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02-02-2008, 04:11 PM   #1
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Why the Obsession with Full Frame (FF) DSLRs

Why the obsession with FF DSLRs and more mega pixels? It must be the Tim Taylor “More Power” syndrome from the TV show “Tool Time,” because I can’t think of a logical reason for the majority of photographers to need a FF. I can here it now. We need “More Power” line from Tim followed by the pig sound by the FF throng.

There only three FFs on the market now, and how many people can afford them? Not me for sure. What is the true market for these $5,000 plus giants? One hundred to two hundred thousand cameras worldwide per year? If the rumors are true Canon has a warehouse full of 5Ds that they can’t sell. Not even Canon’s bread and butter PRO action DSLR, the EOS-1D Mark III is not FF.

Why 20 mega pixels? Do most of us print 60” wide prints? My istD will easily make sharp prints up to 24" X 36" and my K10D will make direct posters 34” x 52". Oh you say it’s all about how sharp the image looks on a 72 or 96 dpi monitor. I don’t think so. I think it’s about the quality of the printed image. If the technology of an APS sensor can give me the same quality image as a FF sensor at a lower cost I am happy. Pentax and Samsung have apparently done just that in the new 20 series cameras.

VR
Darryl

02-02-2008, 05:15 PM   #2
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Perhaps because for those who grew up with 24x36mm frame sizes on 35mm film, the lenses behave the way they used to. A 50mm is a normal, a 28mm is a wide angle, etc. For 35mm photographers with an extensive collection of older glass, their wide angles will behave properly and they won't have to go buy new shorter focal lengths to accomplish what their older lenses would.
02-02-2008, 05:52 PM   #3
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Darryl,

There's a couple of reasons I can think of (but that doesn't necessarily make them valid). I think professional photographers want as much detail in their image file as they can get for any size printing or other such use based on the type of work they produce. Nature and outdoor photogs (in film days) used medium or large format cameras for the same reason. Fashion photogs do too. Street shooters want compact with good image quality so leaned to 35mm format. That's my take on one class of folks, professionals. Gearheads want what they don't have right now. They simply want what's coming next in new equipment, and there's nothing wrong with that. I tend to be a gearhead of a practical sort. My bank account, or lack there of, dictates that. For me it's like do I really need to abandon my istDS for a K10? No, so I didn't. If I had more money I wouldn't mind having a K10D but I am a hobbiest at this photography thing and I can't justify it because I know my photos won't really be any better, I'm the limitation not my equipment.

But there is another side I've not mentioned. Lots of folks out there have a lot of lenses in their closets from their 35mm film days, some of them truly their favorite in 35mm film format, and it would be nice to get those back in the image size they were originally designed for. I know I have a couple of favorites, a Leica 21 Super Angulon that I simply adore on a 35mm film camera, same with a Pentax 35mm f/2 Super Takumar I have. Lovely lovely lenses. I can still use them on my digital cameras, yes, but they are not their same fine focal length as on a 35mm film camera. I would love to have a full frame sensor digital camera for that reason alone.

On the other hand, I find I like small cameras, which is another reason for sticking with my istDS. I don't need the additional pixels and the K100 viewfinder (and I doubt the K200 will be either) just isn't as sweet as the DS viewfinder. In fact I went looking for an even smaller camera and picked up a Olympus E410 with a 14-42 kit lens for under $500, and that was a brand new camera from my local camera store. The viewfinder stinks compared to the istDS but it is an ever so sweet little camera.

I'm sure others will have many more reasons for FF but that my simple take on it.

Don
02-02-2008, 06:33 PM   #4
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full frame for the way light is rendered

I have (and regularly use) a K10D, but for light rendering, the K10D can't compete with my Canon 5D. The 5D is spreading those pixels over a larger sensor and the resulting photo is more accurate looking to me. In addition, I can "see" with the viewfinder in the same way as I do with my full frame film cameras (mostly m42 mounts).
Here's a macro/closeup photo with the 5D

