August 3, 2014

Come On People, It's Time to Stop Arguing About Crop Factors Already

CropperCapture[90]We've all heard it. "If only (fill in the blank) camera had a full frame sensor, I'd be able to use it." Or, "The image from the GH4 sure is great, but I just couldn't get used to a Micro 4/3 sensor." If you've spent any time reading editorial comments about digital cameras in the past 5 years, then you're almost certainly familiar with these types of statements. While different sized sensors can provide substantial differences in both aesthetic qualities and low-light performance, the argument that's most often thrown around in these discussions is about "crop factor," or the relative field of view from one sensor size to the next. Personally, I think it's about time we put the issue of sensor size into perspective so that we can stop making goofy, arbitrary statements like these. Zack Arias over at DedPxl agrees, and his new video does a fantastic job at providing that perspective.

For photographic applications (not filmmaking applications, mind you), there has been a belief for some time that 35mm is the minimum sensor size necessary for "professional" work. Here's Zack Arias' video, which promptly tears down that dogmatic belief:

At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "That's all well and good, internet guy, but we're filmmakers, and those larger formats don't apply to us, so we're going to keep arguing about crop factors." Not so fast, internet people! In order to understand why crop factors are largely an arbitrary and irrelevant discussion to be having, we need to take a look at the historical context provided by the frame sizes of traditional filmmaking formats. A vast majority of the films that have been shot over the past 100 years originated on 35mm film. Many people mistakenly believe that the imaging planes of motion picture 35mm film and photographic 35mm film (which we refer to as "full frame") are, in fact, the same size. This is not the case, however. Here's a nifty graphic from Noam Kroll that shows a relative comparison of motion picture and photographic 35mm frame sizes.

35mm film comparison

As you can see in the above comparison, 35mm motion picture film has a significantly smaller frame size than its photographic brother. Based on that alone, we can put to rest the idea that full frame 35mm is the standard frame size for cinema applications. With that out of the way, let's take a look at how the frame size of traditional 35mm motion picture film compares to the size of some of our more modern digital sensors, such as the sadly maligned APS-C. This comparison chart from Prolost sums it up nicely.

This chart really nails what I'm trying to get at with this post. In the Zack Arias video above, he says that the relative difference between full frame and APS-C is negligible. In fact, he repeats that sentiment quite a few times to really drive the point home. For filmmakers however, where the historically-standard frame size is actually smaller than "full frame" 35mm, the difference is even more negligible.

Of course, despite the fact that APS-C is the closest size to what cinema is traditionally shot with, the Canon 5D's massive popularity in the late 2000s had some interesting effects. For one, it sewed into the collective consciousness of a new wave of DSLR filmmakers the idea that full frame is the standard frame size for all cinema applications. Instead of viewing APS-C cameras as the modern equivalent to motion picture 35mm film (at least in terms of frame size), DSLR filmmakers starting comparing everything to full frame. All of the sudden, APS-C cameras had a 1.6x crop factor, and that was inherently a bad thing.

So let's get this straight. Comparing a sensor's field of view to full frame 35mm film makes no sense, and we should all stop doing it immediately. There, I said it.

Larger sensors do have some advantages, like more easily-achieved shallow depth of field, and they can be far superior in low light situations. With that said, large sensors aren't inherently superior than their smaller counterparts in other areas of image quality, especially areas like dynamic range.

Ultimately, what I'm getting at is that we need to stop arguing about crop factors as if they are some kind of all-important and defining characteristic of image creation. We have the ability to choose from any number of formats - full frame, APS-C, Micro 4/3, s16 - and those formats have differences in field of view and aesthetics. That's just how it is. Some formats better meet the needs of certain shooters and certain stories, and determining those needs is a crucial step in figuring out which camera system to use. But if we keep arguing about crop factors, then chances are we're not spending that time doing something productive, like shooting.

Link: Crop or Crap : Math or Moment -- DedPxl

[via Planet5D]

Your Comment

135 Comments

THANK YOU!

August 3, 2014 at 12:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Paul

THANK YOU! x10,000

August 3, 2014 at 5:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+1!! Now, will somebody please tell this to all the ad agencies who want me to shoot 5d?? Please???

August 3, 2014 at 5:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Clearly most of your readers are morons...

August 3, 2014 at 12:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Loo

And when did Gandalf waving his stick around become an expert on camera sensors? ;) I don't see the point in this. He keeps saying the difference is "Negligible, negligible, negligible!" but its not. Its obvious the DOF is a lot more than "negligible" with full frame just like the DOF on an APSC is noticeably better than Micro4/3rds.

Why make this video when its all obvious to everyone anyhow. If there are two cameras on the table both the same size, same resolution, same price, anyone would pick the full frame for the DOF and ISO qualities.

August 4, 2014 at 6:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DOF, really? You don't even know that that is. You assume that Better Depth of Field is narrow, but what ever happened deep depth of field? Have you ever watched a movie before? What percentage of the shots are in Narrow depth of field? And clearly you have never worked as a 1st A.C., if you have you would realize that it is a nightmare to keep anything in focus on a full frame at f1.2.

ISO capabilities? 90 of feature films were shot at iso 400 or less. And today they rarely go over 800. Because Real cinematographers Light their scenes, and think about composition and worry about what is IN focus, not out of focus.

