My Full Frame Sensor

By | December 14, 2010

For a while I had been entertaining the notion of upgrading some of my camera gear. I thought of investing in a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 or maybe a faster prime. This lead me to do some retrospective on Sean Gursky: Photographer. I understand that the gear doesn’t make the pictures but it helps in being able to capture a specific shot you may have been unable to before.

During this time I read an entertaining, and frightenly accurate, article about the upgrade path that people take when getting into photography. With the exception of upgrading my point and shoot camera I saw myself in all of these situations and I’m certainly not alone with that.

With the trip to London weighing on my mind I thought about the photos I would improve on or what I would do differently and looking over my photos I noticed a common trend in my pictures: I liked architecture, lines and wide shots. I didn’t do a lot of action or sport shots where I required an intelligent auto-focus and I started to contemplate a move to a full frame camera. I had read about a full frame sensor being the promised land, and once you go full frame you don’t go back.

I had one EF-S lens and another EF, the EF-S lens would not be compatible with a full frame camera so I looked to sell my Canon T1i and 17-85mm EF-S lens as a package. Thankfully a former co-worker was looking to make the DSLR jump and I was able to sell him my gear and put that money towards a used Canon 5D. I decided on the Canon 5D over the 5D Mark II primarily for cost. The 5D Mark II was another $1,000 and I was okay with the smaller mega-pixel count and loss of video, plus the 5D is still a solid camera and well recommended for anyone who wanted to make the move to full frame.

The 5D is no longer available new so I looked online for a deal on a used one to come along. I scoured the Photography on the Net marketplace forums for a good condition Canon 5D and when one showed up for the right amount I acted fast. Because all I had was a 50mm f/1.8 lens I was able to get a 85mm f/1.8 and 24mm f/2.8 lens to complete my gear list, and this gave me three very fast and versatile lenses without adding a lot of weight.

September 17, 2010I have enjoyed the move to the Canon 5D, but I miss some of the automatic features like sensor cleaning. Being responsible for cleaning the sensor has been an interesting experience. The full frame cameras are more susceptible to dust and with primes I am switching lenses more often so there is a greater chance of dust to get into the body.

I spent a few weekends working on the perfect sensor cleaning wand, gathering the right supplies and after multiple cleaning attempts I improved my skills and am ready for the next required cleaning. I have also found the metering to be a little unreliable. I find I have to underexpose my images, especially if I am on Tv or Av setting.

However, the cons I have are greatly outweighed by the pros. I have found 24mm on the full frame to be incredibly wide, and when I would switch from 50mm to 24mm to shoot the same scene the difference was drastic.

The sliver thin depth of field is huge and not having a flash on the body hasn’t been a problem because I can open the aperture up, turn the ISO to 1000 or higher and still capture the scene.

I don’t plan on upgrading cameras anytime soon, but I doubt I will return to a cropped body. The 1.6 sensor size is beneficial when you are trying to get some reach but I don’t often get into situations where I need that extra distance. I would like to have a 70-200mm f/4.0 lens in my bag for times I require a zoom, but for now the 24mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses are a perfect trio.

Because of the body change I have also found new appreciation for my 50mm f/1.8 lens. It was useful on the Canon T1i but on the Canon 5D it is my primary lens and was used for 90% of the photographs on the England/Paris trip in October. It is perfect and being the cheapest lens in my bag is saying a lot about how impressive the nifty fifty is.

Overall I am very happy with my decision and the 5D has challenged me to be a better photographer, and when situations are right, I feel I am up to the task.

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