Which full frame DSLR to Choose? Or start with APS-C? Please read and advise!

Started Sep 20, 2013 | Discussions thread
thebustos Veteran Member • Posts: 3,197
Re: Which full frame DSLR to Choose? Or start with APS-C? Please read and advise!

juanantoniod wrote:

Originally, I wanted a full frame camera because of it's optical references being similar to a 35mm camera, so I would not have to learn crop factors. This, and the fact that I don't want to go 'backward' to a crop sensor make me want a full frame camera. Also, the more that I read about full frame, the better than APS-C it sounds. I just don't feel that I would be taking 35mm equivalent images with a crop sensor.

Well that part is debatable. Crop factors with a Canon are 1.6x whereas Nikon and Sony use 1.5x. The 1.5x crop factor is easy because you just take your focal length divided by 2 and add that to the focal length (50mm x 1.5 = 75mm). The advantage to this is that you get more reach with a lens on an APS-C camera than a full frame. Of course this means that lenses on a FF will be wider. It isn't necessarily something you have to think about all the time though. Once you get uses to a focal length on an APS-C it doesn't really matter. It matters more when trying to buy a lens or discussing equivalents with someone else.

As far as IQ, there is a difference between film quality and digital quality for sure. They're just different. But as far as image detail, you can get just as good detail or better with an APS-C sensor as you can with film. Even better with full frame. It really depends on exactly how large you want to go vs. a specific sensor.

A full frame sensor is just the size of a frame of 35mm film. It doesn't mean that it automatically gives you 35mm film quality. A 4MP FF sensor probably wouldn't give you better image detail than film. Of course most cameras on the market currently have at least 16MP full frame or APS-C.

However, I am having problems finding the 'perfect' camera for me. A friend who went to photography school told me that I should definitely purchase a Canon DSLR. He told me that the Canon uses an RGB Color Filter Array, whereas the others use the Primary Color Filter. I also like that the 6D has bult in WiFi, and can be controlled by an iPhone or iPad, and built in GPS.
Additionally, I have been taking Lynda.com courses in photography, and Canons are all that they use. Something is just telling me that a Canon is THE camera to buy.

There are definitely a lot of people using Canon's and they make good cameras, but that doesn't mean it's the only good option. If it did, that means that anybody using anything else is just wasting their money. I'm sure there are people that feel that way, but it's far from being a fact. Also, going back to the FF vs. APS-C thing, checkout this article:


These were done using a Sony SLT-A77 (APS-C camera). I think they're pretty good. Others may not, but I do believe that the photographer is more important than the body. Don't get a camera simply because some tells you that's what you should get. I'm guessing you've probably tried Canons and they feel alright to you. That's good. But I would try a Nikon or Sony too, just to make sure it's what feels right for you. At the very least you'll have more confidence that you made the right decision for yourself.

I had decided on the 6D after speaking with some photo sales people at Best Buy. This seemed like the most affordable entry point into the FF cameras, and met my demand that it be a Canon. However, upon reading the full reviews for this camera, I learn that it is 'crippled' by some factors that, in my opinion, Canon could have and should have, included in a camera of this expense.

These include a built-in flash, stereo microphone for video shooting, and a focus assist light.
Thus, I went looking for another option. I looked at the DxO Comparison of the 6D and the D600, and the D600 got slightly higher marks on almost all scales. In addition, it just has a greater pixel count.

Nikon is the only manufacturer that provides built in flash on their full frame bodies, mainly because it's used as a trigger for their lighting system. I think the A99 is the only FF that offeres stereo mics and a built in focus assist lamp. However, in general it's better to use an external mic for video because internal mics can often pick up operating noise.

I thought that I had found my new first choice DSLR in the Nikon D600. I watched Michael 'the Maven' do a complete comparison of the 6D and the D600, but I did not like what I saw in the color reproduction of the photos that he took with the Nikon versus the 6D. (The Canon 6D just seemed to have warmer skin tones, and better colors overall.) He also pointed out that the Nikon tended to have more issues with sharpness, particularly in HDR photos, and at low light. So, it was back to square one.