I would gladly choose S16 over full frame any day if the week and twice on Sunday.

August 4, 2014 at 11:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel

YEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Thank you for mentioning lighting! Everyone always wants a sensor that can "see into the shadows." Light for what you want to see.

August 4, 2014 at 6:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Lopez

Absolutely true! Thank you!

August 7, 2014 at 7:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ark

You took the words right out of my mouth. After the Sony Z5 with 1/3" sensors and not being able to have shallow DoF, I added the CAnon 5D2. What a nightmare it is to keep all in focus. I did not like the shallow DoF look in any way. Then I got the Sony FS100 with the Hollywood sensor size and I tell you, shooting at f1.4 is still damn hard. F3-4 is OK and the background is just out enough to contain the story yet blurr it out - nice balance. I hope this full frame thing goes away or you use f8 or something because this is just so much better.

Well said my friend 1st AC. Bang on. Full frame shallow is not cool, easy or all that enjoyable

August 8, 2014 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David

There are multiple factors that affect DOF. Sensor size is one of them, and it isn't the biggest. Lens selection and aperture, in my opinion, are so much more influential.

Read the original post and you'll see what I mean.

August 4, 2014 at 2:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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"Larger sensors do have some advantages, like more easily-achieved shallow depth of field, and they can be far superior in low light situations. " - that's exactly it. It doesnt render any other size sensor useless. I get a LOT of mileage out of my crop sensor camera. If you NEED low light performance or super shallow depth of field for some reason (which you can get on a crop sensor) - then get full frame. Just understand WHY you are spending the money. Again, I have never had a situation where I said "I WISH I had a full frame".

August 3, 2014 at 12:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David A

There is a LOT of other factors which go into low light performance than just the sensor size. So sometimes a smaller sensor can perform just as well (or even better).

For instance, here is a Nikon D5200 vs a Canon 5DmkIII:
http://www.eoshd.com/content/9713/nikon-d5200-vs-canon-5d-mark-iii
http://www.eoshd.com/content/9653/nikon-d5200-review

August 3, 2014 at 5:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Two other important arguments for bigger sensors:

* You can get the look from a smaller sensor just by stopping down the lens. Not possible the other way around most of the time.

* (this one is very personal but shared by many people) My lens set is designed for full frame, so I need full frame otherwise my lovely glass won't shine.

August 3, 2014 at 6:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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not exactly. there are a couple of ways to get shallow depth of field and only one of them involves getting a bigger sensor. you can just as easily put a lens longer than 70mm or 100mm and get the same look. just stand further back.

August 3, 2014 at 7:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

" you can just as easily put a lens longer than 70mm or 100mm and get the same look. just stand further back."

Not exactly. The further back you go from the subject, the deeper your focus becomes, mitigating the fact that you're now on a longer lens. You end up chasing your tail, putting on longer lenses, but having to move further and further back to maintain your frame, until your subject is approaching hyperfocal distance.

So many people say "we'll shot on long lenses to achieve a shallow DOF look" when really, you can achieve shallow DOF on a much wider lens by walking it in closer. It's your frame size (MS, CU, etc) and aperture that will dictate the shallowness, moreso than just the focal length.

You can definitely achieve shallow DOF on a small sensor, but you'll be framing "choker" CU's of your actors to do so.

August 3, 2014 at 11:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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You will NOT get the same look. Telephoto lenses compress the background while wide angle lenses appear to expand it. Even with the exact framing of your actor their relation to the background will give you very different aesthetics.

Best example of this difference shown in real time is the infamous dolly/zoom combo used in Scorcese's Goodfellas.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=H4Utlw0XiHU

August 3, 2014 at 6:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Damon

Thanks for saving me the trouble of saying this.

August 10, 2014 at 12:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gary Simmons

I've heard someone else mention this. That lenses look better when they cover the entire sensor entirely but not any more so. So using full frame glass on a smaller super-35/m43 sensor etc etc would not get the best out of the glass. It was the only other time i'd heard it and so i put it to David Mullen ASC on reduser. His response was that he'd never heard or found/thought that before.
Would you be able to comment more specifically as to what it is you believe the difference is?
Thanks.

August 4, 2014 at 10:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andy

My post was in response to the Samual H post " (this one is very personal but shared by many people) My lens set is designed for full frame, so I need full frame otherwise my lovely glass won’t shine."

August 4, 2014 at 10:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andy

Most good looking films don't even have super shallow depth of field. Most of them you can see the background very clearly and they look way more cinematic. Shallow depth of field doesn't make things look "cinematic", it makes things look "artsy". Its like an Instagram filter, its kinda cool at first, but the coolness fades quickly. Perhaps the reason shallow depth of field has become a fad is because it is new and different.

August 3, 2014 at 12:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nick

Preach brother!!!! \(-_-\) (/-_-)/ \(-_-)/

August 3, 2014 at 1:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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A fad. Are you an idiot? Lol yeap I guess plonking the camera down and setting it to infinity is most certainly the way to go. Ever heard of pull focus. You can only do this with depth of field. Dof is most certainly not an artsy technique. When I see a student film it is always sure to have no dof which is normally coupled with lack of knowledge about lenses. Stick to the bolex point and shoot...

