A couple of weeks ago I said I was contemplating some big equipment changes. It suddenly struck me that the parameters have changed. Assumptions I had about camera performance were also no longer valid. It was time to make changes.
I hinted about my equipment change in my previous post, Does Canon still care about APS-C DSLRs? I realized, in actual usage, my Olympus Pens now matched my Canon 7D for image quality. More surprisingly, Canon really has not updated their APS-C image quality over the last 4 years. Other than for fast action sports, my big Canon 7D DSLR no longer has any advantages over the compact micro 4/3 cameras. And the shift in my usage patterns is telling. I use the 7D less and less and you know how much more I like my small mirrorless cameras, especially for travel.
I then realized that my kids no longer play fast action sports (like soccer). My older boy started playing tennis and the younger one seems to be following. I no longer needed a sports camera. My 7D was the right camera 3 years ago, but the circumstances have changed.
Suddenly, there is no longer any reason to keep my 7D. Why lug a heavy camera around when it takes inferior quality pictures compared to my light and modern Olympus Pens? But, here’s the problem. I have some wonderful glass for the Canon. My favorite lens is my 70 – 200 f4 IS. It’s one of those big white L lenses, though decidedly on their smaller side in the Canon lineup. It’s up there in quality with my Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 that I use on my Olympus. In addition, I have some decent Canon primes, the 35mm f2, the 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.8.
The only logical choice? Move up to full frame. I get to keep my nice Canon glass and I get a level of performance that far exceeds the 7D. Now my lenses also match their originally intended focal lengths, no more 1.6 X crop factor. This is a bigger deal than I thought. With the APS-C sensor, I never got a true 35mm or 50mm lens. The 70 – 200mm zoom became an awkward, 112 – 320mm. It’s a nice focal length boost for birding or sports but terrible for portrait photography and everyday use.
Full frame gives me two features missing from my Canon 7D and the mirrorless cameras. Extremely shallow DOF (depth of field) and truly great high ISO performance. I think these characteristics will be fun to play with. I’ve never shot full frame. I never used a film SLR. The 35mm film point and shoots I used back in the 80s and 90s don’t count. So I’m also going full frame digital out of a sense of curiosity. Sure, it’s still a big and heavy DSLR but perhaps the boost in performance warrants carrying the extra weight? Whenever I get new gear, Lucky gets volunteered to model — sort of a tradition here. I’ve added two examples — they shows shallow DOF and the great high ISO performance.
The APS-C DLSR is dead for me. It’s all about weight vs. performance. Give me the light weight of micro 4/3 or big and juicy full frame. When should I use mirrorless? When do I use full frame? How about landscapes? What will I do with nearly 2 more stops of high ISO performance? I’m going to compare these formats and talk about my experiences on this blog. I bought the Canon 6D. It was an easily decision over the Canon 5D Mark III or older 5D Mark II, but that’s a topic for a future post.
Click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.