Where does it matter and what do you gain: APS-C, Full Frame, Medium Format

APS-C vs Full Frame. Sensor size and what is promised.

I had been surfing around youtube recently and saw some interesting videos/comments on things like ISO, sensor size, equivalence  and so on. Some companies claim APS-C will give a smaller lighter package, others argue that if we look at the the equivalence, there is no advantage and in-fact full frame is better. But is that true? Does a full frame truly have 2x more light? Does a 17-50 f2.8 really equal to just a 24-70 F4? Is it true that APS-C is pointless since it doesn’t save any weight?

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Fujifilm GFX 50s with 250mm F4 and XT2 with 200mm F2

As you can see in the above, a APS-C can be larger and heavier then a medium format. So weight saving is a very subjective thing. Below we dive deeper into the sensor, equivalence and weight.

APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.
APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.

First lets look at the argument

A image taken by a 50mm F2 on an APS-C will look similar to 75mm F2.8 (or F3) on a Full Frame. There is probably not much debate on the looks and output on the photo. Where the argument lies is when companies market a APS-C lens and claims it saves weight when compared to a Full Frame similar lens.

Case in point, Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 vs 24-70mm F2.8. Definitely the Fuji APS-C version is smaller and lighter by about 300+g.  The Full Frame camp will argue that it is not equal and that a 24-70mm F4 is more comparable. The APS-C side will then counter that  a 16-55mm F2.8 is longer (approx 24-83mm) and you still get F2.8 in terms of light. This is where things turn ugly, people will start arguing that Full Frame takes in twice as much light and thus produce better image quality and bokeh. We will not touch on Bokeh since a Full Frame F2.8 is definitely better in that aspect. For this write up, lets look at exposure, weight and image quality.

In exposure there are 3 parameters, Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture. Aperture is usually based on the 35mm standard and talks about how much light is let in by the lens. Shutter on the other hand is how much light is let in capped by the set duration.

Returning back to the lens, a F2.8 will always result in a F2.8 shutter. The 16-55mm F2.8 can take an image at 70mm with a shutter of 1/100 while a full frame equivalent in looks, which is about F4, will need 1/50 of a shutter. The fact remains that a F2.8 lens is always faster then a F4, even if they look similar due to difference in sensor size. But where does the extra light and sensor area go to?

D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range
D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range from Photons to Photo

What this chart shows is the dynamic range: the amount of information captured and thus usable. This affects us greatly when we do stuff like pull shadows and recover highlights for those crazy demonstration of black image to full colored +5 exposure.

So if we look at the chart above using the same company (cause everyone defines their own ISO) camera, you will notice that the D500 Dynamic Range at ISO100 is the same as D850 at ISO 165. So a full frame with 1 stop of ISO boost is the same as an APS-C at base.

So with this in mind, revisiting the lens, a 16-55mm F2.8 gives you faster shutter speed then a F4 equivalent. All the full frame camera need to do is raise their ISO by 1 stop and it equals out. In-fact it will be close to totally equaling out including image quality and whatever advantage a full frame sensor is suppose to have. So yes mounting a F4 version of the 24-70mm on a full frame essentially makes it the same as an APS-C 16-55mm F2.8.

We have gotten quality out of the way, let us look at the weight. We take the Sony A7m3 with the 24-70mm F4 vs the Fuji XT3 + 16-55mm F2.8. It is not exactly equal since the Fuji version does zoom in almost 15% more (70mm vs 83mm)

Sony: 650g + 426g = 1076g

Fuji: 539g + 655g = 1194g

Now its quite clear the XT-3 combination is heavier. It weighs some 120g more but gives you 15% more zoom. But wait, the A7m3 is the lightest Full Frame around however the XT3 is probably some of the heaviest of its type. Let us use the XT30, which for most works and outputs the same as a XT3 except for a smaller body and less buttons.

Fuji: 380g + 655g = 1035g.

