In a two-part article, RedShark News’ Phil Rhodes goes in-depth explaining sensors, lenses, depth of field, and the relationships between them.
He writes, “Since the earliest camera obscura, humans have used technologies which project images of a real-world scene onto a screen. Only quite recently have we gained the technology to automatically record that image, although we should probably take a moment to think about the potential use of camerae obscurae by old masters such as Johannes Vermeer. The documentary feature Tim’s Vermeer details attempts by NewTek founder Tim Jenison (yes, he of Tricaster and Lightwave fame) to work out how this might have been done, including an ingenious approach to colour matching which could almost be thought of as assisted manual photography. It’s well worth a watch, although if some of the suppositions around the subject are correct, the effective sensor size applicable to Vermeer’s paintings – in terms of a modern camera – would have been the same size as the finished canvas, over 15 by 17 inches. That’s positively gigantic by any standards, and anyone with any knowledge of the attendant issues will already be frowning about light levels, depth of field, and other parameters. Back in the world of modern cameras, we currently enjoy (or perhaps we suffer) a huge number of sensor size options. The physics, though, is exactly the same, whether we’re talking about Vermeer’s canvases or the sub-fingernail-sized slivers of silicon in the average modern webcam.”