Short Description

Image Sensor
Canon CMOS sensorPhoto of a Canon CMOS sensor

The sensor type refers to the semiconductor design/arrangement of the image sensor. There are a wide array of different types with each manufacturer making its own adjustments to their design. Furthermore over time the designs are revised and improved. That being said there are two main types of sensors: CCD and CMOS.


CCD or charge coupled device sensors are essentially tiny arrays of photoactive regions on a chip, each region reacts to light and converts the intensity into a electric signal- this permits each CCD to convert the light focused on it to a matrix of light intensities, coupled with a colored film that filters the light into red, green and blue (using a Bayer pattern) the CCD is able to produce an array of pixels each representing a different color. CCDs produce slightly worse quality images than CMOS sensor although the difference is not significant.

Great Affordable CCD Digital Cameras Under $500

Here is a list of some of the top CCD based sensor cameras.

Green arrow See more of the top affordable digital cameras with CCD sensors


CMOS sensors utilize what is referred to as an active pixel sensor and consume less power, have higher noise immunity and have less lag than a CCD. They also permit more integrated designs which can cut down on noise gain and provide the opportunity for a cleaner image. Although most CMOS sensors use a Bayer pattern to determine the RGB values of the image there are other options. Sigma's Fuveon X3 sensor does not use a Bayer pattern and thus does not require the demosiacing to produce its image, consequently it has many advantages and produces images of much higher resolution and quality then the name plate resolution would indicate - typically equivalent to a Bayer generated image of twice the rated resolution.

Great Affordable CMOS Digital Cameras

Here is a list of some of the top CMOS based sensor cameras.

Fujifilm FinePix XP140
from $229
Built-in flash Built-in flash Help
Usually standard
Screen size Large screen Help
Weather sealed Weather sealed Help
Shoot in extreme weather

Learn more about the Fujifilm FinePix XP140

Ricoh WG-6
from $400
Weather sealed Weather sealed Help
Shoot in extreme weather
Battery life Great battery life Help
340 shots
Announced New Help
February 2019

Learn more about the Ricoh WG-6

Green arrow See more of the top affordable digital cameras with CMOS sensors


Showing 24 comments

Avatar for Jonathan Meimaridis Jonathan Meimaridis (5:00 PM, April 07, 2015)
Hello I am looking at a DSCWX80 and a DSCW830 I currently have a DSC-W650 that has a CCD sensor and I love it. This site implies the CMOS sensors are better but the comments here seem to disagree. The price is $10.00 difference as both are on sale and the Wi-FI capabilities or not a concern to me. Which one do you recommend for taking holiday and birthday party photos?
Avatar for heavenscanwait heavenscanwait (10:17 PM, January 16, 2015)
I'm quite late to the discussion. I am a hobbyist, not a pro. I started digital photography in 2004 with Olympus C5060 and kept that camera for many years. later on I moved to other compacts, bridge cameras, travel zooms etc but nothing gave me as good a result as Oly 5060. In frustration I bought Sony NEX-5 and then upgraded to NEX-5R. Still not satisfied, I have now bought Nikon D7100.........And guess what, I want to buy an old CCD camera to go with my Nikon because my, now £50 worth, Olympus 5060 can still take pictures as good as Nikon D7100, if not better.

I've looked at all specs including sensor size, lens type, aperture, brand etc and my conclusion is that 3 factors are most important; Sensor size; whether it is CCD or not, and lens quality/brightness. If I found a CCD compact camera which would have enough zoom and a bright lens, I may even sell my D7100 despite some loss.