EXIF: 1/500s f/7.1 at 180.0mm iso400

and here's a macro/closeup with the K10D

lens is a Helios 44-2 f/2 and I used extension tubes as I don't have a dedicated macro for the K1D

and, finally, here's a macro/closeup with a Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL and a Mamiya Sekor 55 f/1.4 and 2XTC


in the case of the full frame cameras, the light is more translucent and there's more depth in the photo. Perhaps a true dedicated macro lens would yield better results on the K10D, but I haven't bought one yet. I have a whole lot of Canon macro glass, so I use the K10D to play with old lenses.
If Pentax were to go the full frame route, I'd buy one in an instant. I used Pentax for years before I bought a Canon 300D because Pentax didn't come out with a DSLR and I wanted one. The beauty of the K10D, over Canon, is the backward compatibility of lenses. I never tire of playing with it.

02-02-2008, 07:40 PM   #5
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One side effect of full frame sensors would be that the manufacturers would no longer have an excuse not to provide a decent viewfinder. FF means a bigger mirror box, and a bigger reflex mirror, and a bigger prism. The possibility that you could have a dSLR with a viewfinder on par with an MX or LX makes me salivate just a little. (Unfortunately, we'd probably just end up with one like the MZ-S, but hey, what would life be without dreams?)
02-02-2008, 08:32 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwbigd Quote
Why the obsession with FF DSLRs and more mega pixels?
Simple answer: [Admin edit: per forum rules, link removed]
This is cropped down from a Hasselblad H1 shot taken with a Phase One P45 digital back with 39 MPixels. The point is that you cant get this quality from APS-C.
02-02-2008, 09:19 PM   #7
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Hmmmmmmm, interesting site, lol, whew !!
02-03-2008, 12:37 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by falconeye Quote
Simple answer: [Admin edit: link removed per forum rules]
This is cropped down from a Hasselblad H1 shot taken with a Phase One P45 digital back with 39 MPixels. The point is that you cant get this quality from APS-C.
Richard Murrian does the same kind of work with the same quality on his website with a K-10D and his wife, Nancy, shoots with a istDS.

VR
Darryl

02-03-2008, 01:00 PM   #9
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And don't forget depth-of-field. At f/2 for instance, the FF image will have less DOF than the APS-C image. Whether this is an advantage or a hindrance is up to the photographer.
02-03-2008, 01:44 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwbigd Quote
Richard Murrian does the same kind of work with the same quality on his website with a K-10D and his wife, Nancy, shoots with a istDS.

VR
Darryl
Yup, we all know that the K10D is just as good as the Hasselblad. They only pay more for the marketing.

I can only dream of the day when they finally put one of those ultra-compact P&S sensors in a K-mount camera, so I can finally use my 50mm as if it was a 312mm telephoto!!
02-03-2008, 03:54 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwbigd Quote
Richard Murrian does the same kind of work with the same quality on his website with a K-10D and his wife, Nancy, shoots with a istDS.
Sure? I am sceptical. Any sample photo? There aren't any at richardmurrian.net .
02-03-2008, 04:07 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwbigd Quote
Why the obsession with FF DSLRs and more mega pixels? It must be the Tim Taylor “More Power” syndrome from the TV show “Tool Time,” because I can’t think of a logical reason for the majority of photographers to need a FF. I can here it now. We need “More Power” line from Tim followed by the pig sound by the FF throng.
I think it has a lot to do with 3 things.

Firstly, FF cameras until recently have had the edge on IQ because they had more resolution and lower ISO noise, though comparing like with like, eg Canon APS and Canon FF, the noise difference is not great. But the extra detail available on a 5D over, say, a 20D was quite visible and a 16MP 1DS was more visible still (although most conveniently ignored the higher noise!) This advantage is waning, partly because of the amount of research done on new APS sensors has brought resolution up and noise down at the same time. A K20D will provide resolution and noise performance not far off that of a 1DS mk2 for around 1/8 of the price, and THAT is my definition of progress!

Secondly, there has been an extraordinary amount of hype and misinformation spread around and repeated ad-nausiam by people who dont even know what MTF means that exaggerates the superiority of FF to almost mythical proportions and simultaneously avoids facing any of its downsides, like the fact that more than a few expensive wide-angle lenses designed for film do not work at all well on it and have quite obvious light falloff and edge sharpness issues. If you are a product photographer it makes them almost unusable. Canon have rushed out quite a few "upgrades" to some of these lenses as a result. So, IMO a lot of your old FA and A lenses are really going to suck on FF.

