Do cameras with larger sensors have a specific look? Last week I posted images taken with four different sensor sizes and let you decide. Spoiler Alert: Nobody could tell the difference.
Proponents of full frame and medium format cameras have always said that images taken with a larger sensor look different. Yes, they typically have shallower depth of field, but most photographers say that it goes beyond just that. They say that larger sensors produce "better looking images" but they are usually unable to elaborate. I decided to put this to the test.
This is not a resolution test, we will do that in another video. This test is strictly to determine if images are inherently different coming from different sized sensors and manufacturers.
I stood in one spot and shot my buddy Keith Bradshaw with 4 different cameras with 4 different sized sensors. To keep the field of view the same, I used a 50mm "equivalent" lens on each camera. To keep the depth of field the same, I changed the aperture as well. My cameras and settings are below.
FujiFilm GFX 50R/ 43.mm x 32.9mm sensor/ 64mm lens f/8
Canon 6D/ 35mm ff sensor/ 50mm f5.6
FujiFilm XT-3/ 23.6mm x 15.6mm sensor/ 35mm f4
Panasonic GH5/ Micro 4/3 sensor/ 25mm f2.8
I shot each of the images below in raw, I changed only the white balance, and stacked the images on top of each other. I cropped in on all of the images to hide the 4/3 aspect ratio of the GFX and GH5 and shrunk them to 1920 pixels in width.
Image 1: Panasonic GH5
Image 2: FujiFilm XT-3
Image 3: FujiFilm GFX 50S
Image 4: Canon 6D
The results of our polls were all over the map. With each option being chosen right around 25% of the time, it's obvious that the images are almost identical. Any noticeable differences like color or density could easily be tweaked further to make these four images look even more similar.
So what does this prove? Larger sensors do not produce different looking images on their own. Some of you knew that, most of you probably didn't.
But, shooting at the same F-stop will produce a shallower depth of field on a larger sensor. This is because F-stop is a unit of exposure and works on any sized sensor. A medium format camera lens' aperture shooting at F4 will be physically larger in size compared to a smaller lens' designed for a smaller aperture, and this physically larger aperture will produce a shallower depth of field.
This may lead you to believe that it's easier to shoot shallower images on a medium format system, but that isn't necessarily true. Most lenses that FujiFilm makes for this system are f/4 which will look like f/3.16 on a full frame camera. Of course, most "pro" 35mm lenses are f/2.8 which will produce a shallower depth of field than f/3.16. So, at least at this time, shooting with a shallower depth of field may actually be easier on a 35mm camera.
This test/post is not meant to discredit larger sensors. There are certainly many perks to large sensor cameras that will produce an overall better image like resolution, color accuracy, bit depth, lens sharpness, ISO performance, and dynamic range. We haven't tested any of that yet... But we will.