The past 18 months has seen a flurry of full frame cameras launched at lower prices than ever before. Suddenly it's no longer completely ridiculous to talk about 'affordable' full frame cameras, though it's still worth putting the word 'affordable' in single quotes. This new-found accessibility has had an interesting side-effect: it's made more people feel that they've already taken steps along an 'upgrade path'. And I think that's nonsense. I'd argue the 'upgrade path' to full frame is a myth.
There are two reasons I say this: firstly, it implies that full frame is the sole aspirational endpoint for everybody and secondly, that the purchases you've already made have taken you some way towards that goal. I believe both of these are false.
Fallacy 1: Full frame is the optimal end-point to aspire to
I'm not questioning the idea that it offers great image quality: if you line up the same framing and use the same shutter speed and f-number, a larger sensor will be exposed to more light than a smaller one and more light allows better image quality. If you want the best image quality but don't want to spend the money or carry the bulk of a Pentax 645Z, then your best chances are with a full frame sensor. However, if you go back and re-read that last sentence, you'll notice that it contains two important caveats: it can offer the best image quality if you like the size/price trade-off that it brings. And that's true of all formats.
|Full frame cameras can be incredibly capable but other formats can still be smaller or less expensive (especially once you've factored lenses in), allowing you to choose the size/price/quality balance that suits you.|
Sony in particular has done amazing things in the past year or so to redefine the price/size/quality balance that full frame offers, but it remains true that APS-C and Four Thirds can still be smaller, lighter and less expensive: so the optimal system for you depends on your requirements.
Fallacy 2: You're already part of the way there
However, I'd say the bigger myth is that there's a middle-ground between APS-C ownership and full frame ownership. This stems from the fact that you can mount full frame lenses on the many APS-C cameras. This, combined with the (broadly true) assumption that lenses are a long-term purchase but camera bodies will more quickly become obsolete, leads to some odd behavior and even stranger conclusions.
All too often I see APS-C users saying that they're not going to buy any more APS-C specific lenses because they plan to move to full frame at some point in the future. It's a decision that introduces awkward compromises to all future lens purchases.
Why? Because APS-C and full frame are not the same thing. There's a reason that manufacturers make specific lenses for APS-C cameras: the focal lengths that are useful on APS-C are totally different from the focal lengths that are useful on full frame.
|Too long for all-round use, a touch too short to be a really good portrait lens: you can mount a 50mm lens on an APS-C camera, but it probably wouldn't be your first choice, if there were other options.|
For example: a classic full frame 24-70mm lens acts as a 35-105mm equivalent when mounted on an APS-C camera, with a lack of wide-angle coverage limiting its effective use as a walkaround lens. Equally most wide-angle lenses for full frame offer very little wide-angle capability on APS-C. And don't get me started on the neither-one-thing-nor-another no-man's-land of 50mm lenses on APS-C.
This poor compatibility continues for almost any focal length you might care to name - if you're lucky then your lens may perform a useful function on both formats but it's unlikely to perform the same function. The only lenses that usefully serve the same purpose on both formats tend to be telephotos, and even then it's not unusual for photographers who've moved to full frame to be frustrated by how little reach their 70-200mm now offers.
The result is that, if you start buying full frame lenses while you're still shooting APS-C, you're either buying a lens that's not very useful now, or you're buying a lens that won't be as useful once you've made the switch. You might be willing to ignore the compromises or limit your shooting style to accommodate them, but you are either living with a compromise now or you're committing yourself to one once your new camera arrives.
Looked at from the perspective of APS-C lenses: while Nikon and Sony owners have the option to use their APS-C lenses after they move to full frame (which Canon EF-S lens owners can't), the effect of using them is to essentially hobble your expensive new full frame camera back to the level of an APS-C one, only with what's likely to be a lower pixel count. I'll guess this isn't what you were aiming for when you decided to move to full frame.
No path, just one big jump
Quite simply, I'd argue it doesn't make sense to buy many full frame lenses until you have a full frame body to mount them on and, by extension, that you shouldn't feel you're on the path to full frame until you're shooting with it. The benefit that comes from this way of thinking is that you may discover that you aren't limited to your existing system if you decide to make the jump.
|Canon's EF 40mm F2.8 is a great affordable prime for full frame users, but the 64mm equivalent focal length it offers on APS-C is hardly one that photographers often clamor for.||Thankfully Canon also makes an EF-S 24mm F2.8 that, not-coincidentally, gives a roughly 40mm-equivalent field-of-view on APS-C. Surely it's better to buy this lens now and sell it later than restrict yourself to full frame options?|
There are exceptions to this line of thinking, of course. If you've spent many years with one brand's cameras, you might appreciate the familiarity of the menus and behavior that you retain by sticking with what you know. Equally if you've spent a lot of money on flashguns or are particularly committed to the system in some other way, then being brand-loyal is a realistic consideration.
So are you saying I should or shouldn't upgrade?
