There's that realworld aspect, yes, and obviously it is ignored in large part. But there's also an aspect that gets very little play in cinematic circles or any other -- lens choice.
The default thinking with models is always use the shortest, i.e. widest angle lens, because it allows for better depth of field and can permit you to do paintscraper shots with the model a fraction of an inch from camera. And if you put an infinite amount of detail onto the miniature and shoot it just right, this approach works very well very often (look at opening of STAR WARS.)
But if you use a longer lens, more of a telephoto look (think binoculars), you're capturing the object from a greater distance, which is what you are doing with fullsize objects. Problems with this include being able to get far enough back from the model, which has to be pretty good size, and the aforementioned depth of field.
But my viewing studies indicate that this allows you to get a sense of the model overflowing the camera view as it comes to camera, which is what you see on TOS on a number of the close flybys, which really gives it a sense of size like you're watching a cruise liner come pass you by -- that you can't get back far enough to take it all in. And oddly, if you look at a lot of TNG shots that are done in a similar way, there is sometimes something of a credibility issue -- and it is because the ship doesn't get big enough to overflow the field of view (gotta find a bette word than overflow, but hoping you know what I mean.) At a certain point, you can tell that the object is not much bigger than the camera -- and that is due in part to the model being 4 ft instead of 8 or 11, and in part because of the camera field of view.
Next time I talk to the guy I think of as 'the last miniature shooter' (and he's not, there are three or four guys left who do it, but it really IS a vanishing art now), I think I'm going to try asking him about this. I don't think he ever used telephoto lenses on ship stuff, but he may have for some of the golden gate bridge stuff in XMEN 3, which mixed a very large miniature with a lot of CG.
Given I'm so totally in favor of using miniatures when they are the best tool for the best job, it may sound odd but I was distinctly unimpressed with all of the ship / station exteriors in DS9's tribble show. The lighting was so uncontrasty, verging on flat, that it looked like it was done digitally, since CG has a tendency to have dynamic range issues that usually 'milk out' the image to a certain degree. It may have been that once the model photography was scanned, the image was manipulated in an unflattering way, or else it was a deliberate call on the part of VFX or production. But I thought it all looked out of place not only in terms of TOS, but also in terms of DS9,which had a much better contrasty look than most early/mid TNG (DS9's pilot opening shots w/ Borg are pretty hot.)