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Insights & Thoughts

Crop or Crap? Zack Arias Tackles The Question Of Full Frame vs Crop Sensors

By Anthony Thurston on July 28th 2014

Zack Arias is one of the biggest names in photography education of recent years. He built his name on the idea that a photographer can use one light to create stunning images. Today, I am sharing a recent video Zack did tackling the age old (haha, not really) question of Full Frame Sensors vs APS-C Sensors.

sensor-comparison

I have said, in the past, that you should move toward full frame sensors. I have always championed full frame sensors.” Zack states in the description of his video, “At the end of the day, full frame sensors beat APS sized and smaller sensors.

But you see Zack has had a change of heart, in fact – I would say that Fuji stole his heart with this latest round of APS-C mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji X-Pro1. The following video is Zach explaining why he thinks the differences between APS-C and Full Frame are negligible these days, and why you really should consider APS-C based cameras into your camera buying opinions…

The camera Zack talks about in the video, the Fuji X-T1, is a great mirrorless camera. It stands out, to me, as one of the best options available in the APS-C and mirrorless realms. I currently shoot with the EOS M as my primary camera (My 6D sat collecting dust, so I sold it), so I don’t really need to be sold on the quality of APS-C. Many of you however, would do well to watch this video.

fuji-fujinon-fujifilm-xe2-xpro1-x100s-review-photography-11

No one is trying to say that Full Frame is not better than APS-C, but the gap is much, MUCH, smaller than many of you seem to think that it is. As far as image quality in normal conditions, the gap is almost nothing. In low light, Full Frame still has an edge, but as mentioned, it’s not THAT much. It is all about perspective, and while the “Full Frame Is Always Better” mantra was true in the past, it’s not really the case anymore.

[REWIND: SLR Lounge Reviews the Fuji X-E2]

So take a step back, and next time you are looking to buy a new camera, at least take a look at the latest round of crop sensor bodies. Chances are, they will perform much better than you expect, and they may even steal your heart, as the Fuji‘s did with Zack…

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What are your thoughts on this video from Zach Arias? Do you still believe Full Frame is superior is every respect, or has your mind opened up to the possibility of APS-C being a quality option? Leave a comment below!

[via Zack Arias on Youtube]

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. JON SOLIS

    Marvellous vid Zack. I was budget limited to a Nikon 7100 and with time bought second hand pro lenses. I Incidentally heard all kinds of moaning about that, which I ignored, I’ve been shooting since I was nine and I’m in my forties, so I’ll keep my own council after research. However, when it came to the actual shots, I was pleased over the kit DX lens. Sometimes the ‘professional’ arena should be less full of itself and a little more practical, even perhaps honest. Absolutely right, you compose, you capture. You don’t need anyone to call you a pro when you know your work. solisphoto.blogspot

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  2. Chris Nachtwey

    Sensor size only matter if you care about size of have actual needs for a larger sensor. The photographer makes the best out of any sensor size they are working with.

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  3. Randall Huleva

    This is a somewhat amusing video that has been produced. I say that only because I have been saying EXACTLY the same thing verbatim for almost two years only to receive ridicule and to be scoffed at by “professional” photographers….or at least professional photographer wannabes…who have insisted that as a rank amateur, I have absolutely NO IDEA what I am talking about.

    Why is it that the same message has more credence coming from a respected professional in the industry/

    Last November I attended the wedding of two very dear friends in Capitola, CA. They had opted to use two family friends as their official wedding photographers. Both shooters were using the very capable Canon 5D Mk III. You would imagine that a “professional photographer” using such a wonderful full frame camera body should be able to provide some amazing wedding images for the couple.

    I decided not to shoot my iPhone during the ceremony out of respect for the couple and to not distract the other invited guests, however, once the reception began I began shooting a lot of impromptu snapshots with my iPhone 5.

    I had told the couple that once they received the RAW images from their photographer, I would do the post production editing and produce an album and slideshow for them as my gift to them. However, to my surprise, when the professional images were posted to Dropbox they were horrible!

    I know my old Canon AE-1 Program took better images than what these photographers had captured at this once in a lifetime event. Very quickly, the couple thanked me for shooting impromptu at the reception as they were much happier with the images I had captured without even really trying on my iPhone 5 than those their professionals had captured with a ton of fancy gear!

    Fortunately, after some extensive post production work, I was able to salvage enough shots to still produce the book I had promised them…however, a good 80% or the final images delivered were the result of extensive digital enhancement.

