This article summarizes some of the full frame issues that I experienced which resulted in me stopping the use of this camera format back in July 2015. Photographers should absolutely use the camera format and brand of gear that best suits their needs. Full frame camera gear was not the best choice for my needs. That does not mean that it would not be ideal for other photographers.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
One of the most significant full frame issues that I experienced was with depth-of-field. I appreciate that many full frame camera users feel strongly about achieving shallow depth-of-field. For the work that I do shallow depth-of-field is a non-issue the majority of the time. I almost always need deeper depth-of-field for my photography and video work. Using the shorter focal length lenses found in smaller sensor systems to achieve my desired field of view, is ideal for what I create.
For those times when I do need shallower depth-of-field I can easily adjust my photographic approach. This typically involves using a longer focal length lens, moving in closer to my subject, and finding a shooting angle that puts more distance between my subject and background.
To create even shallower depth-of-field I can use an extension tube to further shorten my minimum focusing distance. Using a smaller sensor format such at M4/3 or Nikon 1 allows me to achieve the deeper depth-of-field I need at more open apertures like f/2.8 to f/5.6. This also allows me to use lower ISO values.
Inefficient Client Video Projects.
When I was using full frame camera gear for my client video work it was terribly time consuming and inefficient. My speciality is producing safety videos for industrial clients so I would often be working in poor light. To get my desired depth-of-field I would typically use an aperture of f/8. Using a shutter speed of 1/60th and keeping my ISO value to ISO-800 as a practical maximum, I had to bring a number of studio lights to every client assignment.
Filling my car with various camera supports like an assortment of tripods and heads, a slider, stabilizer, jib… as well as 3-5 studio lights was a royal pain. Moving all of that gear around while onsite, shooting some video clips, then having to move it all over again to the next onsite location, was time consuming and physically taxing.
After selling my Nikon D800 and all of my full frame lenses in July 2015 I started doing all of my client video work using a trio of Nikon 1 V2 bodies and three 1 Nikkor prime lenses (i.e. 10 mm f/2.8, 18.5 mm f/1.8, 32 mm f/1.2). I still had to take various camera supports with me… but I could leave all of my studio lights at home. That made onsite filming much more efficient.
With my Nikon 1 gear I could get the depth-of-field I needed by shooting at f/2.8, 1/60, ISO-800. Not only that, the quality of my Nikon 1 V2 video files looked virtually identical to those shot with my D800.
My D800 was actually quite noisy when shooting video and I’d only use it at ISO-1600 in a pinch. I could do the same thing with my Nikon 1 V2 cameras. At ISO-3200 both the D800 and V2 would produce video files that were basically unusable for my client projects.
Things became even more efficient when I moved to Olympus and the E-M1X along with a trio of M.Zuiko f/2.8 PRO zoom lenses and the M.Zuiko PRO 45 mm f/1.2 prime. I can now shoot my video projects completely handheld, and leave all of my camera supports and studio lights at home. Everything I need fits into a medium sized shoulder bag. Plus, rather than keep my ISO limited to ISO-800 most of the time, I regularly shoot video up to ISO-5000 with my E-M1X without issue.
Size, Weight and Cost.
As noted in an earlier article, moving to a smaller sensor camera system like Olympus M4/3 allowed me to purchase smaller and lighter PRO f/2.8 zoom lenses, that were also more affordable. Using f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses further extends the photographic and video capability of my camera system.
Full frame cameras have no doubt evolved since I sold my gear back in 2015, but one of the things that I loved about moving to a smaller sensor mirrorless system like Nikon 1 were the frame rates available. I could photograph birds-in-flight in continuous autofocus at 15 frames-per-second with my Nikon 1 V2 cameras, and 20 frames-per-second with my Nikon 1 V3 bodies.
With the first frame locking focus and exposure I could shoot both of those cameras up to 60 frames-per-second. These frame rates opened up a lot more potential with my birds-in-fight photography.
My E-M1X has further expanded my bird photography potential with Pro Capture and Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. Adding the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5.-6.3 IS zoom with the MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters has given my camera system even more reach and flexibility. While still being small and light enough to shoot handheld all day long.
Hard Drive Space and Memory Cards.
At first blush using a high density full frame camera sounds wonderful. Once I started using the D800 I quickly realized how quickly hard drive space would fill up… and the added costs of needing to use more expensive memory cards. The last time I used my D800 was to photograph my youngest son’s wedding. It was almost surreal how quickly six 32 GB cards filled.
Limitations to Photographing Handheld.
I found using full frame camera gear to be quite restrictive. It was difficult to shoot handheld for extended periods of time. I hate using tripods so this was a big issue for me. It was also quite difficult at times to get large, bulky camera gear into confined spaces. This impacted both my client video work as well as my personal photography. I loathe creative impediments and my full frame gear always seemed to get in the way of what I wanted to do.
After drinking a good dose of full frame KoolAid I had invested 5 figures into a full frame camera system. I believed the hype of more megapixels and some additional dynamic range. When I said it fast… those factors were intriguing. It didn’t take long before those attributes lost their allure. In pragmatic terms all photographing with a full frame camera meant was that I was still capturing images that I had already done in the past. The only difference was more resolution and some extra dynamic range. Full frame didn’t give me the freedom and innovation that I craved. If anything it was more restrictive. Abject boredom soon set in.
More of the Same Old Thing… Versus New Capabilities and Technology.
Selling my full frame camera gear was one of the best things I ever did. I haven’t missed that equipment for even a second. It was just more of the same old thing… just dressed up in some hype. It’s likely that this camera format has improved over the past 6 years and will meet the needs of some photographers extremely well. I’m not one of them. I’ve lived through the pain of my full frame issues and I’m quite happy to be on a completely different path.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,036th article published on this website since its original inception.
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