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The Full-Frame Camera Advantage

The vast majority of today’s digital cameras have a built-in magnification factor because of the size of the sensors in the camera. For example, most Nikon cameras have a 1.4x magnification factor, and what that means is if you put a 100mm lens on a Nikon digital camera (like a D40, D50, D70, D80, D200, D2x), that 100mm lens becomes a 140mm lens because of the sensor’s magnification factor. Most Canon cameras have a 1.6x magnification (like the Digital Rebel, Digital Rebel XTi, 20D, 30D, and 40D), which makes a 200mm lens more like a 320mm lens. Many sports shooters, birders, and a host of other photographers who routinely use zoom and telephoto lenses love this added reach from digital sensors, but when it comes to the wide-angle lenses landscape photographers use, it can somewhat work against us. For example, a 12mm wide-angle Nikon lens becomes a less-wide 16mm lens. For Canon shooters, a 14mm wide-angle lens becomes a 22mm equivalent. That’s why some landscape photographers are drooling over the new full-frame digital cameras, like Nikon’s D3 or Canon’s 5D (shown above), both of which are full-frame, and when you put a 12mm on the Nikon, it’s that same, beautifully wide 12mm aspect ratio we used to enjoy back in the film days. When you put a 14mm on a Canon 5D, it’s the same thing—a real 14mm with no extra magnification. I’m not saying you need to switch, or that you bought the wrong camera, I just want you to know what all the fuss is about for landscape photographers and other people who “go wide.”

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