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Thursday, 03 June 2021


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645 is usually regarded as small medium format, so GFX is a cropped medium format (to use the disparaging term usually thrown at APS-C and m4/3). Given the size is actually only 70% larger in area than 135 format, Super Full frame or Full frame + or Super 135 seem kind of appropriate.

Nikon use the term "FX" to denote 135 format.
I guess GFX might stand for "Greater than FX"?

How about "ultra-FF"? Although I'd probably go for "Über-FF" ;-)

SuperFullFrame, Super FF, or SuperSomething would also have the connection to Fuji's SuperCCD tech, back in the days when they cut up innocent Nikon N80s to make their digital cameras.

I have read disagreements about this on other sites when the 50s came out. One crowd said mini-mf and it always seemed to be a put-down in the context they used. I really don't care how it is described. Fuji calls it medium format. I seriously love the 100s whatever you call it. :-)

I think you should go with whatever Fuji calls the system. That way, if people object--and you can bet they will--you can point your finger at Fuji and declare yourself innocent.

In any case, I'm looking forward to your future review. I am not in the market to buy one, but this particular camera fascinates me.

I like your Wordsmithsonian Institution for I have oft borrowed (permanently of course) an occasion word, or phrase, or style or just sayin' things this way and that way in the occasional articles that I pen.

Keep up the good word (nearly typed "work" by mistake).

But then you’d have Super-Duper, Mega and so on. I thought the suggestion from Bruce Norikane cut through all that and was sensible and informative … and so will never be adopted. He suggested:
67mm - 54x40 - Phase One P65+
55mm - 44x33 - Pentax, Hasselblad, some Fuji
43mm - 36x24 - Full Frame
28mm - 24x16 - APS-C
22mm - 17x13 - Four Thirds
16mm - 13x9 - 1" Sony RX-100
6mm - 5x4 - various smart phones

Which is infinitely expandable in both directions too.

I like it.

Was thinking also: Beyond Full Frame.

Seems to be working for the Beyond Burger, lol.

C'mon, guys, are we really gonna do this?

The convention has long been that anything larger than 24 x 36mm (and smaller than 4x5 sheet film) is referred to as Medium Format. This was true even when Mamiya introduced a 6x4.5mm aspect ratio in their cameras for use with 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 film; folks didn't get caught up in deriving superfluous lexicon such "Super Full-frame" for those lovely Mamiyas. Can we adopt the KISS principle here, and move on?

Let's just call it "medium format"; life's too short. It's Spring, time to get out and shoot.

Why not just call it what it is - a 44X33 sensor body? (Slight rounding applied)?

Super FF works for me. If this is really an issue. There is history of course. One of my favourite cameras remains the Pentax ME Super.

Steven Scharf is exactly correct. When I was shooting film, I didn't call 645 one thing and 2 1/4 something else. And I certainly never referred to 35mm film as Full Frame. That's basically full of s__t. Nothing is more marketing speak than "Full Frame."

He also made a very good point about the lenses in the comments on the prior blog entry. I will defer to him. He's sharp.

Hmmm, X-Frame for extra? Or maybe DLF (Digital Large Format). Pronounce it dilf? I suspect it's best to just let it play out as is, medium format. You aren't going to find another bokeh!

Phase One refers to their 'nearly, almost 645' format as Full-Frame Medium Format. About as dumb as most of the rest of the naming conventions; I mean 'micro 4/3' and '1 inch' and even APS-C and APS-H.

My vote goes in favour of a rational system like Bruce Norikane/Richard Parking suggested. Maybe add a fraction denoting format ratio. I mean, I've shot pretty much every film format smaller than 11x14 including Minox and Roundshot to about 56x450mm, and most of those had non-intuitive names but since digital came along it's gotten quite ridiculous.

“Super”, years ago in the early cameras, usually defined the difference between those camera models that had a rangefinder and the lesser models without it, I think. Then it got over used. No, keep the Medium Format. It’s a tried and true separation. There’s more than a few variations in the MF group that enables identity with a learned awareness film-wise, and still separates it from the next level of 4x5. Getting granular with newer digital formats only muddles things up, especially when chip manufacturers start doing even more different sizes and shapes. One could see “Medium Format, (Camera name) (Sensor shape/size). Yes, keep it simple…

I'm fine with medium format. I still think full frame is a dumb term. It is meaningless. Full what? Then you need to supply an explanation that it is equal to image area on 135 format.

