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The Myth of the 1" Sensor
Is it Fraud or a Felony?
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There is no such thing as a 1" digital camera image sensor, but many makers lie about it to get us to think that these cameras have larger sensors than they actually do.

What are marketed as "1 inch sensors" are actually only about 9 x 12 millimeters on a good day, or about 0.35 x 0.47" — nowhere near one inch.

These little sensors have only about one-quarter the area of a typical crop-frame DSLR (16x24mm), and only about one-eighth the area of a full-frame (24x36mm) sensor.

A "1 inch" sensor has about a 3x crop factor.

The phrase "One Inch" makes them sound about the same size as a DSLR sensor, since real DSLR sensors are either about an inch wide (crop-frame) or an inch tall (full-frame) — but nothing about a 1" sensor is anywhere near an inch or the size of a real DSLR sensor!

I would call this fraudulent: as I understand fraud, it's when someone lies deliberately in order to make a profit, and if more that $400 is involved, its a felony.

How do they get away with this?

There is only one very sneaky thread of fact behind calling these baby 9 x 12mm sensors "one inch." 50 years ago when the world ran on vacuum tubes, video cameras used vacuum tubes as their image sensors. There were many different kinds, like orthicons, vidicons and plumbicons, and they were all described by the outside diameter of their overall glass tube. There were 1/2" and 2/3" tubes, and everyone used the same standards for measurements. The active image sensing areas were always much smaller than the tube's outside diameters, but we television engineers all understood what was going on since we all used the same measurements — 50 years ago.

Vacuum tube video camera pickups have been gone for decades, yet some modern digital still camera makers use this deception to try to make their tiny sensors seem like much bigger sensors than they actually are. It's like marking bottles of wine by the total capacity of the box that holds 12 bottles, instead of the capacity of the one bottle you're buying.

In other words, the only thing one inch about a "one inch sensor" is that a vacuum tube 50 years ago would have had an outside diameter of about an inch if it had an image pick-up area about the same size as the "one inch sensor" today.

"One inch sensors" aren't; they are much smaller than DSLR sensors, although they are bigger than camera phone sensors. Many better pocket cameras use "one inch sensors" that are bigger than some pocket cameras, but not all.

What they're trying to say is that their tiny sensor would fit on top of a 1" tube — but they're not selling you the tube. It's like saying my 1,200 square-foot condo is a 5,000 square foot condo because a 1,200 square foot house might fit on a 5,000 square foot lot — but you're not getting the lot.

You've been warned. Don't be tricked into thinking anything about a "one inch sensor" is anywhere near an inch or the size of a DSLR sensor. Calling an 8.8 x 11.2mm sensor "one-inch" is like calling a queen-size bed a "14-foot bed" because it might fit in a 14' room. This might be OK if all sensors were described with this same lie, but most sensors are sold with honest size claims — except "one inch sensors."


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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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