Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?

Started Jan 4, 2014 | Discussions thread
RS_RS Senior Member • Posts: 1,788
Re: Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?

Colin Smith1 wrote:

Writers on the Luminous Landscape have stated their belief that the age of full frame DSLRs is coming to an end for basically two reasons. One, 16 meg micro 4/3s sensors have gotten very good in quality and noise reduction that they can now be printed to 16x20 (so why would anyone want the bulkier or heavier full frame DSLR ?) Second because the of the Sony mirror less full frame with excellent EVF.

I know I still value the low light, high ISO of my Canon full frames and the high quality of the lenses, not to mention the obvious advantages of an optical viewfinder in low light or fast movement.. As a wildlife photographer nothing offered to date can match the tracking AF of my 5D III, certainly not the OM E1 or the Sony.

On the other hand I wonder if I will always feel that way? At the age of 67 traveling around the world as I do with heavy gear is becoming more of a burden. If I ever do switch to a mirror less camera system, someone is going to have to make some good fixed focal length telephotos. As for now, I assume the excellent quality of my photos would be hard to give up.

Anyone think that the day is coming when even pros and advanced amateurs will be satisfied with a smaller, lighter mirror less system.

Whilst I would never describe Michael Reichmann's writings as a rant, this article, which I have read, is clearly deliberately provocative – nothing wrong with that – but in order to be so it is very selective in the arguments that it uses. It says little or nothing about AF, perhaps not surprising from a man whose main interest in the Sony A7/A7r is putting his Leica M lenses on it.

There are two quite separate issues here, namely the future of FF sensors and the future of the mirror-and-prism system of the SLR camera.

Some types of professional photography used, and perhaps still uses, 8"×10" plate cameras, but AFAIK no-one has any plans to make a LF digital back of that sort of size except perhaps for some exotic scientific purposes. But there are plenty of MF digital backs with sensors considerably larger than 24mm×36mm, and it is illogical to suppose that the FF sensor will disappear for as long as there is still a demand for even larger sensors. It's not going to happen soon, if at all.

The mirror and prism are a different matter. It is an inherently clumsy system that has been refined to become workable, a bit like the steam railway engine, and any such system is vulnerable to replacement when something better comes along. The two issues that need to be dealt with to allow EVFs to replace mirror-and-prism viewfinders are finder quality and AF performance. Typical phase-detect AF systems are in a sense parasitic on the mirror-and-prism system, stealing a small amount of the incoming rays, and they are very effective. As yet, AF systems using the sensor fall well short in performance, although the dual-pixel system of the Canon 70D may well point the way forward. And it is very hard to take seriously systems that re-introduce the pellicle mirror, like the Sony Alpha (I write as a former Canon Pellix user). As for VF quality, reports suggest that the A7/A7r is a big step nearer to competing with a direct optical VF than any previous EVF system, and I have little doubt that it will not be long before this ceases to be an issue.

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MOD Mako2011
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