Can You Really Tell the Difference Between Medium Format and APS-C?

In this comparison, you probably can't tell the difference between identical images taken on a medium format and APS-C camera. But that doesn't mean that medium format cameras are a waste of money. As with most questions like this in photography, it really depends on what type of images you make and what you plan to do with them. 

Coming to you from Gavin Hardcastle, AKA Fototripper, this video challenges viewers to spot the differences between two identical images taken on the Fujifilm GFX-100S and the Sony A6000.

Viewed digitally at full size, it takes a very trained eye to be able to spot the differences, and even then the Fujifilm file doesn't necessarily look better in this viewing scenario. What we should learn from this is that as photographers, we should put more thought into our selection of a camera system. Many photographers purchase very expensive top-shelf cameras and lenses, yet only share their images on social media or their website, which means you are only ever seeing a down-sampled, lower resolution image. This means that you probably only need a full-frame or medium format camera if you plan to print your images large or to meet commercial client requirements. There are also many benefits to using cameras with smaller sensors, such as faster burst shooting, lower cost, size and weight savings, and wider depth-of-field.

If you are interested in learning more about the pros and cons of different sensor sizes, be sure to check out Which Sensor Size Suits Your Type of Photography the Best?

Devin is a landscape photographer based in the western United States. He enjoys capturing images of mountains, forests, waterfalls, deserts and seascapes. His passion for landscape photography extends to post processing and education. He offers live feedback and instruction for Lightroom and Photoshop via his website.

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If we could have better, cheaper and more reliable printers (eg that have user-serviceable waste ink pads) to print larger at home, these silly comparisons would stop really quick.

I love Gavin's vids, but comparisons like this are kind of moot. The main thing is using two different lenses. If you could actually use that Fuji lens on the Sony, I bet things would look quite different.
It really does show you that you only need one camera for everything, but many different lenses.

I actually thought this was one of his better vids! Maybe I'm not 100% a fan of his usual humor, but he knows his stuff.

This would help colours perhaps but have no effect on latitude or noise. Sony lenses are great but the cant stand up to the flexibility of the current fuji offerings.

I'll be in the minority here, but I was very proud of how well the Sony APSC stood up to the bigger, more expensive camera. I rarely print my pictures, so its reassuring that I can do a decent job with my apsc in the right conditions.

I agree 100%. I was pleasantly surprised how well the A6000 performed. It helps that Gavin knows what he's doing

OF COURSE the difference doesn't matter until one prints the images large. Of. Freaking. Course.

It always boggles my mind when anyone expects there to be any appreciable difference at sizes of 36" by 24" and smaller.

But when you print large, like 48" by 32" and beyond, then sensor size does make a noticeable difference, especially if the scene has a lot of very fine detail, or if it was shot in very challenging conditions.

that is true that there is hardly any difference between sensor sizes, if you are printing small prints. But, most people and even most professional photographers aren't printing at 48"x32" or larger.

I believe Andy Mumford (professional Landscape photographer) has a 3 metre wide print hung on the wall at Fujifilms Portugal headquarters, shot with an APS-C camera.

Thanks for that good little tidbit of info! Now I gotta Google that to see what subject matter that print features.

In this video, Andy Mumford says that he uses both the little Fuji X system and Fuji's MF system.

He says that he's never going to be printing at over a meter wide, so the X system's little sensor is good enough.

That’s correct Tom, but then he replied to someone in the comments about that large print in the Fuji offices.

Another example I saw was a documentary about Cadbury (the chocolate company) where they had a competition for the public to design a chocolate bar. The finalists had to attend a photo shoot and the studio photographer was using an X-T3 and 90mm f2. The resulting images ended up on the side of bud stops and billboards, both larger than 1m and both produced good detailed prints.

Ben Kanarek is another good example he shoots for Vogue magazine and also uses the X series, again large fashion promo prints for shop windows, billboards etc.

The resolution of this video is horrific, i cant find a HD version as i guess there are some licensing issues... but watch this from 34 minutes and you can clearly see the camera being used by the studio photographer and the resulting printed image.

Well yeah, of course. The vast, vast, VAST majority of photos on billboards are shot with FF and APS-C sensors. Ditto for large advertising banners. This is common practice. I am not sure why you were interested in this enough to show me this video ... I didn't find anything out of the commonplace about using that camera for that poster.

Do you realize that when people talk about a given camera or sensor size being "good enough" for a given print size, they are typically talking about fine art images of highly detailed scenes, not just stuff cranked our for advertising and promotion? Any old crap can be used for posters, billboards, etc, because they are just being used to push a product or promote an event. No need at all for world class detail and resolution in those cases.

Show me a 9' by 6' print of a highly detailed landscape hung at eye level in the lobby of a 5 star hotel or restaurant, and then I will be quite impressed. But everyday junk being used for ads and promotion? Nah, that doesn't make any kind of a point when it comes to a camera being "good enough" or not.

