm M12 Lens for 1/3
A 2.1mm M12 Lens for 1/3
Tiny Pinhole Lens for S-Mount Cameras
15mm TTL Short M12 Lens for Surveillance
$39.00

Large Format 3.5mm M12 Lens

CIL334-F2.2-M12A660

3.5mm M12 Lens for IMX226 AR0821 IMX537
3.5mm M12 Lens for IMX226 AR0821 IMX537
S-Mount Drone Lens for Wide Angle IMX226
Wide Angle Drone Lens for IMX226
$39.00

Wide-Angle 3.5mm M12 Lens

CIL335-F1.8-M12A660

3.5mm Wide-Angle M12 Lens
3.5mm Wide-Angle M12 Lens
3.5mm Wide-Angle S-Mount Lens
Wide-Angle M12 Lens CIL335
$49.00

Surveillance?

Our low F#, high resolution lenses are suitable for 180° dome cameras, low light, and active IR illuminated scenes.

200°@5.7mm IP67 Fisheye M12 Lens

CIL217-F2.7-M12A650

Mini Fisheye S Mount Lens
Mini Fisheye S Mount Lens
Tiny Fisheye Lens
Miniature Fisheye
$39.00

F-Θ Wide-Angle 4.4mm M12 Lens

CIL344B-F2.7-M12A655

Wide Angle M12 Lens
Wide Angle M12 Lens
Wide Angle S-Mount Lens
AR0820 M12 Lens
$49.00

Telephoto 35mm M12 Lens

CIL350-F2.4-M12A650

35mm M12 Lens
35mm M12 Lens
35mm Board Mount Lens
35mm S Mount Lens
$59.00

Surveillance?

Our low F#, high resolution lenses are suitable for 180° dome cameras, low light, and active IR illuminated scenes.

Consumer / AR+VR?

Our high resolution fisheye lenses will let you design 360° cameras and and stereographic lenses are equivalent to "GoPro" lenses.

226°@3.9mm Fisheye M12 Lens

CIL212-F2.2-M12IR

Mini M12 Fisheye Lens for Board Mount Cameras
Mini M12 Fisheye Lens for Board Mount Cameras
S-Mount Fisheye Lens
Arducam Mini Fisheye Lens
Mini Fisheye 1mm M12 Lens
$59.00

Low Distortion 2.6mm M12 Lens

CIL028-F2.5-M12A650

A wide angle 2.8mm M12 lens no distortion.
A wide angle 2.8mm M12 lens no distortion.
A 2.8mm M12 lens with a wide angle and no distortion for the RPi HQ Camera.
A wide angle no distortion 2.8mm S Mount Lens.
$39.00

GoPro 3.0mm M12 Lens

CIL331-F2.5-M12A660

3.1mm Wide Angle M12 Lens
3.1mm Wide Angle M12 Lens
3mm S-Mount Lens
3mm M12 Lens
$39.00

Video Conferencing?

Our wide-angle, low distortion, high resolution M12 lenses result in optimal object deformation without post-processing.

Low Distortion 1.8mm M12 Lens

CIL018-F2.8-M12IR

135° 4K+ low distortion M12 lens for IMX335 and AR0521
135° 4K+ low distortion M12 lens for IMX335 and AR0521
135° low distortion S-Mount Lens
No Distortion Wide Angle M12 Lens
$39.00

Low Distortion 2.6mm M12 Lens

CIL028-F2.5-M12A650

A wide angle 2.8mm M12 lens no distortion.
A wide angle 2.8mm M12 lens no distortion.
A 2.8mm M12 lens with a wide angle and no distortion for the RPi HQ Camera.
A wide angle no distortion 2.8mm S Mount Lens.
$39.00

No Distortion 3.3mm M12 Lens

CIL033-F2.7-M12IR

A 3.3mm M12 lens that is wide angle no distortion.
A 3.3mm M12 lens that is wide angle no distortion.
A 3.3mm S Mount lens for the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera.
A 3mm FLIR camera lens. A wide angle no distortion M12 Lens
3mm S Mount Lens with Arducam
No Distortion 3.3mm M12 Lens
$39.00

Video Conferencing?

Our wide-angle, low distortion, high resolution M12 lenses result in optimal object deformation without post-processing.

Mobile Robotics?

Find a low F# or low distortion lens to optimize your computer vision framerate.

Low Distortion 2.2mm M12 Lens

CIL023-F2.2-M12A650

Low Distortion Wide Angle M12 Lens 2mm
Low Distortion Wide Angle M12 Lens 2mm
Wide Angle Low Distortion 2mm S-Mount Lens CIL023
2mm M12 Lens Low Distortion
2mm M12 Lens Wide Angle No Distortion
$39.00

Wide-Angle 3.5mm M12 Lens

CIL335-F1.8-M12A660

3.5mm Wide-Angle M12 Lens
3.5mm Wide-Angle M12 Lens
3.5mm Wide-Angle S-Mount Lens
Wide-Angle M12 Lens CIL335
$49.00

Fast 6mm M12 Lens

CIL061-F1.8-M12A650

6mm M12 Lens for S-mount cameras
6mm M12 Lens for S-mount cameras
6mm M12 Lens for FLIR and AR0234
6mm Lens for IMX290
$39.00