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

New Zealand D-Photo - - CONTENTS -

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

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