Crop or Crap :: Math or Moment · DEDPXL

Let’s get a few things out of the way ::

I have said, in the past, that you should move toward full frame sensors. I have always championed full frame sensors. At the end of the day, full frame sensors beat APS sized and smaller sensors.

The whole reason I bought an original x100 was because it had the largest sensor I could find in a small camera. Yes, it’s a crop sensor but I was only looking for a nice point and shoot that I could carry around with me when I didn’t want to carry a DSLR. I wasn’t looking for a “work” camera.

It had been a number of years since I had shot an APS crop frame sensor. The last APS camera I shot professionally was the Nikon D200. I replaced that with a Nikon D3 (full frame) and then moved on to the Canon 5d2, (also full frame.) From the time I retired my D200 to using the x100 on jobs was about four years. When I bought that little x100 I had ZERO desire to change to a new camera system. I sure as hell was NOT going to switch from a full frame camera to an APS camera. Full frame cameras are better. Right?

For proof of this check out this clip from my 2010 CreativeLive class…

So why am I back pedaling now?

I started shooting personal work with my little Fuji. Then I pulled it out on jobs from time to time because I loved that little camera. Then I used it more. Then I got the X-Pro1. Then I started seeing my Fuji images in print. Then I started putting the Q&A book together and I had the chance to run pages of test prints for the book. I printed every type of image I had from every camera I had owned. Studio shots. High ISO shots. Portraits. Street photos. I cropped into some images and enlarged them to full page. I received the test prints back and I taped them to the wall and took one step back. My Fuji images ran side by side with D3 and 5d2 images without a single noticeable drop in quality. If anything, my Fuji images were just a tad sharper. My PhaseOne medium format images were the only images that had a noticeable change in quality when I looked at everything side by side.

You know what happened between my D200 and the Fuji x100? Technology got better. And I’m saying this across the board. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus… all the technology in our modern day cameras have increased ten fold or more. When I jumped to full frame sensors they were far better in terms of image quality than the crop sensors of that time.

During the time I was saying, “full frame sensors are the way to go,” crop sensors were getting better and better and better. As did full frame. Everything has gotten better but I’d argue that the difference in image quality from crop to full frame has narrowed significantly. However, through that time I still argued that 35mm full frame was still a small format. It is a small format. It’s a tiny ass little itty bitty format when you compare it to the other formats of photography out today. I didn’t think that full frame was better just based on size.

Why are professionals all around the world working with 35mm based DSLRs and not medium format and up? Simple — price. The price of a medium format system is still stupid. It took me a long time to save up for mine and I still have a very limited medium format kit. I have one body and back and three prime lenses. I don’t have a second body or back because I just can’t put the money into it. If it fails on set then I go to my Fuji’s.



Looking at the 100% crop in the photo above shows me that every bit of detail that I need from a working camera can be achieved using an APS camera. This XT1 blows my old D100 and D200 images out of the water. It stands side by side with anything I ever shot with my D3 and I’d say it’s a hair sharper than my 5d2 images. It doesn’t match that of a medium format camera… but what does? I’ve tested the Nikon D800 pixel beast and it still doesn’t come close to matching a medium format camera. Would it best the XT1? By a bit it does. By enough that I’m going to go all in on a Nikon D800 kit? Because it has that tiny bit much more detail? No way. If I’m going to drop money on a big expensive camera why piss around with a small 35mm and not just go big or go home? #amirite?

Look. Some of the trolls out there are going to think this is a Fuji sponsored message. It isn’t. While Fuji is a client of mine and I have done work for them they sure as hell don’t keep food on my table or a roof over my head on any sort of regular basis. I don’t get shit for saying this stuff or making blog posts like this. I’m simply relaying my experiences working with all sorts of cameras in all sorts of situations. And in preparation for making this blog post I have done a lot of pixel peeping at newer APS cameras from Nikon, Canon, Sony, and the rest and I feel confident saying… APS sensors kick ass these days. Across the board. Whatever you are shooting.

So that brings us to the physical size difference. Is that such a big deal? The thing that I would first consider is depth of field. The larger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field you get at a given aperture. I’ve run a few tests for myself and I have yet to see a big difference in this regard from APS to full frame. When I jump to the Phase?  That’s when it shows up. Night and day difference on not just the amount of fall off with focus, but the way the focus falls off. I hate the term bokeh because 99% of the time I hear people use that word they have no idea what in the hell they are talking about. It’s become this catch phrase for “out of focus” or “shallow depth of field.” When people say, “Wow. I love the bokeh in your pictures,” that’s a pretty good sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s how much focus falls off then there’s how it falls off.

Four things effect the depth of field in your photographs. Aperture, focal length, camera to subject distance, and sensor size.

Where things start to get confusing and is the topic of many a debate on forums is focal length of lenses and equivalent focal lengths in regard to crop sensors and all that. Let’s look at three different sensor sizes and their equivalent lenses that would give the same field of view. Field of view is way different than depth of field. Here is a Nikon D3 with an 85mm lens. That is 1:1. The equivalent field of view lens on a 1.5 crop factor Fuji is the 56mm. Then I’ll add the micro 4/3’s Panasonic GH4 to the mix with the Panasonic/Leica 42.5mm lens. The Panasonic has a 2.0 crop factor compared to a full frame camera like the D3. All of these images were shot from the same distance and all were shot at f 2.8.


bokeh balls

Here we have three shots that are basically the same frame shot with three different focal lengths and you can clearly see the difference in the depth of field. The D3 bokeh balls are softer and larger, thus more out of focus. The Fuji 56mm is slightly more out of focus. The deepest, or largest depth of field comes from the smaller sensor sized GH4 camera. So… at an 85mm equivalent focal length, the full frame sensor camera has… shallower depth of field. Yes? The proof is in the pudding! There it is! Full frame wins the bokeh ball challenge!

Aperture remained constant. Distance remained constant. The only other thing we have to look at is focal length and sensor size. Which one has the most effect on the changes in depth of field? It is my contention (and argument and hypothesis) that focal length is causing the greatest change in what we’re seeing. We go from an 85mm lens to a 56mm lens to a 42.5mm lens. The longer the lens… the shallower the depth of field. The wider the lens, the deeper, or longer the depth of field. Focal length has a HUGE impact on depth of field.

Look at the same 85mm lens on a full frame D3 and then on the Fuji APS crop sensor. Same lens. Same aperture. Same camera to subject distance…

free lensing

Look at those bokeh balls. They’re pretty damn similar if you ask me. Here’s where the fight will start. Are they equal focal lengths when you start putting them on different sized sensors? Is the 85 more of a telephoto on the Fuji than it is on the Nikon? I know we are seeing a magnified image or are we just seeing a crop of the lens? Is the lens still a true 85mm on both?

When I was in photography school we had a class called “The Science of Photography.” It was taught by a physics teacher and one of the assignments we had that quarter was to build a pinhole camera. It went beyond that, though. We had to build a pinhole camera and then calculate its focal length and aperture. Lots of math ensued.

And yes, the image above, I didn’t get it tack sharp and all that and I’m not super interested in doing so. I was free-lensing the thing. Let the conspiracy theories begin!!! Click any of those to see them larger.

Is there more going on with sensor size? Well, Tony Northrup recently made a video going deep into the differences of sensor sizes in respect to aperture values, ISO, etc. There’s a lot of math in his video. Some of the points he’s made have been hotly contested. Look, I’m not going to say he’s right or wrong on all of his points about sensor size and aperture and ISO values. If I were to argue with any of his points it would be more about ISO than anything else. Tony puts out great stuff and his video above is well researched and I think his math is right but honestly, my dear? I have not a damn to give!

Do you want math? Or do you want moments? Math? Moments? What will define great photography? Yes. Yes. Photography is art and science and you need to have a foot planted in each of those to be a well-rounded photographer. At some point, though, it gets overwhelming.

Here’s what I know:

Aperture, focal length, camera to subject distance, and sensor size ALL play a role in depth of field. If I’m walking up to a scene or creating a portrait and I have a full frame with an 85mm and I want a shallow depth of field I can go to f2 or whatever. If I put the full frame camera down and pick up a Fuji with the 56mm I know I’m going to get a deeper depth of field at f2 so I might want to open up to f1.2 or something to get an equivalent depth of field because two things are going on. I’m going to a “wider” lens and I’m using a smaller sensor.

“But Zack! I have math that says…..”

I’m so glad you brought math! Love it! Yummy math! That’s why I’m a photographer. Because I love math so much. That’s why I study the likes of Avedon and Mary Ellen Mark and Dan Winters; it’s because of all their gorgeous math. Every time I see a beautiful photograph I grab a calculator because math turns me on that much. Have you ever studied the math of Paolo Roversi (NSFW)? OMG. His math… his math is unreal. Love his math. I hope to do math like him one day. Mmmmm. Math.

I’m just being a jerk. I know math is important. Math or moments? Math or moments? Math or moments? Get a basic hold on some math and then go get those moments!

The last physical issue I’ve run into for a long time with crop sensors is the fact that it really puts blinders on your wide angle lenses. However, camera manufacturers are bringing some amazing wide lenses to the market now. Fuji has the new 10-24mm and a gorgeous 14mm. I’ve also recently purchased the Panasonic 7-14mm for my GH4 and it’s a kick ass wide lens. More on the GH4 later. A 15mm equivalent is all I personally need. I have owned one fisheye lens in my life, had it for about two years, didn’t use it much (or only used it as a crutch when I couldn’t think of something more interesting to do), and then I sold it.

Let's get back to large format.
Real full frame photography.


I have twice had the privilege of seeing Gregory Heisler’s work in print. I’m talking about large gallery prints. There’s a photo he has of Cal Ripken that was shot with a large format camera. It has a shallow depth of field and the background is out of focus. The thing that made me stop and stare though is how the focus falls off. Seeing how the focus falls off in that transition from in focus to not in focus. Holy shit. There’s nothing like it; 35mm cameras are tiny baby toys when it comes to that.

NOTE :: I’m not talking about tilting and/or shifting the lens or film to move the plane of focus. I’m not speaking to that AT ALL. I’m talking about how an area of an image comes into focus and then falls out of focus. That “focus gradient” for lack of a better term, or, how the field of focus works with large format film and optics. That’s what Willis and I are talking about. Large format cameras and lenses give you this “look” that just can’t be achieved with smaller formats. Medium format then gives you a look and feel that can’t be achieved in smaller formats. Take a photo with your DSLR at f1.8 and then take the same shot with your cell phone. You’ll start to get the idea.

I swear on all things good… You go shoot a portrait with a large format camera, nail that exposure, nail that print… there is nothing like it in the world. It will f*cking ruin you. You need to have the experience of shooting large format at least once in your life. You are cheating yourself out of something mystical, magical, and a royal pain in the ass. You are currently standing on the shoulders of many a large format photographer. You really need to give it a go at some point. It gives you a whole new perspective on DSLR photography. Good and bad. You’ll appreciate the speed and agility the 35mm or whatever gives you but you’ll realize how much you are missing as well. It will humble you. You’ll be thankful for your Canon or Nikon or Fuji but you will know there is something out there in the photographic world that it just can’t touch.

I know I keep eluding to an upcoming post on stitched portraits and it is in the works but let me say this quickly. Stitching Fuji portraits starts to give me the feel of medium format. Stitching medium format starts to give me the feel of large format. I even… back that feeling up with a little bit of math! Look out! That’s coming later though. When? When I finish it. 🙂



Above you see David Burnett working an old 4×5 Speed Graphic in Dubai. He’s still traveling the world with large format cameras and film and all the PITA stuff that goes with that. His coverage of the Olympics with that old Speed Graphic is fantastic and unlike anything other photographers were shooting there.

For a great example of a photographer currently creating kick ass work with an 8×10 please check out the work of Greg Miller. His work is fantastic and that 8×10 format gives his images a special extra *something* that cannot be achieved with our little tiny ass cameras. Check out his blog as well – Dark Cloth Diaries. His “By The People” post is unreal. It’s hard to judge subtleties when looking at images on the Internet but look at how the focus falls off in those images. There’s a special quality to it that I’ve never ever ever seen achieved with anything smaller than a 4×5 camera. You can also see him working on the streets shooting portraits with an 8×10 in this video.

Also check out Gregory Crewdson’s work and the documentary about his process. Wait a minute…. Gregory Heisler. Greg Miller. Gregory Crewdson? Seriously? I guess if your name isn’t Greg or Gregory you just need to stick with small format stuff. 🙂

See also my dear friend Cary Norton. Cary is a photographer’s photographer and shoots just about every format known to man. He built a large format camera out of Legos. It’s called the Legotron. Check it out.

Lastly, check out this post over at Wonderful Machine’s blog about Austin Hargrave photographing Dany DeVito with an 8×10.

So… wanna fight over APS vs Full Frame? Do you have some math to show us? Have you recently been eyeing a “downgrade” to a smaller sensor like the offerings from Sony, Fuji, Olympus, etc? Do you think I’m full of shit? Let’s discuss in the comments below!


Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. David

    Cool video/article Zack, thanks for posting. I have an x100s (which I bought on your recommendation) & a Canon 6d with great glass. Love them both for different reasons. Haven’t tried the XT1 except for in store use…..tempted but I don’t want to change all my glass. The 6d image quality seems to be better than the x100s. Is it the glass I’m using? Maybe. But as the FF sensor surface area is ~2x bigger, and technology advances apply to all sensor sizes, size may indeed matter. Is the x100s amazing……absolutely yes. It’s got a killer apsc sensor & jpeg engine. Maybe I’d change my mind if I could borrow an XT1 with great glass for a week. Then again what will Photokina bring? More choice, more decisions, and more gear dilemmas. Glad the XT1 is working out great for you. Your work is really impressive & inspiring.

    • Mark Baigent

      Hi David

      > But as the FF sensor surface area is ~2x bigger, and technology advances apply to all sensor sizes
      This is true but there are more variables than just size, ie the use of an AA filter that deliberately softened the image on my old 5D11.
      No AA filter of the Fuji Xtrans sensor, I can’t quantify how much difference the AA filter makes to how much detail is resolved. But My 5D11 has gone and I am now only using The Fuji kit.( I started with a 14″x11″ film cameras many years ago.)

    • Greg Edwards

      Tech improvements could apply to full frame sensors as well as smaller ones. But some FF cameras have not had updates in a while. The Nikon D810 has a great sensor (somewhat unuseable – see Thom Hogan on the current RAW converts for the 810) but a number of Canon and Nikon FF cameras do not have the newest tech in their sensors (see Thom Hogan on that also).

      • Zack

        Agreed. Technology just keeps getting better across the board. I think some are falling behind in the innovation department but whatever. We have amazing tools in our hands these days and we just need to get out and shoot. Right?


        • Bill


          Great video/article and now I’m gonna step in it. Had a whole film vs digital sensor size article ready to fly but then I walked into the Leica store in L.A. Had a religious experience shooting an S medium format. The camera that costs what my new Subaru cost me. Images were fantastic and in my discussion with the nice Leica man he mentioned, what I’ve said for years, that the main difference is the glass. The Leica sensor is not that sexy, heck it is CCD, but what it has (and what Fuji has, and Olympus and your G4) is glass that is created and optimized specifically for a digital sensor. Glass that is optimized for the sensor. I noticed it with the S and I noticed it right away with the XE-1. I love the XT-1 and if it had the focus capability of my D4 for sports I’d say aloha D4 and get 2 XT-1’s.

          Many of the existing systems from all the big names are still selling lens designs that were built, are built, for film. Only recently have the DSLR guys started, with the popular lenses, to reformulate their optics. Take a D800E and find a Nikkor lens that resolves that sensor. How about find one that actually properly focuses the light on the sensor. Not many. I had a D800 and put my 70-200 2.8 on it and wondered what the heck was wrong? Looks great on the D4 not so much on the D800… Hummm.

          Anyway not to ramble but Fuji has just hit the sweet spot. APS-C sized sensor with lenses that optimize the sensor coverage.

          Bring on the hounds but that folks is what matters. Glass and the quality of the glass matching to the sensor. Bodies will come and go but great glass makes a sensor, just like it made film, truly shine.

        • Andrew

          tool in hand > specs on the ‘net

        • Zack

          Yet another great tshirt idea!


        • Mike

          I’m trying to make the move from film to digital to save money on processing and just to get faster results so that I can learn as much as possible. I’m loving all the stuff that I’m seeing from Fuji and Sony but the only thing that is keeping me from going digital is the color palette of film is so yummy. I love how Fuji has its film simulation and how you can get quality JPEGs right from the camera, now that really appeals to me. My question, what is your opinion of getting everything RIGHT in the camera so that I don’t have to screw around in editing software pissing myself off. I would die for a workflow that consists of shooting, uploading and printing without ANY editing. Is this dreamland or a reality?

        • Zack

          You can get A LOT of things nailed down in camera. Most things I’d say. But I don’t want to go so far as to say you won’t have any post production at all.

          If you are getting film printed then someone is doing some post production for you. Same if you are having someone scan your film for you. You shoot, you get your prints or scans back, and you are done! Now if you print or scan on your own… you always have some work to do. Right? Same with digital unless you farm that out.


  2. Shane

    Way back in the film days, I worked with various motion picture cameras with varying negative sizes: 8mm, 16mm, 35mm motion picture film sizes, and with 35mm still cameras and 110/120 film sizes. I had a copy of the cinematographer’s handbook, with charts, tables, and formulas for DoF, including all the circle of confusion calculations, etc., and the main takeaway was that the acceptable DoF was highly dependent on how the result was going to be viewed: in a large movie theater, in a smaller theater, in a home, on a TV, a positive print on paper, and so on. For a still print, other things being equal, the primary determination of DoF was focal length and aperture. Nothing else. For the CoC calculations, at the tiny dimensions at the film plane, the total size of the image on the film had no effect, other than how large the resulting image was to be when shown to the final viewer, as the magnification needed for smaller images will show issues that are invisible for larger formats.

    Given how good image sensors are getting these days, I contend that focal length and aperture are the only factors that affect DoF. Full stop. Additional chatter about ISO and sensor size are just noise.

    • Zack

      Circles of Confusion! I swear I want to make that a band name. I forgot about CoC. I haven’t thought of that since, well, a long time ago. I too had forgotten the discussion topic about the size the image was being shown. Thanks for bringing that to the discussion.


      • Wulbert

        “Maximum Black” , another photography phrase that resonates.

    • Robert

      Interesting. Except that CoC is heavily dependent upon shifting variables, post-capture, such as viewing conditions, size of enlargement, and an individual’s visual acuity.