August 3, 2014 at 4:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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matt s

Sir you can' call people idiot, or claim "to have no dof which is normally coupled with lack of knowledge about lenses" ; while saying "Pulling focus, you can only do this with depth of field" , "depth of field isn't an artsy technique"... No dof means there is no focused part in your picture , a lot of depth of field means almost everything is in focus ... Dof isn't a technique, it's a physical consequense... And you can pull focus on 2/3" sensor camera , with aperture at 4 , I do it quite a lot ... What nick was saying is that beginners , who started with the 5D are overrating the very shallow DoF way of shooting , because they do it automatically (because it's cinematic ... sic! ) without asking themself : "what kind of image do I need to support the script." ...

August 3, 2014 at 4:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adrien

ok first of all, a bolex is not a point and shoot. second of allsuper shallow depth of field is near impossible to pull focus from. focus pullers have been in the business for generations, and you know what happened when the 5D Mark II came out? they said, "now we're going to have to deal with loads of super shallow depth of field crap from amateurs who have no clue what they are doing." and you know what most focus pullers were having to work with? Super8 or Super16 for the most part. pretty much just like the Digital Bolex 16 in fact. a camera which is rather difficult to get shallow depth of field unless you know what you are doing. it was easier to use cropped formats because you could hit your mark more easily as a focus puller. you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, because you do not know what you are talking about

August 3, 2014 at 7:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

Depth of field isn't something that only exists when it is shallow. Why do people keep talking about it like that is the only way it exists? Depth of field is a measurement of how much of the z axis is in focus for a given aperture, not a thing itself.

August 3, 2014 at 1:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pat

To clarify, I meant super shallow depth of field is a fad. It is used to often because people think it looks cool. If you are going to have a shot where someone 's eyes are in focus and their cheek isn't then there has to be a significant reason to do that. Movies that are praised for their great cinematography, on most occasions, not all, leave almost everything in focus because they don't need to cheat and use shallow depth of field to separate the actors from the background. They are skilled enough to accomplish that with lighting, blocking and composition. Shallow depth of field is useful when, for instance, your actors clothing is the same color as the background. Its a technique, but many people use it for the "pretty bokeh".

August 4, 2014 at 3:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nick

People seem to think that the shallower the DOF the more cinematic it is. So we end up getting shots with an area of focus that's less than an inch sometimes. So one moment their eyes are perfectly in focus, but then there is movement and now the tip of their nose is all that's in focus.

The whole point of having DOF is to SLIGHTLY blur everything in the scene that's not important, this way the viewer is focused on what they are supposed to be looking at. When the DOF is too shallow, everything becomes a blurry mess and objects completely lose their shape and you can't even tell what they are anymore.

I've been shooting on the GH2 for over two years and I just bought the pocket camera and I love the DOF it gets. I think it looks more cinematic than the full frame cameras I use because it looks more like film when things are just a little soft.

Stanley Kubrick is my biggest influence and in his films almost everything is always in focus. But for him that works because every detail in ever scene is there for a reason and something you should pay attention to.

In general, I try to have my DOF look similar to how our eyes naturally see things. Close one eye, hold your finger in front of your open eye and "rack focus" from your finger to your computer screen. Regardless of what you're focused on, you can still tell that the computer is a computer and the finger is a finger. On a full frame f1.7 you probably won't be able to tell what the other object is when it's out of focus, that's not cinematic, that's people trying too hard to be cinematic.

August 3, 2014 at 6:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Julian

The current "ideal sensor size" for a high end camera is probably a medium format size sensor (shallow DOF! ... filmic look!) with a rather small (~ 20M) number of large pixels (low light, faster readout and color oversampling) compared to 645Z. It'll be a huge step up from the F65 28mm diagonal to 55mm and increase in area from ~ 370mm2 to 1450. 1" and MFT are probably going to be delegated to the amateur niche soon. APS-C and FF will comprise the meat of the market for the enthusiast and pro uses.
.
Come to think of it, Alexa and F65/55 are getting a little long in the tooth. Red is finally getting the Dragon out in numbers. Varicam S35M will be, as the name suggests, Super35 (31mm diagonal, 464 mm2)

August 3, 2014 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

dude, if you are implying that IMAX size sensors are going to go "consumer", you probably shouldnt hold your breath

August 3, 2014 at 7:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

dude .. like, you know ... what you said about what I wrote is pretty bogus ... 'cos I said that other thing ... I mean, something completely opposite ...

August 3, 2014 at 6:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

he's right and shallow depth of field doesn't equal more cinematic. Super 16 is three times smaller than mft and people are still shooting beautiful hollywood features on it (Black Swan, Moonrise kingdom).

August 4, 2014 at 3:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nick

Amen to that.

August 3, 2014 at 12:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This guy is the Glen Beck of cameras.

August 3, 2014 at 12:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dusty

"Ne-gli-gi-ble!" Brilliantly entertaining video, and on point. Bigger is not always better. Most of my work so far has been APS-C, and it remains my personal preference for many applications. I'm glad this discussion is being had.

My cinematography reel for reference: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2Z64z93vw0

August 3, 2014 at 12:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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My showreel's a lot better than yours.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BROWqjuTM0g

August 3, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

LOL! 10 hours of being rick rolled!