Thirdly, a lot of people are labouring under the rather odd prediction that FF will get cheap enough in the near term for them to buy an FF camera for $1500 or so. This aint so. However much you reduce the cost of manufacturing and using multipass lithography (which is really difficult BTW) you STILL end up with the yield issue. APS sensors will always be a minimum of 4X cheaper and costs of APS sensors are no longer dropping much because they are already mass market commodities and right now FF chips are more than 4X the cost. It will take a while to improve the lithography techniques to get it as low as 4X. Even Canon produced a white paper explaining that FF cameras would never be "cheap" and its them who are exploiting the FF hype to the max.

So yes, FF has some advantages, they are not great (and to a large extent APS is catching up) and nor is it without disadvantages, but it will generally carry a significant premium in price terms which, unless you are a very demanding pro with a particular need, is overkill for anyone that does not regularly print at >A3. However that doesnt stop the melon-heads remortgaging the house so they can tell their friends next door that they have the best and lock their camera up in a fur lined case next to their rolex at night.

If you really want a significant and obvious improvement in quality than the only choice is to go really big, like MF, and that has a whole bunch of other issues.
02-03-2008, 04:09 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jerry Thirsty Quote
One side effect of full frame sensors would be that the manufacturers would no longer have an excuse not to provide a decent viewfinder. FF means a bigger mirror box, and a bigger reflex mirror, and a bigger prism. The possibility that you could have a dSLR with a viewfinder on par with an MX or LX makes me salivate just a little. (Unfortunately, we'd probably just end up with one like the MZ-S, but hey, what would life be without dreams?)
It is not so hard to put a magnifier on an APS VF and improve the prism quality to increase brightness. Check out the Oly E3 viewfinder, its not that bad and thats on a 4/3 camera.
02-03-2008, 05:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by imajypsee Quote
I have (and regularly use) a K10D, but for light rendering, the K10D can't compete with my Canon 5D. The 5D is spreading those pixels over a larger sensor and the resulting photo is more accurate looking to me. In addition, I can "see" with the viewfinder in the same way as I do with my full frame film cameras (mostly m42 mounts).
Nice photos.

However I think there is more going on here than sensor size. Canon APS cameras have very similar image processing to a 5D and would probably give you a similar "look". Secondly unless you take similar shots using similar lenses its kind of hard to compare. For one thing the DOF is titally different and the Pentax lens you used has worse bokeh in this picture.

It should also be said that many old Pentax lenses may struggle with the resolution demands of an APS sensor and wont give you the same sharpness.

I agree about the viewfinder but I would be reluctant to pay $1000 for that alone.
02-03-2008, 06:38 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
I think it has a lot to do with 3 things.

Firstly, FF cameras until recently have had the edge on IQ because they had more resolution and lower ISO noise, though comparing like with like, eg Canon APS and Canon FF, the noise difference is not great. But the extra detail available on a 5D over, say, a 20D was quite visible and a 16MP 1DS was more visible still (although most conveniently ignored the higher noise!) This advantage is waning, partly because of the amount of research done on new APS sensors has brought resolution up and noise down at the same time. A K20D will provide resolution and noise performance not far off that of a 1DS mk2 for around 1/8 of the price, and THAT is my definition of progress!
Well yes APS-C has come a long way, but then again so has FF and so has MF.
I think it is fair to say that larger generally is better, but not proportionally to the cost involved. or the application used.
You are comparing a brand new APS-C sensor to a how many years old FF? What if we compare it to say a 12MP D3 or a 10MP 1DIII From what I have seen of sample this still will have an advantage in terms of noice vs. detail.
I guess we can all agree that the 21MP 1DsIII still has a bit of a way to go to compete with say a 22MP MF back same will go for APS-C vs. FF. Important question is if the gained improvement is important or pays off in terms of cost.
I have recently delivered a full eventset to a customer, during that event I shot a fair bit at ISO 6400... something I would nto dare do with any APS-C.
The K20D might have a workable ISO 6400, but will it be comparable, I would really love it to be but I doubt it.