The diagonal measurement of sensors makes sense and is simple. Well maybe not that simple. APS-C has multiple size sensors.

How about “BTY” format. It’s an acronym that stands for Bigger Than Yours.

I’m old enough that I remember old-timers calling 24x36mm on 35mm film “double frame”

And anything less than 56x56mm is cropped medium format.

Cheers Mike,
As you note, it’s marketing terminology. Where you fall down is trying to use rational arguments. It’s marketing - it’s all about how you make the customer feel about the product - whether they buy it or not. The more irrational the term (& supporting argument), the better!
It’s got noting to do with measurbating.
Life can be too serious, so I’m happy to pile on with such a discussion, just for fun & giggles.
Keep up the wordsmithing / wordsmithery, maybe word-wroughting or phrase-forging! ;~)

Speaking of marketing sensor sizes, I always loved that in 2003, Olympus really pushed the "Full Frame Transfer CCD" in their first Four Thirds format DSLR. They were referring to how the signal is read from the sensor: it's a "full (frame transfer) CCD" but if people confused it with being "(full frame) transfer CCD" I don't think they minded - and probably hoped for it.

I had thought of "Super FF" but decided it wouldn't work because the movie camera guys have "been there, done that". Remember "Super 8"? Well, "Super 35" was a big thing for the pros, and is still around as a sensor size in today's digital cine cameras. So I figured "Super FF" would only confuse things, what with stills and video continuing their merger. To make it potentially even more confusing, those "Super" designations didn't refer to larger film sizes but to larger image areas on the same size film. What a mess! So I still say "Grande" is the way to go.

The KISS School of Camera Sensor Nomenclature


See how simple that is?

Job done.

Now, let's move on, and get out and shoot. Time's a-wastin'

I've always termed it like this - mostly 1. crop sensor for apsc, 2. full frame for 35mm ff and 3. medium format. Large format will only be 4x5 film or larger. This is mostly in keeping with how I termed the formats in the days of film. Of course now we have 4/3rds but I would group them all together under crop sensor...interestingly I have all the formats but are moving away from my crop sensor to full frame only. and my medium format is really old, from 2006 and the sensor has its limitation. so now I'm focused on FF - I just dont believe in having too much choice. And I still have my 4x5 film camera but I will probably never use it again....

I am happy with APS-C and the infrequent Pro-Pack of Tri-X.
My budget won't allow FF much less anything larger. I am definitely on the outside looking in on this one.
So in the spirit on not contributing anything useful I would like to propose three tiers of larger than FF sensor designations.
How about Bigly, Bigly-er and Mastadonic.
I believe Mastadonic was coined by a true wordsmith, Fred Allen.
If more than three TOP readers know who Fred Allen was I will be pleasantly surprised, even bigly.
And finally, I find your writing both graceful and elegant.

How about this. Just do the review first and see how great, super, ultra it is, or not. And then only worry about how to call it. We are waiting…

I'm with some other readers here; medium format is the phrase to use. When talking about film it just refers to a range of frame sizes between 35mm and sheet film. If you just consider 120 there's a 2:1 difference in the frame area between 6x4.5 and 6x9 (I'm ignoring panoramic cameras here).

The nominal sizes weren't accurate and the actual frame size varied between manufacturers. But as a general description of a type of camera it was spot on. Nowadays if you say medium format digital camera, most people know just what you mean.

I perfectly fine with the term "medium format". People in the market for a new Fuji or Phase 1 know and understand the term. Besides, we need to differentiate these cameras from the future 8x10 inch digital sensors that will have the same dimensions as an 8x10 film holder and be known as a "large format" sensor. :)

I don't understand the kerfuffle over the term full frame. It was simply intended to mean "the full 35mm frame." It was never meant as a comparison to other formats. This current usage is a combination of the internet's love of sloppy research and the major manufacturers seeing no reason to debunk the myth.

