What exactly does full frame mean?

Started Nov 20, 2012 | Discussions thread
jm67 Contributing Member • Posts: 913
Re: Horrible understanding

howardroark wrote:

Full frame is a term used in 35mm circles because of a long history of having the 35mm film negative as a reference for composing on modern SLR's. Medium format refers to a size between 35mm and much larger negatives.

Point and shoot cameras use focal length equivalents based on a 35mm negative because it is a point of reference for angle of view that everyone can relate to. When digital sensors started being made in all different sizes there had to be some way to figure out what the difference between all of the different formats are using a similar point of reference.

The size of the sensor coupled with actual focal length can be two variables that are hard to really understand when they're changing all the time, even if focal length is its own constant the size of the sensor changes framing and angle of view. You've missed the whole point of having a constant point of reference.

We must have ran in different circles.  I used to hear talk in the film days of 35mm, 4x5, 8x10, and so on though I have heard of the latter as large format.  I never heard "full frame" until digital came along.  It (35mm) was mostly the realm of amateurs, sports shooters and photojournalists.  Now it's "pro", but that's another discussion.

When digital ("FF") came along about a decade ago, it may have made more sense to name 35mm format sensors, Standard Frame maybe?  It probably sounded cooler to name it Full Frame (better marketing).  But  it's all moot cause we're stuck with the stupid name anyway.

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