The difference between full frame versus crop frame cameras

Aug 10, 2012

Topic: Tutorials
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product:  All-in-One Contract Bundles


I’m sure you all know that there is a huge price difference between a Cropped Camera and a Full Framed camera, but what’s really the difference.


Cropped Sensor (APS-C)

Cameras with these small sensors are referred to as cropped. The sensor is smaller than that of a full framed 35mm sized sensor. The size is usually close to 15×22.5mm, which is approximately the equivalent of the Advanced Photo System classic size negative; an old film format produced in 1996. Back then, it was difficult to manufacture a camera sensor large enough to equate to the size of 35mm film.


Full Framed Sensor

Full Framed cameras are more likely to be classified as a professional grade camera. This is because of the size of the sensor, which is the equivalent to 35mm film. A full framed camera also comes with options and features that most professionals would use.

There are advantages to both cameras types. The biggest difference is the sensors.



With the small sensor, the aspect ratio is still the same as a full framed sensor. Because the sensor is smaller, there is a closer crop when an image is made. This is why a crop factor comes into play when trying to figure the 35mm equivalent focal length. Why 35mm? Well, because 35mm was the industry standard film size, it has become the standard for digital as well. Most cropped cameras have the crop factor of 1.5x. For those that know my work, know that I shoot Nikon. Nikon DX (cropped) cameras have a 1.5 crop factor. The biggest advantage is the focal length. Because of the crop factor, a 50mm focal length is actually the equivalent to 75mm on a full framed sensor. This 75mm comes in handy when shooting portraits. A 200mm focal length is the equivalent to 300mm on a full frame sensor. This comes in handy when shooting sports or wildlife. And of course, the cropped sensor is significately cheaper than a full framed camera.




Full Framed

The digital equivalent to 35mm film is a full framed sensor. The size of this sensor is approximately 36x24mm. The size alone of this sensor is an advantage. Because of the size, more pixels are able to fit on a full frame. A bigger sensor also gives you more surface for an image. This is great for landscape or shooting wide. It’s also easier to control depth of field with a larger sensor. The images are sharper and the ISO performance is better with the full framed sensor. The focal length you are shooting is actually the industry standard when shooting a full framed camera.

The crop sensor came first in the digital world and is a lot easier to buy than a full framed sensor. Which camera type is for you?


Thanks to Algernon Parker for this guest blog post! 


Rachel’s Comments: 

Don’t be fooled by the idea that you “must” have a full frame.  Sure – FF rocks but you can rock a crop just as good.  Check out this post on the differences of lenses; I have examples of crop and full frame. It’s what you do with it that matters. It is important to remember that a lens will “crop down” and have a smaller area shot than with a full frame.  A 50mm on a crop body is not a “true” 50.  Keep this in mind when asking advice on lenses and buying new equipment.

Here's an example from a crop frame and full frame camera



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