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"Super 35" sensor sizes?

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
We are used to the fact that certain families of digital camera sensor sizes are commonly named in terms of some existing film "frame size", often a very bad "fit" being attained in the process. One such moniker is "APS-C", used to refer to sensor sizes of perhaps approximately 22.5 mm × 15.0 mm (Canon) or approximately 24.0 mm × 16.0 mm (Nikon), whereas actually APS-C (one of the three "print crop" sizes of the APS film system) refers to a frame size of 25.1 mm × 16.7 mm.

Lately we often see, especially in connection with certain "cinema" cameras, reference to their frame size being "Super 35." I have to assume that this name is drawn from the "Super 35" frame scheme used in professional motion picture photography with 35-mm film.

There are many different flavors of the "Super 35" paradigm, but if we consider the "four-hole pulldown" forms the basic frame dimensions are 24.89 mm × 18.66 mm (aspect ratio 4:3). There are of course many ways to operate withing this "gross" frame, as needed for various aspect ratios, for the "wide" ones using "squeezed" and "non-squeezed" technique, and so forth.

This in fact essentially represents a reversion to nearly the camera frame size used in the "silent" era of professional cinematography (about 24 mm × 18 mm). With the advent of sound pictures, the delivered frame used on release prints was made smaller (eventually standardized at 21.0 mm × 15.2 mm) in order to accommodate room for the optical sound track.​

So, all that having been said, when we read that some new digital cinema camera has a "Super 35" sensor, what size is that likely to be?

Best regards,

Doug
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
I see from the Wikipedia article on the Canon EOS C500 cinema camera (2012) that its sensor is said to be "Super 35" size and has dimensions of 26.2 mm × 13.8 mm (1.89:1 aspect ratio).

Best regards,

Doug
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
It appears that the "Super 35" sensor in the Panasonic VariCam 35 and VariCam LT 4K S35 has dimensions 26.688 mm × 14.184 mm (1.88:1 aspect ratio).

So we can perhaps conclude that a "Super 35" sensor in a digital cinema camera has a width of about two dozen mm and a height to suit the native aspect ratio.

Or a width of about one inch.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Ruth Crawford

New member
I always thought a full frame was 36x24mm (Canon 5D) and Super 35 Sensor was 24.9x14mm (Alexa?)
Full frame refers to a still image camera, Super 35 refers to a motion picture camera? Am I wrong? In a traditional still camera, the images were parallel with the length of film, and in motion picture, the images were perpendicular to the length.
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Ruth,

I always thought a full frame was 36x24mm . . .
Well. to be rigorous, the nominally 24 mm × 36 mm frame size is called "full-frame 35-mm", but it is of course in our "circles" almost always called "full frame". (There are of course many other "full frame" format sizes; "full frame 8 × 10" is, for example, about 8" × 10" in size.) and Super 35 Sensor was 24.9x14mm.

Full frame refers to a still image camera . . .

Well, it is a size designation based on a widely-used still camera film format

Super 35 refers to a motion picture camera
Indeed, that is a size designation based on a modern motion picture film format)
Am I wrong?
No, you are doing fine.

In a traditional still camera, the images were parallel with the length of film . . .
Well, in a full-frame 35-mm camera that was so, but not for all film formats. For example, in the half-frame 35-mm format, the long dimension of the image was across the length of the film.

. . .and in motion picture, the images were perpendicular to the length.
Quite so, for most cinema film formats (and certainly for "Super 35").

Best regards,

Doug
 
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