Film vs. Ceramic Capacitor: What’s the Difference?

Film vs. Ceramic Capacitor: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to choosing the right capacitor for your project, it’s important to know the difference between film and ceramic capacitors. Both types have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to choose the right one for your specific application. Here’s a quick rundown of the key differences between film and ceramic capacitors.

What Is a Film Capacitor?

Plastic film capacitors, or simply “film capacitors,” are an everyday type of capacitor found in a variety of electronic devices. This type of capacitor is composed of two conducting plates separated by a dielectric layer made from a thin plastic film. The commonly used dielectrics are polyester (PET or PEN), polypropylene (PP) and polycarbonate (PC).

One advantage to using these materials is that they provide stable electrical parameters over wide temperature ranges and have low losses. Film capacitors tend to be relatively small in size compared to other types, making them suitable for applications where space is limited. They can also handle higher voltage than ceramic capacitors and have excellent frequency characteristics.

However, because these capacitors contain plastic, they are relatively expensive compared to other types and not suitable for high-temperature applications. In addition, film capacitors tend to generate heat in higher frequencies, so they should be used with caution when working with audio frequencies.

In summary, film capacitors are ideal for use in low-temperature applications and where space is limited due to their small size. They also offer excellent frequency characteristics and can handle higher voltages than ceramic capacitors. However, their cost may be prohibitive for some applications and they should be used with caution when working at audio or high frequencies due to the increased heat generation. [1]

What Is a Film Capacitor?

What Is a Ceramic Capacitor?

A ceramic capacitor is a specialized, polarized device that utilizes alternating layers of ceramic and metal in its design.

Its robust construction allows for reliable operation over time. It’s made from a material called dielectric, which is usually ceramics such as barium titanate, aluminum oxide, or titanium dioxide. Ceramic capacitors are commonly used in applications where small size and high capacitance values are needed along with an ability to handle high temperatures and rapid changes in voltage. They can also provide very low levels of self-inductance, which means they do not suffer from issues related to parasitic inductance associated with other types of capacitors.

The main benefit of using ceramic capacitors over film capacitors is their smaller size for the same value of capacitance, which makes them ideal for applications where space is at a premium. Additionally, the dielectric in ceramic capacitors is less prone to thermal expansion than plastic films used in film capacitors, making it better able to withstand temperature changes without affecting performance.

It’s important to note that ceramic capacitors also have their drawbacks. They tend to be more expensive than film capacitors and can exhibit greater losses at higher frequencies due to their lower impedance levels. Also, they are not suitable for use with high-frequency switching power supplies as they may cause instability issues due to their relatively slow response time.

What Is a Ceramic Capacitor?

Overall, ceramic capacitors offer excellent performance in many types of applications but should be carefully evaluated before being used in any specific design or application due to their unique characteristics. [2]

Differences between Film and Ceramic Capacitors

Film capacitors are constructed with a rolled up film dielectric. The most common type of film capacitor is the polyester or Mylar variety, although other materials such as polycarbonate and PTFE (Teflon) can also be used. The main difference between these types of capacitors is that film capacitors have higher stability than ceramic capacitors. They are less susceptible to temperature variations and can be used in applications where high-precision performance is required.

Ceramic capacitors, on the other hand, are made from a disc or plate of ceramic material sandwiched between two metal plates. This type of capacitor typically has lower cost and smaller size compared to film capacitors but often offers poorer accuracy and reliability over long periods of time. Ceramic capacitors are often used in applications where size and cost is more important than accuracy and reliability.

When choosing between film or ceramic capacitors for an application, it is important to consider the type of performance required from the capacitor. For applications requiring high-precision performance, film capacitors are usually the best option as they provide a higher degree of stability and dependability. On the other hand, if cost savings and smaller size are desired, ceramic capacitors may be a better choice. It is important to remember that both types of capacitors can have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the application. [3]

Differences between Film and Ceramic Capacitors

How to Choose a Capacitor?

When it comes to choosing a capacitor, there are two primary factors to consider: cost and performance. Film capacitors tend to be more expensive than ceramic capacitors, but they may offer better performance in certain applications – particularly when used in high-frequency circuit designs. Ceramic capacitors are usually preferred for circuits with low frequencies or where space is limited.

The right choice of capacitor ultimately depends on the specific needs of the application and budget. Factors such as temperature range, voltage rating, size, reliability, noise suppression capabilities and response time should also be taken into account when making a selection.

A good starting point is to analyze the requirements of the design and compare them against the specifications provided by various manufacturers. Experienced engineers may also use their knowledge of electrical components to make informed decisions on capacitor selection.

For most applications, the cost difference between film capacitors and ceramic capacitors is usually small enough that it should not be the primary factor in deciding which type to choose. Instead, it is more important to focus on selecting a component that meets the requirements of the application while being within budget. Once all of these considerations are taken into account, an appropriate choice can be made with confidence. [4]

Other Types of Capacitors

In addition to film and ceramic capacitors, there are a few other types of capacitors available.