August 3, 2014 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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steve

Well played, Sir.

August 4, 2014 at 3:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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msnyderfoto

Effective lens focal length and coverage (with a crop sensor)? Not relevant? Or even worth mentioning? I agree with most of what was said, buut in 12 mins neglected to mention that?

August 3, 2014 at 12:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

This was an extremely adamant blog post. It almost reads like one of the comments you get in the NFS comments section. I guess NFS has decided to embrace it's current readership.

In all seriousness, some of us have a problem with crop factor because we are already invested heavily in glass intended for full frame cameras. Sure, there is the metabones adapter, but it doesn't work with all lenses. I have a full set of M42 lenses and Canon L glass, neither of which is fully supported by metabones. That is the reason crop vs full frame matters to me.

August 3, 2014 at 12:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

There are legitimate reasons to stick with particular formats, lens compatibility being a one of them (and an incredibly important one at that). Then there are people who use things like crop factor as an excuse in order to justify why a camera is not good enough for them. This post is aimed at the second group.

August 3, 2014 at 1:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4299

Yeah, those people are obnoxious and primarily uninformed. Good luck changing anybody's mind though, as the fanboy partisan negativity seems to have completely taken over most online forums and blogs about cameras.

August 3, 2014 at 1:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

All hail the A7s, full frame or APS-c, your call!

August 3, 2014 at 10:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Inzitari

You're fault in your selection of lenses is not a reason to push that view onto others.... I stayed Nikon Lenses, which made it very easy to switch and change from any of Micro Four Thirds, Sony NEX, Nikon, or yes... even Canon! (APS-C or FF, as all you need to go from one to the other is one extra lens either at the wide or long end. Not a problem! Six of one, half a dozen of the other)

August 3, 2014 at 6:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I'm not the one here trying to push my view onto others. I all I was pointing out was why crop matters to me personally. I don't even shoot on full frame.

August 3, 2014 at 11:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

Sorry, all good. But you can probably understand why some people get a bit touchy about other people who keep on going on about "full frame, or nothing".... ! Gah.

More blog posts like this would be good to educate people!

August 3, 2014 at 8:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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but then you're trying to take the "full frame" look with you to a cropped sensor when you don't need to. your lenses will look awesome cropped onto a crop sensor without a speed booster to make them look full frame, which sort of misses the point of this article. you don't need to be shackled by the need to be full frame.

August 3, 2014 at 7:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

not saying you have to change your perspective mind you. obviously your opinion is yours and thats fine

August 3, 2014 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

I'm not a fan of the full frame look, but I am a fan of having a wide selection of lenses for different focal lengths. Certain lenses like my 17tse and 24tse are just not going to have the same effect when cropped.

August 3, 2014 at 11:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

Then simply just get *one* more lens at the wider end.... such as the awesome Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8! :-)

August 3, 2014 at 8:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I have the Tokina 116, but it is not a replacement for the 17tse. I also have an 11-22 EF-M. And the Samyang fisheye. All great lenses that I use for different reasons and on different cameras. I also have the 16-35 II and the 16-35 f/4L. Great lenses with different purposes. My original purpose in posting was to point out that there is a legitimate personal reason why the crop factor could be deal breaker for me and others. When the GH4 came out, I went an purchased a 1DC. While this may be utterly absurd to some people, it made sense to me. The primary consideration was the crop factor and my current selection of lenses and how I like to shoot.

What I see reading these comments is that the anti-full frame partisans are just as bad as the full frame partisans, and much of their argument is based on either misinformation or an inability to recognize a legitimate rational as to why certain people consider sensor size when choosing a camera for a project. Shoot on what you want. Shoot on an iphone. Shoot on 65mm. I don't care. But to make a broad statement one way or the other that crop size does not matter seems ignorant.

August 4, 2014 at 10:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

crop factor is bad because of the lenses. if you use 50mm with 1.6 crop factor then you are seeing only 80mm right? now that's bad. it's also more expensive to buy wider angle lenses... so you are arguing this at the wrong matter or your argument against crop factor is also narrowed! I understand the quality is not a big issue nowadays but there are sure other things to consider even before the quality..

August 3, 2014 at 12:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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meme

No, the physics wont' be changed.

50mm remains 50mm on a cropped sensor concerning aperture and depth of field. The space won't be compresses etc.

You just see only a part of the 50 mm on a cropped cam compared to a full frame cam.

August 3, 2014 at 2:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tom DO

Exactly, how did he not address that haha

August 3, 2014 at 2:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Because technically you shouldn't see it like that, old school cinematographers will pick up a 50 and see it as a 50 on super35 not full frame, a cinema 50 will not cover a full frame sensor either, because of the 5D everyone compares the lens to crop factors of full frame, whilst if a cinematographer from prior the 5D, he'd see a 50 on full frame as a crop factor of 0.6

August 3, 2014 at 3:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jed

Exactly! Comparing everything to full frame makes no sense considering that filmmaking is historically done with formats smaller than photographic 35mm.

August 3, 2014 at 4:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4299

Perhaps this is in part to all the photographers suddenly having video capability.

In cinema, there are basically two sizes, S35 and S16. Then there's IMAX, and lets not forget S8.