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
Secondly, there has been an extraordinary amount of hype and misinformation spread around and repeated ad-nausiam by people who dont even know what MTF means that exaggerates the superiority of FF to almost mythical proportions and simultaneously avoids facing any of its downsides, like the fact that more than a few expensive wide-angle lenses designed for film do not work at all well on it and have quite obvious light falloff and edge sharpness issues. If you are a product photographer it makes them almost unusable. Canon have rushed out quite a few "upgrades" to some of these lenses as a result. So, IMO a lot of your old FA and A lenses are really going to suck on FF.
After having done a fair number of shots with the D3 I am now confident that what we have known as a soft corner issue on FF is more related to canon than to FF, which is natural as they for a long time was the only provider.
The Nikon F mount (quite similar to the K mount in terms of registration distance have not shown this weakness, at least not with the Nikkor 14-24 f2.8G

See any soft corners here?


Truth is that none of us really knows how a K mount would do with FF digital. Canon FF has the "soft corner" issues, Nikon in my personal experience does not.

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
Thirdly, a lot of people are labouring under the rather odd prediction that FF will get cheap enough in the near term for them to buy an FF camera for $1500 or so. This aint so. However much you reduce the cost of manufacturing and using multipass lithography (which is really difficult BTW) you STILL end up with the yield issue. APS sensors will always be a minimum of 4X cheaper and costs of APS sensors are no longer dropping much because they are already mass market commodities and right now FF chips are more than 4X the cost. It will take a while to improve the lithography techniques to get it as low as 4X. Even Canon produced a white paper explaining that FF cameras would never be "cheap" and its them who are exploiting the FF hype to the max.
Well I agree on that part, just like Mf will always remain rather expensive compared.
Question is if the cost is justifiable and whether the advantages of FF matters to the type of photography you do.

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
So yes, FF has some advantages, they are not great (and to a large extent APS is catching up) and nor is it without disadvantages, but it will generally carry a significant premium in price terms which, unless you are a very demanding pro with a particular need, is overkill for anyone that does not regularly print at >A3. However that doesnt stop the melon-heads remortgaging the house so they can tell their friends next door that they have the best and lock their camera up in a fur lined case next to their rolex at night.
1-2 stop cleaner at high ISO, larger DR, shallwoer DOF, but at the same MP count it allows you to stop further down before hitting diffraction limits. UWA is better at lest from what I have seen with the D3. less distorsion.
Downside to FF is size and weight of the body, as well as the telephoto lenses and the nagain not, a 70-200f2.8 on FF would be equal to a 50-135 f2.0, so I guess if we calculate in speed the lens part averages out. The APS-C does have a reach advantage though.
Shake reduction is another major advantage of APS-C.
Another major FF downside is price, but then again that would hold true with MF compared to FF as well, a larger format will always be more expensive, that has not changed since film IIRC.

QuoteOriginally posted by *isteve Quote
If you really want a significant and obvious improvement in quality than the only choice is to go really big, like MF, and that has a whole bunch of other issues.
Agreed, each step up in format has advantages and disadvantages MF more so than FF, I sse it as 3 different formats with each of their own set of advantages, to me personally after having shot quite a bit of FF it seems to me as the most attractive compromise for the paid work and some of the personal work I do, but APS-C and Pentax will not leave me completely, the compact pentax primes will stay in my kit for certain things, that kit will very likely include a K20D too

My general question to all of those people that keep "defending APS-C and especially with the arguments, comparing a brand new APS-C to an old FF and bringing up the canon "soft corner" issue is.

Steve I greatly respect both your opinions and your skills, so below question is not directed at you personally but in general.
The fact that I will run a FF and APS-C system side by side for different applications tells what I think of the whole issue as well. That and the fact that Pentax is my APS-C system of choice and I am every bit as thrilled with the K20D as the rest of you, so I am not bashing it, I am just not expecting it to compare to a new FF system.

How many of you have actually shot extensively with the new FF cameras? and made an fact based comparison relative to the work you do?

Last edited by Duplo; 02-03-2008 at 06:40 PM. Reason: Forgot to add...
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