      Primary determinants for DoF in motion picture photography are more typically restricted to focal length and aperture, because each shot has to be carefully arranged and framed — and locked — with actors hitting certain “marks”.

      With stills work, I’d argue that in addition to focal length and aperture, both camera-to-subject distance and subject-to-background distance have a significantly greater affect on DoF because they can be more easily adjusted on the fly to achieve a certain look (particularly with environmental portrait work).

      If any of that makes any sense…? 😉

    • Marco

      I’m pretty sure distance to subject affects DoF in addition to focal length and aperture. And, given that sensor size affects your choice of focal length and distance to subject, it’s also related.

      For example, 100mm lens on FX and DX, given the same aperture and distance to subject will have roughly the same DoF. BUT, on DX your subject is now too big for frame, so you have to step back from the subject. DoF has now changed, even though focal length and aperture are the same.

  3. DLuker

    The full frame freaks will have kittens over this. Good!

    The make your peepee soft comment made me piddle I laughed so hard.

    And lastly…dude, you are fucking GRAY! 😉

    • Zack

      Thanks Donna. Now I don’t feel bad for giving you an F on the last assignment! 😛


      • DLuker

        Ouch! That was………..LOW!


        • Zack

          And the gray comment wasn’t? 🙂 🙂 🙂


        • DLuker

          Yes, the gray comment was low & I sincerely regret it. I apologize.

        • Zack

          You know how “upset” I was by it! 😛


    • Zack

      Hahahaha! So true!


  4. Oliver

    Amongst other cameras I do own a D800. Do I love it? Absolutely. But for quite a while it sticks in my bag when I’m on a shoot prefering to use my X100S. Especially when it comes to a bit more “documentary style” for me there’s no reason to ever think about using my DSLR.

    Yes I also have shot with PhaseOne several times. And I would own one if I could afford it, which I don’t. Honestly, when I compare regular sized prints of those three it’s so damn hard to tell the difference that I fully agree with your blog post.

    Actually the part about how much you love math made me laugh hard as I found myself so much in that one 🙂

    Right now I’m impatiently waiting for the Photokina fair to start in September to see what Fuji will present there as I’m definitely more than willing to get more Fuji gear in my bag.

    Why? Because I so damn love it. I love how much quality comes out of this tiny little thing which amazes me every single time I use it. Which is most of the time.

  5. anonymous

    Would a pint of real ale look better photographed full frame or with a cropped sensor?

  6. Nobody

    Zach, please tag that Paolo Roversi link as NSFW

    • Zack

      Done. Sorry!


  7. Frank Grygier

    Zack, I am probably one in a thousand photography enthusiast who has never used a sensor larger than m43. Before digital I had 35mm slr. It was still small compared to all the photographers around me at the time. For me the latest sensor tech gives me all the dynamic range I like to see and I happen to like the limited focus fall off that this sensor size produces. Mr.Northup’s video only has relevance to me if you were mixing formats in a video production and needed to match the field of view and the focus fall off. (Like that term better than bokeh). I enjoy taking photographs with the equipment I have. I may rent a medium format if I have a special subject in mind. Renting a full frame DSLR has never crossed my mind.

  8. Jonathan Thorpe

    One thing Ive always wondered, (and haven’t tried) is when working with the EVF and off camera flash, what do you actually see in the EVF, is your subject just a dark silhouette when exposing for background?

    • Zack

      You can turn exposure simulation off when in manual mode so that you can see your subject just fine as you focus and compose.


      • Jonathan Thorpe

        fantastic, you may have just turned me. that has always been what held me back from looking into these. thanks!

      • Bob K

        And please tell Fuji that they should make the exposure preview setting more accessible. It’s currently 2-3 levels down in the blue menus. I don’t think you can use it in a Custom Setting, but that would probably be the ideal. I basically set the camera one way for natural light and another way for strobes, so the ideal thing would be to have a custom setting for each.

        • Zack


          Know what I’m waiting for? Siri in my camera. I just want to speak the settings to my camera and have it be done! I’m not even joking. 🙂


        • Daniel Sofer

          Bob, you can set the exposure simulation to be on in all modes except full manual. So when I’m moving quickly I’m in Aperture Priority and I get exposure simulation. When it gets out of control (-2 or 3 stops at sunset for example) I switch the shutter speed off A and I can “see” again.

  9. Tonguenosies

    Tongue noises on a video is a great way to boost your image 🙂

    People should be aware that what is said in this blog post is applicable to ZACHS POINT OF VIEW only.
    Horses for courses you web-deweebz that lack the ability to think for yourself.

    Love to see an wildlife photographer get some awesome pics of their favourite big cat in the african wilderness with that X-T1 and the……. oh wait whats the longest FAST lens on fuji again? the 50-140mm out this year?, yeah you’ll be mince meat picked out from between that lions teeth using that!

    • Zack

      No shit. I’ve said that over and over in multiple places. There are still genres of photography that require a DSLR. Pro sports. Pro wildlife. Etc. Duh!


      • Bob K

        For tracking birds in flight, my XT-1 performs about the same as my 5DIII with a big white prime lens. I can’t do it with either.

    • Rick

      “Tonguenosies”, why would this be anyone else’s opinion? I have read your post now about 15 times and cannot for the life of me figure out what, exactly, your point is in relation to Zack’s Blog post content. I don’t recall reading anything about wildlife, cats, Africa or telephoto lenses. Although there was a healthy does of a stationary squirrel. 🙂

      But, you know, “Horses for courses…” what ever that means.


      • Mark L

        So we’re all shooting lions now? I guess that means shooting bokeh is so yesterday? @Rick…there’s always one. Or if you want a shipload try DPreview’s fun/nuthouse. AND, btw, I’m a Fuji user and the buggers still haven’t sent me a cheque! (we’re ALL on their payroll, right?)

    • William

      MF or LF would be even worse.


    WELL DONE!!!!!!!!
    MY GOD that needed to be said!!!!!!

    I’just watched the video have yet to get into the meat of the text.
    Old phart here: I ‘ve Shot and hand processed of 6×7 and 4×5.

    Canon gear buh bye!

    I don’t play with the trolls anymore.”GOOD ENOUGH” IS JUST NOT “GOOD ENOUGH!”
    Just had to chime in:
    Thank you for posting what should be the definitive answer to that stupid question. I think you won “the internet”.
    Next add an addendum on:

    “depth of field”.
    (Whine “BUT I need knife thin depth of field”…).

    So we can shut those idiots up! Personally I prefer having both brides AND groom faces in reasonable focus.

    Press on good sir.

    • Zack

      Thanks Frank!


    • juice

      So, we can “shut those idiots up” because your opinion differs from theirs?

      You can’t see even a TINY but of inconsistency in that argument?

      Also, ALL CAPS don’t really improve the quality of an argument.


    Well, you could could have summed it all up by playing the title sequence and then blow that raspberry. End of.

      • BEN ALFORD

        Did love the video tho! hey whens the critique for GET LOW coming?

        • Zack



  12. Brian Rolfe

    Zack you make the argument well (not that there is one to be had if you ask me) both in the video and in the text! I’ve read all the pixel peeping, math and crap being spouted about the crop sensor both before and since getting my X-Pro and having been working with mine for the last few months I’m very much for these new sensors, at least the Fuji anyway as that’s all I know!

    Let’s put it this way, I’d say it’s far more likely that I’ll be investing in another Fuji than another Canon, my back up body is edging closer to going on sale and my natural light work is exclusively Fuji (and far out guns the Canon in quality), my 5D MkII never leaves the studio anymore! I want the X-Pro 2 like yesterday but an XT may just have to fill that gap!

  13. Justin

    I have been debating for quite some time about making the jump to fuji. I love the image quality I have seen them produce. I wish I could try them out before and unfortunately there are no rental places in Canada that have any available to rent. (that I know of).

    I saw Adam Lerner do an environmental portriat with the x100s and he killed it. It was almost enough to make me switch. I don’t know what is holding me back.

    • Zack

      Adam kicks ass with his Fuji.


    • Adam Lanigan

      Hey Justin,

      Not affiliated, nor have I tried the service, but Henry’s rents the X-E1 and X-Pro1: (somewhat ironically located under DSLRs). Both perhaps getting long in the tooth compared to the X-T1 and X-E2, but it’s a foot in the door at least.

      Just speaking from my experience… I picked up an X-T1 and the beautiful 23, 35, and 56 Fujinons and it’s been an unending dream. Sold all my big heavy Canon gear (nicely offsetting the switch cost) and am not looking back. Currently shooting a new project completely on the new system and can’t wait to see the prints. I’m actually excited to go out shooting, which I haven’t been for quite some time with digital.

      I also just want to add my applause for the article and video, Zack. I, for one, have made up my mind and moved past all this incessant nannering internet bullshit and I go out and, you know… shoot pictures. Such novelty.


    • Robert


      Are you a full time pro? If you are, another thing you might try is contacting Fujifilm Canada to see if you can get them to send you a loaner X-T1. They’ve been doing that over the past several months for certain pros in Canada. You can try The Fuji Guys (Billy and Greg) via Twitter, as a first point of contact. Ping me if you have questions.

  14. Jim Roberts

    In six short months I’ve ended up with two Fujifilm Cameras. I am not planning on selling my D600. I’m also really pleased with the output of the X-M1 and the X-T1. One of the factors that you didn’t mention Zack is the lack of anti-aliasing filters or whatever they are called up till now. I call them the camera companies trying to protect us from ourselves. What it really boils down to is output size. I’m taking 24mp or 16mp images and reducing them down to 1600 pixels and even 500px the sensor size is overrated. I have a X-M1 shot with the XF-35mm F1.4 that i’ve up to 16×20 and it is so good you could eat off it. Your right the times have changed and its good to change with the times.

    • Zack

      Thanks for the comment Jim. There’s a lot I left out of this discussion. AA filters being at the top of the list. Dynamic range is on that list as well. We could go all day with all of this couldn’t we? 🙂


  15. JF

    Love it Zach! You almost made me pee in my shorts. That stick!
    And totally agree with you!

  16. Leander

    I finally gave in and bought a “full frame” (I hate the term, 35mm is a relatively small format) DSLR a year or two ago. I’ve been shooting with DX Nikons for around a decade both for fun and professionally and I’ve always been happy with them. Many of my photographer friends thought I was crazy when I finally got my full frame kit together and boldly stated “I don’t see what you guys are all pants happy about this, there really isn’t much difference, even if you look at the numbers.” They mostly wrote me off as not knowing what I was talking about, even though I have a couple of physics degrees and can do the math. It’s nice to have someone with some credibility validate my statements. So thanks for that!

    That being said I do keep a DX and FX kit around and both seem a lot of use. The crop sensor is great for astro work and the FX is great for wide angle stuff and portrait use. I do enjoy the 28mm 1.8/D800 combo. However if someone were to take away my FX kit it would be a minor inconvenience at worst and I’m not sure I’d replace it another full frame 35mm solution. I still haven’t taken the dive into mirrorless because I’m happy with my current setup and generally moving systems costs money. I’m always a fan of the use-what-gets-the-job-done mentality and tend to stick with things that work for me.

  17. Jon Uhler

    What is this stitching method you keep talking about? Something similar to the Brenizer method or something more earth shattering?

    Keep rocking it…..and when is the next meet up at your place? Looking forward to tailgating your studio again….;)


    • Zack

      It is similar to Brenizer but I use a pano head and fewer shots.


  18. Jayson

    LOL. Seriously. Great points, Zack

    Shuttin’ up the noise, one troll at a time.

  19. Andy

    Cool post Zach, as per the usual. I have yet to take in the movie but I went through the text and I dig your message. In my case, I am really committed to the field of view of a 35mm focal length lens on a “Full Frame” sized sensor, or frame of film. 35mm on a 35mm, if that makes any sense (which it probably doesn’t).

    In any event, my main gripe with ASP-C is that in order to get this similar field of view I have to logically switch to 24mm lens. But, and here is my rub, I don’t like the additional distortion a 24mm lens adds to any size sensor or camera. It’s simply “too wide” for the distances I’m comfortable with when shooting on the streets and things in the distance begin to distort more than my liking. I feel like medium wide distortion is an aspect of image making that is all too often left out of the discussion when talking FF vs AspCrop, but you did manage to cover the reverse effect of compression when talking medium telephotos in this post. Holy run-on sentence.

    I’m cool with the 24mm field of view on a crop sensor, but not with what that focal length tends to physically do to subjects. Word?

    Also, can you tell Fuji to fit their next installment of the X_00 series with a lens that can utilize true focus scales? I don’t like how the lenses on the X100 and X100S’ can endlessly spin around like some wannabe point and shoot. It would be great if they welded a limited spinning lens to their next camera.

    • Zack

      Great points Andy.


      • Andy

        Zack – I just had a chance to watch the videos and it was HIL-ARIAS (get it?!). It looked like you had way too much fun making it.

    • HenningW

      A 24mm lens on a 1.5 factor crop APS-C camera will produce exactly the same geometric properties in the image as a 36mm lens on a Full Frame camera. No difference. Dof will be different, but corner distortions and the like will be the same. This assumes, of course, that both lenses have equal linear distortion profiles.

      So, if you are using a 24mm lens on APS-C, you are getting marginally less geometric distortion than with the 35mm lens on Full Frame (and a correspondingly smaller angle of view as well).

  20. adam

    be aware zack that its going to be hot and crappy here in vegas over the next few days, we’ve not only got the sun doing its best to turn us all into fried bacon, theres thunderstorms, rain and humidity to deal with.

    oh yeah, the star trek convention is in town this weekend at the rio, beware of overacting cosplayers.

  21. Heikki

    Awesome video. Alltough, it could be brought up that these full frames have the most comprehensive line up of lenses. And they are the cheapest too. Just saying.

    • Aidan

      Full frame lenses are cheaper? Heikki, I’d love to know where you live, because my experience is the exact opposite. One of the reasons I use Micro 4/3 and Fuji is that the high-quality lenses are so affordable (mind you, there’s no $100 nifty 50 for any of those cameras – the initial price point is higher, but as you move up in quality, the savings become apparent). APS-C and Micro 4/3 lenses are also a good deal lighter and smaller, which makes a difference to me after an hour of shooting.

  22. Dan MacDonald

    Great post, Zack! I sold my full frame Canon gear and L glass to go exclusively Fuji for my professional and personal work, and can’t believe how much happier I am with my work these days. My post processing time has been cut in half, while my percentage of keepers has gone up, and my wife – who doesn’t exactly get into critical analysis beyond ‘great shot’ – recently out of the blue noted how much the printed shots from my Fujis stand out compared to other work on my walls.

    One thing that I’m surprised doesn’t get that much love on the X-T1 is its unbelievable face detection. I can do portraits of 3 and 4 year olds with the 56mm at f1.2 and get tack sharp eyes more often than not, without having to compose in the centre of the frame – it’s a pretty remarkable implementation of the technology.

  23. Alex

    All this talk of Full Frame is just semantics. Full Frame refers to the image circle being captured “fully” by the focal plane so you’re getting more of the characteristics of the lens. The only reason why the current 35mm digital sensors are called Full Frame now is due to the standardization of the 135 format film back in its day. The reason why people call Canon and Nikon APS-C sensors “crop” is due to the fact that the Canon EF and Nikon FX lenses can be fit onto APS-C bodies and you get a “crop” of what the full image would look like, hence the crop factor. If you take a look a Micro Four Thirds, Fuji X, and some of the newer mirror less options, most if not all of them are considered full frame since their lenses produce an image circle appropriate for the focal plane/sensor. They are actually “Full Frame”. It really is about getting the full quality of the lens instead of just a part of it. So if you’re looking for visual acuity or resolution of an image to resolve details, you’re not looking for a sensor that gives you the most pixels although, that does help a little in getting detail. You’re looking for a lens and sensor pairing that can resolve those details at a preset range. Realistically crop sensors paired with full frame lenses shouldn’t be bad at all, you’re just not getting all that the lens has to offer like in the corners and sides. Visual acuity only makes a small part of a photo however, a good photo is a good photo no matter how sharp or blurry it is. The same goes for DOF arguments. Want huge bokeh bubbles? Go up to large format or some crazy digital scan back.

    • Frank Grygier

      Perfect explanation!

    • Robert Mark

      Agreed. Canon 7D with an EF lens is “crop”. Same camera with EF-S lens is “full frame”. It’s really a silly term.

    • Robert

      Very well said.

      “Realistically crop sensors paired with full frame lenses shouldn’t be bad at all, you’re just not getting all that the lens has to offer like in the corners and sides.”

      In this case you actually ARE getting all the lens has to offer in the corners and sides, because most lenses are designed to produce maximum optical performance in the center; so with a sensor that is smaller you’re always in the “sweet spot”.

  24. Joe

    Thought it was worth mentioning that the majority of cinema has been shot on super 35mm, which is effectively APS-C. When things started going digital, manufacturers stuck to the crop size and most cinema lenses won’t even cover a full frame sensor. I imagine ARRI did a fair bit of math when building the Alexa, and they decided crop was good enough for them.
    70mm IMAX is closer to medium format size and the difference in quality is astounding. The size of the cameras is also astounding.
    I would argue that anamorphic is the middle-ground step up from S35 for image quality. You get that interesting focus falloff and with the extended edges you cheat the perceived focal length of the lens, allowing you to have shallower depth of field for wider shots.
    But for most people the lure of anamorphic is in direct opposition to ‘math’ because cinematographers are most interested in the imperfections of the lenses and the artifacts you get from squeezing the image for their artistic look.

  25. Yvens

    Great post Zack!

    I’m half way with you on your post. I own a D7100 and x100s. D7100 is only there because of budget constraints and that i have about 3k of lenses sitting in my bag. These things are hard to divorce. Your post is giving me a bad case of GAS but I will follow your other advice to max out your current gear before moving towards new GAS side effects.

    For early photogs like myself, I think this is what should transpire from the math talk.

    And if you come to Montréal – I’d love to assist!!



    • Robert

      The D7100 is a tremendous camera that can serve as the center of a huge and versatile system. Personally, I wouldn’t go looking to unload it anytime soon (especially not if you already have the X100s for more discreet work).

      • Yvens

        Thanks Robert.

        Makes me wonder when I’ll grow out of my gear – skip the fx and go to medium directly. Ouch!