  • Electrolytic capacitors use a chemical solution as the dielectric material and are often used for power supplies.
  • Tantalum capacitors are smaller than electrolytic capacitors and also have higher capacitance per unit volume.
  • Mica capacitors offer even higher purity than that of ceramic capacitors because they use mica as their dielectric material.
  • Supercapacitors are unique in that they can store much more energy than regular capacitors, making them ideal for high-powered applications such as wind turbines or solar panels.

Finally, air gap capacitor uses air as its dielectric material and is used primarily in radio frequency applications due to its high capacitance and low losses.

No matter what type of capacitor you’re looking for, it is important to understand the differences between each type in order to make an informed decision when choosing a component. Film and ceramic capacitors both offer unique benefits and drawbacks that can help determine which one will best suit your needs.

Other Types of Capacitors

Understanding the difference between film and ceramic capacitors can help you select the right component for your project. [5]


What is the difference between film and ceramic capacitors?

Film capacitors are made up of two thin, metalized plastic films separated by an insulating medium such as air or oil. These capacitors have a high level of stability and low dielectric losses compared to other types of capacitors, making them ideal for use in precision circuits where temperature and environmental changes can cause drastic effects on performance. Ceramic capacitors consist of layers of ceramic material with metalized electrodes arranged in alternating layers. They offer higher voltage ratings than film capacitors and are often used in place of expensive electrolytic capacitors in power supplies, amplifiers, and other high-power applications.

Which capacitor type has better tolerance?

Generally speaking, film capacitors offer tighter tolerances when compared to ceramic capacitors. Film capacitors typically offer from ±5% to ±1% tolerance, while ceramic capacitors are usually available with a wider range of tolerances from ±20% up to as high as ±10%.

Which capacitor type has better dielectric stability?

Film capacitors have superior dielectric stability compared to ceramic capacitors because the tight manufacturing tolerances allow for less variation in the thickness and distance between the two metalized layers. This helps minimize any changes in electrical properties due to temperature or environmental fluctuations.

Can I use ceramic capacitors instead of film?

Yes, in most cases you can use ceramic capacitors instead of film. However, there are a few important distinctions between the two that should be considered when making this decision. Ceramic capacitors offer higher capacitance and lower cost than film capacitors. They also tend to have shorter lead times for production, especially when compared to large value film capacitors. On the other hand, film capacitors generally have better ripple current ratings and temperature stability than ceramic types do. Additionally, ceramics may not provide superior noise reduction performance versus films with respect to EMI/RFI frequencies.

What is the advantage of a film capacitor?

Film capacitors offer higher quality and greater reliability when compared to ceramic capacitors. They generally have better temperature stability, longer life expectancy, and lower impedance values than comparable ceramics. Film caps are also known for providing superior noise reduction performance versus standard EMI/RFI frequencies, making them ideal for use in applications where interference suppression is a must. Additionally, film types tend to be more robust and can handle higher voltage ratings as well as larger currents than their ceramic counterparts. Lastly, they are often available with much larger capacitance ratings than what is available with ceramics.

What is the disadvantage of a film capacitor?

A major disadvantage of film capacitors is their relatively high cost when compared to ceramic capacitors. Additionally, they tend to have a lower rated voltage than ceramic capacitors and may be more prone to failure in high-voltage applications because of this. Finally, film capacitors are not as good at dealing with rapid changes in the current, so they may not be suitable for certain types of circuits. All these factors should be taken into consideration before choosing which type of capacitor is best for your application.

Are ceramic capacitors good for audio?

Ceramic capacitors are often used for audio applications because of their low cost and high temperature tolerance. Additionally, they can handle rapid changes in current, making them well-suited for circuits with a lot of activity. They tend to be quite reliable when used correctly and are not affected by fluctuations in voltage as much as film capacitors. For these reasons, ceramic capacitors are often the preferred choice for audio applications.

Are there any disadvantages to using ceramic capacitors?

While ceramic capacitors have several advantages, they also have some drawbacks that should be considered when choosing which type of capacitor is right for your application. Ceramic capacitors tend to be less accurate than film types, which can result in degraded sound quality if accuracy is important. Additionally, their high temperature tolerance can make them more prone to failure in extreme conditions. Finally, they may not be suitable for high-voltage applications due to their relatively low rated voltage.

Do film capacitors degrade?

Yes, film capacitors are subject to degradation over time due to various factors such as temperature, voltage, and age. Generally speaking, the higher the voltage applied to a film capacitor, the shorter its life expectancy will be. Additionally, exposure to extreme temperatures can cause increased leakage current in film capacitors and eventually lead to failure. It’s important to keep these factors in mind when selecting which type of capacitor is best for your application. In conclusion, both types of capacitors have their advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into consideration before making a decision about which one is most suitable for an application.

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In conclusion, choosing between a film and ceramic capacitor depends on the specific application. Film capacitors are ideal for applications with high current levels and low temperatures, while ceramic capacitors work well in high temperature environments with low current levels. While both types of capacitors offer similar benefits and drawbacks, it is important to understand the differences between them to make an informed decision about which type is best for your needs. Consider the current load, temperature range, and size requirements when selecting either a film or ceramic capacitor for your project. Doing so will help ensure that you get the most out of your component selection.