I hadn't heard that before about Nikon's regarding sharpness. As for color, I've heard that it's more of a cultural thing. Eastern cultures preferring cooler colors and western cultures preferring warmer colors. I don't know if there is any truth to this, but you can always adjust the white balance in PP to suit your tastes.

I briefly considered the Sony A-99, but it is also lacking in some of the features that I want, including the lack of an optical viewfinder, and no built-in flash.

Revisiting the flash thing, I think it's assumed that those using a full frame camera would also be using an off camera flash, since the built in flash is usually the worst flash to use. It's convenient to have when you have no other options, but is generally avoided.

The OVF vs. EVF is mainly a preference thing, but the EVF on the A99 has it's advantages. First of all, the A99 essentially operates in live view full time. But at the same time it uses full time PDAF for focusing, so it doesn't experience the drop in AF speed that DSLRs do when operating in live view. So the view in the EVF or LCD is a live feed from the sensor. This means that you see what the results of your exposure and white balance settings will be before you take the picture. If you use manual focusing, you can use focus peaking with the EVF or LCD. If you aren't familiar with this, focus peaking basically shows you an outline of high contrast areas so you can adjust focus. If you use a histogram, you can overlay one in the EVF. You can also use the EVF when shooting video whereas OVFs blackout.

As I said, it's mainly a preference thing, but it isn't a simple either/or thing.

For what it's worth, I have also extensively reviewed and might be happy with a camera like the Pentax K-50, due to it's color combinations, in-camera shake resistant sensor, and affordable price tag. However, this is NOT a full frame camera, and I feel that I really should have a full frame camera.

Sony also offers in body image stabilization. One not so obvious benefit is that you can use older non-stabilized Minolta lenses on Sony bodies and get the benefit of this. You also never have to worry about buying stabilized or non-stabilized lenses.

So, here are my questions:

1. Am I making too big of a deal about the Canon 6D's lack of the following features:
a) Flash;

Even though having it built-in is convenient, you'll get better results with an external flash.

b) Focus Assist Lamp; and

That's hard to say for me. I've never had a camera without one. You should be able to get one from an external flash. Though I'm not sure what issues that comes with.

c) Lack of a stereo microphone, or mic jack, for video shooting?

The 6D review said that stereo was available using an external mic. It didn't say anything about needing a separate recorder. As I said before, it''s best to use an external mic anyhow.

2. If not, what other cameras in the full frame format am I missing, or has the 'perfect' full frame DSLR not even been produced yet?

As a cheaper alternative, you could look at older models on the used market. I think that you can find used a Nikon D700, Canon 5DII, Sony A900 or A850 for under $1600 for the body.

3. Should I seriously reconsider the Pentax K-50, even though I think that I would not be happy with an APS-C sensor?

I would definitely rethink APS-C. You can get quality images out of them that may be suitable for your needs. If you look through the DPR user galleries you may be able to get an idea of the IQ possible with them. A full frame sensor will give you better low-light performance and better IQ. But the difference between APS-C and FF is hardly the same as the difference between a camera phone and an APS-C camera.

I just need a 'reality check' on this purchase decision, because it is a big purchase for me, price-wise. I want to make the most informed decision possible, and one that I will not regret.

I would say that if you can wait a little bit longer you might be better off. The PhotPlus Expo is going on in late October. I'd expect to hear of a lot of new things being announced. I know that the rumors are that Sony will be unveiling a Full Frame NEX as well as several other mirrorless cameras. I don't know what the Canon or Nikon rumors might be, but it might be best to wait a month or to at least get an idea of what's coming. Rather than getting something now and then finding out a month later that something you really want is coming out soon.

I would say that if you want to do street photography, a mirrorless model may be the way to go because they're less intimidating than large DSLRs.

Thanks in advance for your help!


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Good luck and happy shooting!

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