The term “full frame” or “crop” refers to sensor size. Full frame sensors have the same dimensions as 35mm film or 24mm x 36mm, which is the standard size. Crop sensor refers to any sensor smaller than the 35mm film frame. The common types of crop sensor include APS-C and micro 4/3 systems. Aside from the difference in physical size of the sensor, there are several other differences between a crop sensor and a full frame sensor that you should consider.
When considering a camera system, whether crop-sensor or full-frame, it’s not just the size of the camera that you will need to keep in mind but the size and price of the accompanying lenses as well. Lenses designed for smaller sensors are generally smaller and less expensive than lenses for full-frame cameras.
Focal length measurements on lenses are based on 35mm the field of view. If you are using a crop sensor camera the sensor is basically cropping out the edges of the frame, which increases the focal length. The amount of difference in focal length with a crop sensor is measured by its “Multiplier.” For example, a Nikon APS-C crop sensor has a 1.5x multiplier. When a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens is attached to that Nikon DSLR, the focal length is multiplied by 1.5x and effectively acts like a 75mm lens on a full frame DSLR.
Full Frame Advantages
Generally, a full frame sensor can provide a broader dynamic range and better low light/high ISO performance yielding a higher quality image than a crop sensor. Shooting full-frame you get the benefit of a shallower depth of field. Most lenses made for full-frame systems cost more and weigh more because they are higher quality. Another advantage of going with a full-frame system is there is a greater variety of lenses made for full frame. Photographers who enjoy shooting landscapes and architecture that are suited for wider focal lengths, will definitely want to use a full frame body. If you shoot in natural and available light, you’ll also want to check out a full frame body too.
Crop Sensor Advantages
While a crop sensor DSLR doesn’t provide the same level of image quality as a full frame DSLR, it does offers major advantages when it comes to cost and weight. It can also be very effective for nature, wildlife and sports photography due to the extra reach gained from the crop sensor multiplier.
Evaluate which type is right for you.