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01-02-2014, 09:13 AM   #1
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Online Photographer: FF will die out, except...

I was surprised to read this assessment from Mike Johnstone, Online Photographer, The Online Photographer

QuoteQuote:
Many have said that full frame (24x36mm) is taking over (2012 was the Year of FF, no question), but I think the opposite: Micro 4/3 is almost too big for most people and most uses. FF will die out, I think, except as the "medium format" for professionals, and the public will end up with smaller-than-APS-C sensors in the cameras it uses almost exclusively for video and stills in electronic display formats. I just really hope that the eventual standard will be something as large as 1-inch.
I don't believe anyone out there knows how the future will work itself out. Mike is not only saying that there will be a lot fewer FF cameras, but fewer APS as well "and just hopes that the eventual standard is as large as 1 inch".

Overhead costs of production go down as more customers buy into a product. I don't think personally that FF cameras will take over the majority of DSLRS - they are about 9% of DSLRs now, i think. But who really needs DSLRs with FF or APS, there's only a small percentage of professional photographers out there. For the rest of us, its art or a social activity that drives us, not an activity that is central to our survival.

So are there enough professionals out there to sustain FF by themselves - i doubt it. But there probably is enough enthusiast interest to sustain FF where it is today - about 10% of the more professional cameras - so called DSLRs. IMO. Can't see APS going away anytime soon.

01-02-2014, 09:57 AM - 5 Likes   #2
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It's pretty simple: if prices of FF cameras hit the entry level, they will take over. If not, they will maintain a small market percentage, for photographers who either need or want the best.

What I think will determine the push to FF is how well/fast the adoption of 4K video happens. Right now, monitors are overwhelmingly 1080p to match the current HD standard. Higher resolution monitors are available, but they are expensive and far from mainstream. They also tend to be larger than 24", which makes them a bit larger than people tend to have room for.

Why is 4k video important? We look to a stat we tend to ignore but actually becomes important in certain circumstances: megapixels. For purposes of printing, 8MP is more than anyone needs for HQ photographs, and for viewing on a computer, half of that allows for 50% viewing on 1080p (2.07MP) monitors. With cameras of a few years ago providing well over 12MP, images can be viewed on current monitors at 25% magnification, hiding most noise and blur due to camera shake or poor focus. But a 4k monitor is over 8MP, which means that one needs a 24MP camera to view at 33%. The 12-16MP cameras people currently have, most of which are entry level and low models (Canon and Nikon are selling most of the SLRs to people who just want a point-and-shoot with a better sensor...and the prestige of a "fancy camera"), will start to show their limitations as people purchase high resolution monitors.

That will naturally cause people to demand cameras with higher MP counts. But how much denser can they make the pixels on APS-C sensors? At what point does doing so negate the benefits of doing so? Smaller pixels mean poorer low-light performance, and since family photographers will be shooting mostly inside and images just look better without battery-draining flashes (which make people look awful), the need for bigger sensors becomes apparent.

Of course, all this will happen with transparency to the casual user. All he will understand is that his photos don't look good on his monitor--and that's all he cares about anyway. If a camera is out there that looks better, no matter what the technospec babble says, he will be interested. This segment is the majority of the market and comprises the easiest consumers: they purchased a camera with a kit lens, making their investment minimal. They have no issues replacing the camera after 5 years for something better because they do the same for TVs, phones, etc.

Where I think FF will encounter the slowest adoption is actually among enthusiasts. These people are already fairly embedded in APS-C, with many expensive lenses that will not be FF compatible. While FF cameras will ship with compatibility mode for APS-C lenses, enthusiasts are not going to be in a hurry to upgrade to something that doesn't offer any actual benefits. Eventually, of course, they may not get a choice and may keep their old lenses and knowledge in compatibility mode--assuming camera makers continue to offer it--on a camera they purchased to replace failed equipment for lack of other options. I wouldn't put it past the likes of Canon to discontinue compatibility mode once this transition does happen. They'd love to sell a new suite of lenses, after all.


I don't see smaller sensors becoming the norm of DSLRs. What I do see is smaller sensors becoming selling points for phone cameras, which will totally destroy the point-and-shoot market. If small sensor technology improves enough, the point-and-shoot is likely to be swallowed up as camera quality becomes a major selling point and reason for upgrade of smartphones. Faster processors and more storage space become superfluous at some point, when all you want to do is play Angry Birds anyway.

