full vs crop

clel miller

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Jun 21, 2015
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As digital cameras took over, why did so many of them drop the 35mm size.?
Was/Is it expensive to make the sensor in the same footprint as your "typical" film camera.?
The smaller sensor size was all about reducing costs and being able to produce affordable cameras.

"Full frame" digital cameras were typically at least $2000 USD or more ... sometimes much more. It's somewhat recent that a few models have come along which cost less than $2000 (but still more than $1000... whereas there are lots of choices for APS-C size sensor camera bodies that are well under $1000.)
As digital cameras took over, why did so many of them drop the 35mm size.?
Was/Is it expensive to make the sensor in the same footprint as your "typical" film camera.?
Because in the beginning, around 2000, even APS-C was extremely expensive and full frame was impossibly expensive.

Thats also why back then the FourThird sensors have been started, since back then they've been substantly cheaper to produce than APS-C.

Nowadays an APS-C sensor costs much less than hundred dollars and a full frame sensor below half a thousand dollar, and we have the first medium format sensor thats produced in a single step (the Sony 44x33mm sensor) instead of getting assembled from multiple smaller sensor pieces. Thus APS-C is the standard and full frame sensors are going more and more mainstream.
While neither are perfect analogies to a camera sensor, consider the slow growth in; 1) television screens and, 2) digital audio/video devices. Back in "the day" the first color TV's were limited to about 17" diagonal in a set that sat in your living room and took up what would today be the space required for a small refrigerator. Sony made news in about 1976 when they introduced the first 27" CRT type TV - still a floor model. If I remember correctly, it was retailing at about $2600 in 1976 USD's. In 1996 a 40" CRT was the limit to the CRT technology and the move was being made to other types of televisions. A 40" Mitsubishi CRT television would have run you about $4000 in 1996 USD's.

By the year 2000 DLP's and plasmas where hitting their stride and a large screen could be produced at up to 55" for either. Still the best of either technology was selling for about $4000-5500. Today a single box set can be produced at 70-80 inches without serious image degradation. If you have to ask how much, you can't afford it.

If we shift to audio/video products, the CD was introduced in 1982 and it contained the audio only equivalent to one LP or approximately 45-60 minutes of program material. The first generation of CD players ran about $1200-2000 and a single CD sold for about $15-20. In the early 1990's LaserDisc introduced a digital playback system for video which required a 12" disc. Only the rare videophile owned a LaserDisc player. I still have mine, it cost about $2000 in the late '90's but it did decode AC3 audio content which was the early Dolby discrete five channel format. The content of a film was distributed over two or more sides of a LaserDisc.

DVD was brought to the market in 1997 (average cost to the consumer was about $400 to $700) and this reduced the size of the disc to 5.25 inches and all content was on one side of the disc. Bluray moved the program to higher quality audio and video on a similarly sized disc in the early 2010's. Today you can buy a BluRay player for less than $100.

The mathematics required to produce these items in digital format has existed for decades (search: Nyquist theory). The tools which make the technology available to the consumer have only recently been introduced to the market. Each successive increase in technological movement requires the industry to scrap the old technology. It also causes the consumer to re-buy all the material they have acquired in the old technology. This adds up to millions of dollars in cost for the manufacturing transformation and billions in sales.

However, the move from the small sensor to the full frame sensor requires as much technological effort as the move from a 27" CRT to an 80" LED television. The market for the largest is always the smallest number of buyers. Cost cannot be spread out over the number of units sold as it can in the smaller sizes. This makes the financial move to the largest even more prohibitive than the technical movement.

If everyone were buying the largest sensor, the cost would drop. It is though, a chicken and egg process. For everyone to buy the largest, the cost would first need to drop to the cost of the smallest. And, at that point, someone would already have introduced something even more exclusive to the market which would appeal to those who can afford the latest technological break through.

You must think not only of the technology's difficulties by themself but of the implementation cost to the manufacturers.
I believe Nikon's first digital camera in 1999 the D1, 2.7mp APS-C (crop) image sensor camera was priced at a "reasonable" $4,995.00 USD

and that was a crop camera, as they did not release a FullFrame until 2007 with the D3, 12 mp sensor for $4,995.00 USD

Now you can get the d3300, 24.2 mp DX sensor for retail $500 or less with a lens.
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Now you can get the d3300, 24.2 mp DX sensor for retail $500 or less with a lens.
I would imagine, at 500 bux, that would be a decent "first" camera for somebody just getting into Digital 35mm cameras.?
Now you can get the d3300, 24.2 mp DX sensor for retail $500 or less with a lens.
I would imagine, at 500 bux, that would be a decent "first" camera for somebody just getting into Digital 35mm cameras.?
First of all if you want a "35mm" digital camera then you need a Full Frame camera body.