  26. Louis Leblanc

    Nice write up Zack. If I can bring my 0.02$ from the perspective of a musician/recording engineer. We’ve seen a lot of the same issues arise in the audio world a few years ago and I’m seeing a similar trend in photography. When the digital recording gear came out it had all kinds of trouble, noise, aliasing, artifacts and studios were putting insane amount of money into their converters. Fast forward 10 years, that discussion isn’t happening anymore, we have top quality music that’s recorded onto laptop on converters costing a few hundred bucks. The ear can’t hear the difference anymore… the dynamic range is so large that people barely take the time to set recording levels. And now, a lot of time and money is spent in studios degrading and distorting the sound to get the character of yesteryear because the sound is just so damned clean, go figure.

    I think this is where photography is slowly heading. The image quality we’re getting out of modern cameras is really really good for most output mediums. And most cameras can get the shot in most normal situations. At this point, I think that in a few years, format size will be more of an aesthetic and practical choice rather than a technical one. I personally really like APS-C and don’t really see it as the bastard child of 35mm film and cost savings. – It’s roughly the size of Super 35 cinema film and it always gets the shot I want.

    • Zack

      Well said Louis! It’s like getting a top notch camera and then applying 18 layers of VSCO on the image to get that “film” “look”. Quotations used on purpose there. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!


    • LeeRay

      Very well said! I had tried to explain this to my fellows but you did it very well, Zack and Louis!

      While I’m not so familiar to audio technologies, I’ve been in the “IT” business for 30 years. I remember back then the mainframe is the only workable solution for computing. Then came the microprocessors and it was amazing but for real work, you still relied on the big guys. Then technologies got better and better. In the 90’s and early 2000, most mini-computers and PC can do most of the work for most of the people but for really really big scale stuffs, you still go back to the mainframe.

      Then comes the iphone and android and tablets of the new world. Most people (perhaps more people then the older “most”) can be satisfied with the computing power of these handheld devices but for more serious stuffs, we go AIX or Linux with bigger computers or clusters of microprocessors and for really really really serious stuffs, a small amount of companies today still go to the mainframe!

      So, is a mainframe better than a mini which is better than a PC which is better than an iPad? Definitely. But at what costs? Not only the costs of the exact purchase but the costs of running them and the costs of losing portability! People choose them for what the REQUIREMENTS are! In the business IT world, most serious purchases go through serious tendering and RFP processes so in most cases, they buy what they need, properly.

      In the world of photography, I am sure there are serious photo studios that go through the same tough RFP processes buy what they need (not what they want) but for most semi-pro, or leisure photographers, we don’t really sit down to work out what our requirements are. We “want” what people say are the best. Do we need it? Here the truth of bigger is still better applies as well. But at what costs? It’s again, not the costs of the exact purchase, but the associated costs the lenses and accessories, and the costs of losing a photo opportunity simply because the very best FF camera is not in your pocket when you need it.

      To me, I think the m43 cameras have reached an optimal point (of image quality, portability and build quality) where in majority of situations (prints of various sizes for home use, or web display), they are more than good enough. And the build quality of m43 cameras are challenging the big guys too. For serious business photos (big posters in subway, big billboard prints etc.), go big. Don’t limit to FF and go as big as you can afford!

    • Robert

      Audio is such a great analogy…

      In Stephen Johnson’s book “On Digital Photography” (O’Reilly; 2006), he says >>

      “A substantial advantage of silicon over film is the increased dynamic range. Film typically can record brightness values from about 4 stops on transparency film to 6-7 stops for negative film. A good silicon sensor can record upwards of 10 stops in visible light and perhaps 14 in infrared.”

      Now, his calculation is for base ISO (I’d also argue that 4 stops of range was optimistic for any transparency film I ever worked with; probably more like a maximum of 3). As you push the ISO up, that dynamic range probably drops to more like 6 stops (similar to film), but we’re still talking about a significant improvement.

      The Nikon D4s offers about 13.3 stops of dynamic range, while the Olympus OM-D E-M1 offers about 12.7 stops of dynamic range (again, both at base ISO). So a m4/3 sensor one-quarter the size of a 35mm-sized “full frame” sensor is STILL offering performance far closer to that of its larger silicon brethren than it is to film.

      Of course, as the ISO climbs, the larger sensor won’t take as much of a dynamic range hit as the smaller sensor, but still…

      …we’ve come a long, long way since analogue. 🙂

  27. Carlos Sandoval

    Joe, great note! Roger Deakins would have been proud! True and very true.
    Zack: damn, that last part on your video, the gear porn, made me feel like a teenager watching friday after dark on cinemax back in the 80´s! Salud!

  28. Nobody

    If you want that thin DOF, just get some large-aperture lenses. It doesn’t really matter what the sensor or film size is, as long as it’s not super-tiny like a cell phone.

    For example, f/1.4 lenses on full frame yield about the same DOF as f/5 on 4×5 and f/10 on 8×10. On 8×10, if you want a portrait lens (450-600mm) you’ll be able to open up to f/8 at most (Fujinon CM-W 450mm for example). Same with 4×5 – no lenses in the 200-300mm range that opens up more than f/5.6.

    Indeed, the focus fall-off is different with large format, mainly due to the long focal length of the lenses, but at the end of the day, it’s really difficult to tell the difference between f/1.4 on full frame and f/8 on 8×10, unless the 8×10 was tilted or shifted quite a bit. To me, the ability to tilt and shift the lens easily using the bellows is the primary uniqueness of large format photography – not anything about the thinness of the depth of field or the focus fall-off, which really aren’t that much different from smaller formats.

    For narrow DOF work, I’m excited about are the newer f/1.4 SLR lenses from Sigma and Zeiss that are super sharp wide-open. These provide good image quality *without* stopping down and adding more depth of field. I can’t say the same for the large-format lenses, most of which are ancient and riddled with various aberrations if used wide open. As Jim said above, “times have changed and its good to change with the times.”

  29. Jeffrey Jay

    If Fuji made a fisheye adapter for the x100s, i’d probably sell all of my Canon gear and buy another x100s for skateboard photography. The leaf shutter is far more suited for action sports photography than the mechanical shutter. Four speedlights can do the job of two big lights. Now if Fuji created an x100 series camera that shot 10 frames per second, it would just murder the dslrs.

    And if we’re talking crop sensor vs ff, on a double truck ad the dpi/lpi that the magazines are printing at, i’m sure most people can’t tell the difference.

    • Semilog

      Sony A6000: 11 fps.

  30. Jay Stebbins

    Gregory Heisler probably does not care that you did to mention the 11″x14″ large format…

  31. Bob

    A shameless plug for Fuji cameras!!

    Get out and shoot buddy and stop plugging the camera. As you quite rightly say its the moron behind the camera.
    Lets get back to teaching the art and concentrate less on the gear


    • Edd Carlile

      Zack seems genuine in his love for the Fujifilm range of gear. He was instrumental in my shift from Nikon DSLR to the rather uber excellent x100s gem.
      If the man can get paid a chunk of money from Fujifilm for a 10 minute Fujifilm plug that would take him 10 photoshoot sessions to make then good for him. He has a family to support.
      We all need money. (and if he loves the gear from a creative/professional perspective then why shouldn’t he pocket the promo money???)

      • Bob

        Edd if you want to sell cameras get a job in a camera store if you want to be respected as a photographer let your images do the talking. Too many photographers are in to advertorial these days and it ticks me off

        Nothing personal here just my opinion. I have a lot of respect for zack but I feel it is encouraging people to possibly get into hock trying to keep up with latest and greatest bit of tech rather than learning how to be a great photographer with the camera you already own.
        The world has enough greedy capitalists and could do with a whole lot more good photographers


        • Edd Carlile

          I get where you’re coming from, I really do.
          I’ve watched Zack for years and he always maintained that the best camera for the job is the one you have (yep, that old maxim) and looking at his body of work he has made superb images with kit that is hardly at the top end of the line. (and nor was it then either)
          He got a fujifilm in his hand and it became a game changer for his own craft and workflow.
          He spread the word about the cameras and then an opportunity came to support his family to some degree endorsing a product he loves in any case.
          Brand loyalty is kind of strong among shutterbugs so if you are sold on Sony/Canon/Nikon then a transition to Fujifilm may take more than Zack’s enthusiasm if you love your own gear. I moved (partially) to x100s from my Nikon D3 as I was getting really pissed off lugging that heavy darlin around to do street photography and I needed a change. The Nikon D3 is still my studio babe but the fujifilm was exactly what I needed when I needed it. (and I took a lot of convincing to shell out the money…poor English teacher here (freelance) with 4 kids)

  32. Nicholas Erwin

    I’ve shot for years with a Nikon D7000 and I liked it, but when I saw the ISO performance of the D610, I was blown away and now in the process of selling my DX gear and switching to full frame, I shoot a lot in low light so its a no brainer to have a full frame sensor even if the sensor size is marginal, still makes a big difference in my honest opinion.

    But I really love shooting with my X100. I bring it around more often than my DSLR, its just lighter, easier to carry, no lenses to change and makes me think more about composition. I also enjoy the fact how much more comfortable I am without all the extra weight.

    In the end of the day, I’m happy because they both take pictures. LOL.

    Great video Zack!

  33. Tom K.

    I used to think full frame was the holy grail of formats. I was so very wrong. Image quality today is so spectacular with small portable digital cameras that portability is now one of my top priorities.

    I mean even micro 4/3’s kicks tail. The dude in the link below shoots micro 4/3’s exclusively. His portraiture speaks for itself.


      Ermaghard…Tom K: Thanks for turning me on to Mr.grants portraiture with the em-1. His homage to Helmut Newton is of course nsfw….but the photographs are amazing. and all shot on “measly” Micro four thirds.

      A perfect example of the adequacy of modern gear to make a statement: IF you have something to say besides: “Mine is bigger”…
      I’m convinced more than ever on the mirrorless
      Shot my first FUJi mirrorless wedding last weekend . XPro-1 skin tones are luscious.

  34. Dan Donovan

    I always thought all sizes of a film type were created with the same formula, but just cut to different sizes. So, a 35mm slide of Provia and 4×5 sheet of Provia both had the same quality, but the only difference was the size of the film. As a result, a 35mm slide would fall apart faster than 4×5 when enlarged. On the other hand, a 4×6 print made from a 35mm neg and 2 1/4″ neg would look identical to the naked eye at normal viewing differences. That’s because both were enlarged minimally. I always wondered why some wedding photographers shot 2 1/4″ film when the brides only ordered small prints. You can’t tell the difference between 35mm and 2 1/4 prints made at small sizes.

    Applying this to today’s digital world, in general, the size of the sensors today really only tell you how large you can make an image before the image degrades enough to make it objectionable. You can make an APS-C image larger than a Micro 4/3, full frame larger than APS-C, medium format larger than full frame and so on. On the other hand, a 4×6 print made from medium format back and APS-C sensor will look identical. The relative quality of the sensors is the same, but you can just make the medium format images much larger.

    Keep in mind I am talking about how things look in normal conditions at normal viewing distances, etc. I know there are exceptions to the rule, especially when it comes to high ISOs. For instance, full frame sensors usually beat APS-C AND medium format when it come to noise at higher ISOs!

    • Fastbreak

      Nope! Noise is inversely proportional to the size of the image area. You should know that. 🙂

  35. Richard Wintle

    But Zack, what’s the best focal length for shooting portraits on a crop sensor? 😀

    *lights blue touchpaper, runs away*

    Seriously though, great post. I’m wedded to my (yes, crop sensor) DSLRs at the moment but if I were starting over… well I’ve found myself shooting a lot more events (complete with crappy light) and have thought that a full frame DSLR would improve things. But if crop sensors are so much better at high ISO these days…maybe I don’t need that full frame upgrade and swap of all my crop-coverage lenses after all – maybe a new crop sensor DSLR would do the trick.

    This is all theoretical of course – I’m going to be working my old kit for a long time to come. But thanks for the food for thought. 🙂

  36. Gerald Gonzales

    Years of wishing my 5D Mark II was more like my X100, but Canon video held me hostage and I couldn’t switch to a Fuji system.

    My recent purchase of a BlackMagic Pocket camera might enable me to finally ditch Canon.

  37. Josh Mitchell

    I definitely agree with your assessment on sensor sizes. Not a big difference from crop to full frame. I do notice a bit of a difference with my Olympus EM-5 versus my 5DMKIII in bokeh, but when it comes to size factor I’d rather use the Olympus any day out of the week. I had an X100 at one point, but for me personally it was never a love affair. I am looking and reading all of the stuff about the XT1 and it seems like a great system. What’s keeping me from switching to something like that for my business is the single card slot. Having been through a corrupt card disaster I’m super leery of single slot cameras for any of my paid gigs. You have an in with Fuji… do they know that a lot of us wedding photographers really really want a camera like the XT1 with dual slots?

  38. Luka Boskovic

    I understand the message and the point of this video, and it’s mostly correct. However it’s far away from just details and noise. 1 liter bottle can never contain as much as a 2 liter bottle. The main difference in sensor/film sizes is the entire manifestation of the field of view, depth, and geometry. No matter how good your crop sensor is, 150 years from now, my old 5D mark 1 will give a richer and deeper photo, and not nearly as rich and deep as my crappy Kiev 60 6×6 medium format soviet camera.
    If you’re shooting in the studio, on white or black or whatever, then there isn’t much difference as long as the sensor is good. For everything else, it’s pointless to argue. Every job has a correct tool for it, just like Zack said, however, the results are dramatically different.

    P.S. the aps-c size shown on the video, is a little bit larger than it actually is, that is also for sure.

  39. jason

    Hahaha, I love the stick!!

  40. Henri Cartier-Bresson

    Sharpness is a bourgeois concept

    • Meg

      Wow. You came back from the dead to say that? I’m disappointed.

  41. Edward

    Technically, the deciding factor in DOF is the physical aperture size. Not the F number which varies in size depending on the focal length, but the physical size of the opening. F/2.8 is physically bigger on a 85mm lens than it is on a 56mm or 42.5mm. So, you are right that the longer the focal length the smaller the dof, but it is a consequence of the aperture size, not the focal length per se.

    • Bob Cox

      EXACTLY! That 3-squirrel is one of the best examples that I have ever seen to show the concept. I know Zack went on to pooh-pooh math, but I wish he had taken the math one tiny step farther. That would have shown that it is the absolute aperture size that matters for DOF.

  42. Mark

    You were born to hold a pointer. Regarding the discussion of sensor size — knew a guy once to told me, “I don’t have much up front, but I make up for it with a pile driver ass.” If you ponder it for a moment you can see this applies to the discussion — overall.

    I’ve been sitting here ruminating about GH4 or a7r. Counting pixels and sensor size and looking at lenses and wondering what to do. You’ve settle that for me. Thanks.

    Mostly, want to thank you for the links to the true full size sensor guys. Have always loved Heisler. Really enjoyed Clewdson and Hargrave. And, you can see the difference in the galleries. It’s visible — online — where everyone says resolution doesn’t matter. Forget COC or bokeh — the depth, color, texture, the mastery of light, exposure, etc. And the context of making images is apparent because it’s slow, thoughtful, precise. Many good!

    • Mark

      Sorry — Crewdson

  43. Josh Ross

    I think some of the description is off in this as well as falling for the same arguments as the rest of the internet. The depth of field isn’t shallower with bigger sensors. The depth of field at a given distance with a given lens is exactly the same. The differences is that the smaller sensors crop from the edges so you see less of the out of focus area. The more area that’s out of focus in the frame the more pronounced the in focus area appears. It’s a visual trick and a preference. The other thing I’d take issue with is any discussion of sensor size and quality. I know everyone does it but it’s always been dumb. Sensors of the same generation have always been about the same quality. There might be a test somewhere that says different but in actual usage, they are the same. With all that in mind it really comes down to preference. If you like using a particular camera then do so. The rest of it is just dumb internet arguing stuff.

    • Frank Grygier

      If I could just turn away from the “dumb internet stuff” my photography might get better. Thanks

      • Zack

        You and me both Frank!


      • Josh Ross

        Totally true. My main point though was just that it’s a preference. There seems to be this big discussion about smaller sensors and quality and it just seems so dumb (not Zach’s response, just the fact that people argue about it a lot). It’s true that there is some point at which quality drops off with a small sensor but it’s not any of these sensor sizes. Having retouched lots of files off medium format cameras I don’t even really think the quality of those is actually better. They look better because the files are so much larger that you can see a lot more detail but I don’t know if that makes it actually higher quality. Regardless of that point though there is definitely no issue with m4/3, 4/3, APS-C, of 35mm. The quality is the same but they do have slightly different looks and require different lenses. Personally I prefer 35mm but not because the quality is different, just because I love to shoot completely wide open when I can. It’s my preference.

  44. Thomas

    Love my new Sony A6000 – and also my old Wista RF45. But the digital workflow is way faster….

  45. Otto Rascon

    Awesome post Zack. Technology is once again moving crazy fast and we’re the beneficiaries of it all. I went from full frame Nikon cameras (and big ass lenses) to the m43 system. I’m shooting with the Olympus EM1 and I’m loving the small size and great lenses. Is the image quality different from full frame? Yes! But I don’t care and my clients don’t care either. Ive shot a few magazine covers, weddings and portraits and the quality is sweet. I’m staring at my own family portrait and the print looks like my old D3 or D600 files. Every medium has its strengths and weaknesses. The Fuji XE2 wasn’t very fun to shoot with, but the GH3 and EM1 are. The Fuji had better image quality, but there is more to a camera than just image quality. I can do with a little bit less quality and make up for fun factor and great video capabilities. Thanks for opening up a great discussion Zack.

  46. Phil

    Thanks Zack,

    I still shoot 6×6 film and 24×36 film, but it costs so much to process I make every shot count. So I miss lots, lol, but I don’t care.

    I also use my 24×36 lenses on my fuji with a focal reducer. The “look” is the same as when shooting “full frame” film. I like it.

    If I could get a focal reducer for my Zeiss hasselblad lenses I’d be buying an A7R in a heartbeat.

  47. Pablo Zárate

    Hi Zack! Long time fan. Greetings from México!

    I started on APS-C some years ago, with a trusty Nikon D40 (6mp wonder!), then moved to a Nikon D7000, loved the camera, loved the focus speed. Around two years ago I started shooting film. Almost film only: 35, then 6×6, then 645, and finally 6×7. I cannot tell how glad am I for doing that. It gives you another perspective on photography.

