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FULL FRAME or SUPER 35 - What do you prefer and why?


lafilm
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The on-going debate/thoughts on:  Full Frame vs Super 35 -

Here are 4 recent videos shot on both for quick comparison -

All shot on Sony A7s (which surprisingly a lot of people i'm finding still do not know the cam shoots both formats)

Full Frame  - #1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0umR92pwIwQ

Full Frame  - #2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mMfeCgb_Mg

SUPER 35 -  #1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaZ9gramvPQ

SUPER 35 -  #2

https://vimeo.com/102902760

 - Try not to judge the content as much as "The Look"

Overall on any project/on any cam what format do you prefer??

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In terms of look for those examples, it appears the FF folks had a challenge color correcting the lighting conditions. The Super 35 examples had much better color. The main difference between S35 and FF on the A7S is the ability to get shallower DOF more easily with FF (and true in general). Both S35 and FF have advantages and disadvantages in terms of look and artifacts, namely rolling shutter, noise, and aliasing (A7S).

For the A7S, I prefer the look of full frame for low-light shots where the camera movement is smooth to limit rolling shutter artifacts. Full frame provides less noise and easier shallow DOF. Low-light+smooth-camera+shallow-DOF = use full frame.

For shots with camera motion that cannot be smooth, APS-C (Super 35) mode works much better due to less rolling shutter. It's noisier so care must be take with exposure and profile setup.

For 60p  (for 2.5x slomo) APS-C mode has less aliasing than FF mode. 60p also reduces rolling shutter even more, so for shaky handled shots, 60p APS-C can be used even if intending to use 24p (just drop the 60p footage into a 24p sequence to 'drop frame' down to 24 (no slomo)).

Using a Speedbooser along with APS-C and 60p allows for the best of both worlds: full frame shallow DOF (1.1 crop), about the same light performance as full frame (+1 stop from focal reducer), the lowest rolling shutter possible, with options in post for 24p (drop frame) for 2.5x slomo (40% slowdown via re-interpretation (no interpolation or frames dropped)). Here's the A7S with APS-C 60p in low light (stock PP6): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq8m2FaVL1U . IIRC, I only used NR for the brief interview at the beginning which was very, very dark (drop-frame 24p). All the rest is low (mixed color) light at 60p slowed 2.5x (40%). Used AutoWB, IS, AutoFocus, Sony SEL18200 lens, handheld.

A full frame sensor with a global shutter, no aliasing under any condition, and options for cropping would be ideal in a future camera.

I haven't seen anything magical about FF vs. S35 and the math doesn't seem to show any look advantage to FF or S35 when all things are equivalent: http://www.josephjamesphotography.com/equivalence/ (search page for: Equivalence in 10 Bullets) . In summary, a 33mm lens in S35 at F1.4 and ISO 800 will look exactly the same as a (33*1.5=) 50mm lens in FF at (1.4*1.5=) F2.1 and ISO (800*(1.5^2)=) 1800. By exactly meaning that when viewed normally when using lenses from the same manufacturer/set, no difference will be apparent. If there are other factors not predicted by the math/physics in real-world practice, an example showing this would be insightful. In practice, a 35mm F1.4 lens and ISO 800 for S35 and a 50mm lens at F2, ISO 2000 might be the closest attainable (and would be very close to equivalent).

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I prefer a full frame sensor because I can use a longer fl for the same fov.  I prefer the way a longer lens separates the in and out of focus areas of a frame.  Added to this is the affordability of wide lenses.  A 25mm f2.8 is as wide as you ever need on full frame and usually looks better to my eye than an 18mm f2 on s35 due to being sharper and with less distortion.

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 I prefer the way a longer lens separates the in and out of focus areas of a frame.

​Hey Rich- the math doesn't predict this and I haven't seen it in practice. The closest example I found online was this comparison:

http://neilvn.com/tangents/full-frame-vs-crop-sensor-cameras-comparison-depth-of-field/

He didn't adjust the aperture correctly for the FF lens: he used F2.8 for both. He should have used 2.8*1.5 = F4.2 (or F4) and adjusted ISO up on FF by 1.5^2. In that case the images, which already looks pretty close, would be as identical as possible in this case with these lenses. It's true that the FF camera gets more shallow DOF with the F2.8 lens, but there's nothing inherent in the FF sensor that gives it a look advantage in this case.

