Is Bigger Better?

A visual representation of the differences in sensor size.

Since 2011 I have been primarily a micro four thirds (m43) shooter supplemented by occasional full frame usage. Until about 18 months ago I was very happy with my choice. I accepted that the benefit of a lighter more portable camera system would come at the cost of reduced megapixel count, reduced dynamic range, and high ISO performance that was less than stellar. But now I have this desire to return as it were to the full frame fold. The reason why is that I sell prints and I felt that if I had a camera with better dynamic range  and more megapixels then I would generate more sales. This belief was what was really behind my recent dalliance with the 42Mp Sony A7r ii.

Canon EOS 550D with EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. Exposure: 1/100, f8 at ISO 400.


Olympus EM 1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens.


Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f4, at ISO 200.


Canon EOS 6d with Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. Exposure: 1/100 s at f/11.0 at ISO 1600.

The other day I started going through my statement for print sales for this year and surprisingly I’d had a very good year which buoyed me up considerably. When I started looking closely at what images had sold and what they were taken with I made a startling discovery. Full frame made up 26%, APSC came in at 26% and m43 took 48%. In terms of Megapixels:

  • 36 Mp + 6.66%
  • 20 Mp 33.33%
  • 18 Mp 26.66%
  • 16 Mp 6.66%
  • 12 Mp 13.33%

Intrigued I decided to look at print sales going back to 2004 when I went digital and the results were as follows:-

  • Full frame 34%
  • APSC 14%
  • m43 37.5 %
  • Compact cameras 5.5%
  • Mobile phone 1.5%
  • Scanned film 7.5%

My two best selling prints of all time were taken with a Panasonic Lumix FX-01 which was introduced all the way back in 2004 had a sensor that measured 6.4mm x 4.8mm and had a whopping 6.4 Mp of resolution. It also suffered badly from noise at anything beyond 100 ISO and had a very limited dynamic range.


Panasonic Lumix FX-01


Panasonic FX-01


Dropped from use. The Panasonic FX-01 was a 6Mp camera introduced in 2004.


Moving beyond prints sales to look at PR and editorial work I’ve never once had a complaint about image quality or size. So do all these buyers of my images know something that I don’t? Well I think that they’re not looking at the images as photographers, they are looking at the subject and how it makes them feel. When photographers look at images they see all the technical deficiencies and then think they need better cameras and lenses. When we look at new gear we always see the promise of more resolution, more frames per second, more dynamic range. The manufacturers know that we’re easily seduced by bigger numbers and they play to our insecurities.

So in the light of this do I need a bigger and better camera? Need – no. Want – yes. But needs and wants are two different things. What I’ve got is perfectly adequate and so perhaps the answer to generating more sales is, therefore, taking more pictures with appealing content.