Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison

Started Apr 11, 2013 | Discussions
bkpix
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Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
Apr 11, 2013

For an interesting comparison of image quality between similar 24-meg FF and crop cameras (D600 and D7100) take a look at this.

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

Yes, it's Ken Rockwell. Before the hand-wringing begins, let me just say I enjoy his common sense approach to many gear issues, though it does pay to read his site regularly enough to keep his enthusiasms in a reasonable perspective.

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Donald B
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to bkpix, Apr 11, 2013

cool thanks, i dont mind KR neither, this comparrision is why im not going ff have known this for 6 years , but people keep banning on about the advantages , not.

cheers don

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ozdean
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to Donald B, Apr 11, 2013

Yes why do they keep banging on, the MX1 is looking more attractive to me than FF.

As long as Pentax has the best APSc I'm very happy.

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Tom Lusk
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to bkpix, Apr 11, 2013

His "tests" are about as credible as RiceHigh's.

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Stephenhampshire
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to Donald B, Apr 11, 2013

If I were to go FF, it would be entirely for the increased IQ at high ISO, this the one area where I am bumping into the limits of the K5, but then very low light photography is a personal interest/challenge.

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Gerry Winterbourne
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Surprising?
In reply to bkpix, Apr 11, 2013

bkpix wrote:

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

The only surprising thing is that he's surprised.  At (near enough) equal FOV and equal MP count it would be astonishing if sharpness wasn't equal: unless one of the lenses was visibly poorer than the other.  The nature of the colours from two same-generation sensors from the same maker would also be expected to be the same: there are probably differences in colour depth that can be measured but not seen in shots like these.

Those are the things you'd expect to be the same and they are.  The things you'd expect to be different are noise and DOF and - roll of drums - they are different.

Yes, it's Ken Rockwell. Before the hand-wringing begins, let me just say I enjoy his common sense approach to many gear issues, though it does pay to read his site regularly enough to keep his enthusiasms in a reasonable perspective.

Indeed.  It's a shame he gets carried away with his own rhetoric at times and I wish he'd mute the saturation of his photos; but when he talks about equipment he's usually pretty sensible.

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Gerry Winterbourne
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to Donald B, Apr 11, 2013

Donald B wrote:

cool thanks, i dont mind KR neither, this comparrision is why im not going ff have known this for 6 years , but people keep banging on about the advantages , not.

Don, this comparison shows two clear advantages for FF: lower noise and tighter control of DOF.  You might not want them and, at the price and size penalty, neither do I.  But that doesn't make people who do want them wrong.

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emem
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to Gerry Winterbourne, Apr 12, 2013

Gerry Winterbourne wrote:

Donald B wrote:

cool thanks, i dont mind KR neither, this comparrision is why im not going ff have known this for 6 years , but people keep banging on about the advantages , not.

Don, this comparison shows two clear advantages for FF: lower noise and tighter control of DOF.  You might not want them and, at the price and size penalty, neither do I.  But that doesn't make people who do want them wrong.

Legitimate point to make Gerry and one too easily lost in the "noise" of discussion. I've been making the point in various posts of late that the difference that many photographers would see in their photographs after moving to full frame from APS-C would hardly warrant the expense of so doing. I think this comparison tends to bear that out.

But another point that could/should be made is that IF a FF & APS-C camera with similar features and functions were the same price, very few of us would stick with APS-C. So essentially the discussion really comes back to the cost of changeing to APS-C, which is likely to be more expensive and traumatic if one already has a substantial commitment in "crop" lenses. Starting from scratch would be less so. Perhaps one day in the future all sensors in DSLRs will be FF and anything smaller will be relegated to compacts and mobile phones. Maybe in 10 years time we'll all be taking photographs with our Google Glasses instead of traditional cameras. Who knows.

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Rod McD
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to bkpix, Apr 12, 2013

Hi,

Interesting, but actually predictable given the excellent light and same sensor resolution.  The noise comparison and DOF just confirm what we all know.

A couple of people have been critical of others' interest in FF.  I am interested in FF for more than the sake of sensor size......  One is pixel density, noise and the ability to source higher resolution sensors (for my main interest of landscape prints).  One is shallow DOF capability (though that's not a strong one for me). The other is the lack of TS lenses - there's nothing available for Pentax or ideal for APSC in any brand.  Before you all say 'well jump ship to Canon or Nikon FF', it's not that straightforward and certainly expensive.  I also happen to like my K5 for a lot of photography and its APSC advantage for tele lens work.