August 3, 2014 at 6:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Charlie

Actually, the first camera ever made for motion picture (the Lumiere camera) was full frame and shot onto 200 foot loads of still film. The Academy aperture and motion picture film format was created later and was created to save money on film.

August 3, 2014 at 5:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Ah, excellent point and very pertinent to a discussion on modern-day filmmaking technologies!

August 4, 2014 at 4:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brian

an excellent comment and in no way catty and idiotic.

August 8, 2014 at 3:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Nope, it isn't any more expensive to be getting wider lenses. You just need *ONE* more lens at the wider end which is designed for APS-C. And something like a Tokina 11-16mm or Sigma 8-16mm are both excellent choices and very affordable. Certainly far less than the difference in cost between a DX and FX body! (or APS-C and FF)

And this argument of yours works in reverse too, if you go FX instead of DX then on the opposite end of the lenses range you'll need to buy an extra telephoto lens to get the same reach. And believe me, fast telephoto lenses are far more expensive than UWA lenses!

August 3, 2014 at 6:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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i agree, if anything its the FF lenses that are more expensive. getting a cheap m43 or aps-c wide lens is nothing. get a rokinon 10mm or 12mm, done.

August 3, 2014 at 7:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

Exactly! Use FF and your costs (& weight!) go *UP* dramatically! For what benefit? Arguably for zero net benefit....

August 3, 2014 at 8:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This video was shot on a crop sensor! Forget it , i won't watch it!

August 3, 2014 at 12:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John Wilton

Just go shoot your damn movies. If you create beautiful imagery, I couldn't care less what sensor size you used.

August 3, 2014 at 1:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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demb3k

He missed wider field of view. Shooting with a crop factor makes your lenses zoom in more which may not be what you want. I can see the difference, go down to S16 and you can really see the difference. It's not a quality issue for me, it's an aesthetic preference. Medium and large format were designed for resolution on large prints, it wasn't because people thought bigger was better.

August 3, 2014 at 1:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter

Yeah, width is important to me. I'm a big anamorphic fan, and that kind of look is what distinguishes 'the film look' for me, personally.

August 3, 2014 at 7:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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alex

I think it's pretentious saying we should stop arguing about two formats. Image size is a very important factor in every production, therefore it's something we will always be discussing. There are advantages to larger sensors that are suitable for certain type of prodcutions, and there are advantages to smaller ones for other types of prodcutions, and no, it's not negligible to someone who does imaging for a living.

What would the community benefit from is an article explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each each format and how they should be chosen for certain productions.

Going larger in size gives the ability to achieve a shallower depth of field in wide field of views, this gives an entirely different aesthetic to the image quality and if you need that for your certain production, the power to you, use the largest sensor you can find (fullframe).

The lowlight performance is also a big factor. Nothing beats fullframe for low light, at least in the current market products like the A7s, 5D, 6D, these really are the best high ISO cameras and all smaller sensor cameras do worse in low light, so of you need that, again, the power to you, use them

With smaller sensors, it gives you the ability to achieve deeper depth of field and a highly detailed look, for example when shooting a wide landscape with lots of small detail, I would go with a small format, they really do better here

With that comes also another advantage, which is easier focusing, both for the Autofocus systems and for you if you're manually pulling. There are productions that require fast, easy focusing, like events, weddings, news, documentary, and in these productions using a large format is a complete pain when it comes to keeping focus.

Another advantage for smaller sensors is the overall size of the system, and the lenses overall. But again that might be a disadvantage to certain productions,

in short, it's about choosing the correct format for what you want to achieve, no one is better than the other, and also the difference is not negligble or should be overlooked, both these claims are not doing any favours to the filmmaking community really

August 3, 2014 at 1:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ebrahim Saadawi

The C300 is vastly superior to the 5D in low light. Same manufacturer, smaller sensor.

August 3, 2014 at 6:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Charlie

August 3, 2014 at 8:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Of course there are many other factors in low-light performance than sensor size, but all things being equal, a bugger sensor will perform better. Why the C300 does better than the 5D despite of the smaller sensor, is the much lower (8 megapixel) pixel count, and how the sensor is downsampling a true 4K image to 1080p in a very elegant way, unlike the 5D pixel binning and line skipping.

If you want to see how a bigger sensor has an advantage in low-light, compare the 5D to a Canon APS-C like the 7D, which has comparable technology, pixel count, downsampling method,

what is the best low-light camera in the world now? The Fullframe A7S, and the medium format Pentax 645Z. Both show a great example of using a larger sensor to collect more light.

@Chris no the point is not invalid just because your certain type of production doesn't require high-ISO performance. That's the whole point of my previous rant really, if your production doesn't need low-light performance and you can use tons of lighting equipment, then the low-light advantage of bigger sensors won't affect you much. But don't forget there are many other productions that can only use minimal lighting, or even none. Video is not just all narrative type where you can set up the location, lock it down, there are other types like documentary, event, weddings, news.