    Two weeks ago, I decided to upgrade my equipment, film and digital. Sold my Mamiyas (m645 Super and RB67) to buy a Pentax 6×7 and only shoot 6×7, that’s the format that I really love, yeah its 10 photos per roll, but its totally worth it. Then, it was the time to decide which DSLR to buy. I don’t know how many sites and friends asked for advice. Almost all my friends have 5d’s and D800’s, as they are pretty easy to get now. But after reading and watching your reviews I bought a Fuji XE-2 and saved some money for glass. Obviously, everyone was like: WHY? IT IS NOT FULLFRAME, IT HAS CROP, PRO WORK NEED FULL FRAME, NO ONE’S GONNA HIRE YOU IT IS TOO SMALL.

    The camera arrived last week. And oh my god, one of the first things I said was: ZACK ARIAS WAS RIGHT (like my XE-2 had your beard and told me: SHOOT WITH ME, need to do a cartoon about that). It’s been like 4 days since I have the camera, and man, its awesome. Got the XE-2 and a Metabones Nikon F to X adapter as a test and now I cannot wait to trade it for an XT-1 with at least three primes. It’s more than awesome. I had the chance to test the camera this weekend in a party, in a wedding and in a fashion shoot using strobes. Its awesome, its great and this is the future of digital photography. Can’t wait to publish.

    I think all the discussion about APS-C and 35mm sucks. Any job can be done with any of those. If your client hires you and you deliver quality work he expected, then it’s done and it doesn’t have anything to do with the tool. But if you really want extra resolution, you can always shoot some Fuji Reala in 6×7 or do some bw fashion with Fuji Neopan. And oh my, get some Provia 100f, that stuff in 6×7 its crazy.

    • Zack

      Bravo Pablo! Well said. Thank you for the comment. That Pentax 6×7 is probably the best camera they ever made. Hands down.


  48. Chris

    I almost never post comments on blogs/websites but I am inclined to here…

    Short history – I’ve done some wedding photography in past with Nikon DX and later FX cameras. I Don’t call myself a professional even though I was paid to cover the events because I don’t consider myself to be at the level of output quality that would stand clear above most other so called ‘professional photographers’

    When I dropped wedding photography for work demands of my primary job I sold my Nikon FX and went back to DX for a slightly smaller setup and to recover some of the funds invested in to the FX gear.

    4 years later I’ve recently dumped the Nikon DX and I have a Fuji X-E1 w/XF35 f1.4 and I really like the photo quality I see. The auto white balance is great and the film simulations produce excellent skin tones, the dynamic range suits my taste in image quality. I particularly like the Pro High and Astia looks. The in camera noise reduction is satisfactory for my taste however in raw the high ISO performance the way LR reads it is a bit noisier than I’d like. The JPG output from this freaking X-E1 is amazing. Now I feel like shooting RAW (RAF) just slows down the write speed and increases the post processing work significantly. This Fuji has revived my interest in photography and I want to get back in to doing events down the road.

    My currently dilemma is… I want very much to go with an X-T1 with the XF56 f1.2 and wait on faster zoom lenses coming next year. BUT I’m weak when it comes to flash configurations and rely heavily (until I improve my experience) on TTL flash. Fuji only has one decent size TTL flash and I’ve read that Nissin is coming out with something that should be great for the X-Series. So Maybe the issue of the lack in good TTL options could diminish… but my other concern is low light AF. The X-E1 sucks in low light. In a dim lit restaurant if I try to focus on a face under shadow it fails miserably (misses the shot more 85% of the time) and I have to revert to manual focus (YES I do have the latest firmwares for body and lens, and I know the X-T1 is better but haven’t tried for myself). I also like being able to cheat with a mirrorless type camera by seeing the final exposure outlook before I smash the shutter button all the way down. This helps result to better looking photos with fewer shots (I never use continues shooting modes anymore)

    So… I’m thinking maybe I need to go back to Nikon FX with a D600/D610 and have a wealth of lenses to choose from (which appear to be better value in terms of PRICE to Performance) compared to Fuji lenses, and I’ll have an AF system I know will have a better hit rate in low light along with a flash system I can count on with TTL (even CLS).

    But I want the look of a Fuji JPG!! (sounds strange to want a JPG).

    So I might be off topic (DX vs FX) in my once in a blue moon post… but I am on the side that says APS-C sensors are excellent today and I want to stay APS-C however I’d be doing so with a Fuji with uncertainty on what their product lineup will look like down the road, and when I do get back in to shooting events if I partner up with another photographer it is unlikely they’ll also be shooting Fuji. They’ll likely have a Canon or Nikon which might cause some inconsistency in the images. As for DoF… I don’t need FX f1.4 type DoF… the f1.8 ‘look’ from a 56mm f1.2 would be plenty for a great looking portrait.

    • Zack

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not in the business of selling cameras. I can say the XT1 spanks the XE1. I never really liked the XE1. I had one only as a back up to my XPro.

      I think the 35mm from Fuji is one of my favorite lenses I’ve ever owned but it is not a speed demon. Especially in low light. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an update to that lens at some point. I DON”T KNOW THAT FOR SURE! That’s just my gut feeling. No clue. I’ve suggested it and I’ve also suggested they take the 60mm out back, shoot it, and start again with that one. 🙂

      TTL? I have never relied on TTL so the fact that there are few TTL options for Fuji isn’t even on my radar nor will it be anytime soon. Watch that be the next thing I have to back pedal on. Right?

      Go with what you love. Go with what you need. Go with what will get what you want to get. If that’s Nikon then let it be Nikon. If it is Fuji then so be it.

      And yes… those Fuji JPGs are just amazing. I rarely touch the RAW files I shoot.


      • rottenronin

        can i have your xe1 then? lol! ive sold all my canon gear about a year and a half ago.. had been using an xe1 with manual minolta lenses ever since. #noregrets

      • Chris

        Hey Zack,
        Ended up picking up the X-T1. So far so good. Definitely a lot swifter in virtually all aspects in contrast to the X-E1. Thanks for your feedback. Btw… great episode on DigitalRev shooting with the kodak.

  49. Sid Ceaser

    I don’t think there are enough raspberries on the internet. #BelieveInRaspberries

    Whenever someone around me wants to argue sensor size (“Mine’s bigger. Mine’s better. Mine see’s in the dark more. MOAR BOKEHZ! bigger Bigger BIGGER!!!) I go to my flat file and I pull out my wedding portraits. My wife and I met in art school (Oh, gawd, lovey-dovey schmooze!) and when it came time for us to take the vows, we knocked our brains together (and, ahem, other things) and we wanted special photos taken. Not the “documentary-stylistic-brou-ha-ha-capture-the-feeling-emotion-day-time-zone-blahblahblah” crap that gets shoved down everyone’s throats. We wanted special. We were both photographers. We wanted to honor craft. The history of photography. Back when it was part Wizards and alchemy and magic chemicals and dirty-finger stains. We found a guy that shot 20×24″ tintypes.

    20. by. 24. inches. Of pure tin. Plates. That’s like Godzilla walking in and step-splatting everything around. Squash.

    The results were breathtaking. I almost died. Not because I exposed myself to silver nitrate for too long, but because the images where gorgeously crafted and huge and beautiful and instantly had a sense of history and time and place and appreciation of craft. I almost had a stroke. Photo coma.

    I don’t know why I mention this. Maybe because I remember shooting 8×10 and 5×7 in college. Maybe because shooting 4×5 pinhole images with my then girlfriend now-wife brings back not only nostalgia of shooting giant negatives, but celebrating the alchemy of photography with someone I loved. Because no matter how far we get with digital cameras and stoopid photoshop actions and large-format-pigmented-inkjet-shut-the-hell-up printers, I love to remember where we’ve come from. Those completely insane guys with a horse and a cart with giant wooden splinter-giving wheels with no shock absorption at all traversing the world with giant bottles of lethal chemicals and huge glass plates that could break any time with looks on their faces like they are all just a *tiny* bit off kilter, because of the desire to make amazing photographs. They would say “I love this thing. I love it so much, I want to document it and photograph it and show others all over this world because I love this thing so much I need to show it to people”. And they did. And it is more amazing than what we deal with today.

    Today we argue and self-justify what we bought what we bought and we stop thinking about the images that we should be taking that could, maybe, one day, change how someone might see something. Change their world.

    The first time I made an 11×14″ contact print, a part of me died and went to heaven. It was awe-inspiring. In these days of digital and everyone arguing about what is better Better BETTER BEST we need to put the brakes on, climb up into that horse-drawn carriage, and mix a few chemicals for our own sanity. Our fuzzy eyes help us see better.


    • Zack

      Holy Shit Sid. I just died reading your comment. I might just make it a guest blog post. Holy shit that was beautiful and the best thing I’ve read about photography in a long time. Thank you so much for that.


    • Meg

      “Our fuzzy eyes help us see better.”

      That’s a lyric.

      I love this whole comment/post so much, Sid.

    • SMHerren

      Exquisitely and beautifully well said, sir!

    • Bob Hayes

      Holy Panchromatic Paget Plates Batman! Exactly right! I too divested myself of my former kit and have channeled my anger and crossed over to the Fuji dark side (XT1, X100S). I have shot weddings with this kit and been blown away. Except my back. My back was most definitely NOT blown away at the end of the day. It was happy. But that has nothing to do with this…

      I was actually moved by Sid’s post. It reminded me of guys like Frank Hurley , who shot two World Wars, and multiple Arctic trips. (I just watched “Shackleton’s Cabin” again”) He went with Shackleton to the South Pole on the Endurance. They were stranded on the ice for years. He never stopped making images. Even when their ship finally succumbed to the ice, before their eyes. The old-timers had drive. Not only did they work with incredibly dangerous materials and crazy complicated processes in order to practice their craft, they chain-smoked the whole time. There is a site where you can buy images he shot from the expedition called “Endurance Photography.” No kidding. (They were referring to the name of the ship.)

      These guys didn’t switch from one size sensor to another when the technology shifted. Their complaint would not be that the buttons on the back of the camera moved. I can’t imagine a forty year career over that particular time frame. And we get pissy about sensor size, or whether there is as much craft in your digital workflow as in Hurley’s. Or Cartier-Bresson’s. No. There is not.

  50. James

    When everyone starts arguing about math


    • Zack

      Amen James!


  51. Art

    You’re praising Tony Northrup? OMG. That was the stupidest photography video I’ve ever seen. His contention was that camera manufacturers “cheat you” because they label lens apertures based on the actual aperture rather than the depth of field equivalent. So, according to Tony, an f/2.8 micro-four-thirds zoom should be labeled as f/5.6, because that’s its depth of field equivalent in the 24×36 format. Never mind that aperture numbers have been the basis of exposure since photography was invented. Never mind that exposure meters don’t give a shit how big your format is. F/2.8 is f/2.8 no matter how big your film or sensor is, just like shutter speed and ISO are the same regardless of format. No camera manufacturer “cheats you” by labeling a lens as f/2.8 when it really is f/2.8. Micro-four-thirds camera manufacturers should absolutely NOT label their f/2.8 lenses as f/5.6 just because some dumbass thinks aperture is a measure of depth of field equivalence in the 24×36 format. That’s not even debatable.

    • Phil

      I watched his video. I got from it that he was trying to say… If manufacturers want to talk equivalence, then they should talk about all types of equivalence. In that respect it’s a fair comment. There were some pretty funny examples of ads that were very selective about equivalence.

      Yes, equivalence doesn’t matter for a lot of people, but maybe those people shouldn’t be told that one camera/lens combination will produce identical images to another camera/lens combination when it won’t. Like Zack, he wasn’t saying one format is better than another, just different. Vive la différence.

  52. vkphoto

    Hey Zack,

    Great article and absolutely hilarious video!

    I have never understood the concept of a “full frame” when it’s applied to a sensor or film size. As long as the lens circle covers it fully, it is a full frame. And why small 24x36mm (yes, millimetres) all of a sudden is proclaimed as a full frame standard???

    But really I don’t care 🙂 I am more concerned about the quality of lenses, it seems that current sensors are simply out-resolving the majority of modern (and legacy) lenses. New optic designs / technologies are in order.


  53. Damian

    One of my problems with Canon (and I believe also Nikon) is that they never seemed to invest in making the lenses for their crop sensor cameras. Once they had a full-frame models it’s like they didn’t want APS-C glass discouraging people from making that jump.

    Think about it. The X100s has an equivalent field of view to 35mm. If you want to shoot that on a DSLR (at f/2) what are your options? 5D and 35mm lens? Crop body and 24mm L (king of close)? Either way it’s bulky. Their reluctance to put out small EF-S primes is part of the reason I’m shifting to Fuji.

  54. Jim Erickson

    Thanks for a great article and video. Why doesn’t anyone compare bokeh, or focus fall off or what ever you want to call it by taking an image with both formats, usng the exact same focal length, and then CROPPING the Full Frame shot to the same size as the CROPPED SENSOR? Isn’t that a much fairer comparison? Wouldn’t they be exactly the same? A 50mm lens is a 50mm lens regardless of the sensor size. I get so frustrated hearing that my 10-24 on my Fuji Xt1 is really a 15-35. That’s bull. It’s a 10-24 that has been cropped. Hope I’m clear.


  55. Jim Erickson

    PS, Meant to also thank you for doing that comparison. The 85mm vs 85mm of the squirrel. Your probably the first that I’ve seen to actually do that.

    Thanks again.

  56. Stephen

    It would have been nice if you would have let people know this was nothing more then a Fuji advertisement. It’s not a bad thing but it’s hardly impartial and I’m positive when Fuji makes a full frame camera your opinion will all of a sudden change.

    • Semilog

      The post had a lot more to do with sensor size than camera brand. And it’s spot-on.

  57. Albano

    Great video and article. I think you’re slightly wrong in one thing. Format doesn’t change DoF per se, it changes it by forcing you to use another focal length to achieve the same angle of view. The three things affecting DoF are focal length, aperture and distance to subject.
    Your DoF changes because you change from a 85mm to a 56mm.

  58. Gary Ayala

    In a similar discussion over at the Fuji X Forum I stated:

    “Photography can be calculus or it can be poetry. I prefer poetry.”

    Semper Fi

  59. adam

    hey sack, have you tried using old manual focus primes on your fujis? in particular lenses like konica’s 40mm or 85mm, or nikon’s 21mm. i’m a fan of old konica glass, but i’d like to hear your take on this.

    • Bob K

      I was preparing to sell some Canon FD lenses, so I tested them with an adapter on the XT. I decided not to sell them. The FD 85/1.8 isn’t as supercalifragilistic expibokehlicious as the Fuji 90/2 will be, but y’know… it takes nice photos and it’s a whole lot cheaper.

      They won’t impress lens fetishists, pixel-peepers, or DxO testers, but they work and they make nice photos. Wide-angle lenses might be more problematic. If you’re after absolute quality, stick with the Fuji lenses, but if you already have a lens that you just like, definitely give it a try.

      I should note that only recently have I gotten the hang of using manual focus well enough to be practical, the viewfinder and focus assist tools in the XT-1 really made the difference. Unfortunately, I still can’t focus quickly enough to catch the squirrels in my yard, so I have no samples photos to offer.

      • Zack

        Those pesky squirrels!


    • adam

      damn, didn’t even notice the typo – frickin’ autocorrect

  60. Ron Nabity

    Zack, great write up and I enjoy many of the comments.

    Often in my classes, a student would speak apologetically about their crop sensor camera, pine for a full-framer and this would usually lead us into a discussion about better/best vs. good enough. It was usually enough to tell them to keep the crop sensor camera and instead spend the money on a trip.

    Last year I unloaded all the DSLR gear and took up with Olympus OMD bodies and lenses for all my personal and professional work. No regrets whatsoever, except that I didn’t do it sooner. And for some reason, shooting seems more fun. Maybe it’s bucking the trend of bigger = better, or just the joy of not wrenching my back when I shoulder the camera bag. Whatever, what I have is more than good enough.

  61. Oscar

    if (ff / APS-C) is ~2X -> for the same technology ff is one full step (~double light) ahead like ISO800 / ISO400 or like 1/60 / 1/30 so, how can that be negligible?

    • Zack

      Because, no matter what the math says, my personal experience is that math doesn’t gel with what I’m producing with these cameras. The math and the photos don’t match.

      It’s similar to trying to prove or disprove your love of someone with math. There is no math for that. I’m looking at this photo I shot ISO 1600 on a Canon and an ISO 1600 shot on a Fuji. Pixel for pixel… I don’t see the math.


      • Stephen

        Funny how it’s a Fuji and your payed by Fuji.

        • Mark L

          Did you just pop over from DPR? I only ask because of the ten words you typed you got eight correct! Congratulations!

        • juice

          Dear Mr Illiterate, at any point, you can just stop watching. I know, radical concept.

        • Jim T.

          @Steven —
          Easy–replace “Fuji” for “Nikon”. Or Canon. Or Sony. Or Leica (M8/M9). Be Camera Brand Agnostic. I’d bet that at all ISOs except ultra stupid high ISO, you’ll be hard pressed to see a difference. In fact, at base ISO DX and FX are identical for all intents and purposes. And if you really worry about 1/2 stop extra DR or a bit more noise, you really should go back and HONE your craft with slide film which has much less latitude. Too bad K25/64 are no longer made!

          On the other hand, if you want to continue to defend your toy brand to feel better, go for it, whatever floats your boat.

  62. Brendan Tonkin

    I loved the Tony Northrup video. I love maths too. I’m as much as a tinkerer as I am a photographer, so I’m playing devil’s advocate here. What I liked about that video was that it was pointing misconceptions on the full frame vs aps-c from my nerdy math perspective, and what it came down to was not an issue of sensor size but lenses. Fuji is making a kickarse sensor on bodies with good user experience and designing a set of lenses that are designed for that specific sensor size. It really narrows the gap considerably, so that budget and usability should really be your biggest concern.

    I can frankly say that I’m a Canon guy because of two reasons – budget and usability – two things that have very little to do with Canon themselves. The budget bit is because I can rent and borrow lenses I need at ease, because cheap Chinese light systems etc. The user experience is because of Magic Lantern – a hack that makes a lot of little things convenient for me and really appeals to my tinkering side. I really respect my Fuji’s design goal in wanting to achieve relative simplicity (I love my X100), but I also want a camera that I can set up like a computer. It’s weird to me that what feels like more professional features than any manufacturer can offer at the moment come from an unofficial hack.

  63. bimal nair

    Zack! You are awesome! Nobody else got the skills & art to put up a point as good as you can. And boy! The sense of humor that you possess is enviable. Absolutely rocking video on ‘sensor sizes’. I was hooting & laughing all alone in my bedroom studio 😀

  64. Wes

    Along with the constant debate over sensor size, another one of my pet peeves is bokeh. That term wasn’t even in common use until the late 1990’s and now so many folks are preoccupied with what sort of bokeh they will get out of a lens. Seriously?

