We all know full frame DSLR cameras cost more than the DSLR cameras with DX or APS-C sized sensors but why? Part of the cost difference is due to the higher cost of making larger sensors. The article at Chipworks will tell you some details of the semiconductor manufacturing aspects of making CMOS image sensors.

The cost of making a full frame sensor is indeed a lot more than a APS-C sized sensor. However the difference isn’t that much compared to overall price of a high end DSLR. That’s why it should be possible to see a full frame camera just a few hundred, not a thousand or more, dollars more expensive than a APS-C DSLR with similar features. Today’s product lineups from Canon or Nikon are most likely results of marketing strategy that maximizes profits and strengthens market position.

Just a quick note on what you will read in the article: it states that, “For an APS-C sized sensor there are ~200 sensors printed per wafer…10x difference in cost of producing the full frame sensors over the APS-C size…“. Apparently, the “10x” number is from the ratio of the number of sensors can be made on a single wafer. The cost of manufacturing in a semiconductor fab is based on cost/wafer. If more chips are made on a wafer, the cost/chip will be lower. However a quick calculation showed that it is not possible to make 10x the number of APS-C sized chips on the same wafer compared to full frame. The math is simple, full frame chip area is 36x24mm, or 864 square mm. APS-C is 22x15mm, or 330mm. So it is only possible to make about 2.6x number of APS-C sized sensors over full frame sensors. Even considering more wasted areas when making full frame sensors, it is highly unlikely there will be a 10x ratio.

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