Full Frame vs. APS-C Sensor - Do you really need to upgrade to Full Frame?


Hey everyone,
I was considering for months to buy a full frame camera body. That's why I borrowed a similar full frame body (same amount of megapixels, same focal length) to compare it to my a 6300 showing it's benefits and disadvantages. Although I think the APS-C, together with the "sony fe 90mm f2.8 macro g oss", works really great in most situations, I decided to preorder the sony alpha 7 iv to be more flexible with my video projects. Especially the greater dynamic range (I did not focus on in this video), animal eye focus and the possibility to 240MP image resolution have made the difference. Which camera bodies are you using and why?
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seahawk 12 1.3k United Kingdom
24 Aug 2019 10:10AM
Not quite the same question but...I downsized from a Nikon D7000 and kit to a Lumix G80 MFT camera, purely to decrease the weight I was carrying. I am perfectly happy with the Lumix and when I print files from both cameras up to A3+ size I cannot see any difference in quality. I shoot landscapes so rarely shoot in low light without a tripod and I don't shoot sport or action so the Lumix does what I need.
If I was a Pro I would think differently. I think the mania for full-frame is over-hyped, most hobby shooters don't need it unless they work in low-light situations.
Just my opinion, though no doubt some members will strongly disagree.
Chris_L 5 5.1k United Kingdom
24 Aug 2019 10:53AM
Sensor size, at the moment, is important. I'm not talking about megapixels but sensor dimensions.

Buying a compact camera, mirrorless ILC, Quadcopter Drone or camera phone, quality generally improves as you make your way from postage stamp to beerrmat.

However, going from APS-C to Full Frame will not usually give you such a noticeable increase in quality and reduction in noise.

Dave_Canon 13 1.6k United Kingdom
24 Aug 2019 2:38PM
I was very keen to move from APS-C to FF 14 years ago and the improvement was significant. Since then I have upgraded to another FF with much improved Dynamic Range and low noise (thus low light) performance. Again the improvement is clearly visible as I often produce A3 prints for competitions. However, there are other issues to consider and we cannot always select just on best performance. These other issues include:

a. Budget
b. Size/weight
c. Actual performance needs

If b. was not a problem, I would continue with my FF kit for the foreseeable future as it meets c for me. However, weight is becoming more and more difficult so I may need to buy lighter kit. I am not currently looking at option but will before the next spring. My quick look one particular FF Mirrorless, while it had excellent performance, it costs more than my Canon 5D4 and is heavier. So I suspect I will have to settle of an APS-C mirrorless to keep the weight down. Whatever I decide, I will retain the 5D4 for low light photography anyway.

Dave
thewilliam2 2 1.3k
24 Aug 2019 2:44PM
For Nikon users, one advantage of a full-frame body is that we can make full use of our ancient manual-focus wide-angle primes.

In general, the larger the sensor, the better the picture quality and medium-format is even better than full-frame with the same pixel count.

The downside of larger format is the greater weight and this does matter as we grow older!
LenShepherd 11 4.0k United Kingdom
24 Aug 2019 8:36PM

Quote: or camera phone, quality generally improves as you make your way from postage stamp to beerrmat.
However, going from APS-C to Full Frame will not usually give you such a noticeable increase in quality and reduction in noise.


With recent technology at lower ISO's my experience is you are right.
4:3 to 24x36 there does tend to be a more noticeable noise difference - and usually you get more MP for more resolution.
When it comes to size and weight for any lens angle of view; larger format systems are bigger, heavier and often more expensive.
25 Aug 2019 12:14AM
I haven't heard anyone on the thread yet to answer the question in the OP - 'do you really need to upgrade to full frame'? Only but one said he would if he were a professional. All the rest seem to address a few minor differences - but in the end these seem hardly enough to warrant the upgrade's considerable cost. So, the conclusion to draw is that there is little real reason to upgrade. Is this the last word?
LenShepherd 11 4.0k United Kingdom
25 Aug 2019 8:10AM

Quote: Is this the last word?

The OP seems mainly interested in video.
For this sometimes smaller formats can be better as the files are not so large when processed, plus maximum still file size is usually not needed - and sometimes got rid of by pixel binning.

You get different dof with different size sensors when used with the same angle of view - sometimes less dof and sometimes more dof helps.

You get "less narrow" dynamic range at high ISO's with larger formats - but whether around 6 stops (if you are lucky) is enough depends on what you photograph.

You may get higher fps for your money with smaller formats as the files are smaller.

If you intend to print wider than about 3 feet with the intention of viewing at 15 inches higher MP which you can only get with 24x36 at a high price point helps.

Will any camera format and model do what you want? This can be more important than the format size.
kodachrome 7 720
25 Aug 2019 9:10AM
If you do upgrade to FF, take into account new lenses which can do the larger sensor justice, you will need fairly high end glass to give a decent edge performance, so look at the overall costs for a FF system, I have been using older Canon 35 mm ultrasonic lenses on my cropped 650D and because the cropped format is only looking through the middle 2/3 of the lens, the results are excellent edge to edge although the focal length has stretched a bit.
Dave_Canon 13 1.6k United Kingdom
25 Aug 2019 10:04AM

Quote:I haven't heard anyone on the thread yet to answer the question in the OP - 'do you really need to upgrade to full frame'? Only but one said he would if he were a professional. All the rest seem to address a few minor differences - but in the end these seem hardly enough to warrant the upgrade's considerable cost. So, the conclusion to draw is that there is little real reason to upgrade. Is this the last word?