So What do I think which sensor type is better........CCD so far, despite huge improvements in CMOS technology (my rather unscientific conclusion)
syko (0:37 AM, August 29, 2014)
please need your advice about buying sony dsc-h400
John (5:00 PM, July 29, 2014)
New to this website; this article has destroyed its reputation. 0/10. Will not read further.
HITMAN (8:07 AM, May 30, 2013)
I am looking for a super zoom camera i got stuck with the nikon l820 and sony dsc hx 200v which one?
Avatar for hanim hanim (10:33 AM, November 07, 2012)
CCD sensor vs CMOS censor for digital camera. which one is better? i'm trying to find a decent digital camera for concert
Avatar for Brandon A Boone Brandon A Boone (8:39 PM, October 20, 2012)
Now days CMOS and CCD sensors can produce about the same image but that really depends on the rest of the hardware accompanying the sensor and it's size. CCD in Mid to high end point and shoot camera's should produce a better picture. With that said Canon produces their own CMOS sensor and accompanying processors so some of their camera's do well against cameras with CCD sensors. To each his own at this point because as both of these chips advance and the hardware that works with the sensor to produce the final product will always vary. I'm no professional by far but after reading multiple sites, using many point and shot camera's, Sony, Canon, Nikon etc.. I still use my Canon SD750 for standard point and shoot and everyone loves how the pics turn out. I'm only upgrading to start recording 1080p without having to get a camcorder and for that I'm looking at a point and shoot CCD so I can get those full framed video's.
Flannery (2:49 AM, May 29, 2012)
 Amen re CCD!  You may want to laugh at my reply here Mike.  I am not a professional by any stretch of the imagination - a mere traveller who does not want to be seen with a camera - however I've been quite shocked to see my old Pentax OptioT30 consistently outperform my Canon PowerShot 230 HS on landscape and portraits.  This was first noticeable in low light west coast Ireland where the Pentax's images picked up graduations of soft light which didn't exist for the Canon. I only want CCD.    Not that the Canon doesn't have other virtues in close-up low light situations and macro.

Nick (11:40 AM, May 25, 2012)
 What is maybe? You are wrong here. How can you put up a website like this without doing the proper reading first? CCD will produce much better image than CMOS. Just much more expensive to make and not as fast as Cmos. A CCD dslr at the same rating as the current Cmos dslr will be so expensive for consumers, so the market only sale DSLR with CMOS sensor because the public is cheap and poor.
Avatar for Mike Svitek Mike Svitek (11:31 PM, April 02, 2012)
The truth is that a CCD sensor will consistantly give better image quality, better colour bit-depth, lower noise, and much higher resolution. I've been shooting Hasselblad for almost a year now recently switched to the D800. The resolution is as comparable as a DSLR can get (50MP vs 36MP) and I absolutely LOVE the CCD preformance!
even when looking at the pixel-level, you can see much better colours and less noise coming off the CCD... the only down-side is battery life -_-
Fongpwf (2:37 AM, March 02, 2012)
Also keep in mind CMOS is usually rolling shutter which gives artifacts in videos taken on the camera.
Thnikolatos (6:21 PM, April 21, 2011)
The first big difference between the two is that CMOS chips are manufactured much like traditional microchips, whereas CCDs, utilizing technology that dates back to a 1969 invention by Bell Labs, use their own proprietary manufacturing process.
Because of their origins in the computer chip industry, CMOS chips are cheaper to manufacture. But in general, a camera equipped with CCD will produce a better quality image with less electronic noise than a CMOS chip.CCD sensors, as mentioned above, create high-quality, low-noise images. CMOS sensors, traditionally, are more susceptible to noise.
Because each pixel on a CMOS sensor has several transistors located next to it, the light sensitivity of a CMOS chip tends to be lower. Many of the photons hitting the chip hit the transistors instead of the photodiode.
CMOS traditionally consumes little power. Implementing a sensor in CMOS yields a low-power sensor.
CCDs use a process that consumes lots of power. CCDs consume as much as 100 times more power than an equivalent CMOS sensor.
CMOS chips can be fabricated on just about any standard silicon production line, so they tend to be extremely inexpensive compared to CCD sensors.
CCD sensors have been mass produced for a longer period of time, so they are more mature. They tend to have higher quality and more pixels.
Based on these differences, you can see that CCDs tend to be used in cameras that focus on high-quality images with lots of pixels and excellent light sensitivity. CMOS sensors traditionally have lower quality, lower resolution and lower sensitivity. CMOS sensors are just now improving to the point where they reach near parity with CCD devices in some applications. CMOS cameras are usually less expensive and have great battery life.



edison c (10:28 PM, February 10, 2011)
Wow! Thanks so much for that super-quick response. Ya, I know it from simply looking at the shots (I had expected the 40d, image-wise, to be waay better after what, 6 years of development?) but what I did not expect was that it seemed worse. Tons of people have been super happy with their 40d's - I sent mine to Canon service, at least 3 times. With all my lenses! They said it was 'working as designed', so I gave up. Even after sending test prints where I tried setting up a side-by-side comparison. They thought I was nuts. I considered whether my belief that it is 'worse' perhaps resulted from the increase in megapixels - but not increasing my glass quality. Still, I would think that would only affect sharpness, mostly, and not noise. But that's a whole 'nuther problem I also argued about with them.

