Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?

Started 7 months ago | Discussions
Colin Smith1
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Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
7 months ago

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons.  One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement..  As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way?  At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden.  If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos.  As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

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Colin Smith

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Mako2011
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In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

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Colin Smith

Perhaps some has already been answered in the past...

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50028201

....and FF DSLR's seem to still be here.

May just take a lot longer to find out where FF eventually ends up

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Marx81
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

I have Fuji X100 and like it . But it's no substitute for 5d3 .

The only substitute of 5d3 is another 5d3

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marxx/

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Victor Engel
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

There's more to full frame than pixel count. If you love shallow depth of field, nothing beats full frame. Really, the only thing with the potential to beat it is medium format or larger, and that would require some ginormous lenses.

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Victor Engel

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rbarta
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

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Colin Smith

Like this has not already been beat to death.

First, you are talking about 2 different things, sensor size and whether there is a mirror.

A sensor 4 times the area is going to have better low light performance or be able to add more MP which would be advantageous for cropping or printing even larger. The smaller sensor is also not going to be able to show smaller DOF, render the bokeh the same way given the same lens specs. Some of us had to wait a long time for an actual 35mm sized sensor and I seriously doubt this is going to go away.

Currently mirror less are slower and drain the battery. The speed will improve over time and so will battery performance. Likely this will be the way of the future. But, switching to mirror less on a full frame sensor is not going to save you very much weight/size as the lenses (even with redesign) will be about the same size/weight.

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short243
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Hi, Maybe not in our lifetime (I'm similar age as you) but eventually they will be a small portion of the photography industry. The largest part of those under 25 that I know feel that way now. Most younger people see no apparent value to even crop sensor cameras except for a few scenario's like sports where a "big" camera is needed. My grandson who loves photography is really good at the mechanics of photography, he has problems though at seeing (but he is learning to notice). There will always be some, just as there are some Medium Format people out there. There are things that smaller equipment have problems with so there will always be a need and desire, just not the masses.

Went for walk this morning.

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Jay A
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Not sure if all geographic areas that one can view dpreview on have the same things that I see here (in the US) but there is a chart directly to the right of this thread labeled "most popular cameras" and the one on top right now is the Nikon DF. I am not so sure this is an indication that full frame DSLR cameras are obsolete, or even close to it.

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tinternaut
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Re: Erm no...
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

The reasons for actually needing a full frame DSLR are, perhaps, not as clear cut as they were a few years back, but the basic physics remain the same. Given like for like sensor technology, there will always be advantages and disadvantages to a larger imaging rectangle.  Those advantages and disadvantages will always be the same, except the disadvantages will become less important, to some, over time.  Erm yes, I've thought about this, quite a bit :-).

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SushiEater
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Went today to Frys to kill some time while waiting for a physical inspector to finish inspecting the house.

Started looking at the cameras and compare them side by side. Looked at Nikon and Canon mostly for the fit in my hand. Looked at some POS cameras too.

Even though I really like my own D800 fit better than 5D3 I like most other Canon cameras to fit better than Nikon. But even though I could manage SL1 for example all those cameras are way to small for my small to average hand.

My conclusion is that FF cameras are not going anywhere soon but the weight of the cameras and lenses will be reduced by using advanced plastics and even lighter metals.
Size not so much.

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Colin Franks
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

I wonder if your post might be accurately translated as:

"Full Frame cameras can't be beat in numerous ways, but as we age, the weight is an issue."

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Mike Fried
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In reply to Mako2011, 7 months ago

Colin Smith1 wrote:
Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

4:3rds is a really interesting format, and the opportunities are exciting there, but the laws of physics around pixel sizes mean that APS-C, APS-H, and 35mm are progressively larger and *can* afford photographers optical features that 4:3rds sensors lack. If you want a 4:3rds sized image from a 35mm sized sensor, you are free to crop anywhere near the center of your photograph. The reverse is not true.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

I have not used said bodies, but I imagine that good AF tracking is not limited to Canon, and the competition must have similar or better technology there.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

I use a mirror-less iPhone 5 to take pictures all the time, usually from the higher quality camera on the back of the phone, but sometimes with the selfie camera. Some apps like 360 pano or the normal panorama mode make quick work of panorama stitching that simply can't be done with an SLR. The range of apps to do in-phone processing using many shots to compensate for the lack of a single still image. And there are a bunch of interesting photo related accessories. Sony's QX cameras for example, which use the iPhone / iPod / iPad / other remote device to do a wireless viewfinder. The camera's are currently small, fixed lens, fixed sensor, but that may change. WiFi is the new USB and this relatively high end compact is like a webcam for your phone. For $250 or $500, I call that an interesting camera. However, anyone with an EOS 70D or an EOS 6D has the remote WiFi shooting app from Canon.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system?