The depth of field advantage is also valid. You will NOT get the same image by moving farther and using a longer lens. It's an entirely different composition, back ground, compression, and on top of that you don't always have the room to step back. The bigger sensors allow you to get a shallower depth of field IN wider field of views, that's why the full frame aesthetic is different and unique. A 35mm F1.4 lens on full frame gives a certain field of view and depth of field, if you use a s35 sensor with the same lens, you will get a tighter fov, therefore will have to move back, therefore will have to focus more towards infinity, therefore deeper dof, a whole different image. And if you use a 24mm f/1.4 to match the field of view, you will have deeper dof because of the lower focal length. The only way to match them is to use a 24mm f/0.7 on the s35, and that's impossible. Same for the image aesthetic you get with say a 50mm f/1.2 on full frame, which cannot be matched at all. So a bigger sensor does give shallowe depth of field and to match it with a smaller sensor you will have to use much faster lenses which either do not exist or very expensive.

August 4, 2014 at 2:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ebrahim Saadawi

for low light, just because your camera can see in the dark doesn't mean you shouldn't use lights, and if you are using lights, it makes the point invalid. everyone should use lights, because cameras were meant to capture light.

second, shallow depth of field is a mathematical factor of the sensor size in relation to how far the subject is from the sensor and the focal length. you can achieve a similar or identical look using long lenses and standing further back.

August 3, 2014 at 7:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

Yup, I found this article to be counter-intuitive and providing biased information so a reader would not be able to make an informed decision. The above post clarifies important points.

August 3, 2014 at 8:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Now that we have covered sensor size fixation, do you think we could have a piece about renting high frame rate cameras for those rare times that we need them. eg, not a deal breaker for most, shooting slow motion will not be required by many film makers on a daily basis........

August 3, 2014 at 1:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Cameron

Sometimes I like being able to turn my 70-200 into a 140-400.

Sometimes I hate having my 20mm Nikkor turn into a 40mm.

Either way, each format is a compromise at one end of the focal length so it comes down to what/how you shoot and the lenses you use.

August 3, 2014 at 1:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I personally wouldn't say "negligible" in the differences between S35 and FF35. I mean, we're talking on APS-C a 28mm-35mm for a normal FOV whereas on FF35 those are considered wide angle lengths. That does mean something. I agree that crop factor has gotten a bit out of hand, but honestly formats are about tools, preferences, rendering quality, and lenses. It's all relevant in reality if your job is making images.

I have made a concise sensor chart for those interested that covers relevant digital and film formats up to IMAX 15-perf film.
http://www.artbyphil.com/temp/reduser/phfx_SensorChart2014.jpg

August 3, 2014 at 2:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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shooting with DSLR is a waste of time.

August 3, 2014 at 3:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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väpi

Serious question here.. how many of you actually shoot a substantive portion of your projects with wide lenses?
Wide meaning a standard film 24mm field of view as the base regardless of crop..
IMHO, I don't see much shot below 35mm if that wide. Which to me would indicate that the crop argument is a strawman. Correct me if I am wrong.

August 3, 2014 at 4:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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agreed. i typically use my a7S cropped to APS-C at 50mm or higher

August 3, 2014 at 7:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

18mm is my favorite focal length.

August 3, 2014 at 11:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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But is that a TRUE 18mm? No crop factor?

August 3, 2014 at 10:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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msnyderfoto

I tend to use wider lenses and rarely go over 50mm. Not sure why though.

August 3, 2014 at 11:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Because if you want a compressed space look 50mm is plenty unless you are shooting a cowboy literally riding into a sunset.

August 3, 2014 at 12:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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lsorensen

It's usually enough for my tastes. If I'm shooting on a full frame camera I might go with an 85mm every once in a while. I would say, in general, I am between 24mm and 50mm 90% of the time.

August 3, 2014 at 2:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+1

August 3, 2014 at 5:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

I go hand held with a 24mm prime all the time on my S35 camera. On my last project I used this setup 80% of the time. The space feels equivalent visually to the human perspective. Camera+Lens combo is always dependent on story and tone.

August 3, 2014 at 11:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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lsorensen

I almost never go beyond 50. 24, 28, 35, and 50 are easily my most-used focal lengths. So being able to go wide does matter to me, not that it's difficult to accomplish the save FOV on APS-C.

August 3, 2014 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thanks for replies. IF my BMPCC ever arrives, i have some food for thought on it's usage.

August 3, 2014 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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msnyderfoto

Oh sweet baby Jesus, if only I had 15-perf. 70mm IMAX camera in my bear hands with unlimited film magazine and power supply. Oh,oh, oh... Anything less is a compromise to my UNIQUE and MONUMENTAL artistic vision. I'm an auteur, a visionary, a connoisseur! Also true gentleman and scholar.

August 3, 2014 at 5:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

I agree and I am one of those idiots. But it is horses for courses. Our new A7s coming in is full frame but we will most likely be shooting in cropped mode in most cases and in 2k Ha! The only thing I would say is that we wanted to love the GH4 and couldn't bring ourselves to buying it. and not just because of the crop factor.

August 3, 2014 at 5:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This was painful to watch. I get his argument but this may just be the most annoying video i've seen in a long time. That argument could have taken 2 minutes, and he dragged it out for 10 plus... for what? To hear the sound of his voice? Ayeye

August 3, 2014 at 5:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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steve

August 3, 2014 at 6:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Vox

Thanks for posting this, very interesting video indeed!

August 3, 2014 at 5:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marco

So the people working on the new IMAX sized sensor cameras are all completely crazy?

