Full Frame Is Not An Option

Not too long ago, getting a full frame camera actually mattered. It wasn’t just because real photographers have a collection of lenses that were meant for 35mm film but full frame sensors were actually different from their crop counterparts. Different and better.

Back then, a 12Mp APS-C sensor camera was fairly common. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji had their own versions of the 12Mp DSLR. Those who had deeper pockets could go full frame. Although the resolution remained the same at 12Mp, the full frame sensors guaranteed better image quality especially in low light performance. The “affordable” and ancient Canon 5D and Nikon D700 can still hold a candle even against the latest full frame cameras of today.

It is quite frustrating that sensor development hasn’t really improved that much since then. Some full frame sensors are really just bigger crop sensors. Take the Nikon D800 36Mp full frame sensor for example which is just an enlarged D7000 16Mp APS-C sensor so we expect their performance to be the same (https://dtmateojr.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/debunking-the-myth-of-full-frame-superiority/):

 

Image

(Image taken from dpreview.com)

Yes, there are other sensors such as the 24Mp of the D600 and the 16Mp of the D4 but if you compare their performance against the 7-year old 12Mp D700 sensor I would expect the huge technology gap to provide me with at least something that is visibly much improved. Have a look at the comparison below. Aside from the image size differences, the newer sensors have got nothing to say against the D700. In fact the D800 is visibly inferior:

 

Image

 

(Image taken from dpreview.com)

So in terms of performance, my opinion is that full frame is NOT really any better than APS-C (D800 vs D7000) and newer is NOT necessarily better (D600 or D4 vs D700).

What then has full frame got to offer compared to smaller sensors?

In some cases, full frame is really just a waste of space (https://dtmateojr.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/resolution-and-sharpness/), so unless you make really huge prints, if you print at all, then there is no point in going for more megapixels.

Another issue that you have to deal with full frame cameras is depth of field. Shallow DoF, in the real world, is a problem NOT a feature. You will be forced to stop down to gain enough DoF and then you start dealing with diffraction issues.

Full frame cameras require bigger, more expensive lenses and bigger tripods. Bigger and heavier means lesser usage. Unless you have pre-planned trips, you will tend to leave your full frame in the closet. Everyone now has a camera. More people are bringing tiny m43 cameras that produce full frame quality images so you can’t afford to leave yours behind if you wish to be competitive. Of course, there is now a trend towards smaller cameras with full frame sensors. The problem here is that they require a new set of lenses unless you decide to go with their wonky adapters which essentially negate the whole point of having a smaller camera.

On a slightly different topic, I find it funny that Pentaxians are practically switching over to a different brand just to satisfy their full frame cravings. Even if it means selling all their Pentax gear to fund the purchase of an entirely new set of equipment. Even if it means losing a lot of money. Well if you really like something then buy it. There is no need for excuses. Thinking that switching to a full frame will help you make better photos is a thing of the past. It doesn’t apply anymore. I mean honestly, unless you already have a stash of full frame lenses, going full frame is no longer a good option.

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13 thoughts on “Full Frame Is Not An Option”

  1. Not me. I’m sticking with my Pentax K-30 for a good few years yet, Just like I stuck with my battered and trusty K10D before. I don’t need full frame and even if Ricoh/Pentax decided to bring out a full frame camera I still wouldn’t change.

  2. Hi,
    May 2012 I decided to buy my first DSLR. I was fully taken on with the Sony a5. Until I read all the reports and comparisons. I was then looking at the Canon range and the Nikon range, Panasonic and Pentax. I went on DPReview and looked at all the comparison photos and read all the reports for about nine or ten cameras. I went to the camera shop and held them in my hands, but they didn’t have a Pentax K5 to try. I eventually found another shop 30 miles away that had one in stock, and a K30. As soon as I held the K5 in my hand and felt the balance and the weight I new this was the camera for me. I bought it as a kit with the 18-55mm and the 50-200mm lenses. The trouble is, I never had a DSLR before and it’s kind of complicated to get used. I recently started doing David Peterson’s Dashes, (which is how I found your blog) in the hope of learning how to take better photographs. I haven’t found anyone else on the dashes with Pentax, they all seem to be Canikon users. Now that I’ve found your blog I hope to be keeping a close eye on what you write. I just wanted to say, Thank you. You have given me a new lease of life with my K5. Reading about how you can set up the memory and how you have been using it as your number one camera for landscapes has given me inspiration. Can I expect it to last me a long time or do the mirrors need replacing at certain intervals? Where can I learn more about the K5 in a format that is understandable and will help me to improve my photography?
    I hope you don’t mind my intrusion but you’re the first person I feel I can ask without going on Pentax Users, and Pentax Forum.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and welcome to my blog.
      Let me be the first to tell you that I have practically owned every brand of camera out there. I owned and used a Canon 40D, Nikon D700 and D60, Sony A700 and Nex 6, Olympus E-P1, E-P3, E-M5 and E-M1. I still own some of them. I have also tested the latest releases from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Panasonic. None of them have the amazing mix of features, build quality and image quality of a Pentax. You would have to spend 3x more with other brands to get even close to a K5. Those CaNikon users don’t know what they are missing 🙂

      1. Thank you, Mateo(?)
        It seems the majority of those with DSLRs didn’t bother to find out what the options were. It took me five months to come to a decision. But it’s the best £600 I’ve ever spent. When I go out with my K5 I feel like a pro, and that makes all the difference. Do you know of any manuals other than the one that comes in the box?

      2. I suggest that you join Pentax Forums. Lots of helpful tips in there. We also hold weekly and monthly photo contests with prizes. Go there and meet other Pentax users. We are not alone 🙂

      3. I already joined. I just haven’t spent much time there up to now, but that is about to change. I’ll be signing in more often from now on.
        Cheers!

      4. Hi Demo,
        I read in one of your posts that you had a problem with the sensor on your Pentax. I just noticed that I have a recurring fault, but it doesn’t show up on all my photos, only in cloudy sky images. It appears as several perfectly circular dots towards the top and left to the images. Does this sound similar to your own experience?

        Nigel Crooks

      5. Very likely to be sensor dust. See if it’s still there if you change lenses because it might be dust on the rear element as well. If it’s sensor dust, you can use an air blower or a dry cleaning tool like SensorKlear.

      6. I sent an email to Pentax. They requested photos to see via Dropbox. I don’t think it can be all dust. Some, yes and it’s obvious because it’s much darker, black even. But the other anomalies are like small faded circles. There are now going on 50 of these on the photos that come back from Photomatix. And I checked, they are on the originals, but more visible on the lighter shots than the dark. I’ll keep you posted.

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