Smartphone Camera Sensor Size List vs DSLR and Mirrorless Camera Sensors, Updated Regularly

Earlier today - December 26, 2017, I posted a status update on my Facebook account talking about the camera sensor size of various flagship-level smartphones - through the years - that are known for their stellar imaging and video recording capabilities.

After reading my post, some of my techy friends messaged me and told me that they were shocked to find out that some high-end handsets released more than four years ago actually had far bigger imaging sensors compared to all top-level cameraphones released within the past two years.

Nokia 808 PureView vs Apple iPhone X vs Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Sony Xperia XZ Premium vs Samsung Galaxy Note8
From top left, clockwise: Nokia 808 PureView, Apple iPhone X, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Nokia Lumia 1020, and Samsung Galaxy Note8

To be specific, Nokia 808 PureView released in May 2012 has a sensor that's more than three times larger than what's inside the rear camera of the Apple iPhone 7 from 2016! Believe it.

Why does Sensor Size matter?

Light is the reason why we see things and it's what makes photography possible. Without light, we won't be able to see anything and a camera - no matter how powerful - won't be able to snap any image.

A camera's imaging sensor is similar to our eyes (or the back of our eyes) and its processor is like our brain. The sensor is the one that gathers light and information about the objects upon which light bounces and sends the data to the processor, which then delivers a duplicate (and often heavily tweaked) image of what's in front of the lens.

Hence, the bigger an imaging sensor is, the more light and information it can capture for better and clearer image replication.

Smartphone Imaging Sensors Are, Generally, Very Small

Camera Sensor Sizes Comparison from DSLR to Smartphones

The graphic I made above is a creative and "hardly to-scale" comparison of the sensor sizes of popular DSLR, mirrorless cameras, point-and-shoot cams, and smartphones.

Here, we can clearly see how diminutive a handset's imaging sensor is, compared to what's inside a professional DSLR or mirrorless camera. This is exactly the reason why I think Youtube videos comparing the image quality of photos and videos taken using the iPhone X compared to that of Sony a7R Mark III - for example - couldn't be fair in any way, especially in low light conditions.

If you're interested, here are camera models that have the above-mentioned sensor formats (Note that there are other sensor sizes exist in between some of these standards):

Medium Format (50.7 x 39 mm)
Hasselblad X1D-50c
Hasselblad H6D-100c
Hasselblad H5D-200c
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Pentax 645Z

Full Frame (36 x 24 mm)
Canon EOS 1D X Mark II
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Leica SL
Nikon D850
Sony Alpha a7R Mark III
Pentax K-1
Sony Alpha a9
Leica M-P

Advanced Photo System type-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm)
Nikon D500
Sony Alpha A6500
Fujifilm X-T2
Nikon D5600
Pentax KP
Nikon D3300
Pentax K-50
Fujifilm X-A3

APS-C (Canon, 22.2 x 14.8 mm)
Canon EOS M6
Canon EOS M5
Canon EOS 77D
Canon EOS 80D
Canon EOS 800D (Rebel T7i)
Canon EOS 200D

Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Panasonic Lumix G7
Panasonic Lumix G85
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Olympus PEN E-PL8
Panasonic Lumix GX850

1-Inch (12.8 x 9.6 mm)
Canon G7x Mark II
Sony RX100 Mark V
Panasonic Lumix LX10
Canon G9X Mark II
Panasonic Lumix FZ2500

Alright! I hope you found that list useful and informative. Now, let's jump to what this blog post is truly all about: I'll give you a list of popular smartphones starting with those that have the largest imaging sensors all the way to those with relatively smaller ones.

Panasonic Lumix CM1 Android Smartphone

Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia Lumia 1020

Apple iPhone X (Wide-Angle, Rear Cam, To Be Confirmed)

Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony Xperia XZ1
Google Pixel
Google Pixel XL
Xiaomi Mi 5S

Nokia Lumia 950 XL

Nokia Lumia 1520
Nokia Lumia 930

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung Galaxy Note8
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

LG V20
OnePlus 5T
OnePlus 5

Apple iPhone 5s
Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
LG V30
Moto Z

Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 4s
Apple iPhone 4

I'll be adding more models to this list regularly -- making sure that the image sensor size noted came either from the company that made these smartphones or from reliable sources that access to verified information about these products.

Sensor Size, however, isn't all that matters.

It takes more than a sensor to take a snapshot of a moment and to make a digital copy of it. Sure, the sensor captures the light, which is essential -- but a camera is made up for multiple parts for a reason; There's the lens that adjusts and manipulates the light and information that lands on the sensor. There's also the processor that makes sense of the data delivered by the sensor. The focus sensor, on the other hand, is responsible for speed of auto-focus and the accuracy of tracking focus, in some cases. And of course, there's the imaging software - unique to each brand - that greatly determines the dynamic range, temperature, and color science of resulting images.

So if you're wondering how a handset like the Apple iPhone 7 - with its small sensor - could rank higher than the legendary Nokia 808 PureView in current imaging quality tests such as those done by DxOMark, it's only because the other elements that power iPhone 7's shooter - sensor aside - are already superior to that of Nokia's imaging beast from the Finnish Giant's hey-days.

Do you have questions or clarifications about the imaging sensors of popular smartphones? Do you have valuable information related to this topic that you want to contribute to this post? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section below and let's all learn more - together - about mobile imaging. Thanks!

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