This reason why I would not answer the question directly is only the OP knows his circumstances. I can only say what is right for me and why. I made it quite clear that I needed FF myself as my photography is for national and international competitions. Thus final images which are just good enough will lose out to those that are better than good enough and I have seen many examples of this. Of course, the composition, subject, light etc. is more important but when it comes to the final selections the technical IQ can make a difference. The considerable cost you mention will also depend on what you can afford. Photography is my main hobby and I am happy to spend the difference as I can clearly see the advantage for me. If I was never taking low light shots and did not print but only showed images on the web, I could certainly use a much lower cost camera without being disadvantaged.

However, it is not FF as such which would guide my choice but IQ. I am aware that many APS-C cameras now have much improved IQ and it may be that one of those will eventually meet my needs. So it is definitely not the last word as the technology is always changing.

Dave
Chris_L 5 5.1k United Kingdom
25 Aug 2019 10:15AM
I have got an APS-C Sony and a Full Frame Sony. The video from the crop frame camera is better.

There are reasons to do with this that include how a camera generates a small video image from a large sensor (HD video is 2 megapixels)

I used to own A6000, A7R, A7 and then got an A7S II as I got more into video, sold everything else. But then bought an A7R II as I wanted higher res stills, started to do video with that as well, could not justify keeping both and sold the A7S II and kept the A7R II and did way more stils. I bought an A6300 as a second camera.

On Friday I used the A6300 to shoot loads of video, as it works better with my Pilotfly gimbal.

The video was gorgeous. It has one of the best Super 35 video images you can get. If I was going to concentrate solely on video I'd happily sell the A7R II and do all of my video with the A6300. I do wish that it had IBIS like the A6500 etc.

Here's Dave Dugdale comparing the A7RII and A6300 video output
Carabosse 16 41.3k 270 England
25 Aug 2019 12:05PM
My format journey has been a long one - like, I'm sure, many others on here.

From 35mm film to APS-C digital, then Full Frame, then M4/3 and currently back on APS-C.

For video up to 1080p, I would not consider it worthwhile moving to FF. I don't have any experience to know whether it would be worth it for 4K.

For video I am actually staring to wonder whether a camera with a top-notch 1" sensor, such as the recent iterations of the Sony RX100 series could make my APS-C camera (Sony A6300) redundant. Obviously there would be a loss of flexibility of lens choice, but gains in portability etc.

I would be interested to hear any views.

So far as stills are concerned, all I do these days is photos not exceeding about 1000px for the web, email and social media. So most decent cameras can manage this. But... I would miss the ability to easily do differential focus, which is a cinch with larger format sensors + the lenses they use.
25 Aug 2019 8:28PM

Quote:My format journey has been a long one - like, I'm sure, many others on here.

From 35mm film to APS-C digital, then Full Frame, then M4/3 and currently back on APS-C.

For video up to 1080p, I would not consider it worthwhile moving to FF. I don't have any experience to know whether it would be worth it for 4K.

For video I am actually staring to wonder whether a camera with a top-notch 1" sensor, such as the recent iterations of the Sony RX100 series could make my APS-C camera (Sony A6300) redundant. Obviously there would be a loss of flexibility of lens choice, but gains in portability etc.

I would be interested to hear any views.

So far as stills are concerned, all I do these days is photos not exceeding about 1000px for the web, email and social media. So most decent cameras can manage this. But... I would miss the ability to easily do differential focus, which is a cinch with larger format sensors + the lenses they use.



Here's a thought for a small ILC with a 1" sensor if you care to explore it. Have you taken a look at the now discontinued Nikon "J" series camera? The Nikon 1 J5 comes to mind. Very small and light ILC with 1" sensor just as you asked. Not sure what the reviews were on it for video. Also, since this series was not particularly a famous one you might find some used kit very cheap on EBay and other sites. This may be the pony you are harking for.
Carabosse 16 41.3k 270 England
25 Aug 2019 9:21PM

Quote:Have you taken a look at the now discontinued Nikon "J" series camera? The Nikon 1 J5 comes to mind.


Yes but it was actually larger than the Pansonic GM1 with the bigger MFT sensor (I have owned a couple of those in my time).
Chris_L 5 5.1k United Kingdom
26 Aug 2019 11:37AM
The best video comes from a large sensor but with no wasted pixels. That's why the 3,000 Sony A7S II has only 12 megapixels and why dedicated video cameras have low pixel counts too.

As I constantly reiterate, 4k and HD video is tiny compared to many stills. Consider the dimensions of Full HD: 1920 x 1080: Not much bigger than low res 1000 px stills.

I had a chance to play with a neighbour's Sony RX 100 Mark IV yesterday. He's bought it for his holidays (Vietnam) and wants to shoot stills and video. It's mega impressive. It has got some serious pro video settings and built in ND filter (ND is essential for high end video). It shoots proper raw files too. I'm going out to do some serious shooting with him later in the week and will be showing him what some of the settings do. At the minute it gets a massive thumbs up.


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