Last edited by MadMathMind; 01-02-2014 at 10:02 AM.
01-02-2014, 10:06 AM   #3
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I like what you said there ^
01-02-2014, 10:29 AM   #4
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Yep, MadMathMind summarized it very well I would say...

01-02-2014, 10:40 AM   #5
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In 2012, the FF onslaught looked and felt overwhelming. Enthusiasm was rampant that FF was going to be the new standard.

Now in 2013/2014, there is far more pushback on the concept that FF is the new general standard. I was chuckling today on the idea that a camera make, like Pentax, must have a FF camera because photographers need an "upgrade path". In most cases, buying an FF means that one must buy a whole new set of lenses, the logic being that if you don't, you aren't getting the most out of the new FF body. So an upgrade path is not much of an advantage.

I was looking at K McCalls PF winning photo of a young girl sitting on the lower steps of a stairwell. Great image taken with a K200. Is a FF cam necessary for an image like that - nope.
01-02-2014, 11:07 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteQuote:
It's pretty simple: if prices of FF cameras hit the entry level, they will take over. If not, they will maintain a small market percentage, for photographers who either need or want the best.
I saw a 24 Mp D3200 for $350 this holiday, I don't see FF cameras hitting entry level prices, their sensors cost that much. For me, an FF and an APS-c at the same price, I take the APS-c. The FF is an add on to my APS-c system at best. I feel sorry for a lot of people who jumped on the FF bandwagon, based on some kind of dream of better IQ, who now have systems that satisfy their geek friends, but which they have less joy using.
01-02-2014, 11:17 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
It's pretty simple: if prices of FF cameras hit the entry level, they will take over. If not, they will maintain a small market percentage, for photographers who either need or want the best.

What I think will determine the push to FF is how well/fast the adoption of 4K video happens. Right now, monitors are overwhelmingly 1080p to match the current HD standard. Higher resolution monitors are available, but they are expensive and far from mainstream. They also tend to be larger than 24", which makes them a bit larger than people tend to have room for.

Why is 4k video important? We look to a stat we tend to ignore but actually becomes important in certain circumstances: megapixels. For purposes of printing, 8MP is more than anyone needs for HQ photographs, and for viewing on a computer, half of that allows for 50% viewing on 1080p (2.07MP) monitors. With cameras of a few years ago providing well over 12MP, images can be viewed on current monitors at 25% magnification, hiding most noise and blur due to camera shake or poor focus. But a 4k monitor is over 8MP, which means that one needs a 24MP camera to view at 33%. The 12-16MP cameras people currently have, most of which are entry level and low models (Canon and Nikon are selling most of the SLRs to people who just want a point-and-shoot with a better sensor...and the prestige of a "fancy camera"), will start to show their limitations as people purchase high resolution monitors.

That will naturally cause people to demand cameras with higher MP counts. But how much denser can they make the pixels on APS-C sensors? At what point does doing so negate the benefits of doing so? Smaller pixels mean poorer low-light performance, and since family photographers will be shooting mostly inside and images just look better without battery-draining flashes (which make people look awful), the need for bigger sensors becomes apparent.

Of course, all this will happen with transparency to the casual user. All he will understand is that his photos don't look good on his monitor--and that's all he cares about anyway. If a camera is out there that looks better, no matter what the technospec babble says, he will be interested. This segment is the majority of the market and comprises the easiest consumers: they purchased a camera with a kit lens, making their investment minimal. They have no issues replacing the camera after 5 years for something better because they do the same for TVs, phones, etc.

Where I think FF will encounter the slowest adoption is actually among enthusiasts. These people are already fairly embedded in APS-C, with many expensive lenses that will not be FF compatible. While FF cameras will ship with compatibility mode for APS-C lenses, enthusiasts are not going to be in a hurry to upgrade to something that doesn't offer any actual benefits. Eventually, of course, they may not get a choice and may keep their old lenses and knowledge in compatibility mode--assuming camera makers continue to offer it--on a camera they purchased to replace failed equipment for lack of other options. I wouldn't put it past the likes of Canon to discontinue compatibility mode once this transition does happen. They'd love to sell a new suite of lenses, after all.