In the early days of digital SLRs when APS-C sensors were put in bodies that previously would have housed 35mm film as a matter of cost cutting necessity - remember sensor yields from a single wafer were quite low back in the day - the legacy lenses used on these APS-C bodies covered less than their full 35mm frame potential even though the smaller sensor shared the same aspect ratio.

Skip the film based terminology and adapt the descriptor used in TV screens - the diagonal, bottom left to top right. The sensor is a raster screen used to receive light, just as a display is a raster used to transmit light. Add the pixel count to describe its potential for resolution.

Jeff on the last post has a legitimate question, and one I've been asking since the "medium format based" digital cameras have seemed to lock on to the 44X33 chip as "medium format". It's barely bigger that full frame 35mm! The long side is only as big as the short side on a 645 film camera?

The only camera test of value to me right now, is pixel-peeping a full frame 35mm based digital camera around 50 megapixels, vs. the Fuji GFX 50r, vs. a "true" medium format digital like a Phase back, where the CCD chip is really "near" 645 size!

I've heard for years from "digital pro commercial users" that the CCD chip has a nicer image than any of the CMOS chips. Wouldn't it be a b**ch to find out a 15 year old Phase back had a better look and quality than a modern 44X33 CMOS chip?

Well, we all know what happens when you go above full in a glass: it spills.

So from now on, the Fuji GFX system will be referred to as "spilled format."

Simple as that.

Much ado about nothing

If you find after your review that you are endeared with the 44 by 33 format, perhaps you should call it BFF – "Best Friends Forever".

I like the idea of using a common sense number in conjunction with the generic marketing terms cooked up by the industry. The marketing folks can use whatever catchy new term they want (Biggen, Godzilla, Magnum Force!) as new sensor sizes are developed but the numeric descriptor will clearly define what the new sensor actually is for those who care. Bruce’s diagonal measurement seems the clearest since it defines a useful dimension of the sensor that can be considered along with resolution to get an idea of pixel pitch and I like Henning’s idea of adding aspect ratio (43mm - 3:2). The diagonal also suggests a good normal lens for that sensor.

The hand tools we use out in the garage tend to have a specific numeric descriptor and the ones that make sense are easy to use. It’s pretty obvious that a 12mm socket goes on a 12mm nut but the idea that a #2 Phillips screwdriver has a 3.5mm tip and fits screw sizes 5-9 just makes me cranky.

Wordsmithery: By the way, biggen is a perfectly cromulent word.

“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man” ~ Jebediah Springfield

I think this is "much ado about nothing".

The obvious reason for naming a 24 x 36 mm sensor "full-frame" is that most people used 35mm film. Sure, there were plenty of 126-cartridge cameras and other sizes, but the standard "small format" was 35 mm.

So, "full frame" is what most of us former film users used to shoot, aka "the old standard".

Medium format always meant various sizes of film smaller than 4" x 5".

Large format was anything bigger, generally starting at 8" x 10" size.

Super, Hyper, etc. were just marketing names for camera models.

Let sleeping dogs lie, I say.

(I still couldn't tell you where "micro 4/3rds" fits among the various smaller sensor sizes.) That's just a silly description that tells me nothing. Four thirds of what size? APS-C?

I really don't have the inclination to bother with all the permutations of sensor sizes.

Harrumph! :>)

Yet another thing I don't worry about.

Count me among those for whom "medium format" is just fine referentially. (And I have two sizes of "medium format" sensors, too!)

The fact is that the traditional nomenclature is fast becoming irrelevant as the generations that knew it from the chemical era are waning. Also, resolutions are no longer so tightly tied to sensor size, either. We're rumored to be seeing a 100mp phone camera before long. So if any new terminology would be useful it would be the name of the mount. (i.e. GF, EF, RF, XF, FE, ...)

But in the real word, like it or not, 90%+ of today's photos are captured with phones. I went to a major league baseball game this week (wonderful) and don't recall seeing a single "real" camera among 25,000 in attendance. Not one.

I still use your suggestion XX mm-e, for equivalent focal length, using "full-frame" as base to which others refer. So, that one stuck with at least one person.

Wow, are we all so bored ? Mike, just post some nice photographs so we can have a nice visual experience instead of discussing a topic we have no control over the outcome.