    • Zack



    • Jim T.

      Bokeh has become like sharpness, a concept for the burgoise, to paraphrase HCB.

      Easy recipe for Bokeh–shoot a 300mm f/2.8 lens and CHOOSE your background carefully. And this goes back to the 1980’s and before when OOF was popular in fashion magazines. Nothing new under the sun, just easily impressed amateurs.

      Here’s a suggestion to all bokeh users and abusers–try shooting environmental portraits with *everything* in focus. That means you’ll need to use composition and light, and *GASP* no bokeh crutch. But that could be accomplished with a smartphone, and what fun would that be?

      Great work Zack! Love the honest commentary!

  65. Fernando

    On my last two trips (Rajasthan & Outback Australia) I’ve carried an x100s & a D800. There’s reasons why I still like the D800, but I never at any stage felt like the x100s images were “inferior” or “cheap.”

    A lot of what you write gels with my experience. Sometimes I wonder if we are too hung up on cameras as machines rather thinking of them like instruments.

  66. Rod

    Just did the m43/full frame, bi yearly quality check (obsessive, second guess compulsion). Did a nice 16×20 print from my OMD to feel better about it.

  67. Karel

    Zack, what are your thoughts:

    I THINK I see something in MF gallery prints: there is a certain creamyness, smootheness, that I just can’t achieve. Either these guys can do post processing and printing much better than I can, or large sensors (large photo sites that is) have a better color depth (or something else?). I see this same difference between P&S and APS-C or FF. On the Luminous Landscape a remark was made that the only 12 MP FF Sony 7s was the thing that had “the most MF look apart from MF” (or something similar).

    My background: amateur, moved from 5D2 to X-E1. X-E1 was supposed to compliment the 5D2 for hiking, but man, that small thing is GOOD. No reason to keep the 5D2.
    Unfortunately no access to digital MF, don’t want LF hassle.

    • Jim T.

      If you describe creaminess, smoothness, that’s about the quality of light, which implies getting the lighting “right”–whether its getting up at 4AM to catch the early light, or waiting for the window light to be just right, or working your lighting set-up, or waiting all day for the conditions, etc. Avedon did the American West series simply with a LF Deardoff and white tent–resulting in beautiful lighting and striking portraits. Ansel Adams describes how he would wait for HOURS for the light to be just perfect, only to lose that in a few minutes.

      Also printing on a very high quality inkjet printer, often 10-12 pigment inks, on exhibition quality papers. Or it could be C-prints/silver halide/platinum. And like darkroom printing, takes a lot of practice, skill and art to render a beautiful, exhibition quality inkjet print. Not as simple as buying a printer and letting ‘er rip.

      • jamie

        yeah, and also, MF cameras can produce beautiful creamy prints, because the detail and tonal range and latitude are just night day when compared with smaller sensors.

        i don’t believe avedon used any tent at all — he used open shade — check out this great book by Laura WIlson (mother of actor Owen!!!) who was Avedon’s producer on that project

  68. A. Costa

    Well said Zack. It is exactly for this reasons that when I don’t shoot my E-M1 I shot with my medium format Mamiya film camera 😉

  69. Markus Müller

    Hi Zack,

    I like your work and was smiling on your video. But please, can you answer me some questions?

    Why do you bring out the advantages in size but put on a vertical grip? Would you take the Fuji to a footballgame (just a real ISO1600, no longer lenses like a 400 2.8)? How many batteries would you like to carry for such an event? Why don’t you sell the other cameras? Why are Fujiowners always so unrelaxed while arguing? Pentaxusers live in peace since ages (knowing that they own a good cam, equal to Canon/Nikon)…

    Fuji is not better, they just pushed a new sensor so high that they can compete with the existing old technologies… until the competitors will answer.

    At the end, your aggregation is the most important. The real photo takes the moron behind the cam. We. 😉

  70. Martin

    Why’d you have to go and stick a Fuji badge on that Contax RTS 🙁

    • Zack



  71. Timur Born

    Today’s tablet computers are more powerful than yesterdays *supercomputers*! So is this good enough for most people or do we still need to build a dedicated house to run our apps?

    There’s too much talk about sensor size when what for many practical applications really matters is system size, choice of lenses, operability and then need for speed (shallow DoF or sports).

    All sensor sizes improved, some smaller size systems improved their choice of lenses, so if one’s standards are the same today as they were some years ago then smaller systems indeed deliver “good enough” now for many people out there.

  72. Christian

    Zack, you’re the biggest camera nerd who claims not to be a nerd by hiding behind some common sense.

    For whom do you enter this “discussion”?
    What happened to the more signal less noise idea?

    • Zack

      The noise in this “discussion” is all the math and debates and which is better and full frame is better than APS and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

      The point I’m trying to make is look…. Guess what? APS is awesome and isn’t that much different from full frame. And if you want to really fight about full frame why don’t you go look at 4×5 and 8×10 and get your ass spanked because at the end of the day… it isn’t about the camera is it? It isn’t about APS or full frame or large format.

      Here’s the signal. The debate is kind of stupid. Cameras are awesome and not awesome. At the end of the day it comes down to the photographer. And if you think your full frame is ALL THAT and more… well, 8×10 kicks your ass so shut up.

      That’s where I’m trying to bring some signal into the discussion. I’d rather not have to spell it all out word for word and let folks figure it out on their own because it isn’t that hard to do.


      • DLuker

        BOOM!!! There’s ya signal right there!

      • Christian

        ok, thanks, I get your point.
        And you probably have to spell it out because you have the audience.
        Btw I like how serious you are about street art, even dedpxl is ‘exit through the gift shop’ 😉

        • Mark L

          “For whom…?” Well, gee, it’s Zack’s site, he can say what he wants. Signal and noise are alive and well, he demonstrated one, you demonstrated the other. Which is which? No need to spell that out, audience or no audience. He educates, encourages and inspires. The positive to your forum fodder’s negative.

        • Christian

          hey Mark,
          yes I asked for whom – and meant it probably less provocative than you read it. As far I can tell, Zack knows pretty well that habits change, technology changes and so does ones needs. Zack’s core message here is great, it’s the education and inspiration part you’re talking about. That’s also why I keep coming back to this site. I wasn’t aware that there’s a big enough discussion about sensor sizes that it needed a video reply to shut people up. I thought that discussion ranges somewhere in the near of ‘Nikon vs Canon’ and if he made a video about that, it’d also come back to the moron behind the camera.

        • Mark L

          Yep, that discussion/battle still rages, as does Nikon vs Canon, Sony vs everybody etc etc. I am painfully aware of these issues, and truly, with my hand on my heart, I wish I wasn’t (see my other post at the bottom of this page). I have had to pull myself away from the forum nonsense, it was driving me (and others) nuts. My closest friend & mentor is a pro and neither he, nor his colleagues get involved or agree with the drivel that passes for knowledge on said forums. Pros say one thing, guys on forums say another. Time to pick a side! And when a pro gives of his time & experience for free I’ve found the wisest thing to do is gratefully listen up. And, hopefully, become a better photographer, not just the guy with the biggest gun (apologies to Clint Eastwood)

        • Christian

          hey Mark,
          I think it’s smart to stay away from the forums. It’s better to learn on the fly anyways.
          Blogs are like TV, always available when we don’t happen to hang at the art book store 😉
          Pros also have opinions that can’t apply to everyone else of course, but it’s a cool thing that few share their experiences online for sure. However so much stuff is geared towards a purchase in one form or another. The best stuff is unpopular. I dug up an old commercial-free video of some guys I admire, I hope Zack can push for a revival ep1 of 5, best is Buck’s retirement plans

  73. Bill

    I consistently get more pleasing results from my D610 than from my D7100… Especially with telephoto lenses where I can frame the shot inside of the the lenses zoom range.

    I have tried to figure out why and the best I can muster is that for a given field of view my D610’s sensor is 50 percent closer than my D7100’s (200 on my D610 is ~135 on my D7100)… So I am capturing more detail with my D610 because of the extra 65mm of zoom. I think this makes a difference and it consistently bears itself out when I examine the images by zooming in as I post process them.

    If I am shooting beyond my zoom, then I like the ability to crop that the D7100 provides… More pixels on the target makes for a better cropped image.

    Another area that I get consistently better results is in high ISO images… There seems to me to be a significant gap between the D610 and the D7100 in this area and I have been able to shoot at 3200 and 6400 with very pleasing results on my D610 whereas the images from my D7100 suffer noticeable degradation at 6400…

    That being said… I often take my D7100 out instead of my D610 because it is smaller and lighter (and the autofocus is better) and when the light is good enough to keep me away from ISO 3200 or 6400 then I am happy enough with the images that I don’t miss my D610.

  74. Daf

    You kept mentioning “how the focus falls off”
    And I kept thinking – “yeah yeah, can’t be that much different” or “how can you tell how focus falls off” etc
    Then I looked at Greg Miller’s photos. Point taken.

    • Zack

      I promise I’m not making this shit up! 🙂


  75. Jake

    Hey now, Zack. Why does it have to be “or”?! Take away the math and half the posts on photography forums would go away. I love math AND moments. Math is just harder to light.

    • Zack

      Hahahaha! Math is hard to light. Tshirt!!!


      • Jake


        • Zack



      • Hanno

        😀 Tshirt, tshirt, thshirt!!! 😀

  76. Christoph

    At the end of the day, its about getting the shot. Too many people spend too much time over the science of photography and not the art. But then again this is coming from a guy that switched from DSLR to Fuji and in the process bought a couple Sigma DP Merrills (which I love even with their quirks). I’ve done portraits with the DP3M, which is sacrilege as its only 2.8 and not so razor thin DOF that only 3 eyelashes are in focus. I should be burned at the stake.

  77. Rob

    Zack – I also have a pet peeve related to this discussion, but it’s not the same as yours. The argument is often focused on these “smaller” cameras being just as good as larger ones, like you mentioned with your airport, travel, etc. example.

    My beef is that they’re not really that much smaller! They’re “negligibly” smaller, if you will.

    On any shoot worth arguing about you have stands, lights, modifiers, you’re posing people, moving furniture around, standing on a ladder, carrying a laptop or tablet with you, directing the subject and assistants…

    …and you’re telling me a camera that weighs a pound less is really any more convenient?

    These Fuji cameras are great (I have one) but 1. they’re not exactly pocket sized and 2. the camera is the smallest object on any professional photo shoot. Even an 8 x 10 view camera is smaller than a light kit.

    Maybe the “size doesn’t really matter” argument applies to this, too?

    • Zack

      Rob – Good points. It’s more of a logistics thing for me getting to the set. I’m, on average, flying twice a month. I used to check a big bag of lights and a light stand bag. I’d carry on 1 large roller and 1 backpack. That was just my gear. Four bags + a suitcase for clothes. I’m now down to 1 stand bag, 1 small roller for lights, and 1 backpack of camera gear.

      My life on the road is considerably more enjoyable with a simple subtraction of one bag. They are small enough that I was able to do that. Bodies are smaller. Lenses are smaller. Image quality compared to my Canon gear? The same. It’s simple math for me.


    • Mark L

      @Rob…a British pro I like ( initials DL ) recently commented on this issue. He packed an X-T1, 5 lenses, 2 flashes, charger, batts, cards etc into a Retrospective 30 bag…total weight around 7 kgs. Thats gotta be good news for anyone aged over, ummm, 21?

  78. DouglasGottlieb

    Doesn’t the new Pentax use the same sensor as the PhaseOne, but cost a fraction of the price?

    • Zack

      I think so but also without newer leaf shutter lenses. I think the Pentax maxes out around 125th or so for sync unless you get old leaf lenses. I’m not quite sure on that though. I haven’t looked into the new Pentax.


  79. Dave

    Hi Zack
    Thanks for sharing. Really thoughtful perspective by mentioning the larger formats and bringing them into the discussion. I have not yet had the good fortune of using a large format system but as I look through Gregory Heisler’s book, 50 Portraits, I am struck by depth of the images. Really remarkable.

    Also thanks for your candor in showing your Creative Live gig and comments on FF at that time. Things do change. Technology has improved vastly over the past 10 years. And quite significantly over the past four. The equipment today is so exceptionally good. Image quality is fantastic. It takes willingness & courage to step back and re-evaluate based on what you are now experiencing. An admirable quality…

    Apart from things like finances/budget, practicality and applications, so much of the discussion seems wrapped around justifications, judgements and perhaps even self-righteousness. I was speaking to a guy a couple of months ago who has a wedding business. He mentioned that his photographers must use a FF camera. When asked why, he replied “because it’s superior in quality and my clients deserve this”. I have heard similar sentiments from others. This type of statement, or rhetoric, just seems so over-simplified and inaccurate to me, not to mention a bit arrogant.

    Why not use something because you simply revel in using it? And at the end of the day, you’ve enjoyed the journey, the process of creating pictures, the flow of being wrapped up in what you are doing – You’ve created images that captured the moment, made the statement you envisioned, showed the breadth of emotions you witnessed, etc. And…..the images look great in print and on the web, on your tablet, on your phone and on and on….

    So if you dig FF, great. Use it. MF, or MFT. Cool. APS. Right on… Large Format. Awesome…. Get out and shoot. More pixels, less noise.


    • Zack

      More pixels. Less noise. Amen Dave!


  80. Tommi

    Zack, you said you don’t notice a big difference in depth of field between a crop sensor and a full frame. When I moved from crop to 35mm I did notice that getting a very shallow* DOF was much easier. I also noticed something else: with the 35mm sensor I had to recharge my flash batteries much more frequently than with the crop sensor camera. The reason for this is simple: for the shots that I didn’t want to have a very shallow DOF, I had to use a smaller aperture, and I compensated for that by increasing flash power.

    Still using the 5d2 as my main camera by the way. Being a hobbyist, the cameras don’t make me money, so I can’t upgrade my gear that often. I probably could afford a Fuji at the moment, but I don’t see it as being worth the money for me. For what I shoot and the way I shoot, pretty much everything about the 5d2 good enough. In fact, I bought the 5d2 second hand less than a year ago, and I love how it’s bigger than the Rebel it replaced – it’s easier to get a good grip of the camera.

    * yeah yeah, let’s leave aside what constitutes as very shallow and what doesn’t…

  81. jt

    I hear what you’re saying and I thank you for it.

    But 35mm existed before SLR, so there are people alive (and passed) who may have shot entire careers on 35mm.

    To me the FF thing is like saying a 30cm (12″) ruler is full length.

    You have a piece of sting that is less than 12″?
    That’s crop string.
    You might be able to tie a package with it, but is is less long than the reference length and is therefore no good?
    Insane argument.

    • Zack

      JT – I have never metaphor I didn’t like and that is a great one. I might have to steal that. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.


  82. Robert

    Let’s look at this another way. How many folks remember Steve McCurry’s 1984 cover of National Geographic magazine (the most popular cover in the history of the magazine)? It was dubbed “Afghan Girl” and depicted Sharbat Gula. It was shot on Kodachrome with a Nikon FM2 camera and Nikkor 105mm F2.5 lens. Manual exposure. Manual focus. Hell, manual everything.

    Now consider that by most metrics (DR, color accuracy, acuity, etc), today’s top-level micro four thirds sensors will produce significantly better IQ than 35mm transparency film could produce 40 years ago. Yet that image was good enough for the cover of one of the most prestigious magazines in the world, and will stand the test of time.

    How many non-commercial photographers here need better IQ than that? If you feel you do, then I would respectfully submit that it’s your technique that needs improvement, not your camera.

    Content is king.

    • Mark L

      @Robert….nail/head/hit. 😉

    • Zack

      BAM! Well said Robert.


    • Sid Ceaser (@sidceaser)

      I watching and listen to local photographers, on an almost daily basis, argue about things like ISO; about how they can’t take such-and-such photo because ISO 56-Billion isn’t good or clear enough. They can’t get their noise-ninja skillz to smooth out all those jagged asteroid-rocks we call grain (well, noise).

      I love grain. I LOVED ISO 3200. Giant pieces of rock-salt on your film. The image had to fit behind all those rocks. And that sh*t looked amazing.

      For the last hundred years photographers have pulled of amazing images before the advent of DSLR and stratosphere-high ISO settings. If allllllll those amazing photographers could pull off amazing images and make the trillions of magazine covers over the last hundred years, then this current crop of idiots can certainly learn how to make due with their D5-XMk12. C’mon, people.

      Every time I’m in earshot of people vomiting that kind of drivel from their mouths, I remind them that right now, this very second, someone is out there with a crappier camera, crappier light, crappier film and ISO and they are making images that are DESTROYING anything these people are attempting to shoot. Well, at least, attempting to explain what they might shoot if they would stop bitching about what they don’t have and get their bums outside and produce content.


      • Zack



      • jamie

        sid: Totally.

        like those robert capa d-day photos, all grainy and blurry and powerful.
        it’s content, it’s not mechanics. it’s content. content. what’s in the frame. we’re drowning in images these days, it’s crazy. no one cares how they were made. memorable images tell us something beyond how sharp or noiseless they are.

        nat geo / magnum photographer did a book recently that was primarily micro 4/3s with some nikon and iPhone thrown in. won some awards with it. he then used a x100 and now an xt-1. again, national geographic and magnum.

        it’s about the eye, not the eye candy gear.

        • Zack


    • Yvens

      Truth as been spoken!

  83. MC

    Agree with the crushing difference in quality between medium format/large format and asp-c/ff quality. There is no comparison.

    I shot large format 9″ x 9″ cameras working as an aerial photographer for a couple of years using surplus WWII recon cameras and Zeiss mapping cameras. Roll film nearly $1000 a roll for color back in the 90’s. At least it was 250 shot roll film.

    The contact sheets alone from that format are absolutely stunning.

    Just saw a show of Charles Marvelle’s work at a retrospective in Houston. Majority of the images were taken with 8x 10 glass negatives. Mind boggling detail. And taken in the mid to late 1800’s.

    • Zack

      Yep. Folks who haven’t had intimate experience with large format don’t know what they are missing.


  84. Mark L

    The FF cognescenti are basically saying “we can’t take good photos with aps-c or m43 sensors therefore YOU can’t either” OR “it’s all about the bokeh, dude/man/bro”. So when you get busy with your aps-c or m43 and get great pictures, then they’re gonna get busy shouting you down. With considerable vehemence, and the occasional personal (and inaccurate) accusation. With all the money Fuji’s “paying” you, you could’ve bought Atlanta right? Before I walked away from DPR’s nuthouse forums, I did a little experiment – i noted the anti-Fuji/aps complaints and their arguments, then I clicked on the poster’s name and visited their gallery. Guess what? Empty. To quote Gomer Pyle “surprise, surprise,surprise”. If a pro photographer is enthusiastic about a product, I,for one, wanna hear about it, and why. Just be aware of the approaching forum “intelligentsia” bearing torches and pitchforks. Love from Oz 😉

    • Zack

      Hahaha! Thanks Mark.