Yes, I've been seriously considering switching to the Nikon d700 based on the available stuff regarding its autofocus capability in general, and in low light... I just don't dig their body design nearly as much, so we'll see. Thanks again!
Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (6:06 PM, February 10, 2011)
Hi Edison, if you want to know if a particular camera has good low light image quality the best way to tell is by looking at images taken by the camera. Snapsort pulls benchmarks from DXOMark that compare the image quality at high ISO, and as you can see on the comparison of the 40D vs original Rebel they claim the 40D is slightly better, specifically their test shows its got the same quality at ~700 ISO that the rebel has at ~540 ISO.

I know that conflicts with what you're seeing, but DXO's tests are showing even they don't think the 40D does much better :) But, if you compare the 40D to the Nikon D700 which is full frame, has a huge advantage, getting the same quality images at 2300 ISO that the 40D gets at 700 ISO.

edison c (5:54 PM, February 10, 2011)
I would realllllllllllllllllllllly like some more data on this. I've been saying for the last 5? years that I swear low light pictures, without any post-processing noise reduction, that I took on my original 1st generation Digital Rebel, with the same lenses, looked way nicer than on my Canon 40d. And the Digital Rebel apparently had/has a CMOS sensor...
curious (6:29 AM, December 20, 2010)
Hasselblad, Leica, DSLR costing $50,000-60,000 are based on CCD
curious (6:21 AM, December 20, 2010)
Both types of imagers convert light into electric charge and process it into electronic signals. In a CCD sensor, every pixel's charge is transferred through a very limited number of output nodes (often just one) to be converted to voltage, buffered, and sent off-chip as an analog signal. All of the pixel can be devoted to light capture, and the output's uniformity (a key factor in image quality) is high. In a CMOS sensor, each pixel has its own charge-to-voltage conversion, and the sensor often also includes amplifiers, noise-correction, and digitization circuits, so that the chip outputs digital bits. These other functions increase the design complexity and reduce the area available for light capture. With each pixel doing its own conversion, uniformity is lower. But the chip can be built to require less off-chip circuitry for basic operation. For more details on device architecture and operation, see our original "CCD vs. CMOS: Facts and Fiction" article and its 2005 update, "CMOS vs. CCD: Maturing Technologies, Maturing Markets."
Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (2:53 PM, December 14, 2010)
Its possible we're wrong here, we'll do some more reading :)

We're often most interested in low light (high ISO) image quality, and the M9 doesn't do well for a full-frame sensor, in fact many APS-C sensors (like the D90) do better. See D700 vs M9 for a full frame vs full frame CMOS vs CCD comparison.
Sam (3:45 PM, November 29, 2010)
Huh? I always thought CCDs are better than CMOS *at the same sensor size*.
The only reason CMOS is used in big cams is because you can afford more sensor size for the same money.

At least this is what was been told in the past. CMOS might have evolved quite a lot, and there are view good cams with CCD sensors since CCD seems not to be able to use LiveView, drain a lot of power and are expensive.

*The* main cam using CCD is the Leica M9. And some attest the image quality to be better than most fullframe DSLR (luminous landscape, for example).
Avatar for Irapuan Irapuan (3:22 PM, November 10, 2010)
Thanks for the explanation and indication of the site.
Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (4:26 PM, November 09, 2010)
Hi Irapuan, I looked at a few of your links - I see what you're saying.

We've been basing our conclusion on the fact that the DSLRs with the best low light performance have CMOS sensors. This article: doesn't really seem to draw a conclusion either way, but backs this up that the DSLRs today that use CCDs are not as good as the DSLRs that use CMOS when it comes to low light noise.
Avatar for Irapuan Irapuan (4:19 PM, November 09, 2010)
Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (6:04 PM, November 04, 2010)
Hi Irapuan, got any urls?
Avatar for Irapuan Irapuan (5:51 PM, November 04, 2010)
I believe the situation is different, as shown in several reviews available on the internet showing that the CCD would be better than the CMOS sensor.