Now we can go even further with some of the other bodies in the X series but you should get my point. APS-C body can get smaller then a Full Frame. At least no maker has made a lighter full frame then a APS-C ever was. So as a set of camera and lens, APS-C will be lighter. Just for a comparison to the lightest setup you can make with a APS-C that has a full frame equivalent.

Fuji A5 with 18mm F2 : 361 + 118 = 479g

This is lighter then any full frame camera and you only give up 1 stop of dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So the question now should changed: why is a good APS-C lens heavier even though it covers a smaller sensor and image wise just equates to a 1 stop slower Full Frame. We need to look at lens construction and the demands of APS-C.

Lens components
Lens components

A lens is built up of many parts. Depending on what you use to build and how rugged you built it, more then just glass, the items around it will carry that extra weight.

If we go back and view the 24-70mm F4 by Sony, it’s made out of plastic vs the 16-55mm which is made out of metal. Considering the extra zoom and just the material difference, it is where the extra weight goes. There are probably many other things inside such as AF motor, the type of element and electronics. Many of such things do not scale in weight from Full Frame to APS-C. There’s just no way to get around physics and if you make something with a heavier material, or what to get more (range in this case) it will cost something. There are probably ways to offset such as using more exotic glass like Leica but that will bring the price to stratospheric levels.

There is also one more parameter that will result in an APS-C lens to be heavier, and that is the quality needed of the lens to perform similarly as a full frame equivalent.

Lens imperfection
Lens imperfection

Firstly, I am no lens designer and if there is a mistake I am open to corrections. That said base on my understanding, a lens job is to focus the light. Many things affect this, from the quality of the glass to the lens tolerance and design. However, no lens design is perfect. That is why sharpness varies from lens to lens and even within the same lens there is some variation. Which brings up the simplified diagram above. At the same megapixel, a Full Frame has bigger sensor sites then a APS-C. Therefore, to design a lens that can work as good on a APS-C as it would look on a full frame is actually harder as the tolerance is lower. You may be using less material due to the smaller sensor, but you will need better material and overall better quality to work as well. This usually translates to some extra weight be it more/better lens elements or material with tighter tolerance. Which pretty much explains why good APS-C lens cost quite a sum of money and probably cost more with all the glass needed for correction. A good APS-C lens can easily perform to whatever full-frame has, it just cost the same as a full-frame lens and weighs as much.

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So as you can see above, a top notch APS-C lens, the 200mm F2 by Fuji, really performs as good as anything out there and maybe a little more due to the advances in technology. Perfectly sharp, highly corrected, extreme fast AF with Linear Motor. All this can be done, at a cost that is similar to the Full Frame 200mm F2. It does come with a tele-converter and considering all the advances, it definitely is as good of a deal if not better then its equivalents.

So where does this all leave us in the end? Full-Frame and APS-C are really about the same. APS-C can be lighter by basis of smaller cameras and if you use a lens of similar built with specs comparable to its full frame counter part. APS-C performs similar to a Full Frame that has added 1 stop of ISO and using a 1 stop slower aperture lens. A Full Frame given the best condition, will always outperform a APS-C camera when it comes to image quality at the lowest ISO. Sharpness and image quality is more of a metrics of the lens then the sensor itself, unless you need the 1 extra dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So if you want the lightest possible package, an APS-C is still the way to go. What you lose is 1 stop of dynamic range and probably 1 stop of noise compared to the best of Full Frame. That probably wont affect you as much unless you love to shoot in extremes: Extremely Dark or Extreme Bright. One needing the noise performance while other requiring the best dynamic range. Just remember that APS-C does not equate to a cheaper system or a lighter system if you want full equivalence to the full frame versions.

Of course there are still other things to consider. Very technical stuff such as read out speeds which is bias to smaller sensor size and that not all full frame performs as good as a D850 when it comes to dynamic range. If you were to browse around photons to photo, you will see modern APS-C is quite comparable to some Full Frame Sensors or almost no difference. If we are to look at the a Full Frame with similar frames per second as the XT3, that will be the A9, D5, 1DX. Non of them really performs better then the XT3 sensor in terms of image quality.

XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9
XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9

Comparison between XT3, D5, IDXm2 and A9

So what about Medium Format? Replace APS-C as Full Frame, Full Frame as Medium Format, and you get the same explanation. The biggest reason why Medium Format cost more and produce even higher image quality is because its a niche product, built for people who wants something better and willing to pay for it. If you get the best of everything for Full Frame, you can achieve 95-98% at maybe 80-90% of the cost. In the end, you pay for what you get and no one can beat physics for free :)

And a picture from the GFX50s, Medium Format Crop Sensor Camera

GFX50s with 110mm F2
GFX50s with 110mm F2

 

Behind the scenes: Rune Knight Ragnarok Online

RO-1
ISO 100, 35mm F2, 1/320s, Flash Fired

Another entry of behind the scenes. This is not a weekly thing, it just so happen that the shoots I been doing on consecutive weeks are great for article writing.

Brief summary of today shoot:

  • Shot with a leaf shutter camera
  • 3 light setup
  • 1 2′ octa for fill
  • 1 2’x3′ soft box for highlight and rim light
  • 1 reflector mounted light for back glow
  • Mist used for effects
backsword
ISO 100, 35mm F2, 1/320s, Flash Fired

Ragnarok online is a Korean MMORPG with the Rune Knight taking on a classic warrior class. Donning armor wielding a sword, a class that specialised in balanced defence and offence.

The way this shoot was lighted is very similar to the last post for Yuuki Konno. The key differences were that this shoot minimises the overall effects of ambient light. As such almost all light seen in the picture was generated artificially. The shoot was done from 830am to 1030am, how the ambient was killed to get the maximum amount of light produce was via a leaf shutter camera: the RX1.

ROBTS-1
Rim light fired only to see how it falls on the subject

Leaf shutter cameras are great as there are no limit to their sync rate. The limitation is the sync rate of the transmitter, in this case the Profoto Nikon TTL trigger, which goes up to 1/1200s. This kills the ambient light a whole lot as shown in the image above where only the rim light was firing. Notice how dark the ambient is even though it’s around 840am in the morning when it was shot.

ROBTS-2
Light Test before Effects
Photo 17-1-16, 12 08 33 AM
3 Light setup. B1 on the back, B2 above subject, B2 infront

Light setup:

1 B1 mounted with a zoom reflector behind the half closed fort door. This is to simulate the light leak out from a semi opened door, the door themselves acting as a large light shaping tool and adding to the mood.

1 B2 mounted with a 2’x3′ soft box with grid on a boom positioned top back of the subject. This was the rim light for the subject and gives a highlight on the hair. The additional function it has was to light the mist produced in the air for the glow and colours. The grid prevents unnecessary spill to the background doors and shadows.

1 B2 mounted with a 2′ octa soft box with grid. A Key light for the subject. The grid prevents reflection of the light from the back B! and controls the spill to retain the shadows.

With this shoot, every shot was done with the same shutter speed of 1/320 and lights at approximately 8 for the B1 and 6-7 for the B2 heads. The B1 and the top B2 2’x3′ soft box was gelled for the orange glow.

One note: Asians have a warmer skin complexion, as such orange gel for fill and key light is not needed unless you want a cool tone background.

ROBTS-3
Application of mist with lights fired. The top will light the mist to give it the glowing droplet effects.

Effects:

Misting was done by the 2 assistants. As we do not have the third, shots with flipping was done by the same person that was misting.

The edits were done similarly to my last shoot of Yuuki Konno so do refer to it for more information.

kneel
ISO 100, 35mm F2, 1/320s, Flash Fired
pray
ISO 100, 35mm F2, 1/320s, Flash Fired

Additional thoughts:

Shaping light with available structures are interesting ways to create effect and mood, in this case the fort doors. However as much as this photos look cool, with every shoot, some thoughts must be done prior so that the right setup can be used and execution can be done smoothly to produce the shots at acceptable timing. Try not to think and experiment only on the shoot itself with the lights as this will tire the subject and consume a large amount of time. With that, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy this article and do visit my FB page at ZerartulPeaktures!