I don't see smaller sensors becoming the norm of DSLRs. What I do see is smaller sensors becoming selling points for phone cameras, which will totally destroy the point-and-shoot market. If small sensor technology improves enough, the point-and-shoot is likely to be swallowed up as camera quality becomes a major selling point and reason for upgrade of smartphones. Faster processors and more storage space become superfluous at some point, when all you want to do is play Angry Birds anyway.
Well thought out and clearly explained. And I mostly agree.

But, if I understand the argument correctly the need for FF is going to be driven by the adoption of 4k monitors. Hmm, makes sense but is that going to happen? How many people are going to buy a new, big, expensive monitor so that their pictures look worse; requiring them to buy a new, bigger, expensive camera and lenses just to get back to the image quality they already had? I'm not seeing that happen any time soon, at least not within 5 years.

Unless the technology improves somehow I think 24mp is about the limit for APS-C, the difference in noise between 16mp K-5IIs and 24mp K-3 is easily seen. The question is will people buy into larger MP cameras? If not, then for the vast majority APS-C @ 24mp or less is more than they need or can get the benefit from.
01-02-2014, 12:43 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote

Where I think FF will encounter the slowest adoption is actually among enthusiasts. These people are already fairly embedded in APS-C, with many expensive lenses that will not be FF compatible. While FF cameras will ship with compatibility mode for APS-C lenses, enthusiasts are not going to be in a hurry to upgrade to something that doesn't offer any actual benefits.


.
Well said about the need for 4K and it's influences, but the above is proving to be wrong. Nikon sold around 30,000 D800's alone per month in 2012 - only a small fraction of that goes to 'professionals.' FF DSLR is now largely an 'enthusiast' market.

.

01-02-2014, 01:07 PM   #9
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I also seem to recall back when the flames over what APSC was capable of were roof high, a lot of math minded people mentioned 24mp on APSC as the point where anything more without a totally different way of building sensors was going to be pretty pointless.
At that point the improvements to keep selling cameras will likely be other than the sensor (a lot of room to improve in other areas) unless you go to FF.

I read that the area of a FF sensor is 36x24mm or 864mm^2 and the area of a Pentax APS-C sensor (Canon is smaller) is ~23.6x15.7 or 370mm^2. People forget that 1.5 is the crop factor, not the difference in sensor area. There is actually a huge difference in area (2.25 times bigger) between true FF and APS-C.

I am a failure at math so I likely have totally hosed this, but I think that means that if the pixel density of 24mp per 370mm^2 is about as good as will be helpful, then a FF sensor would go all the way up to 54mp before it reaches the same point right? That's an advancement path that will keep going long after APS-C leaves the (admittedly pointless) megapixel race.

Price and manufacturing ability really is the deciding factor in what happens in the future. If they could have made FF sensors cheaply and reliably (there were larger numbers of production errors per a given sensor area back then) when things first went digital APS-C never would have been put in full size DSLR's, it was a compromise format from the start. We are reaching the point where the compromise is less and less necessary, but its too well established to be going anywhere, and will always be around as just what it was always meant to be, the more affordable easier to produce DSLR option. I never would have imagined so many sub $1000 new options 10 years ago.

In all honesty I still want a 645D, but as I already have all FF lenses and only could stomach 2500 and not 8500, that means its FF for me.
01-02-2014, 01:14 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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What I think that most forget is that people are already taking pictures all the time with little tiny sensors inside their smartphones, and they are happy with it because they can quickly and easily post that picture for their friends to see. For now it is about the quick and easy connectivity, not the overall quality of the picture.

Throughout history convenience has always triumphed over quality. The ultimate image quality comes from very large negatives. One 16x20 negative will contact print a stunning picture. But it certainly isn't convenient.

Leica hit the scene in the 20s and 30s with convenience. Compared with almost everything else the Leica was the most convenient option out there. 35mm ruled the convenience roost for some time, until digital hit the scene.

Once digital became good enough then suddenly pocket digital cameras became the norm. Oh there were also other formats, APS-C and then full frame (35mm again.) But it was the ubiquitous pocket digital that ruled.

Now, the smartphone has replace the pocket digital.

Do you see the trend? Always moving toward smaller and more convenient. Even pro cameras have gone that same direction. Not as fast, but still small and convenient. We never go back to large and bulky, always towards small and convenient. There are still 16x20 cameras and there are still people using them. But not many.

