The Full Frame Move

posted in Product Review

The Full Frame Move

In the world of photography there are literally hundreds of different options when it comes to picking out a new camera. The choices range from brands, to size, color, lens mount, and so on. The one commonality among the cameras is taking a picture. Back in the analog days this would have been film, now a days with digital this is the camera sensor.

Relatively speaking there isn’t a large number of options when it comes to picking out a camera sensor size. For DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras there are three options. Going from smallest to largest size: Four Thirds System, APS-C, and “Full Frame“.

I mentioned size because that is what is inherently different between the sensors. The “Full Frame” size is the same size as the old 35 mm film (36 x 24 mm). The next largest size is the APS-C (22.2 x 14.8 mm).  The smallest of the three is the Four Thirds System (17.3 x 13 mm).

With that explained you can probably guess now what I meant by the title.  I have recently added a new camera to my collection. I am now a proud owner of the full frame Canon 6D.


Why upgrade

For the past months while I have been squirreling away every penny I could my family and friends have been asking me that question, why upgrade”?

There are a number of reasons but the biggest one is related to what I discussed above, the sensor size.  Generally speaking there are gains in image quality as the camera sensor gets larger.  I could go into all the details of resolving power and color depth accuracy but to me the biggest improvement has to be related to the ISO.


When it comes to take a picture there are three setting that impact an exposure; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  To briefly go over them: The aperture affects how large the opening is to allow light into the camera. The values for aperture are in F stops.  The lower the number the larger the opening (f/1.4 would be a large aperture setting; f/22 would be a small).  The shutter speed affects how long the light exposes the sensor for.  Shutter speed is a duration of time, typically in seconds.  An example of a fast shutter speed would be 1/1000 seconds and a long would be 2 seconds. The ISO is essentially how sensitive the sensor is to light.  Generally DSLR start at ISO 100 as the least sensitive setting and go up from there as the sensitivity increases.

There are some side affects to using a high or sensitive ISO setting.  The exposure range (commonly referred to as dynamic range) for the image decreases.  What that means is the ability to capture detail in bright whites and dark blacks goes down. Instead of having detail, parts of the image may just appear white or black.  Another side effect is an increase in digital image noise which is random variations of brightness or color information.  This is caused by the amplification and gain applied to the signal coming off the sensor. Sorry if that went over your head.  Essentially the higher the ISO gets the lower the quality of image.

Here is an example, the shot on the left is (f/4 , 1/4 sec , 100 ISO) the one on the right is (f/4, 1/1000 sec, 25600)



I went over all that to explain and show another reason why I wanted a full frame sensor.  The benefit of having a larger sensor is that there is less noise and drop in dynamic range as the ISO goes up compared to a smaller sensor.  This gets important quickly when lighting conditions aren’t great or say you are inside a dimly lit church and flash photography isn’t allowed or wanted.  Before with my 60D I would try to keep my ISO no higher than 1600 and I would only use 3200 when I had to because the loss in quality wasn’t worth going any higher.  With the 6D I feel comfortable going up to 12800 and stretching to 20000 or so if I have to without a noticeable loss in quality.

Here is a sample shot of something I wouldn’t have been able to capture with my old camera.  This is at ISO 10000.  This was taken at a recent FSU basketball game, I think he just realized how bad we were playing against Duke.



Focal Length Multiplier

Another difference between the APS-C sized sensor and a full frame size is the apparent focal length of lenses.  Here is an example: If I set up a tripod and take a picture of the scene with and APS-C camera then switch out the camera for a full frame but keep the tripod and lens the same, the image will look different.  This is because the APS-C is a smaller sensor so it will use a smaller portion of the frame in the center of the lens.  The APS-C sensor is approximately 60% the size of the full frame.  So, if you take a picture with the full frame and only keep the inner 60% that is what you would get with APS-C size sensors.  This is commonly referred to as the Focal Length Multiplier.   For APS-C to full frame the multiplier is 1.6x, where x is the focal length on the lens.  If you mount a 17 mm lens on a APS-C camera it would behave the same as a 27 mm lens would on “full frame” (1.6 * 17 mm = 27.2 mm).

Here are two shots taken at the exact same location with identical settings of 17 mm focal length.  As you notice the shot on the right is significantly wider, this would be the full frame 6D.




As you can see that is quite the difference.  Of course this is a wide angle shot so it is more pronounced.  So immediately with the purchase of the 6D all my lenses got a little wider.  This is nice because now I can truly get some wide angle shots that I was unable to get before.