You were implying that the ‘little sensor’ in an APS-C camera was somehow not good enough.

And passing off the work of a professional studio photographer taking photos for a National ad campaign by the worlds biggest chocolate company as ‘everyday junk’ is somewhat disingenuous don’t you think?

It seems you are just not willing to accept that an APS-C camera can produce huge prints when needed.

As I said above one of Mumfords own prints is printed huge at the Fujifilm offices in Portugal, and let’s face it, Fujifilm will know more about the process of printing and what is good enough for it than a couple of amateurs commenting on an Fstoppers article, what being the supplier of printers and paper to most print labs.

You have grossly misinterpreted what I have said in the above comments.

I did not say that little APS-C sensors are not "good enough".

And yes, even "junk" images (on the basis of technical image quality with respect to dynamic range, fine detail resolution, etc.) are good enough for advertising and promotion.

That does NOT imply that the images being used for advertising and promotion are junk - it is simply saying that even if they were junk, they would still be good enough, because no one needs super high end technical image quality for such end uses.

Advertising and promotion depend on image content, not on technical image quality, to get the message across to potential customers. Completely different application than fine art, where people - primarily other artists and art collectors - are scrutinizing the images for their technical merits, or lack thereof.

Sorry just need to add again, your any old junk comment is hilarious, I hope you really don’t believe that.

Check Ben Kanarek out, do you think his photography is ‘any old junk’ too? What with being a high end fashion photographer who shoots for Vogue magazine… I’m fairly certain their event posters at fashion shows etc have to be fairly detailed, what with advertising clothing and all.

You need to remove your own personal delusions about sensor size from the discussion and start taking a more balanced look at it im afraid.

You keep misinterpreting what I have said, because you are going by what you think I mean, instead of strictly going by the words I have actually said. Take everything I say literally. Extremely literally. That is how I communicate.

It doesn't matter whether it's APS or medium format, to make a print that large it has to go through prep and post production processes. It's at least a generation removed from straight out of camera. Even the printer itself has its own way of interpreting data for that scale

Love both cams. If the user sticks to web and makes sure they expose and compose for their project reducing need to crop and edit, the Sony is great. Especially for sports. If you need super exposure and recomposition power plus you are more stills than sports then the the GFX is in another world of its own. The funny thing about putting a lens on the sony that costs more than the Camera itself is that you could then also put that same lens on the Fuji as well(with an adaptor of which there are many). This sort of "put 10k lens on the $100 camera body to make the output better" business will only help colour and sharpness but not latitude or noise. That's all the cameras image processor.

A true comp would show that until you hit a glossy 11x17 or a 30inch hd screen, nobody can tell the med format from a decent high def sony a7riii . .. currently about $2200
And the real pisser is that the $10k cam only looks bigger, so nobody is really impressed

Nice video, and what it shows is, that it realy makes a difference.
Due to finance I am stuck at dx. But boy, would I be happy to be able posessing a langer format. This case depth of field is no matter, but in case it would be, the difference would be inmence.

Would you like to carry it with you on and off trains and boats on a trip

Would you like to spend 5x for a lens

It's not really much at all to carry around, on trains, boats, or anywhere else. My most-used lens is a Sigma 300-800mm zoom, which is 21" long without the hood, and weighs in at 13 pounds. So just my lens alone is 4 times bigger than the camera that you seem to think would be a hassle to carry around. MF cameras with normal, non-telephoto lenses are small potatoes. Really small potatoes.

not all of us have a caddy

Caddy? Sherpa? I know, literally, hundreds of wildlife and bird photographers who use truly large equipment - camera, lens, tripod, & head weighing in at between 16 and 24 pounds - and I have never known of any of them having anyone carry their gear for them. Men. Women. Old people. Teenagers. It is NORMAL for people in given genres of photography to carry this weight of gear around, with no one to assist them. If you think this is outlandish, then perhaps you have been living a somewhat sheltered existence, where you don't see a lot of what goes on out here.

I do all of that (and day long hikes) and it's a joy

i'm sure your sherpa thinks so, too

Nope, it's just me

I like his videos, but these comparisons are merely to generate content for the followers when you don't have anything else.

You should use the format's to their strength. In terms of photography - even a modern mobile phone camera is good enough. But when it comes to print is all where it makes a difference. I print 72 inches and above where it really shines (also studio photography).

I can clearly see the difference between my xt3 and gfx images when I am editing as well.

Just use the camera you have and enjoy shooting.

Where content is king, when the content is very good, sensor size hardly matters, and indeed our phones are quite frequently more than good enough. But where content is similar, sensor size (noise, color depth, dynamic range). as well as of course lens choice and editing, is a primary way to stand out.

And sometimes that extra performance comes across almost subconsciously, where the images just looks/feels "better", even if pixel peeping fails to show noticeable differences.