The d3x00 and d5x00 and d7x00 are smaller than the 35mm format. But when you look at either on a computer screen they are adjusted to the screen size. So really, no one sees a difference, per say.

The d3300 is a great camera with great images. But it lacks alot of the higher end features of, say a d7200. BUT it all depends upon what you plan on doing. If you are just starting and have no high requirements then it is just fine. I've helped a few friends with d3x00 and just the stripped down focusing system drives me nuts but then I'm used to higher end systems.

But a d3300 is a "decent" first digital camera for the money.
a d5500 is a pretty good first digital camera for the money
a d7200 is a very good first digital camera for the money
etc ...

but if you don't learn all the features and know how to use all the features of a d7200 then it could just be another $500 you could have saved if you got a d3300.

It all depends upon your requirements and budget, because the cost of lens can really blow budgets.
yes, the Canon digital Rebels were "first" consumer DSLR's but now full frame 35mm is relatively cheap (less than $1,000 !)
What are you talking about ?

Under 1000$ is possible, but only if you buy used. A Canon 5D Mark II might do it, or a Nikon D700.
This is just my own personal opinion, however these days I strongly suspect it has as much to do with "marketing" as anything else. In the earliest days, it may have been about manufacturing costs, but it's been my experience that in cases such as this, "consumer price" seldom reflects actual manufacturing costs. While -no-, I don't work for any camera manufacturer to know for sure, in this case I doubt the actual manufacturing costs between the APS-C sensor and FF are THAT different. I'm sure there -IS- a difference, however I'd be REALLY surprised if someone were able to prove they were significant enough to warrant 2 to 4 times (or more) the purchase price of the respective camera bodies that employ such technologies.

This is just a guess on my part, but I'd suspect that today it's simply a matter of consumer demand more than anything. It's tempting to say that because something like a Nikon D4X cost $6000, that it must be considerably more expensive to produce than a D5500, however manufacturing and mass produced products seldom work that way (comparatively speaking). -IF- were were talking about components that were all hand made, that might be the case, however in what's essentially an assembly line, mass production environment, things change dramatically, which suggests there MUST be some other dominant factor involving cost. Consider this; the folks at Nikon, Canon, Olympus, etc., KNOW there's only a limited number of truly professional photographers out there willing to spend $2000 - $4000 (or more) on a "pro body". Sure there's a few "non-pro" folks out there who will dump the money...if nothing else, just because they can, however I suspect that percentage is comparatively quite small and that the camera makers realize this. What's more is I'm sure they also realize that most people just don't need ALL the features such cameras offer...after all, "Aunt Jane" is unlikely to have the same needs in a camera as the local portrait studio. What's more is that I'm sure they know that MANY average consumers just don't have THAT kind of coin to blow either...if those $6000 bodies were ALL the camera makers had to offer, I suspect A LOT of people would just go back to film (I know I certainly would!). When it comes to marketing, I'm sure they're also painfully aware of other factors such as used cameras, gray market, yadda, yadda, yadda...all of which impact new camera sales. The thing to remember is that companies like Nikon, Canon, etc., are "businesses"...in the end game, they're all about profit and how to maximize it.

With this in mind, for large companies such as Nikon and Canon (and others), despite manufacturing costs, it makes a great deal more sense to provide various camera styles, at various price points to cover the widest range of consumers possible. You can make those cute and stylish little compacts around the $100 - $300 mark that work GREAT for people like Aunt Jane who really has no use at all for any benefits regarding full frame and probably wouldn't even know where the power button is on an average DSLR (no offense Aunt Jane, LOL). They may not make AS MUCH profit as they do with say, that $6000 pro model, but they do make SOME profit and they certainly make up for the difference at other levels. Then you put out the entry level DSLR's and the "prosumer" models ranging from $600 - $1500 for those who take their pictures a little more seriously (or simply have a few more bucks to blow)....I don't have the statistics, however I suspect this is very likely their most popular market...from a profit point of view, I'd suspect this is really their bread and butter. Mid range products for the "middle class" and all. And then you have the top shelf stuff for folks who can write it off on their taxes...you get the idea. Essentially it's the all mighty corporate attempt to be "all things to all people" and for the most part, I suspect it works very well. After all, if Aunt Jane is happy with that little Nikon "Coolpix", she -may- be more likely to go with a Nikon D5500 the next time she buys a camera.

Again I have no specific facts or statistics to back that up, but it seems to make a great deal more sense than just assuming the expensive cameras are more expensive to make...large manufacturers, cameras or otherwise, don't typically work that way as a general rule.
What are you talking about ?

Under 1000$ is possible, but only if you buy used. A Canon 5D Mark II might do it, or a Nikon D700.

I see that a Canon 6D is $999 (refurbished)
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