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11-23-2020, 04:48 AM - 10 Likes   #1
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K-3III vs K-1II, APS-C vs full frame, which is "best" & price relevance - my thoughts

Since the announcement of the forthcoming K-3III, I've read suggestions that its rather high pricing is difficult to justify for an APS-C camera, and confusion as to why someone would choose to buy it when they could equally afford a "full frame" model such as the K-1 or K-1II for similar or even less money - thus implying that a crop sensor camera is, by default, inferior. I'm paraphrasing and interpreting, of course, but these are the broad thrusts in the posts I've read.

As someone who shoots both APS-C and full frame (albeit from different brands) as well as small sensor models like the Pentax Q series, bridge and compact cameras, I believe it's misguided and erroneous to claim one format is better than another without context. Each format has benefits over the others depending on the situation, use case, individual preferences, priorities and tolerances. We'd do well to think in terms of which format is "most appropriate to our needs", rather than which is "better" or "best".

In addition to format specific properties and behaviours related to the combination of sensor dimensions, pixel density and lenses, we also need to consider the state of development for sensors under comparison. For example, a larger sensor camera developed five years ago will likely outperform a smaller sensor camera of the same generation in terms of general image quality, but a much newer smaller sensor camera may narrow the gap considerably or even overtake the larger sensor model in some respects. Compare the higher ISO image quality from a full frame 2012 Sony SLT-A99 with that of the APS-C Pentax KP released five years later, and the KP wins (by a large margin).

This short article gives a basic but reasonable comparison of APS-C versus full frame with some benefits and pitfalls therein - but it doesn't take the state of sensor and imaging engine development into account. We, however, must.

With respect to pricing, the same level, complexities and costs of development apply to cameras of equivalent functionality, regardless of sensor size. Yes, the larger sensor component in isolation may cost a little more, perhaps the viewfinder prism and mirror too, but everything else stays largely the same. Why, then, should a new APS-C camera cost less than an older full frame model, other than to satisfy an often misguided consumer notion that - without supporting context - full frame is "better" than crop?

With Pentax, I shoot APS-C and long since decided to remain committed to the format, at least so far as this brand is concerned. My reasons are my own (I don't expect or require others to agree)... I find the size and weight of a complete Pentax APS-C system, using (mostly) dedicated APS-C format lenses, to be at the limit of what I'm happy to carry around for extended periods of time. I find that the fields of view and depth of field range I can achieve with such a system broadly meet my needs. The image quality from my setup is more than sufficient when balanced with the other benefits I perceive (though, like anyone, I'd always be happy with better IQ). Lastly, the entire system - not just cameras, but lenses and accessories too - suits my financial situation.

There are occasions when I choose to shoot my full frame gear because the use case dictates and the situation allows. There are many occasions when I shoot my small sensor cameras - such as the Q or Q7 - because, conversely, the situation dictates and the use case allows... or, sometimes, because I simply don't want to carry bigger, heavier gear. Whatever format I choose to shoot for a specific use case and situation, it is generally "better" - i.e. "more appropriate" - than the other formats on that particular occasion.

Which system and format is best for each of us is going to be different, and each will be a compromise in some way. Hopefully, most of us enthusiasts here - not to mention the few professionals in our community - already know this, and consider all relevant factors when investing in, extending or switching between systems or formats. For those who are less considered in their decisions - or perhaps less experienced - I urge you not to assume that a bigger sensor is always better, because that's simply not the case... It depends on many factors. Having considered your use cases, personal preferences, tolerances etc. and decided upon the ideal (or best compromise) system, budget is the final consideration... and for many of us it may be a deciding factor that might lead to a compromise on format; but as we've seen with the K-3III (and, for example, Olympus' recent micro-four-thirds flagship OM-D E-M1X), a smaller sensor doesn't necessarily equate to a less capable, cheaper camera.

