By 'full frame' we mean that the EOS 5D's sensor is the same size as a 35 mm negative, this means that lenses used on the camera will produce the exact same field of view as they would on a 35 mm film camera (as they were designed). This is especially advantageous when shooting wide angle as we will get a much wider field of view than we would on a digital SLR which 'crops' (such a the EOS 20D). The diagram below demonstrates the difference in field of view between the EOS 5D and the EOS 20D using the same lens with a focal length of 17 mm. The EOS 20D would only be able to capture a portion of the center of the field of view produced by the lens, the EOS 5D captures the entire view.
Example of an picture taken with a focal length of 17 mm
On the downside a full frame sensor puts a higher requirement on the quality of the lens (as you are now also capture the 'less good' edge and corner of the view), with certain lenses this may lead to softness, chromatic aberrations and light fall-off near the edges of the image. Lastly many current digital photographers who don't shoot wide angle may appreciate the effective 'multiplication factor' produced with telephoto lenses (although obviously you can always crop an EOS 5D image in post processing).
Full frame vs. Cropped sensor
Below is a simplified summary of the pros and cons of Full Frame and Cropped (APS sized) sensors. As you can see it's a bit of a minefield, both formats have their advantages. The biggest thing to take from this is that Full Frame is not the 'answer to everything' that many think, and that thanks to years of development of so called cropped sensors and lenses the advantages of Full Frame aren't as attractive as they may have been.
|Full frame|| FOV matches indicated focal length
Only way to achieve super-wide angle
Pixel pitch larger (lower noise)
Lower lp/mm requirement for lens
Viewfinder view large and bright
Matched prime lenses
Shallower depth of field *1
| Lens-sensitive, requires good lenses
Edge / corner softness / CA
Fall-off (vignetting) with some lenses
Can not use smaller 'digital only' lenses
Expensive to manufacture
|Cropped|| Uses best part of the lens (center)
Not as lens-sensitive
Advantage for telephoto (FOV crop)
Compact, light 'digital only' lenses *3
Increased depth of field *2
| Wide angle requires even wider lens
Viewfinder view smaller, darker
|*1||Only shallower because for the same field of view you would need to get closer to the subject than with a 'cropped sensor' camera.|
Just as a shallower depth of field may be an advantage to one photographer so a slightly larger depth of field may be an advantage to the next. Again this is because of subject distance.
|*3||Although as we will demonstrate later in this review these are seldom any better from a performance point of view than a normal 35 mm lens on a FF camera.|
Potential optical disadvantages
As you can see from the 'Cons' list above the primary disadvantages of full frame appear to be related to lenses. The simple truth is that most digital photographers who have used cropped sensor cameras (virtually all digital SLR's) have lived with the luxury of always using the best part of their lenses. This means that you are avoiding the corners and edges of the elements of your lens which are more prone to aberrations and softness. A full frame sensor is far less forgiving, in fact it's not forgiving at all, it 'reveals' a lens fully, which means good lenses and good practice (such as stopping down; using a smaller aperture) are important on a full frame camera.
Depth of field differences
Depth of field is the amount of depth in the image that will be 'in focus' (acceptably sharp) as a distance around the focus position, typically more behind the subject than in front. A shallow depth of field can deliver the soft 'bokeh' background that is the signature of SLR photography, by contrast a larger depth of field can be useful for getting more of the image in focus. Depth of field is a function of the absolute focal length, aperture, subject distance and film / sensor format.
Using the same 105 mm focal length on a cropped sensor camera (say 1.6x, the EOS 20D) and a full frame sensor camera we would have to move 1.6x further away (subject distance) with the cropped sensor camera to get the same field of view. Imagine our subject is 1 m away from our EOS 5D and is perfectly framed, we would have to step back 0.6 m (1.6 m subject distance) to get the same framing with an EOS 20D. The depth of field at F4 in the EOS 5D shot would be approximately 2 cm, for the EOS 20D shot it would be 3 cm.