I like Kirk Tuck's idea of FF=X and therefore 1.25X, 1.50X, 2X (etc.) for specific sizes above that. But for a blanket term I'd prefer "FF+" as a shorthand meaning all sizes above FF (vocalized as "full frame plus"). E.g., "Sony is coming out with a new line of FF+ cameras."

Aaron has a useful suggestion there! And, I would suggest, has identified an important aspect of this naming game.

Why not just use the sensor short-side dimension in millimeters, rounded to the nearest whole number? So for Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, Full Frame, and the smaller and larger flavors of medium format digital, you'd have, respectively, 13mm, 17mm, 24mm, 33mm, and 40mm. Or is that too boring?

What makes “full frame” “FULL?” Stupid. It’s Oscar’s “miniature film format.” It’s only claim to fame is that it was chosen to be a compromise size so that lots of existing lenses and accessories could be utilized, making it attractive to all the 35mm shooters out there transitioning to digital. End of story. How about just calling the formats what they are? 24x36mm, 33x44mm etc.? Simple. Is 4x5 “mini8x10?” Or “cropped 8x10?” I think not. It is especially irritating when connotation is used to either disparage or boast. Stupid.

A solution in search of a problem. Eventually, as in the case of medium format, the word just means a certain thing, we don't interpret it literally (most of us). Medium format now means a sensor that is larger than full frame, not some actual comparative measurement.

You're a poor wordsmith?
Might I be permitted to see the deft musings of the blog from the one who proffered that opinion?


[He was being a bit snarky intentionally to make his point. All good natured I'm sure. --Mike]

I have supported Super FF in the past, along with suggesting Mini MF, Crop MF, Compact MF and MF-C.

Super FF tends to get some kick-back from the GFX/X1D community, because many 33x44 shooters seem to deeply resent the use of Full Frame to describe a camera they prefer to disparage as Small Format. And also resent making the 35mm frame an implied reference point. And I note that they are different aspect ratios, so it's possibly misleading, and might have been better to use Super Four Thirds. Hah!

The name that I would push is "MF-C", where the C is for compact. It's a bit more accommodating of status, but not misleading. Then we can reserve "MF" for the current 53x40mm sensors, that actually are over 90% of a 645 negative's area.

Then we have resolved the BIG PROBLEM of sensor sizes, that are as far apart as APS-C and FF, both having the same name. (Imagine calling APS-C and 35mm by the same name, say, "Full Frame". It makes no sense whatsoever. If we are going to call 33x44 medium format, then we might as well call 24x35 medium format too, because the size difference is about the same as the difference between 33x44 and 645. After all, it’s all the same, right?) Well, no it isn’t. Let's be sensible and call the three different sizes three different names (four if we include APS-C).

MF: 53x40 mm (66 mm diagonal)
MF-C: 44x33 mm (55 mm diagonal)
FF: 36x24 mm (44 mm diagonal)
APS-C: 23x15mm (28 mm diagonal)

Am I making too much sense?

Well we did once have 1/2 frame cameras which I found perfectly understandable. To me the film size was the deciding factor. 120 film was for medium format.
Incidentally is the concept of writing 'I am' as just 'I' a new Americanism? If so its fugly

Dave sez that Full frame is obvious because most people used 35mm! That's the sound of me laughing. This is what I call the "tyranny of 35mm" (and my most hated aspect ratio). Most professionals used sheet film or maybe 120, the only people using 35mm professionally was magazine and news photographers, and only adopted sometime in the mid-80's by wedding people when sharper C-41 processing could be trusted! A lot of photo hobbyists in the 60's shot twin lens, or even 4X5 Crown Graphic!

I can't be the only guy who's ever seen a vintage copy of "Minicam Magazine" (later Modern Photography), Minicam, because 35mm was a "miniature camera".

Got the old 22ms and size is 36.7 x 49mm 22 Megapixel CCD whilst the 907x cone with a back 33x44. I wonder how to fit into your scheme.

I was really hoping Lumix' S series would stick with the 4:3 ratio and come up with 36x27 sensors. That would have messed up a lot of simplistic descriptors! Fuller frame? Full Frame Plus?
Ah well, we'll get 'em next year..

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