Understanding Full-Frame Cameras and How They Compare to Crop Frames Cameras

Full frame vs crop factor camera view

With Nikon and Canon recently launching new brands of full-frame cameras, it now makes sense why full-frame cameras are hitting the headlines again. You might be asking yourself, what are they all about?

When it comes to the sizes of camera sensors, there are two terms normally used – full-frame sensors and crop sensors.

The phrase full frame refers to a sensor size with similar dimensions as the 35mm film format. You may ask, why is 35mm format considered the standard or full frame? The simple answer is that since 1909, the 35mm film gauge has been used as the standard in film format due to its balance in image quality and cost. It has remained that way ever since.

If you are looking to upgrade from your camera or you want to learn more about these newest types of cameras, we have a simplified guide for you. Let’s get to the basics first.

What Is a Full-Frame Camera?

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This is a camera that doesn’t have a crop sensor. Full-frame sensors are normally found in premium DSLRs and are being adopted in mirrorless cameras. These interchangeable lens cameras are preferred by professional photographers as well as advanced amateurs.

One of the major reasons advanced photographers upgrades to a full frame camera is because of the size of the sensor they offer, which opens up a new world of creativity.

With a bigger sensor, it means that you can capture more of your scene. In general, full-frame cameras have a better image quality when compared to other cameras and when used in low light, they have high ISO performance.

For instance, a camera such as Canon EOS 5D Mark IV will give you a 46 degrees depth of field when paired with a 50 mm lens. A crop sensor camera will not offer the same depth of field.

Let’s talk about their differences.

Differences between Full Frame and Crop Sensor

To define a crop sensor, we can say that it is any sensor that is smaller than 35mm film frame - a full-frame sensor. The major types of crop sensors include micro 4/3 systems and APS-C. In addition to the difference in size of the sensor, there are other differences between a full-frame sensor and crop sensor, but we will focus on two areas;

Depth of Field and Focal Length

The greatest difference between a crop sensor and a full-frame is their depth of field. The term ‘crop' implies exactly that. The smaller depth of field in the crop sensor camera is the crop of the full-frame.

This means that if you take the same photo using a full frame DSLR such as Nikon D800 and a crop sensor such as Nikon D7100 using the same lens, point of view, and from the same distance, the D7100 camera will capture a smaller depth of field than the D800.

Pros and Cons of Full Frame and Crop Sensor

Full Frame Cameras Advantages- In general, full-frame sensors offer a better ISO performance and broader dynamic range thereby providing higher image quality than their crop sensors counterparts. This makes them ideal for architectural and landscape photography.

In addition, full frame DSLR cameras have a shallower depth of field than their crop sensor counterparts, which means they can take better images because of having a shallower depth of field.

Another field that full frame cameras shine is in the speed with which they shoot non-stop pictures. They take more photos per second than crop frame cameras. This makes them ideal for kids or wedding photography.

On the downside, they are heavier and costlier as compared to crop sensor DSLR cameras

Crop Frame Cameras Advantages- while crop sensor DSLR may not offer the same image quality as full-frame DSLR cameras, they do have their advantages, especially when it comes to cost.

Also, they can be effective in telephoto photography because of their extra reach they have thanks to their crop sensor multiplier. This makes them useful when shooting sports and wildlife.

Full-Frame Sensor vs. Crop Sensor- Which Is Right for You?

Since you have figured out the difference between a full frame sensor and a crop sensor, you will need to make a decision regarding the best choice for your needs.

For the average photographer, a smaller 1.5X sensor will be alright. If you are the type of person with an 18-55 kit lens and one other lens, it will not make sense to spend money on a full-frame. For people with several lens from traditional cameras, it might make sense to consider a full-frame body. Most of the Nikon cameras are compatible with virtually all Nikon lenses, while Canon cameras work with EF lens.

Photographers who like capturing beautiful landscapes and architecture should try a full-frame body as they have wide-angle options than their cropped counterparts.

For nature, sports, and wildlife enthusiasts, it might make sense to go with a camera that has a smaller sensor. This makes crop sensors ideal for them as you can get maximum details using these cameras at a long distance.

Posted in: Camera basics