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Compact Camera with Big Sensor

Updated on June 13, 2013

Choosing a Compact Digital Camera with Large Sensor

Photo enthusiasts know that the size of a camera's sensor is just as important (if not more important) than the number of megapixels advertised by the manufacturer. The size of the sensor makes a huge difference in the quality of photos. That's why a compact camera with a big sensor is your best bet if you want to shoot high-quality images. This page includes compact cameras (both the truly compact ones that can fit in a pocket, as well as larger and Four Thirds models) with large sensors for the best photo quality. Take a look at the size, price and features of these cameras and see which one is right for you.

(Image of Sony DSC-RX100 provided by Amazon)

Canon Powershot G1 X - 18.7 x 14mm sensor in a high-end compact

  • "...the PowerShot G1 X offers a level of image quality previously only possible with a Canon DSLR" - dpreview

The 14.3 MP CMOS sensor in the G1 X is smaller than those found in DSLRs, but is significantly larger than those found in most compacts and even in some Four Thirds models. With the large sensor and Canon's DIGIC 5 Image Processor, the G1 X is capable of outstanding low-light performance up to ISO 12800. The G1X can record either 14-bit RAW or JPEG files, as well as full 1080p HD video with stereo sound.

Canon PowerShot G1 X 14.3 MP CMOS Digital Camera
Canon PowerShot G1 X 14.3 MP CMOS Digital Camera

Product description: The PowerShot G1 X digital camera will inspire advanced amateurs who have embraced the G-Series to explore new realms of photographic expression, and give pros an excellent camera that complements their creative demands. Canon PowerShot G1 X at Amazon.comThe new 1.5-inch High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor approaches DSLR size, with a light-sensitive area that’s approximately 6.3 times larger than that of the PowerShot G12 digital camera. The new 14.3 Megapixel sensor, combined with a new lens and DIGIC 5 Image Processor, creates the HS SYSTEM that delivers image quality previously impossible in a compact camera, with beautiful blur, lower noise, and extraordinary resolution in low-light shooting and can shoot at ISOs of up to 12800. The PowerShot G1 X also has 14-bit RAW capabilities for even greater creative control and Full HD Video recording. Manual settings and operability inherited from EOS cameras impart a high-level shooting experience, and open the door to new creative possibilities. Substantive luxury defines the design: a neatly clarified sculpture with a firm grip, huge Vari-angle LCD and optical viewfinder.


Sony DSC-RX100 - Truly compact camera with a big sensor (13.2 x 8.8mm)

  • "...possibly the best pocket camera of all time" - PCWorld

There are a variety of reasons PC World said the RX100 could possibly be "the best pocket camera of all time," and those reasons start with the sensor. This new compact camera from Sony has a 20 MP CMOS sensor that's bigger than the sensor in most other compacts, particularly those that are actually small enough to fit in a pocket. The popular Canon S100, for instance, has a sensor that measures just 7.6 x 5.7 mm, compared to the RX100's sensor, which measures 13.2 x 8.8mm. If you want a truly pocket-sized compact camera with big sensor, this is the camera you've been waiting for.

This camera also sports a 3.6x Carl Zeiss lens, 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD display, and full 1080p HD video with dual record, and can shoot full resolution images at 10 fps. It can also capture both RAW and JPEG files.

Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom
Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom

Product description: Experience the DSC-RX100-Sony's latest professional compact digital camera. Featuring a 20.2 megapixel Exmor 1" CMOS sensor, the camera is well-equipped to produce crisp and detailed images in extreme low-light shots. Capture detailed images with the DSC-RX100's 7.2x Clear Image digital zoom and bright F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 3.6x zoom. With it's ultra-slim and sophisticated aluminum body, the DSC-RX100 is the ultimate "high end compact" professional digital camera to take on the go.


Fuji X100 - Compact features a 23.6 x 15.8mm APS-C CMOS sensor

  • "If you have the bucks and you want the best photo quality possible, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 delivers." - CNET

If you want a compact with a large sensor, the Fuji X100 certainly meets the requirements. But if you want this camera with a DSLR-size sensor, you're going to pay a DSLR-like price. The camera features a fixed focal length f2 lens (sorry, zoom fans), a 2.8-inch LCD viewer, the ability to shoot RAW And JPEG files and 720p HD video capability.

Fujifilm X100 12.3 MP APS-C CMOS EXR Digital Camera with 23mm Fujinon Lens and 2.8-Inch LCD
Fujifilm X100 12.3 MP APS-C CMOS EXR Digital Camera with 23mm Fujinon Lens and 2.8-Inch LCD

Product description: The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a high-precision digital compact camera that combines modern technology with a traditional camera design to deliver the ultimate in image quality. Featuring an APS-C CMOS sensor (12.3 megapixel), a Fujinon 23mm Single Focal Length Fixed F2 lens, a 2.8-inch LCD with 460K pixel, and the world's first Hybrid Viewfinder, the FinePix X100 captures exceptionally high quality images.


Sony NEX-5N - 23.5 x 15.6mm sensor in interchangeable lens system

  • "Sony's emphasis on speed remains a constant, bumping the NEX-5N's shutter lag time to just 20 milliseconds" - Popular Photography magazine

The Sony NEX-5 is the smallest interchangeable lens digital still camera that offers an APS-C-size sensor. It's not "compact" in the same sense as the Sony RX100, but this model packs a 16.1 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor that rivals the sensor size in a DSLR while having a much smaller body size. The Sony NEX-5N also features full 1080p HD video, a 3-inch touch screen LCD, a super-fast 20 millisecond shutter lag, 10 fps continuous shooting and 11 picture effect modes.

Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)
Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)

Product description: The performance of a DSLR, in about half the size and weight. The NEX-5N is the interchangeable lens camera that fits in your pocket. Enjoy Full HD 1080/60p or 24p movies, astounding low-light pictures, continuous shooting up to 10 fps, incredible panorama shots, and 3.0-inch tiltable Live View touch screen LCD.


Olympus PEN E-P3 - Micro Four Thirds camera has 17.3 x 13mm sensor

The PEN E-P3 features a large 17.3 x 13mm 12.3 MP Live MOS sensor in a compact body. That, combined with three modes of image stabilization, 1080 60i HD video, interchangeable lenses, 3-inch touch screen and 10 in-camera art filters make this a versatile compact camera for users who want to move up from the traditional point-and-shoot.

Comparing Camera Sensor Sizes - When it comes to sensors, bigger is usually better

camera sensor sizes
camera sensor sizes

Compact cameras can be divided into small models that can fit in a pocket and bulkier models that are smaller than a DSLR, but not quite small enough to fit in the pocket of your jacket or pants. New technology is making it easier to put bigger sensors in smaller bodies.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

A compact camera with big sensor can take better quality photos than one with a smaller sensor.

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What's Your Favorite Compact Camera with Big Sensor - Please leave a comment in the guestbook!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens!

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      aquarian_insight 5 years ago

      I'm not sure yet which is my favourite but your lens has given me much to think about. I really need to buy a new camera. Thank you for this.