Photography - Knowledge

Full Frame vs Crop Sensor: What should You Invest in!

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The whole camera sensor sizing thing left a whole bunch of people of confused. The full frame cameras have been around for ages but the crop sensor cameras are getting into limelight only now and offer some great advantages. Of course, the fact that the full frame shots look amazing cannot be denied. An amazing bokeh effect and a shallow depth of field are all features that can make your pictures look great. When you are confused between full frame vs crop sensor, there are quite a few things that you need to understand.

First, each and every manufacturer of the camera is different and hence each and every model varies. The size of the camera’s sensor is usually referred by its crop factor. When you are stuck between the full frame and the crop sensor cameras, you need to analyze the practical differences first. This would help you in comprehending which one would work the best for you. 

What is a Full Frame Sensor

The first and foremost thing that you need to understand is: What is a full frame camera? With full frame, we refer to a sensor that is approximately 24mm X 36mm.

But, then you might wonder as to why the size of the sensor is so important?

This is because, be it full frame or crop sensor, both of have them have their own share of advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. As seen mostly, the full frame sensors generally produce better quality images but lack when it comes to the ISO. A full frame sensor size is similar to the analog camera. The size of the film is that of 35mm. 

They also provide the photographers with a wide variety of options when they need to utilize it for wide-angle work. However, these are relatively bigger in size and are more expensive as compared to their counterparts. However, many people have gotten used to that and might not actually want to give that up for anything else. 

full frame vs crop sensor
Full Frame Sensor

What is a Cropped Frame Or Sensor

A cropped frame or sensor is quite similar to just taking the middle part and cropping or discarding the outer edges.

What this means that you would actually be left with an image that is thinner than usual. When you are out to purchase the cropped framed frame, you would notice that the crop of the sensor varies a bit between the manufacturers. Most of the manufacturer’s crop is a bit smaller than the full frame sensor by approximately 1:6 ratio. Know about the right way to click a photo

You would find that Pentax, Sony and Canon refer their cropped sensors as APS-C cameras. Nikon, on the other hand, refers their cropped frame cameras as DX.

full frame vs crop sensor
Crop Sensor

How the Smaller Sensor Affects your Images

When you use a smaller sensor, it has a fascinating effect on various things. The focal length of the lenses and the depth of field are two of those things. However, these factors cannot be the determinant factor when it comes to deciding which camera is better.  A full-frame camera, as well as the crop sensor camera, would do the same job.

But, one of them would capture things in a bigger frame; the other would crop the same thing and present the image in a way where it would seem that the edges have been cropped. Both of them seem to work great for different situations and different people. 

Let us look into each and every aspect in detail of both the sensors so as to understand the difference between full frame and crop sensor in a better way. 

1. ISO Performance 

One of the facts that couldn’t be changed for years was the fact that a full-frame camera can offer improved performance when its ISO is high. Of course, it is still considered true today, people have now started to view this subject practically. The crop-sensor cameras too these days have advanced and can perform pretty well when compared with the full frame cameras. 

Which full frame camera will give you higher ISO performance?

You can pick a full-frame camera like 1DX or a 5D Mark IV. Why we pick these? The reason why this is possible is that the pixels present in the imaging sensor of these cameras are usually larger. 

2. Camera Size and Price

When considering size as a factor between comparing full frame vs. crop sensor, the full-frame sensors are definitely bigger than their counterpart. As is quite obvious, a larger sensor would need a larger camera body so as to compensate for the expansion of the size of the sensor. It is for this reason that the cameras having a larger sensor are bigger as compared to the ones that have a smaller sensor. 

Next is the price which is also an important determining factor.

What you must understand is the fact that the image sensors are relatively expensive to manufacture. This is why you would notice that the price of full-frame cameras is comparatively higher than their counterparts. The crop-sensor cameras are smaller and are on the less expensive side. These are best suitable if you are looking for a camera that is small, affordable and doesn’t deliver a rather high ISO performance. 

However, higher price and bigger size don't really mean better output. Make sure to determine your purpose first before purchasing a camera as it is a huge investment. 

