Advantages of full frame over APS-C?

Started Oct 17, 2013 | Questions thread
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tinternaut Veteran Member • Posts: 7,398
Advantages of full frame over APS-C?

I've been mulling over getting a modest, full frame kit for some time now, but I'd like to get an idea of what the practical advantages of the format are, over APS-C and Four Thirds. My understanding is fairly rudimentary:

  • A bigger sensor area means more pixels, bigger pixels, or usually both
  • It also means less depth of field at a given aperture and focal length
  • All else being equal, the bigger the pixel, the greater the sensitivity, therefore less noise as we move up the ISO scale
  • This should also mean greater dynamic range, though this appears to be less predictable (thinking the sensor used in the Panasonic GX1, which seems great for low light but not competitive with dynamic range).

This all sounds good, and two years ago the new Sony cameras, or the Nikon D600 would have been an easy purchasing decision. In the meantime though, things have changed. The high ISO noise performance, and dynamic range, of some of the newer APS-C and Four Thirds sensors is nothing short of remarkable, compared to what we had a few years back. Of course, all being equal, we should see the same degree of improvement in full frame but, ultimately, good enough is good enough (albeit in the eye of the beholder).

This leaves me wondering what we have left, in terms of advantage. Of course, I'm neither a physicist or an electrical engineer, so I'll phrase the next bit of my question in terms of an example.

If I take pow ISO exposure of a landscape, in good lighting conditions, using Nikon's latest APS-C DSLR, and then take the same scene (equivalent focal length, depth of field and quality of optics) with a D600, will the end product from the full frame camera show any practical advantages over the equivalent exposure from the camera with the smaller sensor? I'm thinking in terms of various viewing scenarios (web, all the way up to really large print). If I take 30" prints fro the two, will I see a difference?

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Nikon D600 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
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