Full Frame vs Crop Sensor (Which Camera is Right For You?)

Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor

Full Frame or Crop Sensor

(Which Camera is Right For You?)

Full frame & crop sensor. These four words seem to spark a lot of debate within the photography community!  As photographers, we are artistic, but most of us also have a technical side – we love our gear AND we love talking about it.

While some people may argue that you absolutely must have a full frame camera, that isn’t necessarily true. In this post, we will look at some of the basics of sensor size.

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What’s The Difference Between a Crop Sensor & Full Frame Camera?

There are two types of sensors: crop sensors, and full frame.  They are exactly what they sound like: a full frame sensor will capture more of the scene in your field of view, while a crop sensor will capture less. 

  • The aspect ratio of a full frame camera is similar to the 35mm film that everyone used to shoot with not-so-long ago, approximately 36X24mm.
  • A crop sensor, though, will capture an image smaller than a full-frame sensor, essentially cropping the edges of the field of view. 

The image below is an approximate representation of how a full frame camera, versus a crop sensor would capture the same scene.

Full Frame Vs Crop Frame

As you can see, the crop sensor will capture a much smaller area of the scene (tighter crop!), while the full frame captures will capture more.

There are advantages to both full frame and crop sensor cameras.  Here are a few examples:

Full Frame Advantages

  • The large size of the full frame sensor gives you the ability to photograph in low light at a high ISO, with much less digital noise than a crop sensor.
  • Overall, a full frame camera will provide higher image quality for printing.
  • If you are a landscape or architectural photographer, the wider angle of a full frame can be beneficial to you, as you will be able to capture more of the scene around you.

    full frame camera vs crop

    Crop Sensor Advantages

    • One of the most immediate advantages of a crop sensor DSLR is the cost (crop sensor DSLR's are generally less expensive).
    • If you are a hobbyist, but still want the advantages of a DSLR over a point-and-shoot, a crop sensor camera will probably be just right for you.  Unless you are shooting in really low light, or making giant prints of your photos, you probably won't be able to tell much difference in image quality between a full frame and crop sensor camera, especially if you are uploading to the internet at a low resolution.
    • Crop sensors are great for sports and street photography because of the crop factor.  Consider the example image above on how a crop sensor zooms in tighter on the scene.  This is a real advantage if you are photographing subjects that are far away from you.
    • And, because of the crop factor, a telephoto lens on a crop sensor can give you a bit more “reach” than on a full frame.  For example, if you are using a 100mm lens on a crop sensor, it would work as a 160mm lens.

      what is a crop sensor

      Popular Cameras

      • For Canon, the 5D Mark II & III are very popular full frame cameras, with the 60D being a great crop sensor option.
      • Nikon also has a wide range of full and crop sensors, with the D600 being an affordable full-frame option.
      • When purchasing a camera, if you find yourself confused about whether or not you are looking at a full frame or a crop sensor, just look for the keywords “crop factor.”  If crop factor is discussed anywhere in the specifications under “Camera Format” you’ll know what you’re looking at!
      • Here is a list of full frame and crop sensor cameras that you may want to consider if you are looking to purchase a new camera!

        full frame vs crop

        Do you have any questions or comments about Full Frame Vs. Crop Sensor Cameras?  Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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