The real advantage of Full Frame.

Started May 17, 2008 | Discussions thread
Grevture Veteran Member • Posts: 4,188
Bigger is Better ...

... at least for some applications.

But there is no magic size of sensors that is the 'best'.
All sizes have their strengths and weaknesses.

There is alot going on regarding things like how much information you can read from a certain sensor area and the resulting noise and sensitivity capabilities. Others have written about that in this thread.

But there is also an optical side to this issue that many seem to forget.

Since we are dealing with light here, and light has distinct wawelengths and that affect how opticts work there will always be some difference in what kind of image you can get with different size of sensors combined with lenses. That is just physics and not much electronics can change (with the current level of technology at least). In electronic devices smaller is almost always better, with optical devices it just ain't that simple.

For many uses there is a definitive advantage to use bigger sensors: it is a lot easier to build lenses with reasonable thin depth of field (DOF) for a large sensor then with a small sensor (try a medium format camera if you do not belive me). And it is much, much less complicated to build reasonable fast (large maximum aperture) wide angles lenses the bigger sensor you have. Read this thread for more explanations on that:

And on the other hand: For long distance photography (using tele lenses) and for all kinds of photography where a large DOF is an advantage, then a small sensor is a a definitive advantage.

So both larger and smaller sensors have their advantages.

But why all this lust for 24x36 sensors? Well, basically that size is a very good compromise between larger and smaller sizes. The exact size is rather arbitrary, but for a very substantial amount of the professional photography going on that size happen to be very useful.

A lot of the bread and butter photography done by professional photograhers is carried out at short and medium distances (think informal quick portraits, press conferences, weddings, group shots af all kinds and types etc). To get such jobs done easily a lens like a 24-70/2.8 or a 70-200/2.8 on a FF camera is a very, very useful tool. With smaller (like DX sized) sensors it is more expensive to get the same thin DOF for these working distances. With larger sensors the cameras quickly becomes unwieldly for use without an tripod. Try holding a H3D above your head for a while ...

24x36 sensors is no magic bullet for better images, it just happen to be a very useful size, and for a lot of the everyday photography carried out by professionals it happen to be both large enough and small enough at the same time.

For someone mainly doing birding or other long distance shooting a DX sized sensor currenly seem like a better option. For someone shooting wide angle shots of bugs and insects a even smaller sensor is very useful (I can't remember the name if that japanese photographer with his amazing insect photography carried out with modified medical lenses and sensors). And for someone doing portraits in a studio or on location when there is plenty of time to spend, then a medium format sensor has certain advantages.

24x36 is a compromize, and a very useful one for many uses.

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