- Fujifilm has packed 40 megapixels into its X-series APS-C sensor.
- Crop sensor cameras are smaller, lighter, and have tiny lenses.
- Fujifilm relied on APS-C from the start.
Fujifilm made a big bet against the combined wisdom of the camera industry, and it paid off in full.
In general, gadgets tend to be smaller, thinner, and lighter. But if you compare a modern DSLR to the largest film SLRs, they’re huge and heavy. The lenses are chunkier and the bodies closer to the medium format studio cameras of yesteryear. Why? An absurd adherence to the “full frame” sensor size that arbitrarily mimics the size of a frame on 35mm film. And while there were good reasons when we went digital, there are even more reasons not to. And that’s the bet Fujifilm made.
“I’m a full convert to the APS-C sensor and see no need to go full frame,” professional photographer Cat Ekkelboom-White told Lifewire via email.
“Where I used to feel literally weighed down by my full-frame Canon cameras, with Fujifilm I can shoot happily all day and still feel great at the end of an all-day wedding or a multi-day hike through the Alps.”
Something as simple as sensor size has a major ripple effect through the rest of a camera system. The most obvious difference is that you can put more pixels on a larger sensor, or use larger pixels. This can mean higher resolution images and better low-light capabilities. But with modern cameras, the difference is minimal.
Aside from the dimensions of the camera body, the cost of the lenses is a little-touted advantage of APS-C over full-frame.
“While it’s true that full frame has higher resolution and performs better in low light, the difference in image quality is really minimal,” says Ekkelboom-White.
Another advantage of a full-frame sensor is that it results in a shallower depth of field. That said, all else being equal, a full-frame camera will produce more background blur than one with a smaller sensor. That’s why smartphones use digital fakes with their tiny sensors to blur the backgrounds.
Because a full-frame camera’s sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame, you can use all your old film lenses. But when you put a full-frame lens on a camera with a smaller APS-C sensor, it “zooms” in. A wide-angle lens is no longer wide, and a telephoto lens has even more range.
This backward compatibility is probably the main reason why older camera system manufacturers like Canon and Nikon decided to standardize on full frame. That means their customers could go digital without having to buy an entire system from scratch or, worse, switch to a competitor.
The APS-C Advantage
When Fujifilm went digital, it went all-in on APS-C size (which is also measured and named after a film format). APS-C is smaller than 35mm, but not much smaller. And before there was the technology to make full-frame sensors, APS-C was what the first DSLRs used.
The biggest advantage of APS-C is that the cameras and lenses can be much smaller. And because Fujifilm opted for a mirrorless design from the start, its lenses could be placed closer to the sensor and thus be even smaller.
“Apart from the dimensions of the camera body, the cost of the lenses is a small touted advantage of APS-C over the full-frame equivalent,” Mark Condon, CEO and founder of Shotkit, told Lifewire via email.
This radically improves portability and usability. Less glass means less powerful motors are required.
Combined with camera designs that not only look great, but also offer the great usability benefits of dedicated knobs and dials, have made Fujifilm cameras uniquely popular and hugely popular with users.
Fujifilm’s bet was already looking good, but with the new X-H2, that bet is paying off a lot.
Up until the X-H2, the maximum pixel count for cameras in the Fujifilm series was around 26 MP. The X-H2 has 40 megapixels, which is enough for demanding professional scenarios like fashion and advertising – where you want maximum editing potential.
And thanks to modern technology, packing 40MP into an APS-C sensor doesn’t degrade image quality or hamper low-light capabilities. And according to reviews, it’s just great.
DSLRs certainly have their advantages. For one, the battery life is much better. But for most people, APS-C is more than good enough. And if you want an APS-C camera, Fujifilm is the only manufacturer that takes it seriously.
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