If I were to look at my overall gear preferences I'd have three cameras - a high grade compact, stay APSC for my DSLR, and buy FF only if I could afford and source a high grade small, WR FF MILC with a decent built-in EVF.  That would be a treat for landscape, hiking and travel.  I've got the first two.  If Pentax were to make an FF MILC, I'd probably be an early buyer.  You won't find me toting a large FF DSLR and fast mega zooms.   I suspect FF MILCs are just around the corner, so maybe it'll be possible within a year or two. I don't know if it'll be Pentax - Fuji and Sony are already looking at it.

Rod

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bkpix
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to Rod McD, Apr 12, 2013

Rod,

That's interesting. I've been thinking for a while that my ideal version of full frame would be small and mirrorless. We need a FF K-02.

Bob

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Zvonimir Tosic
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FF by default has *MORE* depth of field (DoF)
In reply to bkpix, Apr 12, 2013

bkpix wrote:

For an interesting comparison of image quality between similar 24-meg FF and crop cameras (D600 and D7100) take a look at this.

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

It's a common mistake. Check the DoF calculator.

At a same focal length(*), same aperture and same distance, the DoF available to a FF camera is 50% longer. FF has more available DoF.

Say subject is 10 ft away, focal length is 55mm, aperture is f1.4. (we are using same DA*55 lens, that works on FF and APS-C)
An APS-C camera calculation:
Depth of field

  • Near limit 9.73 ft
  • Far limit 10.3 ft
  • Total 0.56 ft 
  • In front of subject 0.27 ft (49%)
  • Behind subject 0.29 ft (51%)

An FF camera calculation:
Depth of field

  • Near limit 9.6 ft
  • Far limit 10.4 ft
  • Total 0.84 ft 
  • In front of subject 0.4 ft (48%)
  • Behind subject 0.44 ft (52%)

0.84/0.56 = (voila!) 1.5

However, the OoF characteristics is different in an FF camera, producing an illusion that its DoF looks shallower, albeit it isn't.

(*) actual focal length written on a lens

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moving_comfort
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It has less DOF for the same FOV, aperture and distance to subject
In reply to Zvonimir Tosic, Apr 12, 2013

Zvonimir Tosic wrote:

bkpix wrote:

For an interesting comparison of image quality between similar 24-meg FF and crop cameras (D600 and D7100) take a look at this.

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

It's a common mistake. Check the DoF calculator.

At a same focal length(*), same aperture and same distance, the DoF available to a FF camera is 50% longer. FF has more available DoF.

However, the OoF characteristics is different in an FF camera, producing an illusion that its DoF looks shallower, albeit it isn't.

(*) actual focal length written on a lens

Another common mistake:  assuming the same lens on both formats.  This would give you a radically different picture, with different FOV.  If you keep the angle of view the same (and the aperture and distance the same,) the FF shot has 1.3 stops less DOF.

Rockwell actually (gasp) got it right when he wrote:

"...

Analysis

As expected, the D600 has much smaller depth-of-field at the same aperture with a lens with the same angle-of-view."

.

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ozdean
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Re: It has less DOF for the same FOV, aperture and distance to subject
In reply to moving_comfort, Apr 12, 2013

Ditto to frame the subject the same you will be at 15 ft not 10 and bokeh less cluttered because of narrow crop factor.

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PK24X36NOW
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Re: Nikon FF v APS-C image comparison
In reply to bkpix, Apr 12, 2013

bkpix wrote:

For an interesting comparison of image quality between similar 24-meg FF and crop cameras (D600 and D7100) take a look at this.

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

Yes, it's Ken Rockwell. Before the hand-wringing begins, let me just say I enjoy his common sense approach to many gear issues, though it does pay to read his site regularly enough to keep his enthusiasms in a reasonable perspective.

KR shoots nothing but JPEGs. Dumb things down enough (i.e., lossy image compression, 8-bit color, screen resolution) and all the differences seem trivial.

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moving_comfort
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Re: It has less DOF for the same FOV, aperture and distance to subject
In reply to ozdean, Apr 12, 2013

ozdean wrote:

Ditto to frame the subject the same you will be at 15 ft not 10 and bokeh less cluttered because of narrow crop factor.