All information thus far suggests the K-3III is going to be expensive compared to previous crop sensor models, and it's highly unlikely I'll buy it in the near future - but that's not because it's priced so close to the full frame K-1II... Frankly, that isn't even a consideration, because I've already established why APS-C is more appropriate for my needs. I won't be buying it immediately because I simply can't justify that expenditure when I continue to get such great service from my daily-driver K-3 and backup K-3II. Still, I find myself considering which items of my rather "extensive" ("bloated"? ) kit I might sell to fund a new or used K-3III sooner than I originally anticipated. I've little doubt that I'll be picking one up eventually


Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-23-2020 at 10:07 AM.
11-23-2020, 05:01 AM - 2 Likes   #2
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Let me just add: Lets wait until we see the output the K3 III is capable of (and the complete specs) before making any judgements....
11-23-2020, 05:24 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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I'm sure I will buy the K3iii, probably within 6 months of release, because a more compact wildlife/acton APS-C camera is what I need for some of my photography. It will not replace my K1. I can use both a hammer and a chisel.
11-23-2020, 05:37 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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Crop has advantages compared to Full Frame :
- Crop factor means the camera will have an advantage when it comes to telephoto
- Crop sensor means deeper depth of field for the same aperture / focal length
- Crop body and crop lenses are usually lighter, and will give much less strain on your neck

11-23-2020, 05:42 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertrand3000 Quote
Crop has advantages compared to Full Frame :
- Crop factor means the camera will have an advantage when it comes to telephoto
- Crop sensor means deeper depth of field for the same aperture / focal length
- Crop body and crop lenses are usually lighter, and will give much less strain on your neck
Absolutely... while micro-four-thirds extends those advantages even further, and full frame has different advantages compared to both... and in all cases, the state of development of the sensor and imaging engine, and the quality of lenses used, has a large bearing. That's the thing - the "best" format depends on the situation, use case(s), personal preferences and tolerances, equipment and more. Basically, it depends upon very specific - or very broad - personal circumstances
11-23-2020, 05:45 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
There are occasions when I choose to shoot my full frame gear because the use case dictates and the situation allows. There are many occasions when I shoot my smaller sensor cameras - such as the Q or Q7 - because, conversely, the situation dictates and the use case allows... or, sometimes, because I simply don't want to carry bigger, heavier gear. Whatever format I choose to shoot for a particular use case and situation, it is generally "better" than the other formats for one or more significant reasons.
If you don't want to carry the camera you aren't enjoying the shoot, and if you don't enjoy the shoot (since most of us don't really get paid more than in compliments of friends, family and fellow forumites that I hope are genuine ) then what is the point?

Honestly, I only got a K-1 because I found a ridiculous bargain. I was almost set on a KP - I wouldn't have been much less happy, I think.
11-23-2020, 06:19 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertrand3000 Quote
- Crop sensor means deeper depth of field for the same aperture / focal length
That is simply not correct, unless you're shooting from different distances to get the same frame.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bertrand3000 Quote
- Crop body and crop lenses are usually lighter, and will give much less strain on your neck
As long as you don't put full frame glass on them.
11-23-2020, 06:54 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MetalUndivided Quote
That is simply not correct, unless you're shooting from different distances to get the same frame.

.

He probably mean same angle of view....

11-23-2020, 06:56 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by MetalUndivided Quote
That is simply not correct, unless you're shooting from different distances to get the same frame.
I suspect Bertrand meant "crop sensor means deeper depth of field for the same aperture / field of view". That's how I interpreted it, at least

QuoteOriginally posted by MetalUndivided Quote
As long as you don't put full frame glass on them.
Well, if you put a D FA*50/1.4 on the K-1II and the same lens on the K-3III, the latter combo is still going to be a little lighter, and a little smaller... but of course, it will have rather different utility due to the cropped view.

Lest we start drifting into the murky realms of so-called "equivalence" (a mistake I won't make again - I learned my lesson the last time ), I think we can mostly agree that in DSLR land, an APS-C kit is generally a little smaller and lighter than a full frame kit normalised for the same use cases, with some limitations accepted. Of course, depending on the sensor generation, pixel density, imaging engine and lens quality for the two systems, the full frame setup could offer better dynamic range and overall image quality, as well as other advantages (or disadvantages ).