Yes. And there are new technologies being explored for consumer and professional use. For example: there are 3D cameras using either micro lens arrays or many sensors for computing focus after shooting. See Light field camera. There are balls of lenses that can shoot panoramas (Panono) - 108MP of cameras in a ball for a projected MSRP of about $600. The prototype pictures from the site are worth a look.

Mako2011 wrote:
Perhaps some has already been answered in the past...

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50028201

....and FF DSLR's seem to still be here.

Sure. So are Medium Format Digital but they are more of a niche.

May just take a lot longer to find out where FF eventually ends up

I don't think FF or Medium Format Digital are going away. On Black Friday, I looked up the lowest price I could find for reputable EOS 6D camera specials for Black Friday, and found them in the range of $1500. Used EOS 5D Mk I and 5D Mk IIs, and some EOS 1Ds cameras are already below that on FredMiranda.

Here's my rationale for 35mm staying put: There are more players entering the market. At first, there was Canon, and then Nikon, and now Sony. Perhaps I missed some other players entering the market, too. I almost fully expect Canon to push out a 35mm Rebel at some point. The lenses are abundant. TTL hasn't really been replaced with EVF or AF in all situations. So long as there is a market that aspires to move up to the 35mm class camera, Canon, et all, will continue to sell them.

-Mike

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gipper51
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Franks, 7 months ago

I don't think the FF format will be going away any time soon, but the style of body used will no doubt evolve.  DSLR technology has probably peaked or is close to it, and other options will start to become more prevelent.  The newest Sonys are good examples of where technology is headed.  FF DSLR has a firm grip on the high end market, and it will take some time for its market share to diminish.  But there certainly is room for FF mirrorless to offer other options, especially if it reduces size.

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Keith Z Leonard
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

I suspect it is inevitable that smaller or maybe just lighter cameras will replace today's larger or heavier cameras.  I put the or there because size isn't really the issue, it's weight.  As materials continue to progress and lens designers make fantastic lenses, eventually they will have to compete on weight as well.  The new Sony a7/a7r cameras are very interesting, but from everything I've read they are a hint at the future, but not the solution in themselves.

Eventually EVFs will be so good that lag will be below perception and DR will be equal to that of the sensor in RAW and noise issues won't be there anymore.  Eventually AF for a mirrorless will be just as fast and accurate as today's 1D-X, with dual pixel PDAF on sensor that might well be very soon!  The question will be whether or not the 1D-XV (for instance) will be lightyears better than those mirrorless cameras, or if the gap will close.  In many ways a mirror less camera is attractive, less moving parts, less breakage, smaller/light package (again size preferences vary, I like the 7D size personally).  But that EVF is a BIG sticking point, it's got to be stellar beyond reproach before it'll be acceptable.

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

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Colin Smith

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Colin Smith1
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In reply to Mako2011, 7 months ago

Mako2011 wrote:

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/full_frame_myth.shtml have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

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Colin Smith

Perhaps some has already been answered in the past...

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50028201

....and FF DSLR's seem to still be here.

May just take a lot longer to find out where FF eventually ends up

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My opinions are my own and not those of DPR or its administration. They carry no 'special' value (except to me and Lacie of course)

Well that's the trouble with aging, I can't always remember if I have already asked the question, and I certainly don't remember the answers!!!

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Colin Smith

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lighthunter80
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Franks, 7 months ago

The mirror will die some day but the need for larger sensors will remain IMO. Sony goes the right way with the A7/A7r. They offer finally all the good stuff about mirrorless and the best sensor technology at the same time.

Image quality of even 4/3 sensors is today as good as FF was a couple of years ago but DOF control will always be a reason why people demand large sensors.
Try to get a blurred background with 24mm equivalent lens on eg m4/3. Nearly not possible but effortless on FF (if you got a fast prime).

I was for years anxious about seeing the OVF disappearing one day. Today I am relaxed about it. Since the latest EVF generation I am looking forward to smaller bodies with less dust in the finder but the same or even better viewing experience.