August 3, 2014 at 6:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert A.

no, they shoot for a screen thats 4 stories tall. the average reader on this blog does not. clear difference. they have a reason for doing that

August 3, 2014 at 7:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

August 3, 2014 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

I read the depth of field comment by Matt. It reinforces the point that technical knowledge or lack of it, in this case, is not the determining factor of what makes an interesting image. Technical trolls worship their camera investment but artists use whatever is necessary to produce the desired images.

Most cameras today will produce acceptable results in the hands of acceptable camera operators. I'm more interested in what goes on in the minds of the better than acceptable photographers. Some of that discourse has been published here and hopefully it will continue. It doesn't have much to do with camera formats and brands.

August 3, 2014 at 7:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Larry V

Awesome stuff!!!

August 3, 2014 at 7:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ricardo

Gives me confidence in myself. ever since I started out 3-4 years ago, getting the 5D was what I felt stopping me :) I got the 5D like 2 years back and heck I still loved images from my APS-C more..

August 3, 2014 at 8:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Archie

Honesty time: one of the biggest reasons I shoot "full frame" is because that's what I understand best in terms of how lenses look and I'm way too lazy to do math to calculate fov on "cropped" sensors.

Pure, simple laziness.

I don't think there's really any image quality difference. That's determined significantly more by compression and codec, in my opinion.

August 3, 2014 at 10:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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But there is a difference beyond depth of field. No one seems to understand this.

August 3, 2014 at 5:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Being aware of and choosing to shoot with a certain sized sensor is a very legitimate topic. BUT, the fact that so many people misunderstand what crop factor even means and that many many would-be cinematographers use FF35 as a "standard" from which to base all formats is ridiculous in terms of motion photography.

In motion pictures, Super35 is THE standard full-stop.

August 3, 2014 at 11:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Agent55

I spend sometime selling HDSLR/"digital cinema" entry level cameras. I have to say that I have had many 30+ minute conversations deprograming people from internet association and "bigger is better" style hype. I love that you addressed it in this article. Thank you.

August 3, 2014 at 1:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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GH4 looks like shit. So does every other m43 camera. Conspiracy? No. Panasonic oversharpness with m43 flatness? Horrible combination.

...m43 has twice the depth per focal distance, thus the flat image that is unappealing to the eye when compared to FF. Most people also don't accommodate the crop with their lensing and thus can;t get wide enough(probably canon L). Just watch some online samples, your eyes don't lie.

https://vimeo.com/94057334

^Good example. See the difference in the fall-off? Almost impossible to achieve a soft, pleasing look on the gh4.

Don't get me wrong, It looks high quality, with the sharpness, resolution ect. But those are not the only qualities important to cinematographers.

August 3, 2014 at 2:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

The people making the such and such crop factor arguments are simply inexperienced.

s16 lenses are significantly faster than 35mm lens, and the most standard manufactured focal lengths of the lenses are roughly half.

Step one: use lenses for the format they were intended for.

Step two: ignore no film school comments by kids with gh4s/5dmkIIIs and no clue.

Drum roll.... the overwhelming majority of films shown in theaters are not shot on FF. Let me put it in terms the dslr kids will understand, they are shot on closer to aps-c sized sensors.

Thank ya.

August 3, 2014 at 3:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ekel

In my opinion, the only aesthetic argument worth having regarding sensor size is whether or not the lens you want will "behave" the way you want. Each lens has a specific look. That's immutable. The lens does what it does. You pick your lenses based on whether or not you like the look they create. You get different results on different formats because you're using different parts of the lens. So use the format that best suits your favorite lenses.

Of course, I do think there is a financial argument to be made. With my own limited resources, I tend to favor smaller formats. That being said, your lens options are practically limitless, regardless of what technology is being used to record the image.

August 3, 2014 at 4:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Not shooting and arguing about this is the ultimate waste of time. If the luxury of production permits, shoot at whatever you want. Many shoots are on budget and you only have x dollars to spend. You have to us what's right for the shoot.

August 3, 2014 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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There is a lot more than depth of field to think about when you talk about crop factor. Lenses are designed for the format they are shooting onto and, beyond depth of focus, there is SO much more than goes into the way a lens feels on screen spatially.
I think almost no one except me, a few large format still photographers, and Dan Sasaki understands this nowadays.

A lens has to be designed to work optimally with it's flange focal depth, crop factor, field of view, AND aperture in mind. This is why (other than depth of field) a lens with a 35mm field of view looks different than the same field of view on a smaller sensor. The optical design needs to be entirely different to accomplish the same field of view for different formats.

This is why: Designing a lens for crop has advantages for telephoto use just as designing a lens for full frame has its advantages on the wide end of the spectrum.

The metabones speed booster is the one piece of equipment that can effectively erase the tradeoffs when cropping a lens, but there is DEFINITELY a difference (other than depth of field) between a 37mm on full frame and a 24mm on an APC-C sensor. It's just that we have no way to scientifically look at the differences because the are (in essence) ENTIRELY different lenses.

August 3, 2014 at 5:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

"I think almost no one except me, a few large format still photographers, and Dan Sasaki understands this nowadays."

We are so lucky to have you here.

August 4, 2014 at 9:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thanks for your insightful comment.