I'm keen that this thread doesn't turn into a discussion of why one format is better than another, since the whole point is that we individually define what's better - or, rather, "most appropriate" - for us through our own specific circumstances. One member's "most appropriate" probably won't be the same as mine, and that's all well and good... but we'd be wise not to make the common assumption that "full frame is better than APS-C" without having adequate context of our own to validate the claim in our own real-world scenarios... and we certainly shouldn't apply that assumption to others

Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-23-2020 at 07:19 AM.
11-23-2020, 07:03 AM - 4 Likes   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertrand3000 Quote
Crop has advantages compared to Full Frame :
- Crop factor means the camera will have an advantage when it comes to telephoto
- Crop sensor means deeper depth of field for the same aperture / focal length
- Crop body and crop lenses are usually lighter, and will give much less strain on your neck
- Crop factor means the camera will have an advantage when it comes to macro (@1:1 objects fill more of the frame)
- Crop sensor means the camera will have a faster frame rate
- Crop factor PDAF will typically cover more of the frame
11-23-2020, 07:44 AM - 1 Like   #11
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The benefits of full frame are primarily better dynamic range at base iso (Photos to Photons puts it about 1.3 EV between the KP and K-1 II at iso 100), ability to print bigger (APS-C is good, but full frame better), and more ability to shoot narrow depth of field. The K-3 III is going to have a lot zippier function and probably will be better than the KP in terms of image quality (improved accelerator perhaps).
11-23-2020, 07:45 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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For me also crop sensors are the best for the price. The reason is, I shoot wildlife, and even when I shoot at 600mm on crop, I am cropping mostly! So automatically that is negating the capabilities of full-frame. Also, with the exception of extremely-high megapixel sensors like 45mp and up, crop senors give more pixels on the subject.

I do think that the price of the K3iii will be a bit of a shock at first but I think it will come down with a typical $300 off sale or something...pretty much all cameras go through that phase.

The only time I kind of wish I had full-frame is for landscapes. Full-frame allows you to have a wider angle of view. I was thinking in a couple years I might try full-frame but right now it is too expensive (and I probably wouldn't use it much.)
11-23-2020, 07:49 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
The benefits of full frame are primarily better dynamic range at base iso (Photos to Photons puts it about 1.3 EV between the KP and K-1 II at iso 100), ability to print bigger (APS-C is good, but full frame better), and more ability to shoot narrow depth of field. The K-3 III is going to have a lot zippier function and probably will be better than the KP in terms of image quality (improved accelerator perhaps).
Improved accelerator, perhaps, but also a different, newer sensor. That may or may not improve image quality, of course... I guess we'll find out soon enough.
11-23-2020, 08:19 AM - 3 Likes   #14
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The D500, a 20MP APS-C camera, had a $2000 MSRP when it was released...
11-23-2020, 08:53 AM - 2 Likes   #15
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The K1 FF is clearly "inferior" to my Intrepid large format film camera by that same logic, and the Intrepid is only $350 USD's. Makes the K1 seem WAY overpriced! (Joking of course.)


The price of the K3 III is going to be hard to justify, but not because of anything to do with the K1. Pentax has a historical precedent of high initial MSRP's only to come down by 20-30% within a year or so. The KP was originally $1095, and then dropped to $795 pretty quickly. If the K3 III comes out at $1800 and then has the same 27% drop as the KP that would put it at $1300, which is pretty much where it should be and pretty competitive actually.


And I don't shoot the K1 because of lens considerations, weight and size issues, not price or IQ. My lenses of choice are the 15/21/35/70 Limiteds on a KP. Sometimes with the grip and that's as big a digital camera as I want with a 23 pound 4x5 film camera backpack along for the hike.

---------- Post added 11-23-20 at 10:04 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
The benefits of full frame are...ability to print bigger (APS-C is good, but full frame better)
If the difference is at 30x40 inches or larger, I'd politely suggest it's not much of a real benefit for 99.9% of the user base.


Like 4K video (which I've only recently learned.)

I'd argue from my printing experience that lens quality and technique are greater factors to final print quality then aps-c vs FF. And all things being equal (lens quality/technique, the FF advantage would only really become apparent at VERY large size prints, i.e 30x40 or greater. At sizes 20x30 an smaller I personally don't see any difference from my APS-c files vs my FF files. I do see a noticeable difference from my scanned 4x5 large format negatives even at 8x10 size though... (but they are 180 MB equivalent scans so that's not fair at all... )

So APS-c is really great and FF is a little tiny bit better is how I'd put it.

---------- Post added 11-23-20 at 10:05 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
- Crop factor means the camera will have an advantage when it comes to macro (@1:1 objects fill more of the frame)
- Crop sensor means the camera will have a faster frame rate
- Crop factor PDAF will typically cover more of the frame
And the lenses will be (could be) smaller and lighter.
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