      Mayor of Atlanta

  85. Chris D

    Hi Zack.

    Great vid, and sooo funny.

    I was looking to buy a second hand Hasselblad H1 to shoot some Ilforf HP5. I miss B&W film.
    But it’s so small

  86. Daniel J. Cox

    Interesting how you mention Panasonic only in passing, explaining you shoot the GH4 and own the 7-14. Yet when you talk about al the amazing smaller camera’s you mention Sony, Fuji, Olympus several times and nary a word about Panasonic. Lumix is without a doubt the underdog everybody seems to love but nobody refers to when they mention the new, amazing quality smaller sensor cameras. Even you did it when you are waxing on about how amazing the new camera technology is. Very strange. Not sure what Panasonic has to do to earn a place in the Sony, Fuji, Olympus phrase. I tried the Olympus system and though the lenses are superb, their ergonomics, menus and handling are horrible. Just my two cents.

    • Zack

      I passed by it quickly because I’m going to talk about that camera in another post. I’ll be going in depth about it.


  87. Jose

    I didn’t see this mentioned in the video and only briefly in the text (but then you moved on). So I’ll ask as specific as possible while not being annoyingly specific.

    I shot Architecture, mostly for other architects (some realstate) and a lot for myself. I often need as wide a view as possible, be it due to a tight room, or I cant back up anymore because of fence, etc..

    Now, I’ve been doing ok with my “crop” sensor camera, either stitching panos or changing my angle. But I have been considering changing to a “full” frame sensor camera to try and get a wider angle. Am I wrong in this thinking?

    I have no preference to manufacturer or sensor size, I shoot my architecture photography in digital, film, and even my vintage polaroids (along with the Fuji Instax). But the one thing I get frustrated with is wanting a wider angle of view (I’ve considered a panoramic camera, they are just so expensive), what would you recommend for me?

    Thanks, for any advice you can give me.


    • Zack

      Jose – You are NEVER EVER EVER EVER wrong in deciding which tool will best work for the kind of work you are doing. If a full frame and the extra reach of those wide angles are what you need for your work then by all means that is the BEST option for you. Hands down. You won’t see sports photographers who use 600mm lenses moving to a Fuji or small Oly or Sony any time soon will you? 🙂


  88. Anthony

    Full frame vs. crop sensor.. yeah, yeah, whatever…
    More importantly: is that Sara Bareilles in the green dress on the ‘cover’ of the video??? Because I have pretty much the same reaction as Zack did over the 8×10 “full frame” 😉 in that video…

  89. Phillip

    Great article and funny as sh*t video Zack.

    I recently “upgraded” from a Canon 5D II to a Fuji XT1, and haven’t looked back. The 56mm is one gorgeous lens that I waited months to come back into stock, but was worth the wait. Having a camera more compact than the 5D II, but every bit as capable is a winner in my book. Fuji is on a roll.

  90. Derek Anson

    You’ve still got the IKEA sticks? lol

    • Mark L

      @Derek…Ahaa! You got him! It’s not Fuji smothering him in wealth, it’s bloody IKEA…I bet he’s lounging on his Bjorn sofa with his feet up on the Laargenstaard stool laughing his aasen off. Well spotted, Derek. FBI?

      • Zack

        Shit. The secret is out.


  91. Marcello Grassi

    I also use XPro1 and XE1 and Fuji X20.
    The real problem, of which you do not speak, is: with what program (iridient, lightroom, or whatever) you treated the files xSystem …
    Thanks for any reply!

  92. Julio Pino

    Thaaaaaank you!

  93. Adam S

    Here’s my math: I have a d800 and just got a fuji x-t1. I haven’t picked up my D800 since I started using the Fuji. Good math?

    • Zack

      That’s some math that Nikon should pay attention to. You aren’t alone. It happened to me too. I had a full DSLR kit, got a Fuji, started using that a bit and then, for some odd reason… I just never really wanted to go back to my DSLR. It has happened more times than I can count from folks I’ve talked to.


  94. Fergal

    Yes an interesting article. As improvements happen with APS-C and Full Frame it gets harder for the eyes to see the difference. With software it’s getting even harder to tell full frame from APS-C. Full frame is better but it’s almost hard to explain why because it’s hard to see the difference. I am struggling a bit though to understand why Fuji would be better than an DSLR. My experience is limited to the X100s. I love it as a camera . It’s beautiful. Handy size. Good quality for its size. I have an old Canon 500D APS-C. It’s still better than the X100s. It’s a good bit behind my other camera a 5D Mark III. It’s better than a Canon G12.
    It’s good but doesn’t blow me away in the way a lot of people write about it. I am very fond of it but don’t think it’s as good as a Nikon or Canon APS-C. Maybe the X-Ti is.

    • Nobody

      Yeah I have had the same experience with my x100s. It’s good, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. Focus is way slower than a DSLR, and misses more often. Further, the x100s much more frequently misses white balance and exposure metering when left to its own devices. So it ends up being kind of fiddly and slower to work with, but certainly not bad, and the image quality is nice.

    • Zack

      🙂 No.


  95. Doondoolis

    I still do not understand that in the modern age of technology era the 35mm sensor is significantly more expensive than APS-C. I think here is the manufacturers agreement, but not more expensive technology with just little more larger sensor… 😐

    • Zack

      Remember they usually hold the full frame sensors for more robust and feature filled cameras. So it’s not always the sensor you are paying more for.


      • Tommi

        Actually, the sensor does explain quite a bit about the price difference, and the physical size is what matters here. A full frame sensor with less pixels will probably cost more to manufacture than a crop sensor with more pixels. Here’s why:

        The sensors are made in a semiconductor manufacturing process. It starts with a wafer, which is a round disc made of pure silicon. Basically, it’s very carefully processed sand. The sensors are made on the wafer in a process called photolitography, tested, and cut out of the wafer.

        Now. Draw a circle with a diameter of 300 mm. How many 35 mm sensors can you cut out of it? How many APS-C sensors can you cut? How much of the wafer is wasted? It’s natural to get more sensors and less waste with a smaller sensor. And now that you’re doing this type of thing, see how many 60×45 mm sensors you could cut out, and see why digital medium format is so damn expensive 🙂

        Of course, a myriad of things affect the manufacturing cost (including manufacturing volume which is another reason why MF is sooo expensive), and then there’s loads more that affect the sales price. But this is the mechanism how the sensor size has a major effect on the price.

  96. Yvens

    Yet again….here am I reading endless debates on the Internet.

    I just saw Brandon of HONY post a picture of his second book Little Humans. He owns a Canon MkII and a 50mm. That’s it. Not even a damn flash. Yet, he makes an awesome living out of his single lens & camera. He gets a minimum of a 100k likes for every picture and sold tons of his books (hell I even bought one). He tells a story.

    But, here am I looking at endless debates on Internet.

    Is that what photography came to now?

    We could be out there and be shooting or organising a new project but we are talking gear. I love gear discussion when it helps you achieve that look or that fell that you search. How does the Saber Strip works and how it works with speedlights. Scott Krebs uses them day in day out and achieve great results. Should i buy this softbox for my upcoming shoot or is there a DIY solution?
    Put a medium format in my hand right now and I’ll suck as much as I do now. Main difference will be that my photo will be in ultra-res so you can see my lack of skills immediately. I’ll probably be angry that I spend 10 grand on something that will not improve my photography.

    Yet, we are pixel peeping, noise making when most of us aren’t satisfied with our photos. Are we looking for validation from Zack and peers or justifying purchases? I’m guilty of that (see previous post)

    Apologies to those of debated, maybe that is healthy for you but not for me. I saw Zack in Beijing with a crap camera and an even worst flash connect with people that he could not understand take some portrait that I can only achieve with one of my two $1000+ camera. I saw Vincent Laforet with a 100$ lens baby take some shadowy beauty street photos that I keep re-watching to understand how he composed it (with film on top of it).

    Time to put on the noise canceling earphones and do some real work.



    • Zack

      Well said Yvens. Well said. Sorry if I’m adding to the noise. Trying not to.


    • Yvens

      Rant over 🙂

  97. EROL

    Zack, thank you for time and effort in sharing info on the Fuji X’s. After watching your review, Adam’s and David Hobby’s reviews I was sold and bought my first Fuji: the X100s.

    It has been my friend on various trips to Paris, Belgium, and Istanbul. And guess what? Verrrrry satisfied, and no regrets for leaving my D7000 at home at all!!!
    Recently purchased the TCL and WCL at real bargain. Could not be happier!

    Thanks again for all your energy Zack!

  98. Ed Castillo

    Love the article and the video. It made me think, it answered questions I had thought about, but most of all it made me laugh! Holy crap, this is one of the reasons I follow you…I can relate to your sense of humor; you are a very down -to-earth kind of guy. Plaease continue using that twig as a pointer! It fell just short of poking your listener in chest and saying, “see, see, see!”. HAHAHA!
    I primarily shoot kids sports, baseball and soccer. I have to say I love LOVE using my x100s in the dugout and on the sidelines. I use a starter Canon camera system with a 70-200mm f2.8 for all the action shots on the field and am hoping to replace this system with an XT1 with the same focal length lens. Hope Fuji doesn’t let me down!

  99. Nicolas

    You really made me think of Fuji… I’am really just an amateur, shooting Pentax APSC for now (don’t really plan for FF or MF in all honestly… too big)

    Looking at the Fuji photos, I like the 55-200 fuji rendering, not so much the 18-55 or even the different primes. Well I’ll say it differently. I didn’t find example I liked on pixel pepper or flick river. Not that I wanted to look at 100% crop but just at the rendering when seeing the picture on my screen. There is this Fuji rendering. Hard to explain the rendering is just very clean. Colors are really nice… gradients look good… But maybe they miss character. Or well not really that, Fuji rendering has it own character. That I think I don’t like. Remind me of DA15 rendering in Pentax world. Very well regarded by many. I just happen to not like it. Doesn’t mean it is better or worse, of course.

    There are not many Fuji lenses available right now and well if I like only the 55-200 rendering… That limits things, isn’t it?

    For now, I’am more on this Pentax thing, and looking at thoses FA ltd. I don’t know if I would be able to get good shoot from them… But from what I have seen, many get shoots I really like out of them… Of course thoses are very expensive and mostly owned by photographers far greater than I’am…

    But still. This would not be as small as a Fuji, but still a good share smaller than most FF and their big lenses design…

    Anyway, as you see this is still APSC, not FF. And when I think of digital photography I just thing of “big sensors” as of micro 4/3, APSC and FF on one side… and some sensors like you have in most P&S on the other side. I can many time see the difference between P&S and one of the 3 that I call “big”. Between the 3, it is really difficult. I can, sometime. And sometime the FF will be slightly better.

    In the end, totally agree with you. If that’s important, go for something with a real difference in size. like 8×10!

    Too bad it is not very practical for day to day use…

    • Zack

      I wish it was! I wish it was!


  100. bryan karl lathrop

    Ah Zack, you never disappoint, well except for your [understandable] social media hiatuses—but that’s just me being selfish. Getting to the point, I loved this vid and written post for multiple and various reasons. But the overarching reason stems from your old mantra “it ain’t about the gear, it’s about the moron behind the gear.” (pardon my paraphrasing), I’ve latched that onto Chase Jarvis’s “the best camera is the one you have with you” and it has helped me stay pretty clear about things whilst shooting.

    I think one other facet that you hit on with this post without overtly saying it is that “there ain’t no silver bullet as far as gear goes.” In other words, each camera has its strengths and weaknesses. Hell, I have images that I’ve shot with my iPhone that I COULDN’T have captured with a D4s or anything larger (regardless of how sexy or expensive), sometimes because the lens on my phone is physically able to lay at floor level, and sometimes because my phone is so small that I can catch the moment without making a scene.

    I love my full frame sensor; I also adore my iPhone and my GoPro (for different reasons), but the common thread in that love is that they all allow me to follow my passion for capturing the moment.

    Finally, not sure who did the video editing on this segment but it, along with your delivery, had me guffawing out loud many times—raspberries, stick tapping, and “it’ll make yer peepee go soft.”

    All of the above is why I am grateful for everything you do brother.


    • Zack

      Thanks Bryan!

      My oldest, Caleb, was editing! That’s all him!


  101. Patrick Smith


    How can one spend some time dishing out useless information? I’m a seasoned pro photog and have no time reading (let alone write!) such misinformed stuff.

    Depth of field – and OOF areas – are directly related to image magnification (ie: the size of subject on the imaging surface). All the rest: sensor size, lens size, are irrelevant. For scientific purposes (but is not photography considered to be an art form), aperture and point of view are to remain constant for test consideration.

    Holy crap: this is depressing.

    • Semilog

      So, as a seasoned pro do you think a roughly 1.5 x increase in DoF is a really big deal? And if it is a big deal, is that increase a “good” thing, or a “bad” thing? [/sarcasm]

      • Patrick Smith

        There’s not such thing as good or bad DOF. Depends on what you are trying to communicate through your photographs…

      • Zack



    • Zack

      Patrick – The end point that I am trying to make is that it doesn’t effing matter. Full frame is awesome. APS is awesome. Medium format is gorgeous. 8×10 will make you cry. GoPros are kick ass cameras. It comes down to the photographer. It comes down to the photographer. It comes down to the photographer. It comes down to the photographer.


      • Patrick Smith

        I hear you: it comes down to me. And so, I choose the right camera for the job. I’m 54, have been a pro photog all my life, have shot with large format and iPhones (and probably made more photos with my iPhones than my LFs ;-).

        I choose the right tool for the job. Why, may you ask?

        BECAUSE THE RIGHT CAMERA MAKES A DIFFERENCE, AND IT’S NOT NEGLIGIBLE. If you can’t see the difference, you have a problem (as a photographer).


          I walked away from these comments long ago: but I think the point is:( present talent excluded; sorry Zack, no offense meant ). You look at Sara landos’ creative genius or Joe Mcnally’s images fer’ instance, does it matter if they are shot on FF OR APS-C? Damian Mcgillicuddy rocks olympus micro four thirds. It Just doesn’t matter: content, lighting and creativity trump all technical bickering.

          back to lurking. My “g.a.s. bubble is still waiting for “moving to motion” part II !:)
          cheers Zack!

    • Marco

      You’re awfully harsh on information that seems to be more accurate that what you’re saying. I’m sure you know your stuff, but the way you say it doesn’t make any sense.

      • Marco

        To be more specific, you say that given a constant point of view and aperture, the only thing that matters is magnification and that sensor size and lens size are irrelevant. Except… is not the amount of magnification completely dependent upon sensor size, lens size, and distance to subject?

  102. Mike

    Why I shoot “full frame”.

    Two short answers:
    – Canon TS-E 17mm
    – Zeiss Biotar 75mm

    The TS-E 17 gives me the widest possible shots without distortion. I have shot in so many cramped spaces and this lens always saves the day while not even looking wide-angly because of its lack of distortion. There simply is no equivalent lens for smaller sensors.
    Okay, sometimes you could get the same result using 4K and After Effects but I do neither have the money nor the need to implement a 4K workflow just to do lens shift emulation.

    The 75mm Biotar with its super-swirly bokeh gives me dreamy to surreal. I have used it many times on a steadicam and the result sometimes boggles the mind (the swirlyness makes you see shapes when there are none). Much of the swirliness is lost on a “crop sensor”.
    Okay, I could achieve the same using greenscreen, motion control and After Effects. But why if I can do it in camera?

    How often do I use the two lenses? In less than 20% of the projects.
    But it’s those 20% that people talk about and that get me 80% of the jobs (even if I need not use those lenses on them).

    Would I switch to a crop sensor? I guess not. Although Micro Four-Thirds would be really nice for documentary work (small, light, larger depth of field), I would have to buy so many new lenses only to be able to do then what I can do now, that I cannot really see any sense in it.

    Lenses made me a full-frame shooter and only lenses can change that.

    • Zack

      That’s a great example of choosing the right tools for what you need and how you like to work!


  103. Westin

    “Negligible”. Often, but not always. Why do you assume that what is negligible to your photos is also to mine? I’m capable of deciding when it is negligible in my own photography and when it is not.

    As the the more technical elements of the argument, better low ISO, improved light fall off/bokeh, shallower relative depth of field; I use these to my advantage. Oh I shoot with Fuji also. I know when I need “full frame” and when I don’t.

    To those that can’t see the difference between crop sensors and full frame, 90% of the time I’ll agree, but 10% of the time there is a clear difference. If you can’t see it, I’d question your abilities as a photographer to really see the details of an image.

    • Patrick Smith


      I totally agree with you. This article is funny, because I happen to use professionally both a D800 and an X100S. The Fuji is pretty quick except for AF, has a nice optical viewfinder, and is unobstrusive. All other things being equal, it offers more DoF than the Nikon, if required – I could also say that the Nikon offers more OoF areas. This is a fact, but also a matter of personal choices. There are however times when maths counts, whatever Mr Arias says. I do a lot of magazine work. The Fuji, uncropped, barely makes a double-page spread: it is 2464 pixels short on the long side, compared to the D800. At 300 dpi, that accounts for six inches of extra printing area. All art directors are happy to have a photographs they can move around or crop in a page spread. The Fuji x1OOs doesn’t allow for this.

    • Zack

      I’m not saying AT ALL that photographers should dump full frame. I explicitly say that full frame cameras are amazing and great. The point I’m trying to make is that small frame sensors have gotten much better and overall image quality between the two are becoming negligible. I can see the difference but, for me, and when my stuff gets printed… It’s tit for tat. I think one thing for me is constantly shooting APS and full frame alongside medium format. When you are looking at medium format everything else just effing pales in comparison. Full frame and APS get spanked over and over and over again by medium format. JUST LIKE IN THE DAYS OF FILM!

      But medium format isn’t the best tool for the job for every job. It’s slow. ISO performance sucks above ISO 200 (for what I’m using) and it’s a big heavy beast and is expensive. There are times a DSLR or mirrorless are better suited for the job. But if I shoot something with a medium format camera then a full frame then an APS this is what happens… The medium format shines. The full frame and the APS are… pretty much close to each other. So close that the difference is negligible. Then you print them and hang them side by side and full frame and APS are so damn close that it, to me, IMHO, doesn’t really matter which one I shoot. The only thing that is going to really make night and day difference is once I step up to medium format.

