Why Full Frame Isn't Always the Answer

Full frame is generally accepted as the standard format for most professional work and is what most photographers would choose if given the option. However, that does not mean that full frame is the best choice for everyone nor that you should spend extra money for it, and this fantastic video details several reasons why.

Coming to you from Robin Wong, this great video features him discussing a few reasons why he does not shoot with a full frame camera. No doubt, full frame sensors give a fair number of advantages, including great control over depth of field, better low-light performance (all other factors equal), and more, but they also come with a variety of disadvantages, or sometimes, depending on your needs, the advantages simply are not that relevant. The first is the simple bulk; full frame sensors generally demand bigger and heavier bodies and lenses. Second is cost: full frame bodies are often pricier, but even more notable is that full frame lenses tend to be more expensive as well, and those costs can add up quickly. If you do not the bleeding edge of noise performance or ultra-narrow depth of field, you might actually be better served by something like Fujifilm's popular X Series. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wong.

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Deleted Account's picture


Jan Holler's picture

I second that, it is a plague.

Troy Straub's picture

I love my GX85. Sure it's not the best image quality out there, but it's more than good enough for me. And the price is great. You can get it new with 2 lenses for $500 add the 25mm f1.7 for another $150. You can't come anywhere close to that with full frame or even APSC.

Michael Krueger's picture

I've got one too and absolutely love it, probably my favorite camera. The lenses are tiny compared to my Nikons for both FF and APSC.

sam w's picture

while the 12-40 is probably on my camera more often than other lenses, the 20mm f1.7 lens is my favorite to use that is native to the format. it focuses a bit slow, but it can really provide some stunning shots.

Billy Paul's picture

A big advantage of M 4/3 is for almost all the images that anyone actually looks at you only have to throw away 9 out of 10 pixels, not the 19 out of 20 or even 29 out of 30 that bigger sensors give you.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Agreed. There is no universal answer, except, perhaps 42...

Deleted Account's picture

How ironic that the M42 mount has "42" in its name.

Simon Honnor's picture

Who said that 35mm was the perfect size?
I used to collect cameras and I still have formats ranging from standard 8mm cine, to 120 film (medium format) , to half plate.

There is no reason why 35mm, a cine film format adopted by Oscar Barnack at Leitz (Leica for newbies) should be the ideal size now. Feel free to explore off the well-trodden path!

sam w's picture

you are a voice of sanity in a world of "Full Frame Rabble Rabble!".

Deleted Account's picture

While I understand where you're coming from, it does seem that full frame is currently the "sweet spot" in terms of usability, price, and features. When you really look at the features and pricing of various sensor formats, it's easy to see why so many photographer settle on full frame—especially since most manufacturers neglect their APS-C lines.

Billy Paul's picture

Isn't it strange how phones with their tiny senors are killing the camera market while people claim big camera sensors are the future.

Improved sensor and camera technology means smaller sensors are more adequate than ever and the need for larger (FF) sensors less than ever. Future technology improvements will only make that more the case.

The only thing I see that has happened is manufacturing technology has improved and made larger sensors less expensive.

Vincent Lukban's picture

Agreed. Otherwise I’d go medium format if it didn’t cost $10,000 for a basic setup...

Michael Comeau's picture

I like that he tells there are rumors that he is anti full frame. Where are these rumors being reported? TMZ? New York Times? Fox News?

Deleted Account's picture

Probably just comments on his YT videos accusing him of such.

Carl Marschner's picture

I've been using full frame bodies for years and years. All my 35mm film cameras, my EOS-1 Ds, 5D, and 6D Mark II have that familiar full frame sensor, but after all this time, a little over a month ago I picked up an EOS 90D and I can say now that I recognize the value of a crop sensor body. Smaller sensor size lets you close focus really tightly and because of the crop, you get the DOF of an aperture roughly 1-1/3 stops slower, but you're still getting the faster exposure. So f/2.8 looks more like f/4.5 as far as depth goes, but it's no noisier. Telephoto lenses get extra reach as well, so it's cool.

Deleted Account's picture

How is that different from just cropping the image or switching your full frame camera to APS-C mode if you're occasionally looking for that, though?

Carl Marschner's picture

Cropping takes your resolution down a ton compared to a crop sensor body. And crop sensor specific glass can focus far closer.

Vincent Lukban's picture

Dynamic range and image quality are pretty big features for full frame. Drives me nuts when I have to crop a lesser quality image. I do have to say that I have a Fuji x series camera and it is way more compact and unobtrusive for street photography. Also, I don’t worry about it as much when traveling with it and can actually enjoy traveling rather than worrying about my gear getting lost or stolen or broken etc.

Troy Straub's picture

Here's a shot to show the dynamic range of the 16mp m4/3 sensor in a GX85. One straight out of camera one processed in Lightroom. How much more dynamic range do most people really need? and sensor technology should only get better.

William Faucher's picture

Not saying anything against your photo here, but, this is a poor example of dynamic range, there isn't a whole lot of range in your original shot to begin with, and your blacks are clipped, to the point where they are just looking grey when you lifted the shadows.

Again, great photo, just not a great example for showing off dynamic range.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

The bright picture looks like a iPhone image to me. I did Get a iPhone and the images are not that great.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

No law saying you can't own and use both.

Trey Mortensen's picture

Maybe the law of "happy wife, happy life"? More money spent on more cameras make many photographers' wives (or husbands) less happy ;)

stuartcarver's picture

I won a Fuji in a comp, turns out I love using it so it’s now my main camera.. I don’t care about sensor sizes etc, I just like seeing great shots, and I’ve yet to see a camera that hasn’t done that.

00rob00 Rob00Rob's picture

Why whenever there's a FF is not the answer joint there's a fuji to be mentioned. This is a tired topic... Use whatever and keep it moving.

stuartcarver's picture

It’s an accurate observation, I guess it’s all down to them being dedicated to the smaller format so naturally the stick to try and beat full frame with, it’s only gearheads who give a shit about any of that anyway.