Below is a table demonstrating the difference in depth of field using the same lens / focal length at different apertures. Note that for simplicity we have chosen a subject distance of 1 m to frame the shot perfectly with the full frame camera, hence a 1.6 m subject distance would be required for the same framing (with the same lens / focal length) with the cropped camera. As you can see a cropped sensor does effectively increase depth of field (although we are simplifying what actual happens).
|EOS 5D (1 m subj dist.)
(36 x 24 mm sensor)
|EOS 20D (1.6 m subj dist.)
(23 x 15 mm sensor)
|24 mm @ F4||42 cm||70 cm|
|24 mm @ F5.6||63 cm||103 cm|
|24 mm @ F8||97 cm||161 cm|
|105 mm @ F4||2 cm||3 cm|
|105 mm @ F8||4 cm||7 cm|
Sensors compared, a microscopic view
We used this diagrammatically view for the first time in our review of the Nikon D2X. It's a useful reference as to the relative pixel pitch of each camera's sensor. These diagrams represent an area of the surface of the sensor measuring just 0.1 x 0.05 mm (1/254 x 1/508 in). Another theoretical advantage of a much large sensor is of course that its pixel pitch can be much larger and hence each photosite capable of capturing more photons, delivering a larger 'signal' which (should) mean lower noise and higher dynamic range.
|Canon EOS 5D
CMOS 13.3 MP, 8.2 x 8.2 µm
|Canon EOS 20D
CMOS 8.2 MP, 6.4 x 6.4 µm
|Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II
CMOS 17.2 MP, 7.2 x 7.2 µm
|Canon EOS 1D Mark II
CMOS 8.5 MP, 8.2 x 8.2 µm
CMOS 12.8 MP, 5.5 x 5.5 µm
CCD 5.5 MP, 5.9 x 11.9 µm
|It's good to be at home by Nightcrawler12|
from Best photo of the week...
|Tiny tree by Kaappo|
This year, plenty of amazing cameras, lenses, accessories and other products came through our doors. As 2017 winds down, we're highlighting some of our standout products of the year. Check out the winners of the 2017 DPReview Awards!
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Whether it's a trip to the beach for some snorkeling or scrambling up a 10,000 ft volcano, the Olympus Tough TG-5 proved to be a great travel companion for Jeff. That's why it's his 2017 Gear of the Year.
Last year, the DJI Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Professional took top honors in our end of year buying guide. Read on to find out who it this year for beginners, consumers, prosumers, and professionals at a price tag less than $2,000.
Meyer Optik Goerlitz is resurrecting yet another classic lens. This time, the company has set its crowdfunding sights on the Primoplan 75mm F1.9, a lens originally manufactured in a run of just 2,000 back in the 1930s.
The folks at Kolari Vision—an infrared camera conversion company based in New Jersey—recently tore down a brand new Sony a7RIII, giving everybody a peek at the camera's much-improved weather sealing.
Resource Travel's Brandon Cunningham recently joined The Giving Lens for a 10-day adventure in India. A trip he won't soon forget, to a country that left him in "sensory and soul overload."
Meet the new Freefly Movi, a handheld gimbal stabilizer designed by cinema stabilization pros for use with the iPhone. Freefly is calling this little beast "the world's most portable, adaptable, and intuitive cinema robot."
Photography portfolio site PhotoShelter is adding their voice to the growing group of online companies that are speaking out in favor of net neutrality, and against the FCC's upcoming vote to kill it.
The Direct app would replace the current Inbox on the Instagram app, doing for Instagram what the Facebook Messenger app did for Facebook on mobile.
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While film nostalgia reaches an all-time high, Seattle-based pro photographer Sofi Lee is turning back to 'digicams' made between 2008 and 2011.
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Kodak is expanding its instant photography lineup today with the release of the Kodak Mini Shot Instant 10MP camera. A tiny little digital camera that spits out either 2.1 x 3.4-inch or 2.1 x 2.1-inch prints.