      Then… you shoot something like 8×10 and that spanks all of them. APS and Full frame look like shit. 8×10 stomps up and down on medium format. OMG. Don’t even get me started with 11×14 and I’ve never even shot 11×14 in my life but I have seen 11×14 prints and scans and there’s nothing like it.

      So when you see the beauty and majesty of an 11×14 and you know what is really capable out there with a camera and you drop down to 35mm full frame. Full frame and APS is … Frankly… Meh. Drive a new Porsche for a week then go back to an 89 Civic with 200,000 miles on it. Let’s say the Civic is still running well and the AC works and the windows go up and down and you can plug your iPhone into a tape deck adapter and all four speakers still work fine. It’s a fine car. It get’s you from A to B with no fuss or problems. But… You know what it’s like to drive a new Porsche. You know how that feels. You’ve tasted of that luxury for just a little bit. It sort of ruins the civic. But you can’t afford the Porsche or it isn’t practical for your life. It’s a fine car. Does a great job doing what you need it to do. Compare it to a 91 Camry and the difference is negligible.

      Should we have forum post on top of forum post about which is better… the 89 Civic or the 91 Camry? Honda vs. Toyota. Honda doesn’t calculate their horsepower correctly. Toyota’s AC isn’t as cold. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Does it effing matter?

      No. No it does not. Doesn’t matter. Why? Because 11×14 is out there in the world. Somewhere. Out there. Out there beneath the pale moonlight is an 11×14 camera. That 11×14 for all of its age and slowness and pain in the assness… that 11×14 camera has the capability of being fired up and just destroying all of our DSLRS and mirrorless and digital medium format cameras. 11×14 will beat our tiny ass little cameras into the ground and throw us through the gates of hell to never return. That old slow beast that is being left to rot in many a closet… it still has magic.


      • Ano-mister

        i agree with you, Zack-O !
        nice on the honda vs toyota metaphor.

        i have a friend who sold all of his canon gear and bought a couple of x-pro’s and now has an xe2 as well, and he shoots high end corporate work and stuff like that.

        i have all of my canon gear and an xt1 and xe2 and too many fuji lenses and i try to use them when possible. but if i’m getting hire to shoot a magazine cover, or spread, i find the canon is just a bit better, better with skin tones, larger, more croppable file.

        but i did a shoot a few months ago and the client cropped a vertical cover out of a high iso horizontal xe2 frame and it looked good (well, good enough.)

        i used to go into camera stores and have salespeople tell me, “well, this is what i use.” and i thought — ok, perhaps unfairly — that if they knew THAT much about cameras they would be making their livings as photographers, not camera salespeople. in other words, lots of folks on this comments section and on forums in general should learn about SEEING, and just not worry if their gear is the most uptodate, snazziest, shiniest, yada yada yada yada yah yah yah.

        ok, i’ll shuddup.


      • Patrick Smith

        2400 pixels (the difference between the x100s and D800 sensors resolution, lengthwise) amount to SIX INCHES of extra printing space in a typical double-page spread. Letting an art director crop, tilt, move the image in the page. Giving more creative freedom.

        How negligible is that???

        • Zack

          I’m not talking megapixels for megapixels here. I’m talking sensor size. Different conversation. If it’s that important to you then stop messing around with the tiny ass 35mm format and go get that new 50MP Sony chip and then stitch images and hand the art director a 70 inch wide image at 300 DPI and let them have at it! 🙂


  104. joel_i_lawrence

    I see you compared f/2.8 to f/2.8 on different cameras, but mu question remains…as I ask in the comments in you X-T1 post:

    “I understand the X-T1′s 1.5 crop sensor will yield f1.8 DOF equivalent on a 56mm f1.2 Fuji lens. Will the DOF be equivalent to my 5D3 with an 85mm f1.8 lens?

    If I put the prints of each camera of the same subject side by side, WITH DIFFERENT APETURE SETTINGS, would I be able to tell which camera made the image?”

    Thanx for helping me understand this. If the prints’ DOF looks the same and I can reproduce the same DOF in print with different cameras, then I lose nothing moving “up” to the X-T1. If the “fall off” looks different in print, then I might as well stay with my FF camera.

    • Ano-mister

      you know, the 5d3 is an amazing camera. great low iso performance, focus is really fast, it’s a true tool for a professional. the xt1 is quirkier, a bit slower to focus, but is something you can carry all day without breaking your back.

      yesterday i shot a job with a canon 5dmk2, an xt1 and an xe2, and at the end of day i felt pretty good.
      had i done that job with two canon’s and a couple of extra lenses, i would have needed an assistant.

      if you are a professional, i’d consider holding on to the canon. if you are doing it for fun, because you love photography and want to carry a camera all of the time, ditch the canon. they are big, they are heavy, the good lenses are usually heavy, and if you’re not doing huge magazine spreads, you don’t need it.

      bokey, schmokeh. look at what’s IN focus, not what’s out of focus.

      as to your question… 56 on xt1, same DOF as 85 1.8 on canon 5d.

      go the library, spend some time looking at images by the greats, see if they were more concerned with focus fall off or composition and the message made by the image.

      • joel_i_lawrence

        I understand getting the “moment”
        I’m interested in knowing if my subjects will stand out from the background the same way on both cameras with equivalent aperture settings and equivalent focal lengths. In print, will I be able to tell which camera shot which photo? Will the backgrounds be equally blurred. I’m not asking about sharpness or what makes a great photo. I just want to know if each camera can give me the same image. I don’t know how to be more clear in asking the question. Can an X-T1 create the same print image as a 5D3, i.e., X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 at f1.2 vs. a 5D3 85mm f/1.8 at f/1.8. Will the prints look identical?

        • Ano-mister

          ah. well, i’d say that they will look close, but not identical because i’m sure each sensor will give you it’s own look / noise.

          in print, i’d imagine that they will look incredibly close up to the maximum native size. full frame images are bigger, of course, i.e., more pixels.

          the only way to answer this is to shoot them and print them yourself. everyone else who does this and interprets this for you will give you their own bias.

    • Patrick Smith


      Keeping the same aperture (for example: 2.8) and point of view (like placing both cameras, in turn, on the same tripod), thus eliminating two variables, then only one thing (regardless of camera, sensor size, imaging system, you name it…) will make DoF and OoF areas change: it’s the subject size on the imaging surface.

      A photograph of a one-foot ruler, shot @ f:2,8, at 3ft distance, will have less DoF if it takes up one-inch of length on the sensor/film/whatever, than one taking up 1/2″ length. Hope this is clear…

      • Marco

        Patrick, I’m sure you know what you’re talking about, but the way you say it doesn’t make any sense: “only one thing… will make DoF and OoF areas change: it’s the subject size on the imaging surface.” Saying it that way makes it sound like if you have the same aperture and point of view your DoF and OoF areas will be different if you’re taking a picture of a thumbtack (subject size small on the imaging surface) vs bottle of wine (subject size large on the imaging surface). Certainly that’s not what you’re saying, because that’s patently false.

  105. Alex_Chaney

    Loved what you had to say Zack! I’ve shared your “crop or crap” video with many wedding photographer friends of mine who are stuck in “full frame la-la land” like I was and it got them stirring.

    Have been shooting the x-t1, x100s, and gh4 for weddings this season.
    I could NOT be happier. having the most creamy bokeh is not everything.

  106. Ian


    As ever, a lucid and thought-provoking post.

    I’m so curious about this, though…. what about how the smaller cameras feel in your hand? I use a d700 with a battery grip specifically because of the heft and the bulk, as well as quick access to controls. I had an APS panasonic for a while and LOVED the images but didn’t like how small it was in my hands, and ended up selling it.

    Do you notice any ergonomic issues with the Fuji or similar compact cameras?


    • Zack

      I LOVE the feel of the Nikon D3. Best camera body I ever owned. It was a beast. Loved it. The one in the video belongs to our summer intern, Bernard. I miss that camera. Not enough to get back to Nikon. Not enough to drop Fuji. I love my Fuji cameras too. I love how small and nimble they are. Tit for tat.



      I am a 6ft tall male with “mechanics hands”: I shot a canon 1ds mk2 for a lot of years; when I dipped my toes in the mirror less world; I was afraid of the “tiny camera”; I bought a lumix gh-3 with a battery grip and

      IMHO: I find it’s the perfect size for my clunky beat up hands. I love the individual buttons for iso,wb and exposure comp on top and behind the shutter.

      I’ve also got the x100s and xpro-1and they feel great too but I’m really sold on the micro four thirds csc and the lumix user interface( buttons, menus etc.) It’s unfortunate I associate Panasonic with cheap plastic tv/vcr combo’s. So olympus sticks in the back of my mind. but the lumix’s work and feel great. IMHO For web or print m4:3 is entirely “sufficient”.

      • Zack

        The GH4 is really nice. I really haven’t shot with it for stills much as I bought it to be a video camera. More to come on that. Many things on my to do list!


  107. David

    No problem Zack. Glad you finally noticed. No harm done though, for I knew smaller sensors had become plenty good several years ago from looking at my photos and others—not online but in print. I saw artists and commercial photographers using less then full frame and even–Shock!—micro 4/3s. Looked mighty fine to me. So. sorry to say, I paid attention to my own eyes and experience rather than yours.

  108. Too many choices

    Right. I will detest myself for even writing this, since posting comments like this means I am not out shooting, or sleeping deeply in order to be able to get up in time for good light. Or playing with my daughter. But I am stuck in Madrid for a few days on my way to Bolivia, lying by the pool, wife and daughter having a siesta, and have some time over. I havent read any stuff like this for a very long time, but I used to pay close attention to the full frame vs crop debate when I was buying gear. The gear I bought several years ago still does everything I need it to do. I have a couple of Nikon D700’s, a D3X, and a X100s, and some great lenses for the Nikons. They all do different things for me. I put a Leicatime leather halfcase on the x100s, and it is almost organic, bridging the gap between man and machine nicely. It is the only camera I ever took a photo of, and I actually have an emotional bond with it. My Nikons are more like colleagues than friends, and they do their jobs in a way that leaves me speechless. IN the jungle, on the saltflats, in the deserts, in the rainforests, you name it, they just turn up for work and get it done. I havent fiddled with a camera menu for over three years, and not once have any of my cameras lacked any functionality. I also shoot a Nikon F100, but living in Bolivia I cant get film developed (some chemicals are the same as used for refining cocaine, so they are blacklisted) and I can honestly say I do not miss it all that much. That is how good my cameras and post processing software are.

    A while ago I considered selling all the Nikon stuff, and buy a fujifilm setup. Even at used prices, I would be able to swap everything, and be left with over 5000 dollars in cash in my pocket. Why didnt I? I like my Nikons. I like the files they deliver when I do my part right. I like the way I dont ever have to think about the cameras. But the process of deciding gave me a decreased signal-to-noise ratio, thinking of gear and lenses and cameras and stuff. My photography slowed down, and what I did was in the end useless. I spoke to a photographer friend of mine looking for advise on how to improve my photo, and what gear to go for. He gave me a bollocking, saying that thinking of gear screws up your photo. So I stopped, and now I am back in “the zone” again. I just bought a D800 because i need video on a couple of assignments coming up, but that was done the right way. Dont buy a thing until you come up against a limitation, which should be more or less never, with todays super cameras even at entry level.

    Oh, and a note on the fujifilm X100s: Love it. Love it. But I will spend three weeks in the jungle, with no electricity to charge batteries. I have five for my X100s, but they still wouldn’t last more than a day or perhaps two if I was careful. That is a real limitation, one that really really counts.

    • Zack

      “My Nikons are more like colleagues than friends”

      Well said. Thanks for the comment!


      • Anders

        Well, lets face it. The day one can look at a photo and tell immediately if it has been shot with a FF, Crop, Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Etc etc, is the day it is time to pay atention to the debate. Right now, it just gets in the way of shooting…

  109. Jim Mondry

    You’ve got enough “2 cents” worth of comments to be rich, but I’ll throw mine in anyway. About a year ago, I knew I needed to upgrade from my D200. It was holding back my photography. I had been reading your love of the Fuji camera, but had been given enough other input that made me feel like it made more sense to step up to full frame, so I bought a D600 (well after the shutter/oil fiasco was resolved). Was I happy? When I look at any image I have taken with it (specifically landscape work), I love it. The colours are amazing, they are sharp, and I like the feel of the images I get. But, I hate working with the camera – the ergonomics are crap. I decided after playing with an old point and shoot to finally invest in a small fuji set up for those times when I was just taking images of my family. I bought the X-M1, thinking that it was in my price range, had the APS-C sensor, and could interchange lenses (so it was a good middle range for me, since I hated the viewfinder on the X-E1, and couldn’t afford to buy an X-Pro, and wanted the interchangeable lens option). So do I regret either? Not really – my Nikon feels more like a workhorse camera to me. Perhaps if I could have stepped up to the X-Pro I might be feeling different, but I feel more serious with my Nikon and I do slow down with it. I’m more likely to pull out my tripod, and consider the scene. With my X-M1, I just handhold and shoot.
    Are the images better out of my D600? They are different, becuase I have different lenses, and the colours are slightly different. At the end of the day, I think its more important to find equipment that supports your workflow and supports you creatively, that feels right. It’s why a lot of people love Apple computers – they feel right to some. To be honest, I am hoping for some day there to be a $5K medium format kit, but until then, I’ll probably be sticking with what I have (that is unless Fuji comes out with an X100 varient with a 50mm lens, and a tilting screen, then I would have to sell my spleen for that).
    Thanks for your insights – I appreciate your candor and experience.

    • Zack

      Thanks for adding your 2 cents to my pile of pennies! I nearly have enough for a latte! 🙂 Well said Jim.



    Eagerly awaiting (checking daily for ) your “moving to motion” #2 post.
    GH4 g.a.s.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ermaghard……………..

  111. Sean Galbraith

    I’m a large format photographer.. and I completely agree with everything in this post. There really is just nothing like shooting portraits with large format film. The combination of a small format walk around digital and a large format setup for studio is perfect.

  112. Scott Stebner

    Thanks again for a great post! I’m curious, are you still using the IQ140? It’s a crop version of a medium format, and have you noticed any differences in DOF or quality between that and the “full frame” MF like the IQ160 or P45+?

  113. deer hunter 2014 hack android

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  114. Ian K

    I’m a Fuji X100 OG and X-Pro1 user, and don’t intend on going FF because I like the smaller size of an APS-C mirrorless with lens attached.

    Despite what you said, FF does have a huge advantage in how shallow the DoF is, as well as bokeh (yes, I’m talking about the quality of the background blur).

    Look, when I buy lenses, I tend to buy them based on “equivalent” focal length. I like the Fuji 23 mm because it’s equivalent to a 35 mm on FF, while the 35 mm is equivalent to the 50 mm, give or take. That means the DoF and bokeh will be shallower and better if using a FF camera, because you’d be dealing with the true focal length that you wish to use rather than just the “equivalent”, crop-corrected focal length.

    Comparing the same 85 mm lens on both a FF DSLR and the Fuji X-T1 may yield comparable bokeh, but for most people, they choose their lens based on the equivalent focal length.

  115. JIm

    Just catching up on my reading. I love my Fuji Xpro and XE-2, I hadn’t owned a digital camera in years until I picked up an x100s and was totally sold on the xtrans and Fuji jpeg engine. My current portfolio is mostly 4×5 with one Hasselblad and one Xpro shot mixed in and at web sizes noone can tell which one is the Xpro (the Hassie shot is obviously the square one). I have no plans to shoot personal or pro work on 120 from here on out it’s either xtrans or large format for me.

  116. Jacob M.

    HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHA!!!! First time comment. Had to comment…. Best video so far. Keep up the awesome random stick pointer work. This video made my day.

    Zack Arias = Boss.

  117. Boehli

    Sure technology advances apply to all sensor sizes ! and if comparing a FF sensor vs an apsc one at both 16 Mpix, the FF will be as Zack said a bit better.

    But as technology advances apply to all sensor sizes … The more size you have … the more pixels they put in ! … So if you compare in real life a 36 Mpix FF and a 16 Mpix Xtrans … I agree with Zack totaly and said that 2 since years : Differences nowadays between FF and APSC are NEGLIGEABLE … For today such a small benefit .. You spend much more money, carry a lot … i prefere having fun with my fuji apsc x system wich delivers incredible pictures than continuing to carry those massives system that don’t gives me today a real advantage… I’m comming myself from full frame system ( D3, D3s, D4 … ) … And will never go back again ! i ‘m so enjoying X100s, XE-1 and Xt-1 for their capacity and versatility … it’s a pleasure to shoot with ! … For real advantages … Gives us a medium format like we were used to … in a “compact body” with just basics and goos iso 1600 and 3200 capacity and not those hudges super big bodies ! … We need digital 645 like fuji was used to made with today technologie ! … Fight of small sensors is a non sence.

    From Paris, France

    Best regards.

  118. Stefania

    Hello Zack,

    I am glad to finally write to you, I have watched many of your photography videos and I also read your blog. I have to say you have changed the way I use to think about full frame and crop sensors, I never before looked into Fujifilm.
    I shoot most interior, portrait, some sport photography, street and some macro and I own a Nikon D600 and I come from a Olympus 4/3 so it has been a big jump for me, but I have noticed for the last couple of years since I switched to FF that I don’t shoot as much because I take it with me less often and I am unable to shoot from the tricky angles I used to do before and having an all way tilting screen used to be so handy!
    After working in a cruise ship last year as a photographer I really got a good feel of carrying for 7 hours many days and shooting with my FF, 24-120mm F4 lens and Flush gun all time in my hand..

    After reading and watching reviews I am excited again about photography gear because this fujifilm X series means small size and great photo quality, I am sold on Fuji X-T1 camera and quite like the X100s although I don’t think this last one is for me, I need a camera that can replace my D600 professionally but one that I will also want to take with me everywhere.
    My dilemma now since I read that you prefer your x100s more than any other Fuji, is whether I should buy one and don’t get a pancake or 35mm for my X-T1 and get just the 60mm F2.4- I have the option to buy second hand bodies and it is just £200 more when I get the X-T1+60mm and the X100s rather than getting the 27 mm F2 pancake..

    I hope this wasn’t too confusing, I am just a bit unsure whether I will be making a sensible decision swapping my gear!

    Thank you for all your efforts in the blog and for being so real Zack!

    A warm hug from cold England.

