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Full Version: Artificial separation between Full Frame and APS-C
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Very good analysis which attacks why an "artificial separation" or a un-natural gap still exists between the APS-C format and Full frame. The author claims that the original APS-C sensor was introduced in 1998 to make it economically feasible and given sensor technology was in its infancy, that was a valid argument. However, "consumer" (as opposed to pro) full frame DSLRs have hit the market since 2005 with the 5D - and 7 years on full frame DSLRs still have a relatively large premium attached, and the majority of cameras being sold are still APS-C DSLRs.

Why hasn't economies of scale, popularity etc. cause the full frame to replace the APS-C sensor as the standard and banished the smaller sensor being used as an economic stopgap?

He puts forward his theory that (1) camera manufacturers want to maintain this artificial gap for profit, and (2) consumers are still saddled with the "near enough/good enough" mindset especially in the sub 20MP region.


Have a read and let me know what you think...
I'm trying to come up with a response, but he tells a commenter who disagrees with him to read two other articles he's written, totalling some 6,700 words, before being qualified to comment on this particular 1,800 word article. That seems like a pretty heavy investment on my part simply to point out that his estimate that "the manufacturing price difference shouldn't be more than a few hundred $" would be a great reason why there's a price difference of a few hundred dollars between the Canon 7D and the Canon 5DmkII. (Currently $530 difference at B&H – $1550 v. $2080.)

Component price differences get magnified throughout production, distribution, and sales. A few hundred dollars more in the bill of materials – even setting aside the extra costs for the bigger mirror assembly, shutter mechanism, and viewfinder – would have a powerful carryover to the final price.

…and theres nothing too shocking about the idea that manufacturers create tiers of products, with higher price points also having a higher margin. I doubt that paperbacks are really that much cheaper to produce than hardcover books, or that Swatch made the same percentage from my Omega Seamasters as they did from my plastic watches.

Moonroof in a Honda $1250, same moonroof in an Acura (still Honda) $5000... what the consumer will pay the manufacturer will charge.

That said, if sensors are anything like LCD's to produce, a small increase in surface area makes for a massive increase in the rejection rate of the product because of flaws.
I think that there are lots of reasons why it's time for larger adoption of full frame. A larger sensor automatically gives you a larger optical viewfinder image, right? And not only the sensor but the whole imaging pipeline is getting cheaper, especially since the number of pixels to process hasn't been growing to match Moore's law. 6 MP, 10 MP, 18 MP, 24 MP is just an incremental series - the amount of data's getting easier and easier to handle with the same amount of power. The article makes a lot out of the price and quality of lenses, which I hadn't really thought about before. If you can make a full frame sensor for the same price as an APS-C sensor, including factoring in number of defects per wafer and everything, even if the sensor itself isn't any better, maybe it is still the right thing to do if in the end the FF camera+lens combination offers better value for the money.
I found this site today and it gives a very good visual difference between the different sensor sizes.


I lined up a few different cameras/sensor sizes to put things into perspective.

- The iPhone 4S has about 1/4 the surface area of the Fuji X10
- The Fuji X10 again has 1/4 the surface area of M43 cameras
- M43 cameras are pretty comparable to APS-C, mainly losing a bit of the length because of the aspect ratio
- M43 camera have about 1/4 the surface area of Full Frame

I think one thing that needs to be discussed or considered is the lens mount as well. APS-C has a smaller sensor size as the Full frame but because it uses the same lens mount, most of the lenses end up being the same size. There are some APS-C specific lenses (e.g. EF-S or DX format) but these are still pretty chunky - again it comes down to the stopgap measure back in 1998.

On the other hand if you look at M43 - this sensor size is pretty comparable to APS-C but the difference is that it has lenses that are purpose built for that sensor size and and new mount, meaning that lenses can be smaller.