Personally I have no crystal ball so I have no idea what will happen. But I do believe that, in the long run, Mike is right.
01-02-2014, 01:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by PPPPPP42 Quote
I also seem to recall back when the flames over what APSC was capable of were roof high, a lot of math minded people mentioned 24mp on APSC as the point where anything more without a totally different way of building sensors was going to be pretty pointless.
At that point the improvements to keep selling cameras will likely be other than the sensor (a lot of room to improve in other areas) unless you go to FF.

I read that the area of a FF sensor is 36x24mm or 864mm^2 and the area of a Pentax APS-C sensor (Canon is smaller) is ~23.6x15.7 or 370mm^2. People forget that 1.5 is the crop factor, not the difference in sensor area. There is actually a huge difference in area (2.25 times bigger) between true FF and APS-C.

I am a failure at math so I likely have totally hosed this, but I think that means that if the pixel density of 24mp per 370mm^2 is about as good as will be helpful, then a FF sensor would go all the way up to 54mp before it reaches the same point right? That's an advancement path that will keep going long after APS-C leaves the (admittedly pointless) megapixel race.

Price and manufacturing ability really is the deciding factor in what happens in the future. If they could have made FF sensors cheaply and reliably (there were larger numbers of production errors per a given sensor area back then) when things first went digital APS-C never would have been put in full size DSLR's, it was a compromise format from the start. We are reaching the point where the compromise is less and less necessary, but its too well established to be going anywhere, and will always be around as just what it was always meant to be, the more affordable easier to produce DSLR option. I never would have imagined so many sub $1000 new options 10 years ago.

In all honesty I still want a 645D, but as I already have all FF lenses and only could stomach 2500 and not 8500, that means its FF for me.
I believe that the theoretical point for APS-c to go under a 5.6 diffraction limit, was 40 or 50Mp, so there is still room for growth. Noise is another issue. A guy recently offered me a Korean made monitor, at 4000 pixels wide for around $800. However, at 24 Mp, my K-3 images are 6000 pixels wide. I think they'll look good even at that size. The guy also offered to build me a Hackintosh the equivalent of a 4 processor Powermac Pro, also for $800. I could go there for $1600, but, my 27 inch iMac is more than adequate. I'm guessing a lot of people will never feel the need to go to monitors that large, at least in the next 10 years. The 2700x1440 on my imac is a long way from being accepted as any kind of standard, forget about 4000x3000, and 2700 is getting to be close to 4 years old now. So exactly when are people going to feel the need to jump to larger monitors or more pixel density?
01-02-2014, 01:22 PM - 1 Like   #12
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I read somewhere on the Internet that sometime soon all cameras will disappear from the market. Nobody wants to take pictures anymore and no one will ever buy another camera. FF, APS-C, Mirrorless, Compacts, Phone Cameras. They are all going away and nobody will care to ever again take another picture.


01-02-2014, 01:27 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by shaX 07 Quote
I read somewhere on the Internet that sometime soon all cameras will disappear from the market. Nobody wants to take pictures anymore and no one will ever buy another camera. FF, APS-C, Mirrorless, Compacts, Phone Cameras. They are all going away and nobody will care to ever again take another picture.


Ya, I can imagine the cavemen saying the same. "It's so much work to paint on these walls... in the future, I'm sure no one is going to paint on cave walls anymore..." and they'd be right. No one does that these days. They paint on bridges and underpasses and the sides of buildings, but no one paints in caves anymore...
01-02-2014, 01:28 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
In 2012, the FF onslaught looked and felt overwhelming. Enthusiasm was rampant that FF was going to be the new standard.

Now in 2013/2014, there is far more pushback on the concept that FF is the new general standard.
I'd say there's even more realization that aps-c DSLR is going to have problems. I think that if you want to shoot a DSLR in 2020... it will be FF. Internet-connected, app-enabled FF.

Even if you don't want to shoot DSLR - if MILC is where you want to be - there's just not going to be enough separating m43 & aps-c from really good phone cameras, and people spending $1000+ on dedicated MILC cameras will be buying FF.

There's no way around it, and Pentax isn't going to thrive selling aps-c DSLRs in the years and decades ahead.

.
01-02-2014, 01:31 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
So exactly when are people going to feel the need to jump to larger monitors or more pixel density?
When manufacturers are not selling any more at lower-res.
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