It’s time for me to replace my EOS 30D and I am trying to decide whether to buy an EOS 50D with a small 22.2 x 14.8 mm sensor or the EOS 5D Mark II with the huge full frame 24x36mm sensor. Apparently, larger sensor size is a major advantage. Do you agree? Are full-frame sensor cameras better regardless of the brand? Which is the best bet for a serious amateur photographer? S.W.
These two EOS camera are similar in many respects, employing the latest technology. But they do differ in feature set, size and weight and other aspects. Start by comparing their Specifications charts and read Reviews re: performance and image quality at various ISO levels. (Also check out Canon’s White Paper on both cameras at www.usa.canon.com:80/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=1787 ). For instance, you’ll find that the EOS 5D Mk II provides higher (21.1 vs. 15.1 megapixel) resolution and an HD video mode but the EOS 50D is equipped with a built-in flash and a faster Continuous Drive mode (6.3 vs. 3.9 frames per second).
Frankly,15.1 megapixel resolution is plenty for the vast majority of photo enthusiasts. But yes, sensor size is also an important consideration. The larger sensor allows for larger pixels (or photosites) — 6.4 vs. 4.7 microns square in the EOS example — for greater light gathering efficiency that can provide wider dynamic range and “cleaner” images at high ISO levels. But there’s another more important consideration too, depending on the lenses you already own. The multi-platform EF lenses (suitable for a 35mm SLR or a digital EOS camera regardless of sensor size) or the smaller EF-S series (intended only for the small sensor EOS models.)
Because a 24x36m chip is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, any multi-platform lens provides the same angle of view as it did on a conventional film camera. Regardless of the brand of camera/lens, a full-frame DSLR would be ideal for anyone who already owns multi-format wide angle and ultra-wide lenses (such as a 20-35mm zoom) and does not want to buy a new lenses (such as a 10-22mm zoom). On the other hand, a telephoto lens has greater effective “reach” on a small sensor camera because of the so-called “focal length magnification factor”, actually caused by field of view crop with a small sensor camera. That can be an important consideration if you prefer wildlife or sports photography (with any telephoto lens.)
As my comments should indicate, there’s no single answer that’s right for everyone. Aside from the issues already mentioned, there’s also the price difference. The cost of a 24x36mm sensor – plus the other oversized components required to support that technology — makes a full-frame DSLR too expensive for most photo hobbyists. In any event, your decision should not be difficult to make. Consider your budget, the types of subjects you most often shoot as well as the lenses you already own. Then select the camera that’s “best”: the one that makes the most sense considering your own circumstances.