When to go full-frame and when not to (under a budget)

In this article  we engage in an age old discussion “to full-frame or not to full-frame”. We find cheap ways to go full-frame and discuss more stuff.

Everyone already knows that a good photograph has nothing to do with the camera, until that moment it does. If you haven’t seen those articles already, I highly suggest checking out the following articles; Your Camera Doesn’t Matter by Ken Rockwell (love em or hate em, he makes some good points) & WHY GEAR DOESN’T MATTER by  The Art of Photography

Also I highly suggest checking out The Art of Photography Youtube Channel , because its a wonderful plethora of knowledge explained by a person who actually knows what he is taking about. Now to get back to our topic which is, why go full frame?. The short answer is , you don’t need to. This has to do with what actually dictates your need to go full frame. I came from :
to Canon 1000D bargain basement crop sensor 

to 5D Classic (aka 5D Mark 1)

 What does this has to do with this topic? a lot apparently. See, you are just like me, probably is a hobbyist photographer who takes pictures for fun. Those who are professionals (means bread and butter depends on earning from photography) already has all the systems needed specifically targeted to their profession (macro setup for product photographers, studio setup for fashion etc) . But people like you and me whose photographs are something of a self expression and sometimes even meditation and a relaxing activity from everyday drudgery of life, we can’t spend so much on a camera system.
Usually what happens is we usually save up for a DSLR and we buy in to the 3 categories, because that is what we can reasonably afford.
  • Low End : These are the 1000D, 1100D and 1200D / D3000, D3100, D3200 . We usually buy them when we are on a budget and have checked out many youtube videos and well they look fine to me, so why not go for it. In reality, there is nothing wrong with that.
  • Upper Low End : These are the  T3i, T5i, T7i / D5200, D5300 etc.
  • Mid Range : These are the 7D, D7200 .

And then the full frame starts such as 6D, 5D, D610, D810, A7 up to the pro of 1D and D5 and super pros with their Hasselblads. If you look closely there is usually a $1000 gap between the full-frame and crop. Now why is that ? Could the manufacturer null the difference with pure technological prowess ? The answer is Yes, they could have , but they won’t . Because back in the day you had your SLR camera , the rangefinder ones (which used 35mm film) and then you had upper of medium format which was greater than 35mm and above up to large format cameras. The early cameras had small digital sensors and were stacking up on pixel count. The main focus of the day was “not having to wait for the photos to be developed” rather than “how big the sensor is”. Just like you can fit more RAM in the same space every couple of years, sensors do the same with pixel count increasing, but the size remains the same. You get these many pixels 17,915,904 (18 megapixels) in a tiny area . So its easier for the manufacturer to convince us, the newbies to just buy one and when enough people bought into it, it became a thing, today we call it APS-C. The same goes for point and shoot and mobile/cell phone cameras, they have convinced everyone that any sensor size is just ok. Now what does this mean ? nothing. Be happy with what you have. If you have an AE86 be Takumi. Crop sensor cameras are very good and a good lens, framing etc. has more to do with taking a good photo than just camera.

So why does photos from Full-Frame cameras looks generally better? well, it has something to do with the size of the sensor. Bigger sensor (in size, not in MegaPixel) means its covering more area and its getting to more of the light that is coming through the lens and since its using more of the lens, it produces greater depth of field and overall gives that “film look” when you postprocess which a lot of people desires. Also most full-frames are build sturdy (my 5D has been working perfectly for the last 12 years). So if you are in the market and say you have $700 get yourself a used 5D mark II from ebay or KEH , you will have video and a good sensor, but better than any higher MegaPixel crop. If you just take pictures and don’t care about video or live view then a 5D classic like mine would do. Think of it this way, A 2007 Nissan 350z is way more fun to drive than a 2017 Corolla of today. Both cost the same, both have air-con and 4 wheels, goes from A to B, one has been featured on Tokyo Drift and the other, well, never mind. Both are reliable depending how you use them, this goes for cameras as well, durability is all about how to handle things (not baby diapering it, rather using it the right way without harm).

If you have a crop camera , I think better Lenses are a good investment choice rather than a body. For $700 you can get yourself a L series lens or the Nikon equivalent, which would satisfy you more, I promise. With seller ratings at 5 stars I don’t think its statistically reasonable conclusion that your copy of whatever used camera you end up with is pretty ok. May require some cleaning but thats cheap to do. Don’t worry about sensor dust either, just get a sensor cleaning kit for like $10. Or just get it from KEH they are like $100 more but they ensure everything is ok. (PS: I don’t earn from those links, they are just links).

Or may be the problem isn’t full-frame or Not. I discovered something, once I got the 5D which is slightly bigger than my old 1000D, I took less and less pictures, the main reason is that a 5D coupled with a prime lens usually means carrying an entire camera bag, and taking it out and putting it back is just such a hassle. The more flexible and less threatening your camera is, the more pictures you will take with peace of mind. This is why I love rangefinder and mirrorlesss cameras. You can get a used full-frame mirrorless Sony A7 for just $800 dollars on ebay (last time I checked) or Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm f1.4 for just $1000 or even the Fuji X100D (which would fit in your pocket) for $700.

So good luck. Its not the camera, its you.

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