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You know, I've been binge-watching a whole bunch of movies on Blu-ray this past week. From classics like Princess Bride to modern blockbusters like Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

Not once have I gone, what nicely isolated background blur is in the scene.

In fact many of the movies I liked don't even use that much shallow depth of field, and it's clear that the lens has been stopped down some. I think on the whole we're looking at 5-10% of the scenes at most?

What's really more obvious to my perception I think, in the technical aspects of the camera itself, are things like dynamic range and colour response (as we all know, with this will affect the final grade and compressed footage makes this even more challenging), how camera movement is handled, and skill taken in focusing (1080p is not forgiving for errors in older films, 4K is going to be less so).

The example above illustrates my point: The one stop difference in DoF, if not placed side-by-side, wasn't going to be something I would have commmented about, and wouldn't have made me prefer one image over the other.

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One advantage of FF or S35 is less diffraction at higher F-stops (loss of sharpness). As Rich noted, FF does indeed have an advantage in terms of lens selection and lower cost for shallow DOF (I use the lenses I already had for the 5D3 with the A7S (with the exception of the Sony SEL18200, which came with the FS700)).

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​Hey Rich- the math doesn't predict this and I haven't seen it in practice. The closest example I found online was this comparison:

http://neilvn.com/tangents/full-frame-vs-crop-sensor-cameras-comparison-depth-of-field/

He didn't adjust the aperture correctly for the FF lens: he used F2.8 for both. He should have used 2.8*1.5 = F4.2 (or F4) and adjusted ISO up on FF by 1.5^2. In that case the images, which already looks pretty close, would be as identical as possible in this case with these lenses. It's true that the FF camera gets more shallow DOF with the F2.8 lens, but there's nothing inherent in the FF sensor that gives it a look advantage in this case.

I suppose the reason for the difference is that generally from what I see an 85mm at f2.8 is almost always sharper than a 50mm at f2.  Since the 85mm will be used on full frame, the full frame setup has the advantage in sharpness of the in focus subject.  as a result the actual ratio between in focus and out of focus is greater.

Also, from my experiences using usually full frame lenses on both full frame and aps-c/s35 on a full frame sensor the whole image circle is being utilised to deliver the sensor resolution.  Assuming a full frame lens wide open will resolve 30lp/mm on a full frame sensor the horizontal resolution 36mm x 30x30 = 2160px.  crop into that for s35 and you only have 1440px of horizontal resolution.  So assuming the actual lenses are full frame lenses - an 85mm on the full frame sensor, and a 50mm on a s35 sensor, the 50mm will project the same fov as the 85mm but the actual overall line pairs is divided by 1.5 on s35.

 

The difference is less obvious when true s35mm lenses are used on the frame they're designed for.  The sigma 18-35 f1.8 for example will outresolve most full frame lenses.

 

Then we have speed boosters - which compress the resolution down onto a smaller area, so if there was a 'optically perfect' speed booster available you could take the 30lp/mm full frame lens and compress it by the 0.7x and have around 45lp/mm of resolving power onto your s35 sensor.  Unfortunately no commercially available speed boosters allow optical perfection so some of the lens resolution is lost.      Still the delivered resolving power onto the s35 sensor is normally more from a 50mm + speed booster than the resolution from a 35mm lens without a focal reducer.

 

The only real way to properly illustrate the difference would be to take a m4/3 camera and a 25mm lens and put it against a 645 camera and an 80mm lens.  The 80mmbeing set at f2.8 and the 25mm lens having to be set at something like f0.7 to get the same amount of defocus.  Quite obviously the 80mm will blow the 25mm lens out of the water in terms of sharpness. 

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Honestly, Super 35. Full Frame is great, but only if I see the lens stopped down a little. I don't like the long lens shallow depth of field look unless done for a specific purpose. 35 and 40mm Anamorphics.

Loved your example shot with the MOVI, great camera work using it in creative ways. Enjoy the effect of it seeming like a tripod shot and then suddenly having movement.

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jcs, thanks for your valuable input. Regarding the a7s, which features both FF and APS-C mode, do i get you right that (assuming a lens with the desired focal length is given) APS-C mode has only advantages over FF if the shallow dof is not necessary? E.g. lets assume i am happy with the dof of a 35mm f1.4 in APS-C mode, this solution on the a7s would only yield advantages over using the a7s in FF mode with a 50mm f2?

 

 

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

All being equal (which is rarely the case) I prefer a fullframe sensor over aps-c s35. Mainly, simply due to the shallower depth if field I can get. 