Peace of Mind

Another big reason for an upgrade is because I swore to myself I would never work another wedding or event that can’t be duplicated without a spare/second camera.  Last year I was doing a wedding when for some unknown reason my camera locked up.  I couldn’t change any settings, take any pictures, or do anything.  I tried turning it off and then back on but nothing changed.  While nearly experiencing a heart attack I tried one last thing, swapping out the batteries.  This time the camera reset and I was up and running again.  Needless to say, that was a pretty stressful few seconds of sheer terror and horrific nightmares coming true flashing through my head.

So now that I have two cameras I can use both simultaneously such as a camera set up for side shots on one sholder and another for telephoto.  That way I just grab the camera I need instead of having to change lenses.  Or if I don’t need to change really quickly I can leave the backup camera in my bag. Either way I’ll have peace of mind that I have a fail-safe.



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Above is a comparison of specifics between my old camera the Canon 60D and my new the Canon 6D. As I mentioned above I don’t intend to get rid of my old camera for the simple fact I need a back up but there are also some instances where I would use it over my new one.  One such instance would be outdoor sports where high ISO is not needed.  The advantage the 60D has over the 6D is a higher frame rate (5.3 vs 4.5 fps) and the focal length multiplier.  Currently the most telephoto lens I have is 200 mm.  If I mount that lens on the 60D it will behave the same as a 320 mm would on the 6D because of the focal multiplier of 1.6x.  So I would gain added reach and a higher FPS.



When Canon first announced the 6D last fall one of the selling points they came out with was the fact that it was a smallest full frame DSLR in the world.  To do this they essentially took the body of the 60D and reworked the internals so it would support a larger sensor.  This is perfect for me because all the ergonomics and button layout I was use to stayed the same between the 60D and 6D.  Along with being the smallest full frame camera Canon also announced it was the first DSLR to incorporate both internal WiFi and GPS.


The Wi-Fi is a pretty neat feature to add to the camera.  For a long time now Canon has provided software with all its DSLR cameras that allow you to control the camera remotely via a PC and USB cord or with an external Wi-Fi adapter.  The problems with the two are that your USB cord can only reach so far and the external Wi-Fi adapters were expensive (in excess of a $200).  With the 6D Canon simplified all this, now the camera has Wi-Fi built in.

There are a number of options for Wi-Fi but here is a simplified version.  You can have your camera create a Wi-Fi point which allows phones or computers to connect directly to it or you camera can connect to a Wi-Fi point then let phones or computers connect to it.  Once connected you can view images already taken or take additional pictures wirelessly.  A neat feature is that when taking pictures, what the camera sees is transmitted live to you phone or computer exactly the same as the live view works on the back of the camera.

This simple feature has been used far more by my wife than myself.  While we were out one evening I took a picture with my camera of our son.  Immediately when I was done she turned on the Wi-Fi and connected her phone to my camera.  She grabbed the image she wanted and uploaded it to Facebook.  Shortly thereafter she exclaimed “this is awesome, I don’t have to wait on you anymore to upload pictures”. In the past I haven’t been the fastest at getting pictures off my camera and uploading them to Facebook for her, now she can cut me out of the process.

One more feature of the Wi-Fi on the camera is that once connected to a network I can upload to a number of services including Facebook and/or email my pictures without the need of a phone or computer.


The other new feature to the camera is the ability to geo-tag the pictures I take.  What this means is that when I take a picture the camera will use the GPS antenna (assuming it’s turned on) to determine the location of the shot and then affix the coordinates to the metadata of the file.  Then once I upload the images to a computer I can overlay the images on a map to see the exact spot that I took the picture.

Here is a sample of what the GPS coordinates look like when put over a map.  This series of pictures is from a recent trip to a city park.


I’m extremely excited about this new feature.  On our family blog I plan to make a page which is nothing more than a large interactive map.  As we go on vacation and do different things I’ll add locations to the map.  It will be fun to navigate around and see where we have been and stuff we have done.



Let me wrap this up real quick, in summary I love my new camera! If I had to say why, the biggest reason would be the increase in image quality and high ISO settings.  The ability to shoot at high ISO shots while maintaining image quality has freed me up to concentrate more on the composition and capture part of photography and less on making sure I have the right settings.  This freedom has made the process all the more enjoyable which is exactly what I want from photography, something fun and exciting.




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