Looking for the best camera you can buy right now? Well, that’s a pretty broad investigation and you have to consider a number of factors before buying it. One of the most important factors that make a camera a good one is the camera sensor. Among different variants, There are three types of sensors that are widely used in digital cameras around the world today. They are medium format, Full-frame and APS-C Cameras. Here we are going to tell you how these three cameras differ from each other. You will also get a clear concept about the best-suited camera for you. So, let’s start at the beginning,
Medium format cameras were widely used during the first half of the 19th century. But in the 1950s it became a camera for professionals and some amateur enthusiasts. There was a time when a variety of medium-format film sizes were produced, but today the most of the medium-format film is produced in the 6 cm 120 and 220 sizes. Today, Fujifilm, Phase One, and Hasselblad are the most popular brands who have marketed compact size medium format cameras in the market.
Now let’s take a look at full-frame cameras. The First full-frame DSLR cameras were developed in Japan from around 2000 to 2002. Pentax came up with the first full-frame DSLR prototype in 2000. Today Nikon, Canon, Sony are the most popular brands for full frame cameras.
On the other hand, the Advanced Photo System or APS was first developed in 1996 by Kodak. Soon after that, other brands like Fujifil, Nikon, Canon started using this technology. Later on it was discontinued. However, a variation of APC, named APS-C was adopted, developed and popularized by many camera manufacturers. Today almost all the renowned camera brands are manufacturing APSC cameras as they are in great demand.
One of the main differences between these three sensors lies in their size, Medium format sensor sizes typically range from around 43.8×32.9mm to 53.7×40.2mm. On the other hand, Full frame comes with a film size of 36mm by 24mm. However, the size of APS-C varies among different manufacturers. For example: Nikon, Fujifilm and Sony’s APS-C sensor size is 23.6mm by 15.7mm whereas Canon’s APS-C sensors are 22.2mm by 14.8mm. But, how sensor size contributes to photography? Well, a larger sensor captures more light, meaning your image would contain finer and more detailed tonal information. This provides the photographer more choice as well as creative freedom during the post-processing stage, which is really important for every professional photographer.
Larger sensor results in a bigger pixel size, usually measured in microns. For example: the pixel size for Hasselblad’s H4D-31, a medium format camera is 6.7 microns, while the pixel size for full frame Nikon D800 is 4.9 microns. with an APSC sensor, Canon EOS 77D has a pixel size of 3.7 micron
Larger pixel size gives you a better dynamic range by capturing more details of shadows and highlights. Dynamic range is typically measured in “Stops”. The more stops a sensor provides, the better. On an average, Medium Format cameras can provide up to 15 stops whereas you will get only 10-12 stops in most of the full frame cameras. Clearly, with a much smaller sensor size, you will get an even narrower range of dynamic range.
To measure Noise captured by sensor pixels, we generally use Signal to Noise Ratio or SNR which is a ratio between the light and noise gathered in the same pixel. For example, if a pixel collects 5 photons of light and one particle of noise, it will have an SNR of 5:1. The higher the SNR, the less apparent noise will be when using a high ISO. Since medium format cameras typically have larger pixels, they collect more light and produce a higher SNR. That means there will be less visible noise at all ISO values on medium format cameras than full format or APS-C cameras. Similarly, cameras with full-frame sensors tend to produce less noise than ones with APS-C sensors because of the bigger sensor size.
Size and Weight
Speaking of size and weight, Medium format cameras are usually bulkier and bigger in size. The sensor alone is of much weight. But thanks to Hasselblad and Fujifilm as they have brought more ergonomic medium format cameras like GFX100 and X1D which are of smaller size and lesser weight. Meanwhile, full frames cameras are also heavier but not as much as medium format cameras. With the advent of mirrorless technology, full-frame cameras are now smaller than ever. For example, a full frame Sony Alpha 7C camera weighs only about 500 grams. However, APSC cameras are the most lightweight making them popular for point and shoot purposes.
Crop factor is also a factor to consider when choosing among different camera types. The crop factor gives you a narrower or wider field of view for the same focal length than a full-frame sensor would. In the case of medium format cameras, the crop factor is usually smaller than one and thus contributes to producing a wider field of view. For example: Fujifilm GFX 50R has a crop factor of 0.79. Thus attaching it to a 23mm lens would work as a 18mm lens. However, crop factor of a full frame camera is 1 thus it offers the same focal length mentioned on the lens. With an APS-C camera, you will get a crop factor of about 1.5 thus giving you a narrower field of view. For example, if you attach a 23mm lens to your APSC camera, it would give a field of view of about 35mm lens.
Price is another key consideration for these three types of cameras. For the reason of increased sensor size and other benefits, medium format cameras are more expensive than the other two. The Fujifilm GFX 50R will cost you around $4500. On the other hand, you can easily get a DSLR or Mirrorless full frame camera within $1500 or less.
Lens availability is directly dependent on how much demand they have in the market. As Mirrorless cameras are not very widely used, thus there are only a few manufacturers of medium format lenses. So, you will not get too much lens options as compared to full frame and APS-C lenses. Though full frame lenses have already made their mark in the market, still APS-C lenses are most widely available out there.
Medium format cameras are popular for their amazing capability to produce superior quality images. In terms of color reproduction, medium format is far more accurate than the smaller sensor cameras around there. These factors are particularly important in fashion and advertising photography. Medium format cameras are heavily used in those sectors as they need highly detailed and larger images which no smaller sensor can provide. For example, renowned fashion photographers like Terry O’Neill and David Bailey, famous fashion photographers of ‘60s and ‘70s, used a Hasselblad medium format camera to shoot their fashion photos.
On the other hand, if you are a photography enthusiast or a beginner who wants to click better looking images with mid range price, then full frame cameras are the one for you. Besides, full frame cameras are comparatively faster and also provide better low light performance. You will also get a wide angle of view compared to crop sensor cameras. So if you want all these, then you should go for full frame cameras.
“APS-C is a budget-friendly option for photography. The cameras are of less bucks. Moreover, If you are photographing objects far away, a crop sensor camera gets you closer to them without any extra cost. But If you still want to invest in lenses, you will get one for a less amount of money compared to the other two types of cameras. Moreover, you will find a ton of lens options to choose from. So if you are a beginner level photographer with budget constraints and want to carry a small camera body and capture basically for social media or so, then APS-C cameras are best suited for you.”