Full frame vs. crop sensor

I had heard about full frame sensor several times during this semester, but I didn’t really know what it really meant. So I googled it and started to read about it a little bit.

Full frame is roughly the size of 24mm x 36mm. Crop sensors are out there in several different sizes. Most common crop factors are 1.3x, 1.5x and 1.6x. What these factors mean is that 1.3x is closest to full frame and 1.6x is farthest from it.

So what are the perks and downsides of full frame sensors? Full frame sensors have better image quality and also works better in higher ISOs. Better quality also means bigger print size. Full frame sensors and lenses are bigger and also cost more than cropped ones. Canon EF-lenses are full frame lenses, but also work with crop sensor bodies. However, Canon EF-S lenses are only compatible with crop sensor bodies. Nikon FX-lenses are for full frame sensors and DX-lenses for crop sensors.

In some cases, the crop factor can be a better choice… If you only own one basic lens, especially the cheap plastic one, then it might not be very wise to spend a lot of money to get a full frame body. Also many people are used to have a little big of extra reach with their long lenses and may not want to give that up by changing to a full frame body.

Which one is right for you? For an average consumer it doesn’t really make sense to spent a lot of money to get a full frame body, because the quality of crop sensor is usually more than enough. Photographers who are shooting landscapes and architecture will definitely get more out of a full frame body, because of it’s image quality and wide-angle options. If you mostly shoot in natural light or dark spaces, you’ll definitely want to consider a full frame body, because of it’s high ISO performance. If you mostly shoot subjects that you would want to get as close as possible, it might make more sense to stick with a smaller sensor, because then you can take advantage of the crop factor to get maximum detail at long distances.