Other major reasons are: 

-cheaper better more available lenses especially on the wide end, and in speed. There's an entire flood of fullframe stills glass carrying over from photographic film, all excellent lenses for filming now. 

-I get to use the corner of lenses where all the nice things show up, viggenette, swirly bokeh, slight softness, I get to see the edges of FF lenses which I cannot do with s35 sensors. 

 

-All things being equal (technology generation equal) a full frame sensor will have better high ISO performance and lowlight capbability

 

 

 

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I prefer Super35 or smaller, because the lenses are lighter weight, I can carry more of them backpacking or around town, and as a one-man-band doing art/doc work I enjoy the flexibility of smaller, lighter gear (when I want/need weight I can always add it). Honestly, for me, 4/3 is fantastic, and super16 was always an excellent film size, which is smaller still. I don't buy the full-frame argument one bit - and even super35 is overrated in my opinion.

If I shot on film, I'd shoot super16. I love the look of super16 film and lenses and honestly prefer it to most of the Super35 stuff I've seen, let alone the stills photography "full-frame".

(Rant: "full-frame" is a total BS term, super35 IS "full-frame" as you don't shoot a part of a frame and no cinematographer compares his or her gear to stills photography equipment. And I've never heard of super16 being referred to as "quarter-frame"... "full-frame" is just an absolutely misleading and linguistically useless term if there ever was one. Rant over.) 

People should shoot whatever makes them, personally, happy and stop judging other people's choices by what size they are using. There is no "best" - it's art.

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In fact many of the movies I liked don't even use that much shallow depth of field, and it's clear that the lens has been stopped down some.

​f5.6 on s35 is a common preference for people (narrative fiction cinematographers) that actually do this stuff for realsies.  So I find that the "FF" aesthetic argument is pretty indulgent for the most part.  

On the other hand, technically, you can get some great low-light capability...and that's something practical to actually consider depending on what you want to do.

That said, I still carry around my 5D and an old 50mm Nikon f1.4 lens for making easy and great looking corporate interview type shots.  If anything, using FF for talking head documentary type work is my idea of FF's strongest aesthetic "feature."

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Thanks for all the replys...interesting to say the least..

jcs - thanks for the actual breakdown..it is close on some situations....and obviously if caught up in the story no one is going to notice either way...however technically..with super fast lenses I don't see how Super 35 can match the sharpness/resolution..

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jcs, thanks for your valuable input. Regarding the a7s, which features both FF and APS-C mode, do i get you right that (assuming a lens with the desired focal length is given) APS-C mode has only advantages over FF if the shallow dof is not necessary? E.g. lets assume i am happy with the dof of a 35mm f1.4 in APS-C mode, this solution on the a7s would only yield advantages over using the a7s in FF mode with a 50mm f2?

​Hey jase- for this example case, we'd have roughly equivalent DOF and FOV. Normally FF captures more photons/light, however we have to bump ISO by 1.5^2 to be equivalent, so read noise could wash out any FF advantage for light gathering. I haven't tested this with the A7S, but for all but the highest usable ISO's, noise on the A7S probably won't be an issue when needing deeper DOF. For handheld and/or 60p, on the A7S the 35 1.4 setup is better due to less RS and aliasing.

In general, the only real advantage for FF is lower cost lens choices for shallow DOF, higher potential resolution (depends on sensor & lenses), and more light gathering performance. The last two points are the same reason telescopes are always getting bigger to allow us to more clearly and deeply see into the universe.

For the A7S with its low noise and wide ISO range, it really comes down to lenses you have on hand or can afford to rent or buy. There is no such thing as the full frame look- the same look can be achieved with Super 35 given the right lenses and settings. The full frame look really means extreme shallow DOF, as was started with the 5D2, which opened the door to relatively low cost shallow DOF for video. 

Hey lafilm- for the A7S and 1080p, most lenses will provide sufficient sharpness and detail. For narrative and closeups, I use a Black Pro-mist 1/4 to soften the image! For wides and landscapes, sure, the sharpest lenses will ultimately help provide the the most detail from the sensor. For max detail, FF is required on the A7S, as crop mode doesn't have enough photosites for 4K without interpolation. To get the max resolution with no aliasing in 4K, we need an 8K sensor (slightly more when using a Bayer sensor to make up for Bayer reconstruction losses).

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Full Frame or larger.......