Equipment used:

  • Sony RX1 35mm F2
  • Profoto B1
  • Profoto B2 with 2 heads
  • Profoto Nikon TTL transmitter
  • Profoto OCF 2′ octa box
  • Prfoto OCF 2’x3′ softbox
  • Profoto zoom reflector
  • Jinbei M1 mini boom
  • 2 water mist spray

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes: Yuuki Sword Art Online

Yuuki-3
ISO 400, 20mm, F1.8, 1/1000, Flash Fired HSS

This weekend I did a shoot for Chloe Miriee’s Yuuki Konno cosplay. The results are rather stunning even by my standards. This article will talk about how the effects were achieved which is quite standard throughout the entire photo set.

Yuuki is a character from sword art online, a MMORPG like game in the medieval times. A combat class that uses a sword, with quite a good amount of scene in forest and dungeons. A top notch swordsman with a ill fate at the end. I wanted to give her a more magical game like feeling with dramatic motion and emotions. More pics will be posted at my main site and FB page: ZerartulPeaktures

As said most pictures were shot and edited the same way. Summary of how this shoot was done and processed:

  • 1 Boomed Grided light for rim and highlight
  • 1 Grided light for fill
  • 1 Reflector on Light for simulated sun (optional)
  • 2 assistants for misting
  • 1 assistant for wig throwing
  • Color process with Lightroom
  • Effects process with Photoshop

Light Setup:

Yuuki Light Diag

BTS Yuuki 1
2 Lights used for this shot. Top light highlights the sword and gives more contrast.

In a forest, normally with the canopy cover, you get streams of light coming in but on general its not really bright. I wanted it to look sunny even in a forest, like a canopy with a big opening.

1 B2 head boomed fitted with 60cm x 90cm Gridded Softbox on the top. slightly back of the subject. This creates a nice rim from the head to the shoulders and a burnt out effect on the hair to simulate light from the top. Outdoor shoots are suspected to winds so a light head such as B2 and modifiers from the OCF series are great. Make sure to always weigh down the boom and counter balance it well.

1 B2 head on the floor right side with a 60cm Gridded Octa. This is mainly a fill light for the face placed above the camera level. In the shot above, its above the subjects eye level. The purpose of the grid is to fill only the face with minimum spill to the surroundings.

Additional notes:

Yuuki-2
This shot had a additional B1 at the back for the simulated sun..

1 B1 with reflector are used in some shots such as the one above. This is to simulate the sun. Shots that did not used it were due to good openings in the canopy with strong sunlight streaming in.

The light on the boom and the B1 with reflector both are meant to be back light to simulate flare or highlights generated by a low sun. In this shoot, they are fitted with 3/4 CTO gels to add extra warmth to the light. This was part of the reason why the front fill light must be gridded: it will other wise be reflecting the warm light from the front baffle onto the subject face which will be undesirable.

Effects and Color:

Sometime misting do not go well due to wind
Sometime misting do not go well due to wind

To obtain get the slightly magical effects of sparkles and mistiness, 2 assistants were tasked to spray mist into the air just slightly behind the subject. Mist however were easily affected by wind so the assistants need to constantly move.

Freezing the droplets of mist in the air rather then smeared, a faster shutter of 1/1000 was used. The lights were then fired with HSS. As this was a morning shoot, the flash itself could not freeze the motion of the droplets due to background lighting and a much faster shutter was needed. This is one of the situation where Profoto B1/B2 really works well with HSS.

The sense of motion was obtained by flicking the wig base on the direction of the motion that was to be achieved. The subject will also execute the movement and hold the point where the shot will be done to get a more natural posing.

