The Case Against Full Frame

Derrick Story
3 min readOct 14, 2020

If we’ve learned nothing else from the surge of smartphones in photography, we’ve seen that size doesn’t matter, brains do.

The Apple Event on October 13, 2020 debuted the iPhone 12 with Apple ProRaw that can go up against any enthusiast camera for general photography. It provides tremendous capability with an image sensor that’s minuscule compared to those in many interchangeable lens models.

What Apple, Google, Samsung, and other smartphone makers are leveraging is smarts, not muscle. Computational photography depends less on the light-gathering sensor itself and more on the programming and processors that comprise the image pipeline.

It’s revenge of the nerds all over again.

In everyday life, do you care about the physical prowess of the pilot flying the plane or the surgeon repairing your knee? Should we judge a Supreme Court nominee by the size of his or her biceps? In 2020, how did the photography industry become so obsessed with the dimensions of the image sensor in the camera?

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In my decades of experience as a photographer, writer, and educator, I have made images with hundreds of different cameras, ranging from a Fujifilm X20 to a Nikon Z5. And I have found something to appreciate in every one of them.

The images hanging on my studio wall range from those captured with a Canon 5D Mark II to a humble PowerShot compact. And as I sit here and stare at them now, I honestly don’t see a substantial difference in quality, color, or sharpness.

Quite honestly, I’m disappointed in the camera industry as a whole. They are lumbering down a path of expensive full frame cameras and exotic optics when they should be innovating in the opposite direction.

To put this into clearer focus, we should be seeing smarter cameras that give us the brains of smartphones with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and accessories. Instead of a trip to the lab, they keep opening the doors to the gym.

Why? Because that’s what we keep buying.

The smartest camera I’ve shot with to date is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. It leverages computational photography to enable handheld long exposures…

Derrick Story

Photographer, writer, podcaster — — Editor of "Live View" on