 

The thing many people here have overlooked is what started this "video wave" was Full Frame dslr cameras which were already being used for photography, hence why people fell in love with shallow dof (which really is used more in that field). 

 

When shooting actual 16mm / 35mm on film sets you really don't see that much shallow dof simply because they have a budget, art department, location, set design, etc. On cheaper no money shoots it's easy to just throw the background out of focus and everything looks good (photography wise) or at least not distracting enough to give away your cheap no money locations.

 

 

So in theory I would shoot shallow if I was working on low budget production and vice versa, of course you would still implement separation for certain scenes (close ups, dialog, night shots, etc.) In the end everything is subjective, but I personally prefer Full Frame or larger due to being able to shoot wide or easily throw a background out of focus or for obvious reasons being that the larger the sensor the more sensitive it is to light.

 

Now on the contrary to everything I believe the Blackmagic cameras with their color science achieve a very filmic image and in my opinion it looks very nice using those cameras when you have a lower budget production vs any dslr camera.

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Super 35 and Full Frame can be equivalent with the right lenses: the look will be the same. It's easy to figure out the conversion:

To get the same FOV and DOF on S35 and ISO as with full frame:

Divide the focal length and max aperture by the crop factor, divide the ISO by the crop factor squared.

In Simon's example (guessing the T (transmission) rating is just slightly higher than the max aperture, which is perhaps F1.4?):

24mm/1.5 = 16mm, F1.4/1.5 = F.93, ISO 800/(1.5*1.5) = 356 ~= ISO 400.

A 16mm F.93- that's a pretty trick lens. Voigtlander makes the 17.5 F.95 for m43, the closest I found for the F5 (PL mount)- Zeiss Superspeed 18mm F1.2. If there was a focal reducer for PL mount, that would provide an easy solution. 

Another good example of convenience, availability, and price for full frame lenses.

Whereas full frame provides the most versatility and affordability (but no advantage in looks when using equivalent lenses and settings compared to Super 35), medium format has the least affordable lens choices: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Medium-Format-Lenses/ci/467/N/4288584244 . In terms of video cameras, is there anything else beyond the ARRI 65 (uses custom Hasselblad lenses)? Perhaps not a big enough market for a medium format to full frame focal reducer. With a little bit of work it looks like MF to FF is possible DIY: http://www.photigy.com/the-dslr-to-large-medium-format-diy-build-nikon-d800e-on-sinar-p-camera/ . Perhaps in the future we'll be able to 3D print any lens we can imagine (it's already possible to 3D print lenses with plastic: https://www.luxexcel.com/news/3d-printed-glasses/ ).

Not including telescopes, it looks like some of the best lenses are actually rather small: the lenses of birds (eagles, owls, etc.). If the human eye can resolve ~600 megapixels, birds can resolve many gigapixels. Apparently some birds can 'see' magnetic fields and ultraviolet light. Underwater, who know what the Mantis Shrimp sees- http://phys.org/news/2013-09-mantis-shrimp-world-eyesbut.html (16 photoreceptors compared to our 3!). What's the point of the biological lens discussion: these are relatively small lenses and sensors. Future cell phones will blow away even medium format lenses (perhaps from tech we learn from studying Mantis Shrimp, Eagles, etc.).

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

There is a ''look'' to fullframe compared to s35. They look different when you use the same lens, same camera, same settings, same lighting, same everything, so everything else being equal, fullframe ''looks'' diffferent thab s35. 

 

You can change these to get a similar look, by using shorter + faster lenses, and maybe adding light for ISO cleanness. But this is not always possible on the wide fast end. 

 

For example, an 85mm f4 lens is not that special for a look, because it can be matched with a 50mm 2.8 on s35, same look. But what about an 85mm 1.4/1.2 (very popular lens amound full frame shooters). This is where fullframe has a look, one that can't be had with s35 in real world shooting/products. There aren't 50mm 0.9 lenses out there, so that's a look locked for FF shooters. Also the 50mm 1.4/1.2, very popular FF lens and look. Howa about 35mm 1.4, or 25mm 1.4, or 16mm 2.8, all unique popular FF looks. These lenses are avilable, cheap and of high quality, which don't exist in s35 and when they do they are much more expensive and of lesser optical quality. 

FF is definitely a look, yes more of a ''practical'' and ''effective'' look rather than technical/theoritical, but it's there and owning/using a 5D gives a different look than using an APS-C and m43s.

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