YuukiBTW-2
Out of camera shot

Post processing was the final step. First with Lightroom, the greens were hued to the yellow for a more autumn look. Colors were corrected to get a soothing slightly dulled down look while exposure contrast was increased for the dramatic feel.

Lastly photoshop, to get the hazy feeling with the effects of brighter sun ray streaming down, a combination of Motion blur, Gaussian blur and masking was used. I wont cover on how to achieve them here as you can find video tutorials of them.

Photos and Final words:

Yuuki-3
ISO 400, 20mm, F1.8, 1/1000, Flash Fired HSS
Yuuki-1
ISO 400, 20mm, F1.8, 1/1000, Flash Fired HSS
Yuuki-2
ISO 200, 50mm, F1.4, 1/500, Flash Fired HSS

As above, this are the outcomes of the shoot.  I hope you enjoy my behind the scene on how the shots are done and do visit my FB page at ZerartulPeaktures to view my latest work or contact me.

Equipment used:

  • Nikon DF
  • Nikon 20mm F1.8
  • Sigma Art 50mm F1.8
  • Profoto B1
  • Profoto B2 with 2 heads
  • Profoto 2′ X 3′ OCF Softbox with Grid
  • Profoto 2′ OCF Octa with Grid
  • Profoto Zoom Reflector
  • Jinbei M1 Mini Boom
  • 2 Water spray with misting nozzle (those for watering plants)

Behind the Scene: Akatsuki no Yona

Yona-1
Yona: Nikon DF 85mm F1.8, 1/200, iso250, flash triggered

Akatsuki no Yona was one of the more planned out shoot I had for sometime. Thanks to Sumi for this shoot together with all those that helped out. For the full album visit my page ZerartulPeaktures

Todays article will talk about the creation of the above image at the start of this post.  The image is done using 3 lights. With a combination of 2 images for the spread of leaves.

File 4-1-16, 11 21 02 PM_NIK2292

A B2 head mounted on a boom acts as the simulated sun on the back. It’s mounted with a zoom reflector for a more controlled spill onto the back of the subject.

The light on the left acts as the key light for the subject. A B1 mounted with 2’x3′ box with a grid, it’s purpose is to light the subject like a hole in the forest. The grid prevents unnecessary spill.

The final light on the left as a fill. A B2 head mounted with a 2′ octa, it’s powered at around 2 stops lower then the key light. This is to soften the shadow on the dark side of the subject.

Photo 2-1-16, 10 31 42 AM

The helpers gather the dry leaves around the area and throws them in succession. Multiple shots are done with each throw to maximise the amount of leaves and their arrangement caught on the camera. This is a situation where a better light like the B1/B2 has an advantage. With a lot more capacity, they can be fired in rapid succession while still retaining the Color and exposure.

YonaBTS-1 YonaBTS-2

The images are combined together using photoshop. The images above are two shots straight out of Lightroom with the exact same setting. If you notice there’s almost no shift in Color and exposure which makes combining a Breeze.

Once the images are combined, all that’s left is touching up of image, removing the b2 generator from the image and final touches for the subject.

Yona-1

I will probably be posting more behind the scene shots in the future. Do follow them and my Facebook page @ ZerartulPeaktures

Equipment used:

  • Nikon DF
  • Nikon 85mm F1.8
  • Profoto B1
  • Profoto B2 with 2 Heads
  • Profoto 2’Octa Softbox
  • Profoto Zoom Reflector
  • Jinbei 2’x3′ Softbox with grid
  • Jinbei M1 Boom

 

 

Overcoming the Sun: Clamp Shell Lighting

One of the advantages of using strobes is paring the sun. However sometime not only do you want to light up a subject, you want to have a effect that is hard yet with minimal shadow, similar to what large reflectors create. With recreating that effect using lights, I found the best solution: Clamp Shell Lighting

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 6.16.03 pm

 

The diagram doesnt depict it well, but technically one flash on a boom is above the other, the sun behind the subject back, lights are aligned to the side of the subject for a more natural feel with the camera between them or at the side of the lower light. One difference between the setup I use and a standard clamp shell is my ground light is not exactly below the first light but slightly more offset. This lower light job is to fill in the shadow for that extra spectacular effect, recreating a look similar to a reflector. Depending on where the shadows actually are, it is moved to fit the situation.