    Stefania AKA AlmaArte.

    • Stefania

      to make it clear, I am not going back to shooting in the cruiseship . So I am free to choose whatever camera I want.. I still don’t know what is going to be my professional photographic path yet, I shoot a bit of many things but I always look for the ‘Soul’ on whatever I am capturing, all I know is that I get inspiration from portraits or scenarios with character and feeling, that tells a story just like a cinematic clip. (:

    • Zack

      Hi Stefania,

      I like the x100s because I carry it with me every where I go. For work I go to the XT1 for the lens choice it gives me. That’s not to say I don’t shoot the x100s but you know what I’m saying.

      One glitch in your idea there though is that 60mm lens. I don’t like that lens at all. It’s slow for focusing. You almost have to treat it like a manual focus lens. I think that one needs a new version. If you have to have macro then you can get an extension tube for the X series now. There’s an aftermarket option and I think Fuji is releasing one soon.

      The 35mm is fantastic. Love that lens.

      Fuji XT1 – 35mm – 56mm – x100s <--- That would be a great kit of gear! Cheers, Zack

      • Stefania

        Thanks for replying so quickly Zack!

        It would be a great gear kit, but it would go out my budget for quite a bit! I am hoping to find an adapter for my 50mm nikon lenses F1.4 that would make a 75mm so almost that portrait lens!

        About the 60mm I haven’t tried it just yet, I can’t afford the 56mm just now that is the reason for why I was looking into the 60.

        I am now considering getting instead of the primes the kit lenses 14-55mm F2.8-4 that comes with the camera as I heard it is good.. at least for now until I can get some money together!

        I feel like I am being greedy wanting both the X100s and XT-1 cameras, I have never used two cameras at once before, I tell myself the X-T1 is compact enough and more coupled with a pancake lens! (but I understand having a second body can be handy and necessary sometimes)

        One last thing.. where do you recommend I sell my Nikon gear? I have in mind trying on my photography group and if it doesn’t get sold there then a exchange shop or try amazon, but I have never sold anything online before and I am a bit unsecure..

        Maaaany thanks Zack!


        Stefania V.S AKA AlmaArte Photography.

  119. Javier


    It is hard that after spending too much money on the “best” gear (based on marketing information of course) now we find out that we can obtain same quality (ok, nearly the “same” but on 8×12 prints I doubt some one will find it) as other smaller options.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain why APS vs 35mm debate is …. too small to invest huge amount of time. At the end, we should photograph with the gear that delivers what we want AND what we can afford. (Should I add AND what we want to carry?)

    • Zack

      Well said Javier.


  120. Andy

    hey guys, i’m really at sixes and sevens 🙂 i am trying to choose a camera, smaller would be better as i like photographing landscapes and seascapes so a bit of hiking involved and don’t want the burden of a large dslr, with lenses etc etc. so can anyone advise, i have been looking at the oly e-m1, and the fuji xt-1 and now have gone onto the sony a7r possibly, yes i understand the differences between all ( i think ) lol. ok on landscapes i wouldn’t need that shallow depth of field that much unless I’m trying to isolate a subject, and of course i would appreciate the sharper image and while i also am aware that the photographer has a whole shit load to do with said image, but can the e-m1 really compare near the xt-1 and a7r for landscapes?

  121. James

    This is a good article that doesn’t oversimplify. I have a different reason I went back to full frame (now that the bodies have got smaller/lighter like the Sony A7 series). Perspective. If I’m shooting a landscape and I have to use, say, a 15mm fov on a crop sensor, rather than, say, 24mm on full frame, what do I get? I shitload of foreground, while my subject, which is often in the distance for landscape work, becomes some distant group of pixels. It’s irritating, because I love the new aps-c cameras, I had an X–T1 for a while and it was sublime in use, but I never got over this for a good percentage of my shots. I believe this is also why some of the great photographers in this field still use medium format or large format – it allows them (camera to subject distance being equal) to have enough aov to achieve some nice foreground detail, but retaining the subject more sizeably in the background, allowing its prominence in the image.

  122. Alejandro

    Enjoyed video about sensor size. Having used mainly 35mm film most of my career I believe FF is where I want to return after the digital revolution started in the 90’s and we could get was small sensors. Film vs digital is a different discussion but ff is just evolution to normal after a decline. Once ff we are back to comparing apples to apples. i suspect digital will be superior because no one is developing a better tri-x. keep up the good work.

  123. Alejandro

    Enjoyed video about sensor size. Having used mainly 35mm film most of my career I believe FF is where I want to return after the digital revolution started in the 90’s and all we could get was smaller sensors. Film vs digital is a different discussion but ff is just technology reaching the point where the tech race started. Once ff is the norm we are back to comparing apples to apples. i suspect digital will be superior because no one is developing a better Tri-x. keep up the good work.

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  125. Nish Nalbandian

    i shoot 5d mkiii’s as a photojournalist with canon L primes. I fooled around with leicas, both ff and medium. I shoot 35mm and 6×7 film for personal work. I have an x-pro-1 and I’m selling it. I just don’t like it or its output. The raw file doesn’t feel nearly as nice as those from the mkiii. I also like the files from the mkiii way more than the ones from the mkii. It’s just a personal preference. Once you have a modern camera that allows shallow depth of field then all this other stuff just becomes a matter of personal preference and workflow. I can’t see spending this much time worrying about the gear when what makes a great photo is timing and intention.

    • Rand

      I’ve been an avid fuji user since the x-pro came out and am currently questioning x-trans rendering quality, which has me wondering about moving to the Sony A7 family. There is a distinct difference in the look of the files when viewed closely, and I’m not sure if it’s objectionable, or just “different.” And it does matter, if photography matters… for the rest of my life, these moments captured on film will be defined by those pixels, and that specific rendering.

  126. Mayank Gautam

    I am planning to take my photography to a professional level, I currently use a CanonT3i with 18-135mm lens, though many people say that its not a serious camera but I have taken a few memorable shots with it. Now the limitations that bother me currently is that 1.I take a lot of night shots, 2.The camera suffers from low fps which has resulted in me missing some shots earlier 3.The lens and also the 50mm f/1.8 take forever to focus and sometime give false focus.
    I am thinking of upgrading to 7d mark2 as that much I can invest right now plus I am aware that I will have to buy a few good lenses too.My apprehension is in investing in crop body lenses and then feeling the need to go full frame in near future or the crop sensor might now give me the required ‘pop’ in the picture.
    Since the price of 7d 2 and 6D is same, I still dont want to go for 6D as it suffers from low fps and few autofocus points( plus the lenses are also expensive) The Fujifilm xt1 is also of the same price and I’m very impressed with the image quality and mirrorless system also seems to be the future but I;m just wary if it is still too early to jump the bandwagon?

  127. grayson

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  128. Talia

    Hi Zack. Awesome video. If the difference being negligeable between full frame and APS-C, would you go further saying the difference between m4/3 and APS-C is negligeable too? Not to demonstrate that as a consequence it is hence negligeable between m4/3 and full frame :-).

    What I found interesting is that the bokeh balls on the Nikon at 2.8 let show the diaphragm blades, and they are almost invisible on the Panasonic/Leica. Is is because of the lens or the smaller sensor?

    Anyways, can’t wait to read your post on the GH4. I don’t need bigger than APS-C, so may be the stills quality in the GH4 is close enough to a X-T1 to trade for much better/pro video…

    Thanks for your awesome blog… And humour!


    • Geoff

      If there is a negligible difference between apsc and full frame, logic dictates that there is also a negligible difference between apsc and m43, which means there is also a negligible difference between m43 and point and shoot, which means there is also a negligible difference between point and shoot and camera phones, and so on and so on.

      I ask you this, does Zak shoot with a camera phone over an APSC camera? No he does not. So this “negligible difference” he talks of must actually matter to him at some point, on some level; and it seems that point was reached when he started shooting and championing Fuji cameras.

      Obviously Zak acknowledges he is backtracking on many previous comments about big is best; so who knows when he will say bigger is better (I suspect when Fuji bring out a larger sensor).

      You have your answer right in front of you.

  129. Tom Crawford


    Thanks so much for a really interesting article and your video “Crop or Crap”. I’ve been shooting photos for over 40 years, and lately reading far too much of the internet since I am stuck at home recovering from surgery. This article served as a much needed sanity check.

    I started out with film, 35mm, medium format, and a tiny bit of 4×5 and sold images to my local paper from the time I was a teenager using grainy Tri-X and a couple of old thumb wind Nikons. Other than that, I shot as a hobby and made pictures that I liked and that my friends enjoyed enough to hang on their walls. I had a lot more fun back when I was not obsessing over technology.

    I actually did not get my first DSLR until 2008, which was a 10mp 4/3rds Olympus. For most things, I thought I had died and gone to heaven, except in low light, which was still better than Tri-X. I got a D7000 in 2014 and love it for what I do, and my OM-D EM-5 is even more fun for travel.

    But I kept reading about “going full frame” and the testimonials from guys who “upgraded”, then looked at their photos and saw many that could have been taken just fine with a pocket camera. Truthfully, when comparing pictures at 100% I did see some slight differences very rarely, but nothing I could not equalize by opening up one stop, or going to a slightly longer lens. I even bought a Nikon D600 and shot it for two weeks, and I’ll be damned if I could see much difference, certainly not enough to justify switching out my lenses and carrying big heavy glass, so I sent it back.

    This is what I mean by a sanity check. You are a pro, and certainly shoot much more and in more situations than I do, and you have come to the same conclusion, that there is very little difference between 35mm full frame, APS-C, and micro 4/3rds these days, and if I want a little better performance, I need not change formats. I can just buy the next generation of what I have.

    Sometimes I wonder if all these glowing testimonials like “once you go full frame you will never go back”, and people citing differences between photos that almost seem imaginary to me, are not based in a need to justify the amount of money spent on the upgrade to “full frame”?

    • Zack Arias

      Thanks for the comment Tom. I was one of those “go full frame and never go back” people until I got the X100. Then I started printing APS and Full frame and standing back and looking for the big full frame difference and it was so negligible I had to change my tune. I’m much happier with my small system than my old DSLR system.

      Thanks again for the comment and I wish you a speedy recovery!


  130. tom

    Oh very interesting. I was actually on the verge to switch from big Dslr to mirrorless. But I like to work a lot on the files. I gave up on D800 for size-shake-lenses… Madness I heard. The files were gorgeous to work with tho. I replaced high resolution with 2 sigmas Merrill mostly for the possibility of flash sync up to 1/2000 but they blow higlights quite easily and blacks can be.. very black. For low light and walkaround I was lurking at first on sony A7 but i heard that much about the fuji X lineup. And they are making cash backs at the moment (!)

    Do you think the high iso XT1 catch up what my old A99 was able to do (which wasn’t that spectacular -5DII like- but had image stabilisation on sensor)?

    what are your thoughts on A7 series?
    Thanks for your insight 😉

    • Zack Arias

      Sony makes smart cameras. I just hate their design and I think they are over priced for what they are. The XT1 beats a 5D2 for ISO performance IMHO.


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  133. Carl

    Good points Zack but the question is still there . No matter how wonderful is your GH4 or other no full frames lenses, why would you want to invest in a crop 1.5 x or 2x camera which put blinders on your view and also increases aperture? Surely it should be a four frame camera equivalent at a similar price doing the same as the crop ones including the GH4? I would be interested to hear about that.
    I disagree about the issue you call ‘maths vs moments ‘ The reality is that you can’t get a real 10mm view to do some panoramic filming work or whatever with your GH4 because there is no a 5mm lens in the market. You may not need it now for your work Zack but what about the rest of the world? Also, aperture wise, why should you sacrifice it with a crop camera? When considering buying a GH4 now, for me it almost feels that I would be buying a camera with a life sentence disability installed. Unlike with physiotherapy, where most people can regain what they lost, with a crop camera you won’t recover as even if you use those speed boosters, you only get (maths again) a 0.7 f improvement which is not really good enough.
    So Zack, the way I see it is not about needing to have ‘the best equipment out there so I can give myself permission to be creative and produce quality work, but about been aware of the very crucial limitations of crop cameras when compared to 4 frames ones . Composition , creativity and telling a story is what matter in the long term of course, but what if I have to compromise too much to adapt my work to the limitations of the camera rather than me having full freedom to choose how I want my films and photos look like?

    • brad

      hi carl – I see your point I think, and have no argument with it :^)

      I’d take Zack to mean that the camera technology is the least important part of the process really, and that for most purposes a modern APS-C sensor and good lens combo will deliver all the quality you can use (in a practical sense)

      If time and money were no object, and my photographic subjects were still lifes or landscapes, then I would 100% agree with you that I would go all out with gear (medium format) and lenses / light meters / manual setups…. and the results would be the very best product I can produce….. but if I can’t compose an image for crap, the images will still be crap (just AWESOME crap :^)

      Sadly I’m not good enough to justfy that (… yet…? :^) And also, sadly, many of my photo taking opportunities come with limited time (people / lighting) and budget……

      anyway – I DO see your point… I’m probably just too realistic in my assessment of my requirements to justify the cost of full frame bodies and lenses (for my needs……not my “wants” :^)

      thanks for sharing…


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    A year later, I wanted to add a quick shout out on this video. All of our weddings are shot on APS-C. Looks ok to me.

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  155. John Hagar

    I think I can settle this whole thing right now – easily – in 3 steps.

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    2) My friend loaned me a Fuji X-E2 for a week.

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    Settled – EASY AS 1, 2, 3!


  156. JAKUB

    I just want to Thank You for writing this article. It helepd me A LOT. For 4 years i’ve been shooting old sony alpha. It was very cheap. Now i finally have money to invest and i was like.. should i be a pro and choose 35mm or should i follow my heart and choose XT-1. Now i know. Thanks.

  157. Zaphod

    Great article, Zack!

    Have you heard Kipon are bringing out focal reducers from Medium Format to FF? Do you think that will get you the kind of focus falloff MF gives you on FF (at the cost of resolution)?

    (Sorry for taking 2 years to get here, I’m reading the internet one page at a time)

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  161. Shane

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  162. Lily

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  163. Aleksi Lausti

    I started with “full frame” and medium format, then went down to APS-C, then down to M4/3 and the further down to 1″ sensors all the while doing professional payed work with each format just to see if it can be done and “lo and behold”, it can! because like Zack is trying to point out photography is not just math but moments. For me APS-C is the best Barnack camera for this day and age but even M4/3 is catching up real fast!

  164. Anthony Oresteen

    The ONLY reason I want a FF digital sensor camera is to use my 35mm FF lenses. Full frame senors EXCEL when using WIDE angle lenses! A 21mm lens on a FF is WIDE lens 21mm. A 21mm lens on APS-C is a 32mm barely wide lens. On M43 it is a 42mm lens or NORMAL. The ONLY reason to use a FF sensor is to use WIDE angle lenses as wide angle lens.

    As you mentioned APS-C & M43 put huge blinders on your wide angle lenses.

    Why should I have to replace my existing wide angle lenses? And yes I would switch to Fuji IF it was a full frame so I could my frickin’ wide angle lenses as they were designed to be used. I have 18mm, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm lenses that I want to use as WIDE angle lenses. For now I just shoot film and scan the negatives.

    The BIG issue with Four Thirds and M43 is the lack of wide angle prime lenses. I still shoot with my Olympus E-5 but it sucks when trying to use a wide angle prime lens. Ditto for m43. Where is the 10mm m43 prime lens that is auto focus & auto diaphragm? No where.

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  170. Jamie

    What about upgrading from Canon 70D ? Its difficult getting all body parts in the frame using this crop sensor. Are you saying the quality is negliable as long as I have the proper lens that would give me the same field of view as a full frame ? What about the limitation on number of focus points on the 70D in terms of limiting where I can place the focus,?
    Please clarify

    • Zack Arias

      Look. Breathe. Stop. Think.

      We have over a century of photographers who have made careers without all the bells and whistles we have now.

      I currently own an amazingly and stupidly expensive camera that has ONE focus point. A $50,000 camera with one single focus point that is the most amazing camera I’ve ever owned that is a pain in the ass to get in focus at times.

      50D. 60D. 70D. 80D.

      None of them know moment or emotion or light or content or composition. None of them know that. That’s all on you.

  171. Graham Warrellow

    Brutal, honest and a great perspective. Brilliant article and humorously scripted video. Thanks Zach for taking the trouble to put this together and to revisit the never-ending sensor debate. I think you nailed it with ‘Maths or moments? Maths or moments?’

    I currently shoot full-frame for weddings and no client ever said to me, “Why aren’t you shooting medium format?” If you nail the moment on an XT-1, no client is ever going to say, “Why don’t you shoot with a 5D Mk4, or whatever?” They’ll always treasure the moment and won’t give a rats ass which camera you used, so long as you captured the moment!

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    Cool video/article Zack, thanks for posting. I have an x100s (which I bought on your recommendation) & a Canon 6d with great glass. Love them both for different reasons. Haven’t tried the XT1 except for in store use…..tempted but I don’t want to change all my glass. The 6d image quality seems to be better than the x100s. Is it the glass I’m using? Maybe. But as the FF sensor surface area is ~2x bigger, and technology advances apply to all sensor sizes, size may indeed matter. Is the x100s amazing……absolutely yes. It’s got a killer apsc sensor & jpeg engine. Maybe I’d change my mind if I could borrow an XT1 with great glass for a week. Then again what will Photokina bring? More choice, more decisions, and more gear dilemmas. Glad the XT1 is working out great for you. Your work is really impressive & inspiring.

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    Agreed. Technology just keeps getting better across the board. I think some are falling behind in the innovation department but whatever. We have amazing tools in our hands these days and we just need to get out and shoot. Right?

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    I’m trying to make the move from film to digital to save money on processing and just to get faster results so that I can learn as much as possible. I’m loving all the stuff that I’m seeing from Fuji and Sony but the only thing that is keeping me from going digital is the color palette of film is so yummy. I love how Fuji has its film simulation and how you can get quality JPEGs right from the camera, now that really appeals to me. My question, what is your opinion of getting everything RIGHT in the camera so that I don’t have to screw around in editing software pissing myself off. I would die for a workflow that consists of shooting, uploading and printing without ANY editing. Is this dreamland or a reality?

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    ech improvements could apply to full frame sensors as well as smaller ones. But some FF cameras have not had updates in a while. The Nikon D810 has a great sensor (somewhat unuseable – see Thom Hogan on the current RAW converts for the 810) but a number of Canon and Nikon FF cameras do not have the newest tech in their sensors (see Thom Hogan on that also).

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