The wider lenses for larger format sensors render space differently (and it's also not barrel distortion I'm talking about.) It is literally how a given optical design renders the space around it. Larger sensors and lower flange focal depths are better for wide angle lenses and smaller sensors and higher flange focal depths are better for longer lenses.

Step 1: Find a tessar (the simplest lens design) 38.7 mm and shoot a still at T2 with it on a full frame camera.
Step 2: Find a 24mm tessar and shoot a still with an aps-c camera (with the same flange focal depth) at a T1 3/4 to match depth of field identically.
Step 3: Observe that the two lenses don't render space the same way.

Of course, they are close because of the simplicity of the tessar, but my point is magnified if you consider the differences between a 9.8mm tessar designed for S16 but with a matching flange focal depth. The overwhelming narrative says that there is no difference...but there REALLY is.

August 4, 2014 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

what a douche.

August 4, 2014 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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TruthNuggets

Zack Arias is still around?

August 3, 2014 at 5:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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steve

August 3, 2014 at 7:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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That was pretty cool. As another moron behind the camera, I like it!

There are definite aesthetic (and technical) differences among all frame sizes - best to understand them all, and the 'rules,' so you can break them!

August 3, 2014 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This is all so ridiculous.

August 4, 2014 at 10:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adam

Its not about bokeh. Its about feel. And it is a significant difference when you use the same lenses between APSC and Full Frame. Riddle me this, do those meduim format cameras use the same lenses as 35mm? thought not.

August 4, 2014 at 9:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Conner

The main point for people wanting 35mm Full Frame cameras, is the ability to get very inexpensive wide angle lenses, which wouldn't have the same angle of view as on an APS-C. Not talking quality-wise.

August 5, 2014 at 5:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tom

I used to be one of those "crop factor bitches" LOL
No I'm not. Oh... ignorance... :P

August 7, 2014 at 8:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mr.Floppy

I think one of the reasons to get a full frame w.r.t. field of view would be to get cheap wide angle glass that has no distortion. I currently have a Canon 60D and I use a Tokina 11-16 to get my wide angle shots but at 11mm, it becomes a little unusable at times because of the distortion. Can somebody please discuss distortion at wide angles for different sensor sizes?

August 7, 2014 at 4:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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The Tokina is about as good as it gets in regards to distortion. The Canon zoom isn't much better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc4aO3gqtNQ&list=UUPsJnSGA7oD6QNIcSzjjxRA

You basically need to get the Canon 14L II if you want anything better at less than 16mm on a Canon system.

August 7, 2014 at 7:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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cpreston

Apparently it's negligible.
To each his own.

August 7, 2014 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andrew P

There's one thing not mentioned here. Full frame sensors give a significantly larger field of view so if you want wide angle shots you need a larger sensor. That's why they went to 70mm panavision and cinemascope.. for the wide angle vistas. Any sensor can do a close up with available lenses. But the larger the sensor size, the wider angle you can get out of your widest angle lens without distorting into a fisheye..

August 8, 2014 at 1:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bob

CinemaScope is not wider than super-35. (It's taller.).

August 9, 2014 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Ok without trying to get very technical, I went on a video shoot with my 60D + 17-50 F2.8 while the second shooter used a 5D Mk2 24-105 F4. Our videos were comparable through out the day in fact sometimes in the edit I wasn't sure whose shot I was editing... that is until we got to the night shots. Even though I was using F2.8, my shots were near unusable in low light compare to the 5D who was using F4. The images were muddy, the blacks had digital noise and when I reduced the aperture the footage was too dark. Argue what we want Canon has always made the full frames perform better in low light than the cropped sensors. Does that make a full frame shooter better than a cropped shooter? Of course not but it is a fact that most manufacturers make the full frame bodies technically better. I am getting the 6D soon not because it will make me a better shooter but because it works better for me and I have to worry less about low light as thats what I shoot mostly in events and documentary.

August 8, 2014 at 2:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Flippin' Heck -
First of all Thank You to the author of this article... I WAS considering a full frame camera as my next major purchase but now i think i'll keep to my "crop" sensor one...

secondly: no thanks to the guys commenting on this post. didn't even read half way down and was yawning like an alligator. blimey (crop full crop Full ) what a bore! if you THINK YOU NEED the shallow DOF then you probably don't as it won't add ANYTHING to the story or script! and when you do want to achieve that look for 1 or 2 shots try positioning the talent further away from the background with PROPER lighting and the camera fairly close to the talent...

(I currently use a canon 600d) many say it is "crop" frame camera well putting the exact same footage (same camera movement on same background) next to one of my mates who reportedly has a "full" frame camera I can't see the difference... so buy for what you will be doing most (photography with blurred backgrounds or Film with a clean frame and very little if any at all blur in the background) is my advice to anyone wanting to buy a camera.

ps. not to mention telling them to do their own research.

August 8, 2014 at 4:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bryce

The "change" lenses experience because of sensor size is what matters mostly in our work,( a public TV station) many we need the help of wide angle lens for interviews on smaller locations or places, camera with smaller sensors "change" the lens to more narrow angle, also all hand held movements done with narrower size will be much more jerky than the ones with wider angle- that's our problem with the sensor size.

JISR

August 8, 2014 at 10:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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