I come in peace: Crop Topic

Firstly I come in peace.

Many go grape nuts arguing about things that do not matter much. This is both generally true, but true with photography specifically also. Not always of course. Most people I meet from beginner snapper to pro photographer are typically wonderful. But comment sections are a badlands where ne’er do wells do dwell. What are the issues? Everything evidently. Canon vs. Nikon and on and on. Natural vs. Strobe. Mirrorless vs. DSLR. Sensor size. I could go on, but I am here mainly about the last 2.

But let me get a couple of things out of the way.

  1. Though I may be swayed by emotion at times I am mostly brand agnostic. How so? I sit here struggling to think of a brand I have not owned between film and digital. Canon. Nikon. Olympus. Panasonic. Hasselblad. Mamiya. Pentax. Fujica and Fujifilm. Polaroid. Holga… And on. Ok. Got it. Leica. And that is only because they are adamant about not depreciating. One day.
  2. I have used quite a few sensor sizes organic and digital. Mobile phone. Point and shoot. 1″. Micro 4/3. APS-C. Full frame. 6×4.5, 6×6. 6×7. 6×9. I have gone no larger in digital due again to cost. I have gone no larger with film due to sloth. Had an opportunity to pick up a vintage large format film camera, but once I got my head around what it would take to simply load the film I decided now was not the time. One day.

And we’re back.

Analog vs. Digital.

  1. Who cares?
  2. Why choose?
  3. Why argue?

Mirrorless vs. DSLR?

  1. Who cares?
  2. Why choose?
  3. Why argue?

Full frame vs. Crop?

  1. Who cares?
  2. Why choose?
  3. Why argue?

Here is the bottom line and the only question.

What do you like? Not forever. But today. What would you like to use? You are not stuck. There are a mess of websites willing to trade and sell new and used gear. (KEH.com is usually my first used gear stop followed by Adorama, B&H, and ebay.) Don’t know what you want to buy? Rent. And the most awesome thing you can find is a local camera shop. My personal favorite is Southeastern Camera, Carrboro, NC.

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Wilson, Matthew, and Chris of Southeastern Camera Carrboro. -Fujica GWS690

My favorite when I was in NYC was B&H Photo Video. Worked blocks away for MetLife at 1 Penn Plaza as a Systems Analyst for a time and I would stop through regularly. Would have frequented Adorama as well, but I only found about them after migrating southward. Thank goodness for the internets.

Why do I switch brands fairly often? Simple.

  1. It’s fun.
  2. There is no number 2.

I do not know what you are here for, with regards to photography, but I am here for the fun. Would I love to have a photography career that takes me across the globe making beautiful images of beautiful people (spiritually, not concerned about aesthetically) and beautiful places (aesthetically)? Duh. Yes. That sounds awesome. Perhaps one day. But right now it is primarily a pursuit of passion not a profession for profit. A most wonderful form of therapy.

So crop topic. Psst. It is not about your sensor size. It is about you and your subject and how you choose to frame it.

My last and most recent (digital) brand change (As far as I can recall I have never sold a film camera. Why would you?) had nothing to do with sensor size specifically, but symptoms of such. It had nothing to do with mirrorless or DSLR specifically. So why did I change? My needs and wants changed. I had wanted the ultimate detail gatherer under ideal conditions. I had wanted as close to a medium format look and quality as I could get out of an “affordable” (sub $2K acquired on trade when a brand bailed on their customers) camera body. I got what I wanted.

Then my wants changed.

Simply put this set up did not travel as well as I liked. Had been watching Fujifilm for a while, but their price point was a bit more dear new than I was willing to pay. But I am patient. With the march of time and new releases that has changed recently. After confirming for myself that the Fujifilm punches well above specs, size and weight I decided to make the move. So my shift this time was motivated by downsizing once again. Full frame to crop? What are you mad? Perhaps since this is the second time I have done this (the first from Sony full frame to crop Pentax. This time from Pentax full frame to crop Fujifilm) You cannot fight physics.

  • I am viewfinder agnostic as well. While I do appreciate a DSLR’s OVF the mirror box adds size and weight. Plus for me it is a framing tool and I do not ever recall thinking thank goodness I am using this ?VF while shooting.
  • While I love the inherent advantages of a larger light gathering surface, especially for portraits, larger sensor means larger image circle which necessitates larger and heavier lenses. Multiply this by a few lenses and this all can fill a camera bag and weigh down a shoulder pretty quickly.

Sidebar: One item I do have to adjust to when I switch to mirrorless is battery life. But for me there is a cheap solution. Buy more batteries.

Again it is about what you are looking for. I shot family portraits for a reunion not that long ago and there are few better digital tools I could have used over the full frame Pentax K-1.

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Pentax K-1 w/ budget 3 light kit.

But if I am honest:

  1. Many of these pictures will never see any format larger than online or smaller prints. For this reason with the lighting used (a budget 3 light umbrella kit) nearly any camera sensor size would have sufficed.
  2. Full frame, schmull frame. Medium digital is beyond my means at present, but due to a lovely thing called depreciation I have and love many medium format film cameras I could only dream of in my youth. I am a friend of film having started there when my Dad showed me the ropes as a kid. 29088230786_33e503dc04_oIf I had a scanner at the time and more rolls of film on me I would have shot them all with one of these. Here is one I took with the same set up at the same event before running out of film.
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Hasselblad 501c w/ budget 3 light kit.

Objective: Is there a difference in IQ between full frame and crop? Most definitely. Yes every single time. Is there a difference between an EVF and OVF focus speed wise? Yes, but see below.

Subjective: Is this difference significant enough to warrant carrying a larger kit for me? No. Two times around the full frame digital horn and for me there is not that large of a difference. Is the focus speed gap between EVF and OVF as big as it used to be due to technical advances? No in my opinion. Phase detect on sensor has made quite the difference.

I close with this. Real world is what matters to me. The simplest way for me to evaluate gear over time is taking the same or similar shots, obsessively aggregating cameras and lenses all by album in flickr and then compare them. The mini galleries below are side by sides of not exact matches, but similar enough photos to give me an idea of what each camera can do. What I have learned over time is that the light gathering device does not really matter. One each from my last full frame and from my current APS-C. Not scientific. I tended to shoot a lot of legacy glass on the K-1 for instance. Other than relative file size I have not given anything up IQ wise for my purposes. Shoot what you want. Try what you want or even what you did not even know you wanted and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. Make images not snarky blog comments. Remember I come in peace. Most importantly have fun. Happy shooting.

-ELW

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