3. Lens Size and Selection

Okay so, it is not just the cost or the size of the camera that matters. As a professional, you are going to need lenses as well. As discussed earlier, the lenses created for the smaller cameras would be more affordable as compared to full-frame cameras. If you plan on purchasing a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, the price would definitely be higher whereas lenses designed for the crop-sensor cameras like the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 lens would be relatively cheaper.  

full frame vs crop sensor
Canon 50 mm f/0.95 lens

However, when you opt for a full-frame system, the biggest advantage that you would get with it is its versatility. This is because you would get to choose from a variety of lenses. Most of the lenses can be used on all the modern camera. If you are someone who loves to experiment, then going with a full-frame system would be your best bet. 

4. Lens Performance

Want to know why every photographer prefers full frame camera?

One of the biggest reasons as to why most people prefer full-frame cameras and lenses is because of its superior quality. The glasses that are made for the full-frame systems has a higher cost but has the capability to deliver amazing results as compared to the lenses that are used for the smaller cameras. Yes, you do get amazing quality with smaller lenses but not as great as those made for the full-frame cameras. 

Let's know about performance:

Also, when talking about the performance of full frame vs. crop sensor, you do get a shallow depth of field with a full-frame lens. The most often asked question is: full frame vs. crop sensor: which is better for portraits? Well, it has to be full frame. For instance, you must have seen that the portrait photographers often require a shallow depth of field. Let’s say you are shooting with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a large sensor. The results that you would get with it would be quite difficult to replicate or achieve if you try the same with a crop-sensor lens. If you have an expertise in portrait photography, then you would love to know all about the environmental portrait photography.

5. Implications 

So, what does all this imply?

When comparing between full frame vs crop sensor, which one is the best for you?

After looking at everything, one thing’s clear that a full-frame camera would be a good option if you are someone who is more interested in architecture, landscape or other kinds of shots which turn out to be more amazing with a wider focal length.Also, full frame cameras support wide angle options such as fish eye lens photography, panorama photography.

But, if you are someone who is more into sports or wildlife photography, a crop-sensor camera is what you should go for. Check out the tips for wildlife photography.

As has been discussed, it all depends upon your purpose. You first need to determine what you are going to be using the cameras and lenses for mostly. Choosing the right kind of gear can undoubtedly give you a lot of extra reaches and effective transform an average kind of image to a stunning picture.

Full Frame Vs Crop Sensor: What to Pick 

When comparing full frame vs crop sensor, the one thing that you must always understand is the fact that you can never say that one of them is better than the other. 

Both of them are different and have been designed for different purposes and each format has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

By studying the advantages and disadvantages of full frame and crop sensors you would be able to choose the best one for yourself. The lens or the size of the sensor would completely be dependent on what you would be using the camera for. 

The quality of the images won’t be as much of a factor as the images are ought to look amazing if the right person is handling it. 

What you need to do is judge your requirements. For instance, if you wish to shoot some documentary kind of content, you might consider the MFT format. 

This is because it is rather easy to get the subject in focus. Of course, there are cameras that can adjust itself really well but are still difficult to shoot with. Therefore, in such situations, you need sensor size that is more manageable. 

Full Frame Vs Crop Sensor
Full Frame Vs Crop Sensor

The full frame cameras work really well when it comes to narrative storytelling in an environment where you have the time in hand to plan your shots or have a devoted focus puller. 

These also turn out to be useful when it comes to clicking pictures in low-light situations or shots just in the streetlight. This is because, with such sensors, you get the chance to control your ISO and set it much higher as compared to a crop sensor camera. 

And, not to forget the fact that it allows the user to click awesome still pictures. They have the capability to deliver stunning pictures as compared to the crop sensor cameras. 

Summing up 

For an average kind of person, a 1.5x or 1.6x sensors would work just fine. Both of the cameras work well in different situations. To be honest, it won’t really matter if you are shooting Full-Frame or APS-C for your images. All you need is a good glass in front of your camera and you would be all set to go. Lots of other elements like the lighting and composition are actually far more essential than the sensor size.

full frame vs crop sensor
50mm f/1.4 on a full-frame sensor vs a crop sensor camera.

Go for full frame sensors if you are a professional as for clicking average pictures you won’t really need such features. Just bear these simple things in mind and you would be able to make the right choice for yourself. 
Have you ever used both full frame and cropped sensors? If so, which one worked best for you? Feel free to share your views with us. 

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