Though this may sound odd, I'm not trying to argue for or against upgrading: it's the path and the assumption of destination that I'm questioning. Don't get me wrong, full frame cameras are lovely things that can give you the power to take much higher quality photographs. But don't let the manufacturers' marketing of a halo product trick you into thinking that it's the right answer for you or that you can make incremental steps towards it.
If you decide that full frame is definitely the right thing for you, step back and think about how committed you really are to your current system. Ask yourself how much of your current equipment is really going to be useful after the switch. Does it instead make more sense to sell your gear and start again with the full frame system that suits you best?
Jul 23, 2017
May 15, 2017
May 5, 2017
Feb 28, 2016
TIME Magazine has named the Sony a7R III one of its top 10 gadgets of 2017. It was the only camera that made the illustrious list this year, receiving high praise from TIME, who dubbed it "one of the best mirrorless cameras ever made."
Thanks to Google Assistant integration, the Pixel 2's AI-powered 'Google Lens' camera feature will soon be easier and quicker to use.
Photographer Jenna Martin and her model friend Rachelle Kathleen set themselves a challenge: could they create beautiful portraits in an 'ugly' location? So they went to a local Lowe's hardware store and gave it a go!
The LG V30 differentiates itself from the competition with an expansive video feature set and a secondary wide angle camera, making it something of a Swiss Army knife for content creators.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. Holding down the top position is none other than the Nikon D850 – by a landslide.
It's been twenty years since Jeff Keller founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, one of the first websites dedicated to digital photography. Jeff, who has been at DPReview for nearly five years, looks back at the rise and fall of consumer digital cameras and his website.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At #2 we have another staff favorite – the Sony Alpha a9.
Rotolight has released the Anova Pro 2 circular LED for stills and video, boasting a 70% increase in brightness and what the company describes as "unrivaled battery performance."
Designer Vinicius Araújo has imagined what he believes the perfect Adobe software keyboard might look like. From customizable touch pads, to a scroll wheel, to a little display that shows the tool in use, his design is pretty compelling.
Peak Design has teamed up with Leica to release a limited-edition backpack made special for fans of the Red Dot.
A portrait of an android woman has beaten over 5,700 pictures of humans to take third place in this year’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. The judges were not told the subject was an 'android' until after the winning images were chosen.
Hauling around C-Stands just got a whole lot less annoying thanks to these new Matthews shoulder and roller bags, which can hold two or three C-stand (respectively) plus accessories.
Neal Preston has shot timeless photos of everyone from Led Zeppelin, to Whitney Houston, to Michael Jackson. In this interview, he offers insights into his craft to up-and-comer Elijah Dominique.
Future prosumer Canon DSLRs might feature light-up buttons, if this newly published patent is any indication of the camera company's plans.
Sony's a7R Mark III shoots 42.4MP files at 10fps and incorporates a robust video feature set, large battery, refined ergonomics and more. It certainly looks impressive, but what is it like to use, and how does it stack up against the rest of the market? Find out in our full review.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017 – the Fujifilm X100F takes the bronze and the #3 spot.
There's never been a better time to shop for a new camera, but the number of options available can be overwhelming. In this series of buying guides we've provided customized recommendations for several use cases, from shooting landscapes to buying a first camera for a student photographer.
Shopping for a camera with a set budget? No problem! We've rounded up our favorite cameras, broken them into price brackets and picked the best of the bunch.
Looking for a lightweight compact camera that's easy to bring with you anywhere? Or maybe you're smartphone-shopping and want the one that takes the best picture. And what if you want to shoot from above? In these buyers guides we have recommendations for the best compact cameras, smartphones and drones.
Despite reports to the contrary, analysis of DPReview images by our friend Jim Kasson confirms a disappointing fact: Sony a7R III is still a Star Eater. But there may be some improvements.
As the saying goes: A photo is worth a thousand words. And if you're sending that photo through Facebook Messenger, your thousand words now look twice as nice after today's update to 4K resolution.
Get to know the new Leica CL in short order by giving our 90 second 'First look' video a watch.
Leica has just released the CL, the forth in its series of APS-C L-mount cameras. Despite sharing a name with a camera released in the mid-70s, the new CL is a thoroughly modern ILC, with a 24MP sensor and built-in electronic viewfinder.
The Leica CL is a 24MP rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, which sits alongside the TL2 in the company's APS-C lineup. We've been using one for a few days – check out our gallery of images.
While it shares a name with one of Leica's most popular and affordable cameras of the 1970s, the new CL is separated from its namesake by more than just years. We've been using one for a few days - click through for a detailed first-impressions report.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and the #4 ranking goes to the Leica M10.
Sigma is discounting 13 different high-performance 'Art' series lenses from today until November 30th. The company is calling it an 'unprecedented' sale.
See DJI's 'AeroScope' drone-tracking technology in action. This is the system that DJI says can help law enforcement and airport (among others) track and identify rogue drones.
iPhone X owners can already accessorize their new phone with high-quality smartphone photography lenses courtesy of Moment's new lineup.
Considering buying Sigma's exciting new 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens for crop-sensor E-Mount and M43? Check out these official full-res samples first!