Explained | Why full frame?
Full-frame cameras have long been a fascination for photographers after the best gear they can get. But just what is a full-frame camera, and what does it bring to the table? We take a look at the new full-frame mirrorless Nikon Z7 to explain
When speaking of camera sensors, the two most common classifications are full frame and crop sensor, the full frame being the larger and higher quality of the two options. The ‘full’ in ‘full frame’ refers to the sensor being the full size of a 35mm film frame, the standard film gauge throughout photographic history. A ‘crop’ sensor (APS-C, Micro Four-Thirds) is any sensor that is smaller than the 35mm standard. One of the most obvious implications of full versus crop sensors is the different field of view they each offer. If you were to take the exact same photo, with the same lens, on both a full-frame and a cropsensor camera, the image from the crop sensor would offer a tighter field of view than the full frame (hence the term ‘crop’).
Focal length is also affected by the sensor size difference. The measurement of a lens’s focal length is based on the 35mm standard, so a full-frame camera will give you the focal length advertised on your lens; a crop sensor loses the edges of the image and therefore increases the focal length by a certain amount (for example, a 50mm lens on a crop sensor with a 1.5x multiplier would act the way a 75mm lens on a full frame would).
The obvious increase in image quality from a full-frame sensor was once offset by the fact that these cameras had to be so much bigger than their crop compatriots, but, with rapid technological advancement, that’s no longer strictly the case. A sterling example comes in the form of the new Nikon Z7, a small, light, mirrorless camera that packs an impressive back-illuminated 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor.
Local astrophotography expert Mark Gee recently took the Nikon Z7 out for a spin — the following is his impression of the advantages this new compact full-frame camera brings to the table.
“As an owner of a Nikon D850, I was quite keen to get my hands on the Z7 to test out its capabilities. The sensor of the Z7 does sound very similar to that of the D850, except the difference is that Nikon added a sophisticated on-sensor phase-detection system with 493 phase-detection autofocus points, covering 90 per cent of the image area, which works in tandem with a conventional contrast autofocus system. This gives the Z7 the same kind of autofocus performance that you would get with a high-end DSLR camera. Add to this the newer Expeed 6 image processor, and the still image quality of this camera is certainly something worth raving about.
“My first test of the Nikon Z7 was an astrophotography shoot on the south coast of Wellington. After getting home and having a close look at the images in Lightroom, I would say that the Z7 had slightly less noise and a slightly better dynamic range than what I had captured on the D850.
“After testing the Nikon Z7 on a beach sunrise shoot, I was quite surprised by how much good, clean detail I was able to pull out from the deeper shadows and blacks in post. But the thing that excited me the most was the sharpness of the images from corner to corner when using the Z-mount 24–70mm lens.” With the impressive power that photographers have always loved now shrunk down and made all the more affordable, full-frame photography is increasingly becoming the choice of not just the pros but anyone who wants to get the most out of their images.
MARK GEE, NIKON Z7, 14MM, 30S, F/4, ISO 6400
MARK GEE, NIKON Z7, 24MM, 1/8S, F/16, ISO 31