If you use the same lens/FL on both formats.  (Usually it's assumed you simply are at the same position and use a different FL with your zoom, or use a different prime (ie 50mm FF vs 35mm aps-c)

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Who needs FF
In reply to bkpix, Apr 12, 2013

Not exactly a surprising comparison, anything else would have baffled me.  This said, who needs FF ?  I don't mean who want FF, (I want FF) but really, who need the DoF, DR and Noise advantage ?  Does the average enthusiast  "really need" FF to have equal fun and satisfaction (you know, those who never sell a single image, and hardly print anything bigger than 10x14), or is it a figment of our desires, power of suggestion or the peer pressure ?  What I do know, is that the advantages it provides aren't worth $2500 to me (actually no camera in the world is worth that much to me, never mind FF !), but it's me and I can't generalize to others; I am therefore condemned to live with APS-C for a long time to come... life is so rough, I'll need to talk to my shrink about that to help me cope with the stress and anxiety

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In reply to PK24X36NOW, Apr 12, 2013

PK24X36NOW wrote:

KR shoots nothing but JPEGs. Dumb things down enough (i.e., lossy image compression, 8-bit color, screen resolution) and all the differences seem trivial.

He's openly admitted that he slings a lot of hyperbole, leaves out the details and cranks the drama to get visitors.  He's also never afraid to contradict himself if it will get him hits

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Rod McD
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Re: It has less DOF for the same FOV, aperture and distance to subject
In reply to moving_comfort, Apr 12, 2013

Hi,

Agree - the lens on FF has less DOF.  The same lens doesn't change - it doesn't know what size sensor is behind it.  But the calculators don't use the same formula for the two formats.  Quite apart from the FOV and distance changing for a given composition, the tables and calculators change their circle of confusion used in the calculation for FF and APSC.  (For a given print or screen image, the enlargement ratio is different for the two formats - APSC is blown up further so what is OOF appears OOF earlier to the viewer.)

Rod

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Rod McD
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Re: Don't jump to conclusions......
In reply to rogerstpierre, Apr 12, 2013

Hi,

Roger, a rhetorical question or two -  why don't you sell your APSC camera and buy a 16mpx compact?  Who needs APSC?

I think we need to be really careful of the argument that says "well it's only an X% increase in sensor size, the mpx are the same, so all this talk of IQ improvement is overrated, and it's not worth the expense".  If that were true, then it applies at smaller sensor sizes too.  You can easily imagine a Micro Four Thirds user using the same argument to say that he shouldn't go to APSC.  And then you can imagine a 1" user using the same argument to say that he shouldn't go to MFT (etc, etc). There is a wide and gradual range of sensor sizes (for any given mpx) and each is a modest step up from the last.  If you applied this argument at each step up, no increase in sensor size would be worth it - which is obviously absurd.  As a technology scales up, one sometimes has to be satisfied with incrementally smaller improvements, but perhaps they're still worth having.

To me, the question is exactly that - are they worth having?  Where do we individually set our preferences about resolution, enlargement, and print IQ?  There are only personal answers to this question - no right ones - and at least part of the reason for that is that we all have different desires, different budgets and different intentions for our photography.

This isn't new......I'm reminded about my film days.  Dedicated users of the best 35mm equipment would scoff at the concept of buying into medium format.  They would produce all sorts of arguments about their satisfaction with their large prints.  Leica owners would proudly say that they'd blown them up to six foot by four foot and they looked great.......  But none of it, except their own satisfaction with their own prints, was true.  Side by side, medium format won the IQ battle hands down.  And large format beat that hands down.  (Obviously this is for photography where all formats could be used - in my case landscape prints.  Larger formats certainly had their limitations eg poor for portability, sports and wildlife, exactly where 35mm had its strengths).

Plus, there may be other reasons for considering FF as I suggested in my earlier post in this thread.  (eg Higher resolution sensors of the same photosite density, better DR, DOF control, TS lenses, better VFs, etc).

It is all food for thought though......a good and timely discussion

Cheers,

Rod

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viking79
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Re: FF by default has *MORE* depth of field (DoF)
In reply to Zvonimir Tosic, Apr 12, 2013

Zvonimir Tosic wrote:

bkpix wrote:

For an interesting comparison of image quality between similar 24-meg FF and crop cameras (D600 and D7100) take a look at this.

In comparing the two cameras, he finds virtually identical color and sharpness in low ISO images -- to his own surprise. The D600, as expected, has better high ISO image quality and shorter depth of field for the same aperture.

It's a common mistake. Check the DoF calculator.

At a same focal length(*), same aperture and same distance, the DoF available to a FF camera is 50% longer. FF has more available DoF.

Say subject is 10 ft away, focal length is 55mm, aperture is f1.4. (we are using same DA*55 lens, that works on FF and APS-C

This is pointless, why would I compare two totally different images?  You really have to compare equivalent fields of view to be meaningful.

The advantage to full frame is 1 1/4 (rounded to 1 1/3) stop added flexibility.  That is useful to some not to others.

Eric

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