CAMERA 101: FULL FRAME VS CROP SENSOR

Monday, November 14, 2016



It's been a while since I've talked photography on the blog (btw, if you missed it, I take photos for bloggers and brands now so get in touch!) and with a few things planned up my sleeve, I wanted to do a few more technical posts about cameras themselves so you can understand what it is you get when buying.

Full Frame vs Crop Sensor: what does it mean?

There are two types of DSLR - crop sensor and full frame; a huge difference is in price and slight difference in weigh, but both produce beautiful images - it's merely a preference for use!

Crop Sensor is what most bloggers would have; if you use Canon then anything between the 500D and 80D has a cropped sensor, and this essentially means that the size of the sensor in the camera is cropped in (pretty simple, I know) but it means everything you shoot, on any lens, will be 1.5x closer than true to the eye.

For example, if you were shooting on the Canon 70D using a 50mm lens, you would get a lens depth closer to 60mm because the cropped sensor has a tighter frame - meaning you will see less in your frame, and would have to stand further away to see the same amount of detail as a full frame camera. 

There are advantages to having a crop sensor in photography - if you shoot fashion, editorial or any telephoto based photography, the extra reach (i.e. closer crop and ability to shoot detail further away) gained from the crop sensor multiplier makes it easier to shoot - an 85mm lens becomes close enough to 100mm, which may be fab for safari or wildlife too! The cameras are also generally cheaper, so if you're not a pro photographer but still want quality without forking out, cropped can be best.

That's not to say it comes without disadvantage - you get a lot less quality and definition in images, but again it depends on intention.

Now Full Frame is intended more for professional use and there a lot of benefits to invest if you are going to be using the photo and video features often or for work; firstly let's talk abut the main reason these cameras are so expensive - if you've seen the Canon 5D Mark III and wept at why it's so pricey, it's because it costs 20x the amount of money to manufacture a full-frame sensor than it does a cropped sensor, so you are paying for manufacture and technical costs, but every penny is worth it if you so want it!

A full sensor is the size of a piece of 35mm-film, and captures a wider range of view plus works better in low light, also allowing the ISO to work better at adding in extra light without generating too much extra noise. It also has a better depth of field, meaning more aesthetic photos and better bokeh.

Whilst a crop sensor gives a tighter view, a full frame camera can give a more true to eye view - the larger the sensor the longer the focal lens needs to be, and this is effective focal length. The EFL is what the focal length would be of a camera or lens if it were scaled up to a traditional 35mm camera (remember the 1.5x closer scaling I said?) so a 28mm lens on the 5D would be 28mm, however on the 70D you would need to use a 17.5mm lens to get the same depth of field and focal length - this lens doesn't exist btw, but multiplying any lens by 1.6 would give you the true focal length of your lens on your crop sensor camera. This is where the full frame gets advantage, because you can see more and have a more true focal length, which equals better quality photos.

As I said, it's all a matter of intention and why you're buying a DSLR, but it's something important to remember when researching as it will explain price difference and performance. Hopefully you feel a bit more understanding of your (camera) body, and get snapping some awesome photos!


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