    The takeway here is that GEAR does not make a great image! A photographer who has a vision for what he/she is trying to create makes a great image! I don’t care if you use a point and shoot, mobile phone, or a Nikon D4s – when the client is looking at their images throughout their lifetime, they aren’t going to give a darn what kind of gear the image was shot with…only that they have a lovely image to remember their special day.

    THAT is the meaning of success as a photographer. If you’re someone who thinks the MOST EXPENSIVE gear must be the BEST gear, I’ve got a newsflash for you. YOU are the sucker that the camera companies keep building that stuff for so you will feel like you just CAN’T LIVE without it! I’ll continue shooting with my D7100, iPhone, and my Canon Powershot S90. They aren’t the most glamorous cameras on the market, but they get the job done and by the time I finish in post, I’ll put my images up along side anyone’s. I don’t claim to be the greatest photographer…or even counted among the great ones, however I can produce some extraordinary results that I certainly won’t be ashamed of.

    Stop chasing the “latest and greatest”! Become a master of the camera you have and learn to see the world around you as the camera sees it and you will be well on your way to becoming a very accomplished photographer!

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    • Herm Tjioe

      I share those same point of views as well. Too many who are over-reliant on the gear to count.

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  4. Michael Stafford

    I think FUJI stole Arias’ wallet, not his heart. Can’t put much stock in an opinion when a guy is being paid by the company. Money , free cameras and free travel, have a way of changing one’s “opinions”.

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  5. Jussi Panula

    I shoot professionally both FF and crop. The only problem for me to switch to Mirrorless is the handling. I tried the X-pro1 when it came out and just recently tried the X-T1. I’m sure the image quality is very good but handling and speed cannot be compared to even an semi/entry level dSLR. I shoot mainly D3s because it works as quick as i do. To my work 12mpix is plenty, because i shoot mainly for online.

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  6. Michael Stagg

    I think Zack does a great job of breaking things down here and presents a logical arguement. My question is: why do we, as image makers, even worry about “gear issues”. Canon versus Nikon, cropped versus full frame, DSLR versus Micro 4/3. As Zack stated, “It’s all about the moron behind the camera”. Everything else is secondary, right?

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    • Matthew Saville

      Secondary indeed, Michael. However it also depends on how far you like to push the envelope in order to pursue your creative adventures. I personally am extremely picky about which cameras I use, for random, weird reasons that have to do with the types of special situations I often find myself in. An obscure feature that 90% of users might go their entire lives without ever using could be the one thing that makes my life infinitely easier.

      My point is, sure, there’s an element of “grass is greener” in any Canon vs Nikon or FX vs DX discussion. However there are also plenty of other elements that are entirely important, depending on what you want to do with the camera.

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  7. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing this great vídeo. Now that I have both a corpped sensor and a Full Frame Sensor, I can see that it makes a big difference in terms of focal lenght, but a very small difference when it comes to Picture quality.

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  8. Eric Sharpe

    I think I’m kind of over listening to people’s opinions of cameras. Which I feel is kind of the point of the video. I’m just focusing on the gear that I have, and the art that I want to create with it. When I feel I’ve reached the limitations of what I can do with my gear, I’ll look for something else.

    It’s nice to see what everyone is saying about the new Fuji cameras. They look great. However, I have a Nikon D7000. When I search for images on 500px, shot with a Nikon D7000, I’m blown away. So, it’s not my camera that’s the problem, it’s me! LOL.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      The D7000 is still a great camera! I know when the D7100 came out a lot of D7000 shooters were not upgrading.

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  9. Randy Frum

    Gee I am not sure where all this Canon bashing is coming from??? Regardless… I think this was more about selling the Fuji rather than comparing sensors. Which I do not think there is anything wrong with that. They all do it to make a buck.

    For a lot of needs… I agree … Sensor wise there is not a lot of difference. I shot crop for several years before I started shooting for $$. For me the biggest difference between the two is the low light performance. In my case I shoot almost all of my work in low light. Hovering around ISO 1600 to 3200 most of the time (sometimes 6400) the FF gives me usable footage, where as with my APS-C I never liked to go above 1600 with a preference for 800.

    Now with the Fuji or any of the other smaller cameras like the EOS-M… this wouldn’t only be about the sensor but also about the body. Having the ability to change ISO, Shutter, Aperture… etc without moving my eye from the camera is something that I do at each event and wouldn’t want to live without it.

    So… If I always had plenty of light the APS-C would be more than adequate for me. And if I didn’t need the functionality of all the controls… I could even go to one of the smaller cameras without issue.

    As for the Canon bashing (or Nikon bashing or otherwise). Please take it somewhere else. This is not the place for it.

