Full Frame Sony A7II vs. Crop Sony A6000, which is better for portraits?

Jul 21, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Full Frame Sony A7II vs. Crop Sony A6000, which is better for portraits?

Jul 21, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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When you’re looking to pick up your first portrait camera, the whole full frame vs crop thing can be confusing. Technical explanations can be difficult for new users to wrap their head around.

In this video, Chicago based photographer Manny Ortiz shows us the differences side-by-side. Using the Sony A7II and A6000 side by side, we get a real world comparison of how the two compare.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_tU-sl-7G0

Comparisons like these are often interesting and an image really does speak a thousand words. They quickly illustrate the point between crop sensor and full frame cameras.

To give the comparison some consistency, Manny chose lenses that would give a similar field of view on each systems.

As the 85mm opens up wider than the 55mm, Manny shot it at f/1.7 to keep things as fair as possible.

Shot with the full frame Sony A7II
Shot with the full frame Sony A7II & 85mm
Shot with the crop sensor Sony A6000
Shot with the crop sensor Sony A6000 & 55mm

The difference between the two is immediately apparent. The full frame is noticeably softer in the out of focus areas. This softness is one of the main reasons photographers choose to go full frame.

On other shots, the difference isn’t quite so obvious as you start to move away from your subject. It’s still there, but you don’t notice it as much unless you zoom in or print big.

a7ii_2

a6000_2

Getting in close again, they pop right back up. Throwing the background out of focus removes distractions and draws attention to your subject.

Of course, you can still do it with crop sensor bodies and super fast glass, but it’s easier with a full frame.

a7ii_3

a6000_3

It’s one of those debates that’s never going to go away. It’s not a question of one being “better” than the other, though, they’re just different.

In short, it doesn’t matter. It’s all just personal preference, so study images and see which you prefer the look of. If you like the full frame look and frequently like to shoot with a shallow depth of field, then get full frame. If you don’t, then don’t.

Generally speaking, the glass you use is often far more important than the size of the sensor.

Personally, I don’t do the shallow depth of field thing. People like Manny and others make it look amazing, but it’s not for me. Whether I shoot crop, full frame or medium format, I usually want more depth of field, not less.

Which do you shoot, and why? Are you shooting work where it doesn’t make a difference which you have? Do you find the advantages of crop more useful to you than those of full frame? Or is even full frame too small for you? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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22 responses to “Full Frame Sony A7II vs. Crop Sony A6000, which is better for portraits?”

  1. William Elder Avatar
    William Elder

    Why would you compare the A7ii with the a6000?… Use the a6300..

    1. BlueBomberTurbo Avatar
      BlueBomberTurbo

      Field of view is the same, and the pics aren’t pushing the sensors much at all, so there wouldn’t be a noticeable difference between the two.

    2. Kevin Mandeville Avatar
      Kevin Mandeville

      What’s the difference between the a6000 and a6300? It’s just newer so only slightly better than the a6000, right?

      1. Kevin Mandeville Avatar
        Kevin Mandeville

        Nevermind. Just read about the a6300. Looks like it has some pretty significant improvements over the a6000.

  2. Steve Avatar
    Steve

    Simple.

    On a full frame you can always crop.
    On a crop sensor you cannot uncrop.

    1. catlett Avatar
      catlett

      That is kind of a pointless point. There are lens choices on either format. You can’t uncrop a 35mm full frame either when compared to a medium format right?

    2. John Oakley Avatar
      John Oakley

      Plus you’re lowering resolution when you crop that full frame shot so not able to print equivalent size as the crop sensors image without pixelating

  3. Vladimir Khudyakov Avatar
    Vladimir Khudyakov

    It is not an objective comparison. For FF sensor lens should be close to 2.8

    1. catlett Avatar
      catlett

      No, changing the aperture changes the formula for a proper exposure. Part of the difference is the dof difference. Changing the aperture on the ff skews that.

  4. Carsten Schlipf Avatar
    Carsten Schlipf

    When full frame is the answer then what you really want is medium format ;-)

    1. Ernesto Aranega Avatar
      Ernesto Aranega

      Not really because a full frame in a light body like mirroless in my hands with arthritis is a good balance, and still gathering more light than a crop sensor.

      1. Carsten Schlipf Avatar
        Carsten Schlipf

        My statement wasn’t to be taken too seriously. Hence the smiley at the end.

        But now with the Hasselblad X1D your argument is less valid today.

        1. pincherio Avatar
          pincherio

          Not really. He might still be thrown off balance when his wallet becomes suddenly lighter after paying for the X1D and a lens.

    2. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      LOL!!!!!! OMG please don’t bring that here ROFLMAO!!!! remember FF owners have this grandiose attitude toward APS-Cs if you bring the MF into the picture they will feel insignificant… remember… they invested a second mortgage in their FF system just to realize than in less than 3 years the crop sensor mareket not only blurred completely the difference but created a quality of glass SUPERIOR to the full frames.

  5. Ernesto Aranega Avatar
    Ernesto Aranega

    Key points:

    • Multiply the actual focal length by the crop factor and you get the equivalent focal length.

    • Multiply the F-number by the crop factor and you get the equivalent aperture.

    • The equivalent aperture tells you what aperture on a full frame lens would give the same depth-of-field and the same total light as the one you’re assessing.

    • F-numbers tell you about light intensity (how much light each square mm of the sensor sees). A larger sensor has more square mm collecting light.

    • F-numbers and ISO are sensor-size independent. Knowing the F-number is useful – but you need to remember that ISO100 on a small sensor won’t be the same quality as ISO 100 on a larger sensor.

    1. Kevin Mandeville Avatar
      Kevin Mandeville

      Exactly. Setting the full frame camera to shoot at 1.7 to make it close to the 1.8 on the crop sensor is not apples to apples, but it does show the effect of the same aperture value for the lens on a crop sensor. The 1.8 crop factor on the a6000 is effectively equal to 3.6 on a full frame sensor. So of course the blur is better on the full frame. The lowest aperture I can get on my a6000 is with my 1.4 lens. That gives me equivalent to 2.8 on a full frame. But if I had full frame body, then it would actually be 1.4. And that would be really nice. But not $1500 nice….

  6. Nikola Birdjanin Avatar
    Nikola Birdjanin

    Wow look at that… Did not expect such a drastic difference in color reproduction between these lenses.

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      3.32454234 secs in LR and there will be NO difference :-)

  7. pincherio Avatar
    pincherio

    It’s not always about the look you’re after. A lot of the time, the cost plays a role too.

  8. Gabs Avatar
    Gabs

    I would love to have this comparison : A6000/6300/6500 vs the crop mode of the A7RII.
    Please please please.

  9. Rob Varley Avatar
    Rob Varley

    This is a bad comparison. An 85mm lens is an 85mm lens on either a apsc or full frame. Apsc just takes a smaller image, hence the crop factor. If you want to compare apsc vs full frame you need to use the same lens on both cameras. It’s the lens that’s creating the bokeh not the sensor. When doing a comparison using the same lens u will have to back up because of the zooming in effect apsc has. Gary Fong compared the fe70-200 on both an a7 and a6000 or a6300, I forget, but the video did show that both cameras gave the same bokeh. Why? Because the lens is making the bokeh.

  10. Photog Avatar
    Photog

    I didn’t see a SINGLE side-by-side comparison! What gives?