Graphical comparison of FF vs APSC

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57even
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Graphical comparison of FF vs APSC
9 months ago

Comparison of performance equivalence between sensor formats

Assumptions:

  • Each sensor is the same number of MP and using the same architecture and processor, so difference are only due to area. May still apply to different systems up to a point, but not in every area.
  • Both have base 100 ISO
  • Lenses used are equivalent focal lengths and have accurate F stops (T stops).
  • Please note, comparisons tend to break down at very high ISO. Usually no substitute for big photosites if you want accurate colour reproduction at very high ISO. However this is more to do with photosite size than sensor size per se, vis. D800 vs D4.

Observations:

  • FF sensor will have more DR and less noise only when using base ISO. Otherwise APSC can replicate the image by using lower ISO and a wider aperture for the same DOF.
  • FF will have shallower DOF only when shooting wide open. Otherwise APSC can replicate by opening up by a stop compared to FF.
  • Conversely APSC will always give you more DOF for the same aperture, allowing you to keep ISO down for longer at the same shutter speed. If you require the same DOF (for landscape) FF will need to be stopped down one more stop. For long exposures this will mean either using higher ISO or double the exposure length. Unless shooting in good light, hand-held photography will mean using higher ISO. Both scenarios offer no overall noise or DR benefit.

So is FF "better"?

Sure, technically, in some situations, if you have fast lenses and/or a decent tripod. But that does not mean that in many scenarios you can't achieve a similar quality level with ASPC, or that it is particularly noticeable in other situations.

Since low ISO noise is not really an issue these days, the benefit of FF at low ISO is really down to DR. Do you need to push the shadows in post every time? How many stops? Moreover, all sensors are not made equal. Shadow pushing is not as easy with some sensors as others of the same format.

Because DSLRs have a good selection of fast zooms and telephoto lenses they will nearly always win if you are primarily a zoom/tele user, at least in terms of the quality parameters stated. Also DSLRs themselves have advantages in terms of action photography, but this is not a sensor issue.

Conversely, if you are comparing CSC systems, and you have one that does not include any fast lenses (Sony A7) you get very few advantages unless shooting in good light at base ISO (studio or landscape). A 24MP Fuji would do almost anything that the A7 could do because it has faster lenses. It would even make a decent fist of landscapes for large prints.

My conclusion is that for a compact system, APSC is a good compromise all round. If you want the benefits of FF, you are better off getting an SLR which at least has a selection of fast (if large and heavy) lenses and a number of benefits in terms of action photography. In this case the weight penalty is worth it since it can handle bigger lenses, flashes etc.

However many people have specialised needs and preferences. IF I were a dedicated landscape photographer, the Sony A7R would certainly be on my shopping list. I can see a real benefit of the D800 (36MP) sensor with no AA filter in a very light body with some sharp primes for hiking cross country. Fast lenses don't matter in that scenario, and with a tripod you can use slower shutter speeds anyway. Smaller camera = smaller tripods too. I can see it being used by modern day Ansells in place of their Leica M's and 120 film cameras. It's easily good enough.

Probably a good bet for astrophotography as well.

 57even's gear list:57even's gear list
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Nikon D800 Fujifilm X-E1
Nikon D4 Nikon D800 Sony Alpha 7 Sony Alpha 7R
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