Also note, to over come the sun with a 500/250w light, I usually use a metal reflector or bare bulb for power. This is essential especially using high speed sync where even more power is lost. However if the sun is low or in semi sheltered area like a forest or the exterior of a building, umbrellas can be considered to soften the light.

Below are some pictures shot with this setup and their in camera settings:

YunaV2-3

Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/4000 (B1: 10/10 B2:10/10 HSS Barebulb)

11am light is relatively strong. Full power on both lights at barebulb to overcome the sun.

Rae-3

Nikon DF: 28mm F2 1/500 (B2: 8/10 B2:7.5/10 HSS  Shoot Through Umbrella)

As the area was semi sheltered, I dont really need to fight the full force of the sun, as such 2 umbrella can be used to better diffuse the light.

Kobato Small

Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/1600 (B2: 9/10 B2:8.5/10 HSS Barebulb)

Shot during the taiwan evening sun, B2 dont really have the full strength to over come the sun itself especially if done in dual head mode. More will be talked about B2 in the upcoming review.

This photos represent outdoor usage of clamp shell. Gives a nice light on the face thats spectacular yet not too harsh with the second fill light that is usually lower powered to fill in the shadows. Hope you learn something from it!

High Speed Sync with Profoto B1/B2 System

Recently FStopper wrote an article about high speed sync and the difference between it and HyperSync.

Demystifying High-Speed Sync

Pocket wizard also written a more technical write up here:

Understanding HyperSync and High Speed Sync

High speed sync is really one of the best thing that happen for flash photography. However the biggest issue is massive lost of power which from a speedlite results in a output that is insufficient for many purpose. Profoto B1 and B2 provide HSS with a much more efficient output approximately to just one stop lost of light. This is significant since they output much more light then any speedlite.

So before High-Speed Sync was available, I utilised the Rx-1 to get sync of up to 1/1600 using the inbuilt leaf shutter.

Yoshino-2

Juvia-22editSM

 

Both of the above shot is done in the morning around 11pm. Using the leaf shutter, you can not only kill ambient light, but also synchronise with a flash up to 1/1600. However do note that the speed of your sync also depends on factors such as the wireless trigger (I use a phottix Atlas) and the duration of the flash light.

The issue with leaf shutter: There is really not much cameras and lenses with it, limiting your choices. Also sync speed will reach a cap at around 1/1600. This limits how much ambient light you can kill. However the advantage is that you are utilising the full power of the light. Compared to HSS at 1/1600, you save more then 2 stop of flash power, allowing you to do some multi-shots that can best capture action moments.

Of course all this changed when Profoto introduced HSS and I love it.

Kaze-8Ed

Lux-1

HSS allows you to use any lens, any shutter speed, to capture things in the way it would have not been possible without using extensive ND filters. ND filters causes a lot of problems: Darkening of view finder, focus issues, colour tints. HSS allows you to bypass the restriction of the shutter sync and with any lens capture the image. Why do we want to capture something using HSS? The ability to use large aperture lens for the shot resulting in shallow depth of field while properly filling in the shadow with the flash at any shutter speed!

The issue is HSS results in lost of usable light. If you want to maximise your flash, a ND filter is still a more efficient solution. However if you just want to fill against daylight ambient but do not have a leaf shutter system, this is your best bet!

Christy-3

Akatsuki-1

For those who are interested what the Profotos could deliver: B1 in HSS is approximately the power of 8-10 SB910 in gang mode while B2 is half that amount. This allows you to use mods to further enhance the light. However for the amount of power they can produce in HSS, there are restrictions.

Min Power: 7/10 on canon system

Min Power: 8/10 on Nikon system for B1 and 7/10 for B2

At times this is just overwhelming!