What really makes big sensors produce more appealing images? *Serious*

Started Mar 13, 2014 | Discussions thread
PerL Forum Pro • Posts: 13,690
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Pasmia wrote:

I've been using point and shoot cameras for a number of years and I've finally migrated on over to ILCs with M43 cameras about three years ago. My IQ dramatically increased, but I'm still not getting images that other people are capable of with their full frame monster cameras. Before the obvious answers roll in, please read further.

At first, I figured it was depth of field. M43, with is 1/4 size sensor, in comparison to FF, doesn't isolate its subjects with respective focal lengths nearly as much and therefore, it can create a really different feel for equivalent framing (ie: 25mm on M43 @ 1.4 is nothing like 50mm on FF @ 1.4). So, I went out and bought the Panasonic/Leica 25mm/f1.4 and the Olympus 45mm/f1.8. I was able to mimic multiple shallow DoF styled photos and even bought some diopters for some ridiculously "bokehlicious" macro shots. This brought my IQ up even more but it was still not quite there.

My next theory was dynamic range. My Lumix G3 camera was lacking this department, in comparison to the Canon 5D II which has become my reference point for IQ (just due to popularity, not bias against Nikon or anything). My Lumix G3 scored a 10.6Evs vs the 5Dii's 11.9Evs on DXO. At this point, I start shooting HDRs to make up for this inadequacy and immediately noticed an improvement in IQ, yet again. I try not to overdue the post processing of HDRs, and simply use it as a tool to expand the DR of my camera. Well, fast forward to the present and I am now with an Olympus E-P5, which has a score of 12.4Evs, and still, I feel like my camera is lacking in comparison to the 5Dii.

Whenever I find myself trying to shoot with my camera's greatest potential, I only shoot at a fixed base ISO. I set my aperture, almost always at f4.0/f5.6 (M43 sweet spot). I'm still using multiple exposures and blending in post (HDR'ish). But I still find IQ lacking.

What I'm finding is that images from cameras like the 5D ii/iii, 6D, Leica M, Sony A7/r, D800/D600 are BOLD. Images seem to be wet, even on my computer screen. Images from M43 cameras seem to have a white sheen over them. It's like there's a certain "fill" that's lacking. Highlights are blown, shadows are muddy, colors are lacking, and there is no "POP" in the images.

I'm beginning to think that the IQ differences I'm looking at is simply a post processing technique that I'm somehow overlooking. If I'm on 500PX, I can find about one in 50 shots from an Olympus camera that actually looks great and is practically indistinguishable from a D800 or other FF camera. However, when I look at something like 5DII images in 500px, practically every other image exudes jaw dropping IQ.

Of my personal collection, I think I literally have a dozen shots, if that, from the past three years, that are indistinguishable from a full frame camera's IQ. My issue, or my concern, is in my snapshots. The shots that I don't spend time calculating exposure and setting up lighting or a tripod. These shots suck. The only snapshots I have that I like are only good because they were composed well or I caught a great moment, but these shots look good with any camera, even my iPhone. I want these shots to be nice in IQ as well, not just the shots I spend hours calculating and post processing and composing and touching up and going back repeating my touch ups.

I do find it possible that maybe it really is just the photographer. I do find it possible that maybe better photographers just so happen to have these cameras that make images that I'm comparing my images to. Maybe, these cameras just so happen to be just another camera model, but happen to attract the people that are capable of producing these types of pictures. I do find it possible that this is true, I just don't believe that it is.

This is the first casual shot I could find from a 5DII on 500PX. It has a lot of what I find is great IQ. The image itself is ok. But the color, the boldness, the gradient, it's just so... perfect.


This is sort of similar shot from and Olympus EM5. It's got a lot of similarities to the above shot but it is lacking. The gradients don't blend as well, IMO. The colors don't pop. There's the sheen I was talking about earlier (granted, fog is a bad example for this, I know). The picture doesn't feel ALIVE like the above shot.


This image here is another 5Dii. It's so spectacular, I wish there was another shot of this exact moment with a M43 camera so I can rest at ease that it really is when, where, and who that matter rather than what gear.


This picture here shows that Olympus is capable of images that I can't distinguish from a FF camera. It took me 8 pages to find an image that I felt this away about on 500px and I still look at the close rock a bit hesitantly, but the sky and water is remarkable.


Any thoughts or general discussion is much appreciated. I'm not looking for a brawl on big vs small sensor, I'm just trying to understand things a bit more. If there's someone that knows exactly what the IQ difference I'm seeing is, I'd love to hear it.

...that is what you hear from Nikon and Canon people upgrading from APS-C to FF. From those who has no upgrade path (m43, Pentax, Fuji, Samsung etc) you will here that there is no difference.

I believe it is a combination of many things that gives a different look.

My experience, besides my own, is that the photos I see from professionals in my job as magazine producer usually are FF and in general looks better than those from the few who uses smaller formats.

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