Fujifilm's Bet on APS-C Cameras Has Paid Off Big Time—Here's Why

For cameras, small is beautiful

  • Fujifilm has packed 40 megapixels into its X-series APS-C sensor. 
  • Crop-sensor cameras are smaller, lighter, and have tiny lenses. 
  • Fujifilm went all-in on APS-C from the very beginning.
A photographer using a Fujifilm camera.


Fujifilm made a huge bet against the combined wisdom of the camera industry, and it totally paid off. 

Generally, gadgets tend to be smaller, thinner, and lighter. But if you compare a modern DSLR to the biggest film SLRs, they're huge and heavy. The lenses are bulkier, and the bodies are closer to the medium-format studio cameras of yesteryear. Why? An absurd adherence to the "full-frame" sensor size, which arbitrarily mimics the size of a frame of 35mm film. And while there were good reasons to do this when we switched to digital, there are even more reasons not to. And that's the bet that Fujifilm has taken. 

"I am a full convert to the APS-C sensor and see no need to have full-frame," professional photographer Cat Ekkelboom-White told Lifewire via email.

"Where I used to literally feel weighed down by my full-frame Canon bodies, I can happily shoot all day with Fujifilm and still feel great at the end of a full-day wedding or a multi-day trek through the Alps."

Size Matters

Something as simple as sensor size has a big ripple effect through the rest of a camera system. The most obvious difference is that you can fit more pixels onto a bigger sensor or use bigger pixels. This can mean higher resolution images and better low-light abilities. But with modern cameras, the difference is minimal. 

Aside from the dimensions of the camera body, a little touted advantage of APS-C over full frame is the cost of the lenses.

"While it is true that full-frame may have higher resolution and perform better in low-light situations, the difference really is minimal in terms of the quality of the image," says Ekkelboom-White.

Another advantage of a full-frame sensor is that it results in a shallower depth-of-field. That is, everything else being equal, a full-frame camera will give more background blur than one with a smaller sensor. This is why smartphones, with their teeny tiny sensors, use digital fakery to blur the backgrounds.

Because the sensor of a full-frame camera is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, you can use all your old film lenses. But if you put a full-frame lens on a camera with a smaller APS-C sensor, it "zooms" in. A wide lens is no longer wide, and a telephoto lens has even more reach.

This backward compatibility is probably the biggest reason why legacy camera system manufacturers like Canon and Nikon chose to standardize on full frame. It means that their customers could move to digital without rebuying an entire system or, worse, switching to a rival. 

The Fujifilm X-H2


The APS-C Advantage

When Fujifilm went digital, it went all-in on the APS-C-size (which is also sized and named for a film format). APS-C is smaller than 35mm, but not that much smaller. And before the technology existed to make full-frame sensors, APS-C was what the first DSLRs used. 

The biggest advantage of APS-C is that the cameras and lenses can be a lot smaller. And because Fujifilm opted for a mirrorless design from the start, its lenses could be set closer to the sensor and could therefore be even smaller.

"Aside from the dimensions of the camera body, a little touted advantage of APS-C over full frame is the cost of the lenses. Fujifilm produces a slew of outstanding glass (we've reviewed all of them) with prices often much lower than a full frame 'equivalent,'" Mark Condon, CEO and founder of Shotkit, told Lifewire via email.

This radically improves portability and usability. Less glass means less powerful motors are required.

Combined with camera designs that not only look great but offer the major usability advantages of dedicated knobs and dials, has made Fujifilm cameras uniquely popular and utterly beloved by users. 

Fujifilm's bet was already looking good, but with its new X-H2, that bet is paying off big time. 

Fujifilm’s X-H2

Until the X-H2, the maximum pixel count for Fujifilm's series cameras was around 26MP. The X-H2 packs in 40 megapixels, which is enough for demanding pro scenarios like fashion and advertising—where you want maximum editing potential. 

And thanks to modern technology, packing 40MP into an APS-C sensor doesn't degrade image quality or spoil low-light capabilities. And according to reviews, it's just great. 

DSLRs certainly have their advantages. Battery life is way better, for one. But for most people, APS-C is more than good enough. And if you want an APS-C camera, the only manufacturer taking it seriously is Fujifilm.

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