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Before diving into why 1-inch sensors are so great, I would like to clarify what a 1-inch sensor is. A 1-inch sensor is technically known as a 1-inch-type sensor. This is because the sensor itself does not measure 1 inch in any of its dimensions. Rather, the 1-inch classification denotes a theoretical video-tube diameter that would support the active imaging area of the sensor. This is the same for cameras that feature 1/3″, 2/3″, and even Four Thirds (that’s right, your GH5’s sensor is not even 4/3″ diagonally). Since the rest of the article is not focusing on this technicality, I will be using the “1-inch sensor” colloquialism below.
About 1-inch Sensors
OK, enough with the tech speak, what’s so great about 1-inch sensors? And why am I so excited that these new camcorders have them? In my experience, the 1-inch sensor size sits nicely between smaller sensors found in palmcorders and professional ENG camcorders and the larger sensors prevalent in mirrorless cameras and cinema cameras. The format is large enough to render shallow depth of field without resorting to extremely long focal lengths, and its small enough that powerful zoom lenses don’t have to be overly large. Of course, you won’t find 25x or 30x superzoom lenses for these cameras, but 10x or 12x is plenty for most video work.
As I mentioned above, this year, Canon and Sony beefed up their camcorder lines with new models; three cameras to each brand, with all six featuring 1-inch sensors, as well as coming in similar compact form factors. 4K recording is standard on all the new models, with the 1-inch sensor providing a large surface area for cleaner images, compared to smaller sensors. Another interesting factoid: the 1-inch sensors used in many camcorders have a similar surface area to classic Super 16 film, so it should come as no surprise that it’s possible to generate some cinematic imagery if that is your goal. Now that we know about what a 1-inch sensor can offer us, let’s have a look at the new models and some of their other trend-setting features.