The truth about APS-C is that if the industry keeps treating it as a cheaper choice, it’s going to get phased out.
Ask any journalist that has been in meetings with camera companies over the past month or so and they’ll tell you about how the general camera market is shrinking and that so too is APS-C. And I genuinely think that APS-C is shrinking because it’s being treated almost like a stepchild. Let’s not even talk about the way that Micro Four Thirds is being treated; but APS-C and Micro Four Thirds both will go the way of compact point and shoots if the industry just continues to treat it as the “budget” option. This comes even after some very aggressive pricing on entry level full frame cameras. I genuinely don’t believe that APS-C is dead or that it should die. Instead, I think that the feature set around it just needs to drastically change in order to make it a viable option along with full frame cameras.
I think that in terms of image quality, we’ve more or less got it right so far. For much of this article I’ll be harping on Ricoh, Sony, Fujifilm and Canon–the four companies that make compact point and shoots really worth a damn. While I think that the Panasonic LX100 II is a novel idea, I think it would have been even better with a prime lens.
All of those companies make cameras with good image quality; but there needs to be something about it that stands out more so than full frame to give the cameras some other reason to be viable on the market when full frame cameras are really just so cheap anyway. Fujifilm, with the X Trans sensor and Ricoh with its really cool simulations I think have that covered fairly well. On the other hand, Canon and Sony see APS-C as a great market for vloggers; and they’re not wrong. But something else could be done about image quality of APS-C cameras and sensors to make them stand out more from full frame.
The laws of physics should basically dictate that due to the way that depth of field works, it should be faster to focus a given focal length on an APS-C sensor than on a full frame sensor. And so to that end, I feel like if full frame cameras have such blazing fast autofocus, APS-C cameras should have even faster focusing. It doesn’t need to have the tracking capabilities of full frame, but faster focusing is an obvious one to me.
Size is the big one for me. If the industry could challenge every rule that the TSA has about cameras and taking them out of your bags, it would be with APS-C. The current rule for travel is that all electronics larger than a cell phone need to be out of the bag. But from what I’ve seen of the Ricoh GR series and the Fujifilm XF10, I’m so incredibly confident that super high quality can be condensed and compacted into something smaller than a phone. That’s something that anyone would want to carry with them everywhere as a luxury item and as a great tool for work/play.
Full frame genuinely cannot get that small. Sony has done a great job with their RX series of cameras but I can’t see those getting passed a TSA agent. Further, if Sony can make a camera that is small enough with a full frame sensor that you’d want to carry with you everywhere, even more can be done with APS-C.
Lastly, if we’re going to embrace a smaller format, we should also be embracing a camera that someone should want to take with them everywhere. That has to do with ergonomics and just how tough the camera is. A proper companion camera should be able to travel with a photographer in the rain, in the snow, etc. It should be USB-C rechargeable, slim, durable, fast, and ideally have a great battery life.
Basically, a weather sealed X100F or something else like that could do wonders.