ANSWERED: Why Full Frame is so much more

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by wheezy, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    Alpine, UT
    #1
    I posted this link in another thread and had several responses that it was nice to have a definitive answer as to why Full Frame cameras are so much more money, and the chance of a sub $1,000 body anytime soon is pretty much nil.

    This is a White Paper put out by Canon in 2006 explaining the process of making CMOS chips and why a Full Frame chip is so much better than an APS-C or APS-H sensor.

    http://tinyurl.com/fullframe

    To sum it up:

    1. One CMOS wafer can produce up to 200 APS-C (1.6) sensors compared to only TWENTY (20) Full Frame sensors
    2. The likelihood of random dust or scratches ruining all 20 on a wafer during manufacturing is much higher than losing all 200

    SO. Producing 1 Full Frame sensor is in effect 10x's more expensive than producing 1 APS-C sensor.

    Also, I would think this explains the longer update cycles on the Full Frame bodies, it probably takes quite a while to just cut a profit after development, whereas the update cycle for 1.6 seems to happen more often as the recover the R&D costs quicker, and thar market is much more competitive.

    The end.
     
  2. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #2
    It should also be noted that given the lessons learned from this article, the solution to making FF cheaper is to put more sensors per wafer. And that means bigger wafers. The technology to produce bigger and bigger semiconductor-grade silicon wafers does not progress that quickly, and it takes a lot of time/money to integrate larger wafers into a fabrication plant. Usually you build an entire new fab to accommodate a larger wafer, not work in a larger wafer into an existing fab. This is why FF is not going to get cheaper very soon (unlike the general trends seen with other computerized electronics)

    The reason why computer chips get cheaper with time is that they make the transistors smaller, which means more chips per wafer. You can't do this with sensors, because the size of the sensor has to stay the same.

    And, it should be noted that whatever economical gains you get from making FF cheaper will trickle down to crop sensors, meaning that there will always be a substantial price differential between crop and FF sensors.

    Ruahrc
     
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Sendai, Japan
    #3
    Also, I'd like to add that this 10 fold increase in cost can never be overcome by improving the manufacturing process since any improvement in the production of full frame sensors will also be used in the production of APS-C-sized sensors. The price difference is determined by yield and yield is determined by geometry and simple physics and math.

    The only thing that can mitigate this factor of 10 somewhat is to use larger wafers. But even then, instead of having a factor of 10, perhaps you have a factor of 6, 7 or 8 (the actual number depends on the number of full frame sensors per wafer).

    @wheezy
    Thanks for putting the link up!
     
  4. admwright macrumors regular

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    Sep 11, 2008
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    Scotland
    #4
    A factor of 10 is not really that much, just one order of magnitude. If the cost to produce a wafer comes down then the difference as part of the total cost becomes much less. So if it is $20,000 for one wafer that is $100 per crop sensor or $1000 per full sensor. Get the costs down to $2,000 for one wafer and it is $10 per crop sensor and $100 per full sensor. Not such a big difference as part of the total camera price.
     
  5. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #5
    That is true. The latest figures I've seen are that crop sensors cost $30~50 to make. However, getting wafer costs down is not so easy, because more modern sensors require more expensive wafers.

    So for APS-C-sized sensors, the difference in price can be manageable -- who cares if the sensor costs, say, $60 instead of $40 a piece to make, it won't make a large dent in the price tag. If you multiply these numbers by 10, it suddenly becomes a much more important point.
     
  6. Jett0516 macrumors 6502a

    Jett0516

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    Mar 5, 2010
  7. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    SF Bay Area
    #7
    You wish... ;)
     
  8. Bodhi395 macrumors 6502a

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    Jul 23, 2008
    #8
    Makes sense, manufacturing full frame is more expensive than crop sensors. However, I do see there might be a way in the future to make cheap full frame sensors, probably using a technique not yet invented yet, and then we will start to see them in more and more cameras and for much cheaper prices. This could be 10-20 years down the road though.
     
  9. wheezy thread starter macrumors 65816

    wheezy

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    Alpine, UT
    #9
    Haha. I didn't so much mean the end of the argument, just the end of my point. I seem to struggle with 'closing' my thoughts and usually just end them abruptly, so I just say 'The End' when I'm done making my point. :p
     

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