Do You Need a Full Frame Camera for Landscape Photography?

Full frame is generally considered the standard professional sensor size of choice, with some landscape photographers even now opting for medium format, particularly with the recent reinvention of the format. But of course, the bigger the sensor, the bigger the camera, the heavier the lenses, and the more expensive the kit. So, does a landscape photographer really need full frame? 

Coming to you from Henry Turner, this interesting video compares his experience using the full frame Nikon Z 7 to the Nikon D7200. As Turner points out, absolutely, all other things equal, you can expect better image quality from a full frame sensor, but, at least for a landscape photographer, a lot of the other features that also come with more expensive cameras are somewhat akin to creature comforts for a landscape photographer. And given the remarkable advances in sensor technology, cameras with APS-C sensors can produce impressively high-quality files. A lot of top landscape photographers produce such work with APS-C cameras; our own Elia Locardi has used Fuji's X Series cameras for a lot of his work. And of course, an APS-C camera often means lower prices and lighter weights — a fantastic benefit when hiking long distances with your gear. Check out the video above for Turner's full thoughts. 

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16 Comments
Deleted Account's picture

Not even a little bit.

You can quite happily produce consistently professional level work on MFT; indeed, Olympus is used by a lot of the adventure photography people.

1 inch is workable, but has fairly hard limits. I'm currently getting a 16x20 framed from a 1 inch, but I don't think I'd go bigger.

Jacques Cornell's picture

This is my experience as well. Up to 24", I can't see a difference between my 20MP GX9 images and my 42MP a7RIII images. I shot controlled tests on a tripod of a cityscape from a balcony with all my cameras and lenses, including LF1, LX100, GX85, GX8, GX9, a7III and a7RIII, and I prepped the images for printing at 24", 36" and 48" by running the RAWs through PhotoLab, exporting DNGs to LRC, then applying Super Resolution and outputting at 300dpi with output sharpening. I start to see a difference in detail between 20MP and 42MP at 36", but at 24" it's a wash. The GX9 images still look great at 36", but if I look closely enough, the a7RIII pulls ahead.

Deleted Account's picture

That sounds about right, Jacques; but increasing resolution in post is a whole other world for me.

I'm normally happy with the RX100, but I shot the attached image (one of the rare occasions I will upload a full resolution image) a couple of days ago, and the limitations are apparent in the leaves and trunks of the central tree. Although the thing that really hurt is the little white flowers on the surface of the water on the right, but then I'd probably want 100MP camera to see detail there I suspect; I kept looking at it thinking 'I wish I had a Phase One'.

charles hoffman's picture

50 years of advances in science, electronics, and color science

it really doesn't matter that you want to go to 20x30 or 40x60
1. you look at a 40x60 print from 8ft at least, not from 11 inches
2. the most crisp picture isn't necessarily the one you want

Deleted Account's picture

I will never be able to comprehend obtaining a hyper-sharp portrait, then turning the skin into plastic in post.

Mark Hamilton's picture

No you don’t, you need an eye and intent and why is it you only get this type of question asked by photographers? The camera is a tool and a means to an end. A great photograph stands on its on merits regardless of the camera used to make it. . I’d bet nobody ever asked Ernest Hemingway if he wrote the manuscript for The Old Man and the Sea with a pen, pencil or typewriter.

Deleted Account's picture

Marketers, with training in psychology, have invested a lot of effort convincing us we absolutely must have the next bright shiny object.

Studies have demonstrated cognitive dissonance is stronger if you buy into the belief voluntarily.

Similar things can be said about brand; no doubt you've noticed people get pretty ugly around that one.

And yes, what you said.

Anthony Martin's picture

I like Mark Hamilton's phrase ' you need an eye and intent'!...I think that it sums up the balance that sometimes appears to get lost by debaters, that constant technical manufacturers innovation in cameras (which isbvery exciting ) does not automatically produce exciting creativity, because creativity is dependent on more than technology. The original question 'do you need full-frame for landscapes?' and the answer I,ve come up with is no unless you are working in a very specific low light conditions.

Stuart C's picture

I like Henry's channel.

On the head line of this article, damn, if you do im screwed.

Malcolm Wright's picture

It might be me but the video shot using the Micro Four Thirds EM1 mk2 launched in 2016 stole the show.

The video shot of the sun behind the cloud which was attempted to be replicated by the Z7 beat the Z7 hands down. All that setting up of the tripod looks to have almost lost the moment.

Just 2 pictures, were they the only keepers?

The Z7 tilt screen would be useless to use as a vlogging camera, unlike the flip screen on the EM1 mk2.

Interestingly the pictures were photo stacked. Photo stacking can be very good for reducing noise so was that another ' full frame advantage' being thrown away?

This video is a good advert for the EM1 mk2, secondhand yours for around 600-700. The Nikon Z7 being newer, but still comparing to the 2016 camera, is around 3,000. Tough choice.

Rich Umfleet's picture

No, but it does make things easier.

Stuart C's picture

Yeah the struggle is real with my APS-C camera, I sometimes wonder how I managed to pull through.

Johnny Kiev's picture

I have actually just started an Instagram channel to answer this question for myself, still new so little content for now but the idea is to see how far I can go with a Fujifilm X-T100 with kit lens and an iPhone SE 2020, both entry-level in their respective areas.
https://www.instagram.com/john.savidi/

Stuart C's picture

I’ll give you a follow, but I already know the answer to your question.

Scott Wardwell's picture

If you want to take advantage of the benefits of the abundance of full-frame glass instead of moving to DX glass, yes, you should be shooting an FX body.

charles hoffman's picture

what you need for landscape photography is a tripod that sets up and breaks down with a minimum of fuss
use it, and don't be afraid to move your position if the shot isn't right