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    • Al cu

      I hope my comments didn’t come off CanNikon bashing , but I I’ve been shooting Oly since film and I’ve had conversations where a fellow photographer in one breath says, “this image is absolutely stunning, what are you using?” then I’d say Olympus and In the next breath they say ” You should try a canon”…… That s—t will make your brains ooze out of your skull if I ‘d had listen to it the last decade plus

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  10. MARTIN MIANO

    I feel much better with my APS-C censor….photographers make a photo ….p.s this guy is hilarious

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  11. Dominik Floess

    Unfortunately, within the canon eco system the difference between APS-C and full frame is not just about the sensor dimensions and I think the two system don’t compete in a fair way here. All the high end glass and really good sensor technology Canon only puts into the full frame system. And what bothers me most is that Canon offers only a few pure APS-C lenses with very good image quality. Why is there no purely APS-C 50mm or 35mm equivalent lens with wide aperture? When I have to screw the bulky full frame lenses on my APS-Body I don’t get the weight advantage of APS-C.

    I think here lies the big chance for Fuji and MFT.

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  12. Al cu

    Unless your shooting billboards, gobs and gobs of money can be made with a cropped sensor . The EM1 and m.zuiko glass produces oil painting bokeh and punchy subjects. I’ve seen my fair share of canon/nikon images with dizzy swirling bokeh and flat range. Brand bias is a real disease, my clients don’t by spec sheets

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  13. Harry Lim

    If he has indeed said in the past that full frame is better he should have said so in the beginning of the video. Something like: “I used to think this…but technology has advanced and sensors have gotten better, so now I believe this.” But he comes across all preachy as if he’s been saying this all along.

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  14. Russ Wittmann

    I agree with his comment the difference between Full Frame and APS-C is negligible.

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  15. Ralph Hightower

    When I was looking for a DSLR, I thought an APS-C was more in the budget. There are pros and cons for APS cameras. The pro is that telephotos get longer reach; the con is that the photographer is cheated on the wide angle side. I want a wide angle to be a wide angle, not a normal lens.
    Coming from shooting full frame 35mm film, I wanted a 28mm to be a 28mm, not a 44mm. During the December holiday sales, I bought a full frame DSLR and as a bonus, an “L” lens was the kit lens. I’m amazed at the speed of autofocus. I continue to use my film cameras alongside, because they still work.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Technically speaking, this has nothing to do with crop sensors VS full-frame, and everything to do with Canon’s elitist snobbery.

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    • Jim Johnson

      I love Sigma’s 16mm. On a full frame it’s a fisheye, but on a crop it is just a superb wide angle lens (a 24mm equivalent)>

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    • Matthew Saville

      I’m surprised that more people haven’t figured this out yet. I’ve been touting the impressive results that APS-C sensors have been delivering for a while now; I think that the past 1-2 generations of APS-C sensors have been absolutely incredible. (Aside from Canon’s inability to develop their sensors’ DR past that invisible wall that they smacked up against so many years ago, but that’s an issue with both FF and APS-C sensors, on their part. In fact the Nikon D7000 and D5300 etc. have far superior DR to even Canon FF bodies, but that’s another flame war for another day…)

      Even if shallow DOF is important to you, lenses like the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 and other medium / wide angle primes are delivering the goods WRT both DOF / bokeh, and focal range. In fact at this point I bet that if you added up all the modern, decent FX ultra-wide lenses and compared them against the modern, decent DX ultra-wide lenses, the crop-sensor collection would beat out the full-frame collection for not just variety and value, but also performance in many instances.

      But of course, the proof is in the pudding. Which is what I’ll be dedicating a lot of my time to in the coming down season… :-D

      =Matt=

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  16. Stephen Velasquez

    For professional work I could switch to a fuji or sony mirroless camera but it is the other features in my DSLR that does a better job than these other camera’s. It is only ashamed that Sony, Nikon, Canon are not making professional crop sensor camera lately.

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  17. Enzo Scorziello

    This is a great article. He nailed it on the head when he said its all about the moron behind the camera. I personally just bought a Sony a-6000 and absolutely love it. Unless you start pixel peeping side by side shots at ridiculous ISOs you can’t tell what camera shot what. I absolutely love the portability and comfort of the small body. Now if only we could start getting some good fast primes for Sony and I’d be happy.

