Full Frame

For the first time since I started taking photographs with a DSLR in 2006, since being aware of digital SLR cameras in fact, I will be making the leap to the big sensors; the 35mm Full Frame DSLR. It’s exciting and I’m slightly apprehensive.

So tomorrow the stalwart D7100 will head off to MPB Photographic and, as of Friday just past, so did 3 of my lenses. Come late this week (hopefully), I will receive in return an “excellent” condition D800 and an “excellent” condition Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens. The balance isn’t quite square on either with the trade-in, so I’ll be selling some unrelated fodder to take the edge off. MPB is a great way to get access to cameras and lenses far beyond your financial reach, so long as you are willing to accept someone else has had their hands on it before you. If you are patient and selective, you can navigate the masses of gear they have and come out with a perfectly mint condition thing for mostly half or less the cost of the thing new. I’ve used them for years and have used them again for this big leap.

So why the D800 and why trade pretty much all of my zoom and prime lenses for one 3rd party prime lens? Easy – they’re the best of the best (apparently). I’m no professional and I use my camera for family and work involving static studio-lit objects, so the screeds of reviews lamenting the slow FPS or low-light capabilities mean nothing to me. Neither does the 36.3MP sensor and the epic, borderline offensive to hard drives 75mb files it generates. I can and have been of late, a vicious culler of also-ran photographs. The D800 is 6 years old now but it’s still seen as the reference point in professional DLSR capabilities, meandering very close to the medium format spec of photograph. And nothing has come along since that’s reduced the incredible prowess of the D800. A recent release of the D850 with it’s mind-blowing 46mp sensor seems to be no more innovation than chest-puffing; the 4k video is a real wish-list thing though. Above everything else; the magnificent viewfinder, the pro-spec everything, the size, the flexibility; I want a full-frame camera to exploit the extra depth of field that crop cameras can only ever semi-achieve.

I try whenever possible to use my lenses wide open as I love the separation between subject and other stuff. It’s magic capturing a pin-sharp eyelash or face against swathes of buttery smooth backgrounds. With a full-frame sensor, that look, that appeal, is magnified massively with the DOF even smaller, and the buttery-ness more buttery. That and the insane resolving power of the D800’s 36mp sensor means that there can never be an “almost” about my photographs again. If there is, it’s because of me, not the gear I’m holding. Which is why I’ve also placed all my chips on the Sigma as well. This has been lauded as one of the best 50mm lenses ever made and, alongside the earlier released 35mm ART lens, revered as the lenses that the manufacturers themselves have to step up and challenge. 50mm is my focal length and I’ve always had a 50mm fitted on my cameras unless I need to do macro or a rare wide-angle shot. I just like the forced creativity of having only a prime lens to work with. I have to think more rather than zoom in or out. If I can’t fit something into the frame, I move until I can. Simple. Difficult.

Anyway, boring as shit. I’m really, really excited to experience what full-frame is about after so long of wanting. To have used a camera as capable as a D7100 and then shift to the D800 will probably not be as jaw-dropping as I think it will. It’ll likely be a bigger resolution file and a bit better quality. But who knows. That’s the apprehension; I’ve basically traded in everything I have camera gear wise, with exception to a massively expensive tilt-shift lens I have for work, and a 40mm macro that’s just unbeatable for interesting, very close shots. That’s it. No more. And I’ll be adding only a 50mm prime to my list. No more zooming for me; a 40mm macro, a 50mm prime and an 85mm tilt-shift. Restricted somewhat! I’ve spent bloody ages thinking about it and justifying it back and forth; what if I want to take a picture of a really tall thing? Or a family photo? But then I always, always have my 50mm f/1.8 on my camera. Always. So why would I change if I went full frame?

It’s hopefully going to be an exciting week, but it’ll most likely be scattered with pangs of “is this what all the fuss is about? This?”

Or maybe not. I hope not.