Thursday, July 09, 2009

Once You've Gone Full-Frame There's No Going Back

Yesterday, I needed to pull my 20D backup body out of my bag and use it for a 4-model shoot. Doing so made me realize that once you've gone full-frame there's no going back.

My subject title, of course, speaks metaphorically: Shit happens. When it does, as in the case of yesterday's shoot, I was forced to do what I had to do, i.e., pull out my 20D backup body and use it instead of my 5D.

Technically, my 5D is operational. It doesn't need repair or anything like that. The problem was bunnies-- dust bunnies on the sensor. I noticed the contaminants on the sensor and, not having my sensor cleaning kit with me, felt compelled to shoot with my 20D. (The 5D is notorious for ineffective weatherproofing and dustproofing.)

To be sure, the 20D is a sweet camera body. Before purchasing a 5D, I snapped many photos with that body and, for the most part, I was very happy with its performance. Back then, I also had a 10D, kept for a back-up. Then, Canon released the 5D and, since it was priced considerably below their 1D line of dSLRs while still offering a full-frame-sensor, I bought a 5D soon after its release. If I remember correctly, my 5D cost me around $3,600. (CA Sales tax included.) I think they now sell, new, for about fifteen hundred dollars less.

For yesterday's shoot, I was working in a fairly confined space. I still wanted to use a lens with some telephoto capability but even my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, zoomed all the way out, made shooting full-body pretty girl pics--with the 20D's 1.6x crop factor messing with my photo-Zen--difficult in the space I was shooting in: There was barely enough room for me to get far enough away from the models to capture them, when they were standing, from head to toe.

I also missed the 5D's 2.5" LCD screen on the back of the camera. The 20D has a much smaller screen and this made chimping reviewing my shots difficult and eye-straining.

Again, I'm not badmouthing the 20D. It's a great camera! But also, like I said, once you've gone full-frame there's no going back. (Leastwise, it's somewhat exasperating when you need to do so.)

The pretty girl at the top, flexing her bicep, is Katarina. I snapped this pic of Katarina back in 2006. It was one of the first times I worked with my (then) new Canon 5D.


Greg McKay said...

I'm curious why you rarely show photos from the shoot you are sometimes writing about. Like today's post with four girls yet you post a photo from 2006. Is it because of client or copyright restrictions with the project you are currently working on or something of that nature?
Not that there's anything wrong with your past stuff, I'd just like to see shots from the gigs you are describing in your posts.

Thanks -

jimmyd said...

@Greg McKay,

Sometimes it is about restrictions on use. Other times, it might be that I haven't yet downloaded the images (that's the case this time) or I don't have time to edit and process... yet I'm still moved to write about whatever I'm writing about. (also the case this time.)

Then there's those times I'm simply not too happy, for many possible reasons, with the shots or the model or the environment or whatever. (Not the case this time.)

Mark said...

Do you think camera sensor cleaning is a routine thing every photographer should be able do? Hard to learn?

marlowned said...

I get what you're saying, Jimmy. I just got my 5DII and due to the battery shortage had to use my 30D at a wedding last week for about 45 minutes. I felt so confined. I love my 30D as a backup... but she just won't get it anymore.

jimmyd said...


I certainly think everyone should learn to clean their sensors. It's not so much a scheduled routine thing. Just when needed. 5Ds need more cleaning than many others cuz their seals suck. Use appropriate products to clean and carefully follow instructions. Cleaning the sensor is not as difficult, as dangerous to your camera, or as big a deal as some people make it sound.

Ed Araquel said...

When I first got my Nikon D3, I thought I could get away with using my old D2X as a backup but there was just too much that was good with the D3 in addition to the full-frame that I said f*ck it and got another D3 ditched both my D2x's. I think it's partly because it's newer technology and they improve on so many things so there's always this tug to upgrade.

And, what I'm talking about has nothing necessarily to do with better pictures...that's what your brain is for. No, it's for the features that allow you to get different pictures than the older one was capable of doing like 8fps as opposed to 5, reduced shutter lag, 3" screen with LiveView and higher resolution, a shutter that will last 4x longer than the older one (and I've worn out the shutter on 2 D2x's!), etc etc.

I can almost feel that tug now after seeing the rumours for the new Nikon D4 that's supposedly coming in 2010. :)

paul said...

I agree about the focal length thing, but having dropped the $$$ for a full frame Sony A900 its not the only thing that I notice when using the backup body.

Apart from the sensor size and screen size/res I find its the viewfinder that bugs me. Its like looking through a postbox compared to the panoramic window of the newer camera.

Not had any problems with dust yet, but the Sony has a moving sensor for its anti-shake unlike the lens based Canon system and shakes the sensor on startup to shake of the dust.

Still enjoy your blog posts JimmyD even with unrelated pictures ;-)

Mac said...

I know how you feel. I just bought a D3 upgrading from the D2x and the difference is incredible. My poor D2x will now be collecting dust on a shelf until it is needed in an emergency or whence D700 prices come down enough to grab one for a backup it will be then relegated to a paper weight :-)

Ed Selby said...

Having cut my teeth on 35mm film cameras, where what we saw in the viewfinder was actually only part of what would be captured on film, I found the "full frame" thing a bit confusing. Then I stumbled upon this side by side comparison, and I have to say, though I love my D300 almost as much as I love my son (okay, a bit of a stretch), and as a 90% studio shooter, I see the very real advantage of having a full frame camera. My 17 will really be 17. My 50 will really be 50. The only downside I see is when I strap on my 70-200. Pulling 350 at the 200 end is great when shooting roller derby from the rafters.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI, you won't lose any magnification when you go full frame. There isn't any more length to your lenses, it is just the field crop factor that makes it seem like you are using the longer lens.

Think of it as a digital zoom, not an optical one.

jimmyd said...

@Ed Selby,

Don't believe you're really pulling 350 with a 200. It's simply cropped, both in the viewfinder and what reaches the sensor. There might be a prism or something else that re-focuses the cropped image and, perhaps, gives it some small amount of additional magnification, before mirroring the image to the viewfinder and passing it on to the sensor. I could be wrong tho.


Don't think you're really gaining any magnification. (See above)

Anonymous said...


I think that is what I said, but in the reverse, meaning, that you don't lose any magnification by going back to full frame the same way you don't gain any magnification wen you go from full frame to partial.

Stephen Cupp said...

It all depends on what you are comparing. If you are comparing a 15 megapixel full frame vs a 15 megapixel crop sensor then you would have magnification. If the two cameras have the same pixel density (pixels per inch) then the crop sensor is just a crop.

jimmyd said...

@Stephen Cupp,

Thanks! I honestly did not know that. Color me enlightened! :-)

HMetal said...

I was utterly fearful the first time I cleaned the sensor on my 5D. But I used Sensor Swabs and Eclipse fluid and it worked great. I have now done it 4 times since i bought the body. I have to agree with Jimmy on the full-frame part. I have the 20d, 40d and an xti as well as the 5d and with my cramped basement studio, the APS-C crop factor can be quite constraining after using the 5d.