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CameraCarl
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to lighthunter80, 7 months ago

Obsolescence is in the eye of the beholder.  I know a well respected pro photographer who was simply thrilled a few weeks ago because his 1960s-era view camera arrived and it had no holes in the bellows.  He was already acquiring lenses to work with it and setting aside his very respectable Canon DSLR collection to learn to work once again with (get ready for it) film.

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joema1
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

Colin Smith1 wrote:

....As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony...At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden...Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

A definition of obsolete is "no longer produced or used". The thread title is *Are* Full Frame SLRs Obsolete? (not will they someday be obsolete).

They are obviously not obsolete today, nor will be within the near future. That said, based on reasonable extrapolations of current technical trends, it appears at some point conventional full-frame DSLRs may be eventually replaced by mirrorless cameras.

Already I take a smaller camera on vacations. A few months ago I took a Sony NEX-6, and even though I didn't like the interface and handling, got some pretty good shots with it. But it was non-critical stuff, if I missed the shot it was no big deal.

When you see *mostly* mirrorless cameras used in situations like these, *then* you will know conventional full-frame DSLRs are obsolete: http://joema.smugmug.com/Photography/Canon-PJ-Screen-Caps/35809077_ztptHr

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Robemo
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In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

I'm not sure what came into the respectable Reichmann to write such a silly article. And I'm not sure why anyone bothers about this question. In fact there is nothing new to discuss. I guess people become confused by the plethora of 'new' camera models and formats.

But as you should know (you have the age to remember) it's all history repeating itself. In the film days the image quality of cameras was decided by the film size, the optics and the photographer (as the person taking the picture, but also as the person that developed and printed the film). There were different models for different film sizes. Most 'amateurs' chose not to walk around with a Linhof, but went for 35mm cameras.

But even within that segment the manufacturers tried to reach specific customers and created markets for specific users with pocket 35 mm, 35mm interchangeable lens cameras, SLR's, bridge cameras and what have you. All to get people to buy the camera they 'needed' or wanted.

Biggest difference with digital are all these sensor sizes which make things confusing. But for the rest it's quite the same. Most people don't print large size prints, not in the film days and not in the digital days. Most of them never needed a DSLR no matter what sensor size in the first place. Yet, they buy DSLR's. Again, nothing new.

There has always been this group of photographers, pro or non pro, that needed the quality of bigger sensors. They didn't suddenly disappear. So why should this group suddenly stop using full frame DSLR? I don't get it. Certainly not because of the Sony A7's. With lenses still the same size, with a bulky lens adapter if you want to use your old glass making the combo just as large as a DSLR and with some serious limitations this is not the revolution that will change everything either. A nice niche camera at best. Will there be a game changer tomorrow? Who knows and who cares if you want to make photos now?

As long as the manufacturers make money with full frame cameras, they will stay. And as my sales rep tells me, the budget full frame DSLR's of the big two are selling very well. Despite the Reichmann rant. And yes, lots of the buyers are upgraders coming from smaller sensor size cameras and probably lots of them won't print large ever. They just fell for the marketing slogans that promise better image quality. Just like in the old days.

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papillon_65
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In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

I went from m4/3's (OMD E-M5) to a 5D2 and am very happy with it. With some decent prime lenses you still won't beat the quality and the ability to get shallow dof at wide angles. You can get shallow dof on m4/3's but not at wide angles, that's just the physics of the sensor size. For many people m4/3s is more than good enough, for some, the look of full frame is just more appealing. Whichever you choose there is a trade off involved. I like the ergonomics of a bigger DSLR, I didn't realise how much I missed it until I went back to one, when I'm 70 I probably won't be so keen on the size and weight, but by then we should have some pretty small full frame cameras. The good news is that we have loads of choices, so it's all good for me.

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borax
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Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?
In reply to Colin Smith1, 7 months ago

As others, I believe that EVF will replace sooner or later OVF in low budget cameras, then in prosumer ones. EVF will enable 100% coverage viewers, higher burst rate cameras, less failure, will cost less and less... so cameras like the digital rebel will get smaller, lighter.

About FF sensor... well if Micro 4/3 sensors are getting better, what about FF sensors (better IQ, better noise control, even higher ISO possibilities) ? Bigger sensor means bigger lens, but if people want really small cameras, they will get compact ones, not even micro 4/3. I think APSc DSLR will become obsolete a lot sooner than FF DSLR.

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[Stephane](http://www.stephaneriess.com)

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