I blog on FujiRumors since almost a decade now, and over all these years, I have heard many times announcements of the death of the Fujifilm X series since the launch of the original Sony A7. And the same “Fujifilm APS-C is dead” voices continue to come back, may it be the announcement fo the Nikon Z5 or the imminent announcement of the Sony A7c.
Now, I already showed which compromises “cheap” full frame cameras have to do, in order to compete with high end APS-C cameras. You can check it out in this article.
Above you can see a size comparison between Sony A7c and Fujifilm X-E3 and X-T30.
And yet, it’s not only about price. Let’s check out 7 key differences between APS-C and Full Frame.
Disclaimer (read to avoid anger :) )
No matter if full frame, APS-C or medium format. There is not the perfect sensor size, and each system has its Pros and Cons.
However, this article is just an attempt to try to understand, why DPReview and Petapixel think that APS-C is the sweet spot. So I listed a few reasons, where APS-C could be considered better than full frame.
By no means I want to say that full frame or medium format is worse. All I want to say is that also APS-C has it’s strong cards to play in the current mirrorless war.
APS-C vs FF
Sony has IBIS since much longer time than Fujifilm, and yet, Fujifilm’s first generation IBIS clearly beats Sony’s IBIS, as you can see in this video. And the new Fujifilm X-T4 IBIS beats Sony by a large margin, as documented here.
The reason is simple: the smaller the sensor, the less weight there is to stabilize, the better IBIS can work.
In fact, if IBIS is your top priority, then skip even APS-C and go MFT Panasonic or Olympus.
2) Speed (and its limits)
Generally speaking we can say: the smaller the sensor, the faster the sensor readout, the less the heat generation.
Of course this depends also on sensor technology, processor power and other factors. This is why the Sony A9 with its stacked sensor can shoot at 20 fps with blackout-less EVF (at the expense of reduced dynamic range and high price, though).
However, since the Fujifilm X-T3/4 has a smaller sensor, those cameras can, with a little crop, shoot up to 30 fps and blackout-less EVF, too, without need of expensive and dynamic range reducing stacked sensor technology.
Supported by proper glass, Fujifilm’s APS-C system could become an ideal system for sports and wildlife photographers.
Speed is also determined by firmware, especially autofocus speed. And in this case, Sony is still ahead.
However, most manufacturers will catch up with Sony at some point, for a simple reason that you can’t improve what is basically perfect.
Sony’s eye/face autofocus has a stunning 95% hit rate, and you can’t develop a system that nails focus more than 100% of the times. That’s the limit not even Sony can pass.
It’s just a matter of time, until Fujifilm, Canon and Nikon catch up with that, getting close to 100%, too.
The future is hybrid, and here comes one of the significant advantages of APS-C.
Sony itself said that APS-C has advantages when it comes to video. The faster sensor readout allows for better video specs without running too quickly into overheating issues. It also gives less rolling shutter effect (the latter, though, will be definitely solved on all sensor sizes once the global shutter is out).
APS-C will be able to offer the same (or even superior) video specs of full frame cameras, without needing to oversize cameras that much and putting giant fans into the camera body to dissipate heat (such as Panasonic S1H), making APS-C a more portable and affordable hybrid solution.
4) Computational Photography
The traditional camera market is being strongly eroded by the rise of smartphones.
This has mostly to do with the fact, that smartphone images are becoming better and better, especially thanks to the massive use of computational photography
And speaking of AI photography, Fuji X guru Rico Pfirstinger wrote here:
Smaller sensors are better suited for the future of computational photography with fast electronic global shutter readout and multishot merging, a technology that pretty much all digital cameras will employ a few years from now.
Wether MFT or APS-C will be the sweet spot for the mainstream here remains to be seen (even 1″ could do a great job for many users), but it certainly isn’t full frame or medium format.
The smaller the sensor, the faster the processing, the less the heat, the more the camera is free to make its computational photography magic.
The bigger the sensor, the more heat is generated, and the more heat becomes a challenge to deal with. Let’s see with with the Sony A7c what happens if you squeeze a full frame sensor into a small camera body.
Today, the cheapest full frame cameras with latest sensor technology start at $2000.
However, APS-C cameras with similar sensor technology and megapixel (24 MP, BSI, full phase detection coverage etc), have a significantly lower price tag.
And when Full Frame tries to match high end APS-C camera pricing, it does it at the expense of feature-cuttings. It’s the art of balance vs the need for compromises we talked extensively here.
7) Flexible: from Beginners to Pros
Nobody is born a Pro.
We all make our first steps into photography with little money and little skills.
And it is crucial for camera manufacturers not only to rely on existing customers, but to gain new ones, also those, who start out with photography.
Given the lower entry level price compared to FF, the Fujifilm’s APS-C line can be attractive for beginners or enthusiasts with limited budget. But at the same time it is attractive also for Pros, thanks to high-end glass and more sophisticated camera bodies.
APS-C has the potential to appeal to a broader customer basis than full frame.
This is probably also why recent stats show that mirrorless APS-C still massively outsells mirrorless full frame (in Japan, 90% of mirrorless cameras sold are APS-C and only 10% are full frame – statistic here).
7.5) BONUS – Lenses
If you value compactness, then APS-C allows for smaller lens design, as they have to cover a smaller sensor
But shallow DOF?
Shallow DOF is not an intrinsic advantage of full frame, as Fujifilm could offer the same shallow DOF by releasing radical fast lenses, such as the brand new Fujinon XF50mm f/1.0 or the XF 200mm f/2. We talked about it in the past:
- read here: Advantage of Shooting f/1.2 on APS-C vs f/1.8 on Full Frame
- read here: DPRTV Fujinon XF200mm f/2 Test: “Fast Fujinon Lenses Keep You from Having to Go Full Frame”
- read here: Which Super Fast “Full Frame” Lenses Should Fujifilm Release Next?
Medium Format Bonus
But watch out… because the day the global shutter comes, medium format could see a dramatic boost in flexibility, as I explained in this popular article.
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