Full frame advantage: I was wrong, and now I am confused...

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sportyaccordy
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Full frame advantage: I was wrong, and now I am confused...
9 months ago

I realize this topic is kind of a dead horse now, but hopefully this can clear things up for other people and maybe answer some questions I still have.

I used to think FF was better for two factors which were actually false:

Exposure/shutter speed is dependent on aperture diameter (i.e. f-stop TIMES focal length), not just f-stop- i.e., for the same field of view, f/2.8 was better on a larger format since you would need a larger focal length, and thus at the same f-stop would get more light which would lead to a brighter exposure. In reality, the exposure triangle is independent of focal length AND format, meaning for the same field of view and equivalent focal lengths a smaller format with a faster lens will have a brighter exposure than a larger format with a slower lens. I.e. MFT at 12mm f/2.8 will have an exposure 1 stop faster than FF at 24mm f/4.0 at the same ISO. The advantage with bigger sensors is noise control.

That's all good and well, but then, what about the high ISO advantage? Don't larger sensors enable you to shoot cleaner when you crank up the ISO? Yes, but it turns out that while lab results yield big differences, in actual pictures bigger sensors' high ISO advantage is not really that noticeable. I put so much faith in DxOMark's lab results I never really bothered to do an IMAGE comparison... and you know what? D800E's high ISO JPGs are still smeary and the RAW images are still grainy. Jumping down from FF to comparable APS-C didn't really yield a noticeable drop off, and it's a shame they don't have the RX100 II as that gained about a stop of quality from the original, but even still, the original is not THAT bad, though it is clearly down on actual resolution compared to bigger sensors.

So then you couple that with the other factors... cost, weight, less DOF control at larger apertures, and the economy of scale factors that prohibit certain technologies (i.e. BSI)... I am not saying FF is pointless, but the gap is way closer than I thought it would be both as far as IQ AND flexibility.

I mean just for example, let's look at 2 equivalent systems. FF 35mm F/4 and 1" 13mm F/1.6. As far as DOF and field of view they are equivalent. But the 1" system has a nearly 3 stop exposure advantage (!!!!) at the same ISO for the same scene. Its glass will be smaller, cheaper and lighter, as will its body. I mean in this scenario, the only real advantage I can see is being able to stop the FF lens down and get thinner DOF- but who is really taking the bulk of their shots with prosciutto thick DOF for the bulk of their shots? Not to mention, that smaller sensor can employ BSI and other technologies that the FF sensor can't, so while the FF sensor can hit higher ISOs, practically the difference is only really relevant at extremes.

So to me, now, as the bulk of my photography is for travel and in low or less than ideal light, the "holy grail" camera is something with a small but high quality, relatively high ISO sensor (i.e. usable at ISO3200), but with super fast lenses. Something like the Nikon 1 bodies with F/1ish primes or F/2ish zooms. I was excited for the A7/A7r, but now I am realizing they are not really relevant to the kind of shooting I do. An A7 with an F2 or faster lens defeats the whole portable NEX concept.

Anyways again I know this was beating a dead horse but I just kind of had an epiphany and hoped documenting my misunderstanding would help others.

 sportyaccordy's gear list:sportyaccordy's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-C3 +4 more
Nikon D800E Sony Alpha 7 Sony RX100 II
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