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  18. Juan David Molina

    There are some mistakes in this video.
    Fist one is that you are comparing digital fuji (4/3) and digital full frame, then you have the reason that against 8″x10″is a very big difference, but there is no commercial sensor that size, then keep the topic, do not go that far…
    Second you say that there is not a big step from APS to FF but there is a big step from FF to Medium format and is not correct. APS is around 15×22 or 16×24 (depends of brand) then you can put 2 complete APS sensors inside a FF. But the new digital medium formats are 44×33, then you could not put 2 complete FF sensors inside, then there is more difference between APS and FF.
    Third one, you have complete reason that the cameras do not have eyes but the photographer. However you start the video answering a user with FF that is doubting to go for a Fuji and that is not an answer, because one is technical and the other is subjective.
    And finally is the bokeh. For some photographers is big enough difference, for example if you are shooting FF with a 85mm at f/: 2.8 and other photographer is at your side shooting the same picture with a APS-C trying to reach your depth of field need a 55mm open to f/: 1.6 or 1.8 and there is more, if someone with a Fuji 4/3 is at my side trying the same, must use a 42mm opened at f/: 1.4, then the difference is huge!. In fact if you have a 85mm with f1.4 in a FF never can reach that bokeh with a 4/3 sensor because there is no commercial 42mm with an f/: 0.7

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    • Jesse Ford

      Why do you keep referring to the Fuji as a 4/3 camera? I think you’re missing the point of the article.

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    • Ian Moss

      I found this comment a bit confusing!

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    • Ian Moss

      Having switched from DSLR to M43, I see very little difference in quality on a day to day basis. To be honest, as much of my paid work is with younger people, many clients aren’t going to be making wall-sized prints, or indeed prints at all.. If 99% of the work is going to end up on facebook, then I’m more than happy with my Oly. As my work for myself, after walking in the hills for 10 miles looking for that great landscape, I’m ready so chuck the DSLR in a ditch.

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    • fotosiamo

      Not everyone shoots wide open all day everyday. Hell, shooting product’s a pain when shooting FF because the extremely shallow DOF even at f/11-f/16 unless I use a tilt-shift.

      That said, I use an a7R primarily because it’s a 36MP that gets me a little closer to a MF in terms of resolution. But I’d be fine with APS-C if it can handle the resolution (or I’ll just save up for a MF, haha!)

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    • Matthew Saville

      1.) There are in fact certain photographers who have actually switched from full-frame DSLRs to 8×10 large format cameras, so I think the comparison is indeed very relevant. Resolution is resolution is resolution. Check out Ben Horne’s work if you’d like; he shoots landscapes on an 8×10, and his Nikon D800, which he used to use for landscapes, now just does his BTS videos lol!

      2.) You’re confusing sensors and film sizes. What Zack said was, 35mm to 6x7cm was a huge jump. It absolutely is. Of course as you point out I don’t think they make a 6×7 digital sensor, but the point is the same: Either way you can still resolve much more detail from a 6×7 slide / negative, than even the highest resolution 35mm DSLRs, let alone a 35mm piece of film.

      3.) The whole point about the photographer being the eye behind the camera is a reason IN FAVOR of using whatever sensor size you want to. If you want to use full-frame, then that’s great! Your creative vision won’t be held back by it or anything. But if you want to use a crop sensor, neither should you be “held back” by it WRT a creative eye.

      4.) As pointed out, Fuji is not 4/3, at least not the X-T1 that Zack was talking about. And the difference in DOF from 1.5x to FX is, well, NEGLIGIBLE. I have, in fact, been collecting innumerable tests along these lines, since the Nikon D800e offers DX crop mode, and I’ll be publishing samples sooner or later. Plus, new lenses like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 have been chipping away at this difference as well.

      The bottom line is, if you want full-frame, that’s fine. But if you’re considering a smaller sensor, don’t count it out. That’s all we’re saying here.

      =Matt=

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  19. David Pickering

    When it comes to equipment I still think that the lenses are more important than the camera body they are on but in the end It all boils down to the person behind the camera. I have seen pictures taken on smart phones by amazing photographers that hands down are better than pictures taken by folk that have the best gear money can buy and no idea how to use it.

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  20. Jim Johnson

    “Better”— I love that word. It has specific meaning by itself. “Better” in what way? Crop sensors generally have a much lower price, so wouldn’t that make them better to full frames (at least in that area).

    I think Zach Arias nails the crux of the problem without ever really bringing attention to it: there is always something “better” when you compare only one specific quality. You have to decide what works for you (and you alone) overall.

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  21. Herm Tjioe

    Exactly why going FF isn’t what it’s cracked up to be

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  22. Steven Pellegrino

    I made the jump from a Canon 5D M2 to Fuji X cameras and haven’t regretted it. They’re great cameras. But it’s not just Fuji’s because there are other photographers jumping to Olympus and Sony.

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