Four Common Myths About Full-Frame Cameras Dispelled

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One of the beautiful things about modern digital photography is the astronomical degree of choice that is available to us. No matter whether you’re a professional photographer, a weekend warrior, or a casual enthusiast who just likes to take snapshots of your kids, your food, or your feet – there are dozens, even hundreds, of camera models and options to suit your needs. There are specialty cameras for recording extreme sports, underwater cameras for photographing the deep blue sea, and a slew of lenses available for DSLR and mirrorless cameras to suit any situation in which you might find yourself.

There are also some clear differentiating factors between these various options that make some cameras better suited to certain situations. One of the most common issues I see discussed is that of full-frame versus crop-sensor cameras. To help clear the air regarding this particular question I’d like to address four common myths about full-frame, with the goal of helping you choose a camera that suits your needs.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a 10-year-old crop-sensor Nikon D200 and 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Myth #1: full-frame is better than crop-sensor

I see this myth being perpetuated all the time, particularly in online forums but also when talking to people in person. It’s a shame because it’s just not true. full-frame is certainly better in some aspects compared to crop-sensor cameras, but to declare that they are universally better is colossally misleading.

One analogy I like to use here is that of vehicles, particularly pickup trucks. A beast like the Ford F-150 is a fantastic and phenomenally well-rounded truck that excels at hauling, towing, and all the usual heavy-duty jobs for which one would typically buy such a vehicle. By comparison, the Toyota Tacoma is a smaller truck and not quite as powerful or capable, but actually beats its larger counterpart in some regards such as better gas mileage, smaller turning radius, and greater overall agility in a more urban environment.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a full-frame Nikon D750 and 85mm f/1.8 lens. A crop-sensor camera would have worked, but would have required me to be farther back in order to get this same composition and there was simply not enough space in the room to do so.

Different not necessarily better

Neither truck is objectively better; both are well suited to the specific needs of the people who purchase them. The same is true for cameras in that full-frame cameras work very well in many regards. But to say they are better negates some of the unique advantages of smaller crop-sensor cameras.

full-frame models, as a rule, have strengths like greater high ISO capabilities, improved dynamic range, and improved build quality. If these things are important to you, then a full-frame camera might suit your needs. However, smaller and less expensive crop-sensor cameras have some unique advantages as well such as:

  • Autofocus points that reach farther out to the edges of the viewfinder.
  • Faster shutter sync speeds.
  • Longer reach—a 200mm lens on a crop-sensor camera is basically like shooting with a 300mm lens on a full-frame camera.
  • Generally less expensive.

These are all generalizations, of course, and there are always exceptions to the rule. But suffice it to say that just because full-frame cameras exist doesn’t mean you need to get one.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a crop-sensor Nikon D7100, 50mm lens, and +10 close-up filter.

Myth #2: Shooting full-frame will improve your photography

This is a myth that’s closely related to GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome – a condition that plagues many photographers and often causes them to continually buy more cameras, lenses, and accessories in the hopes that these things will help improve their photography. Getting a full-frame camera will certainly allow you to take advantage of the unique benefits that they offer, but it will by no means do anything to actually improve the quality of your photographs.

No matter what camera you have, whether it’s a mobile phone, pocket camera, or crop-sensor DSLR, the best thing you can do to make yourself a better photographer is to learn more about photography, not spend money on new gear. In fact, sticking with the gear you have and learning to work within its limitations can have a profound impact on your photography and go quite a long way towards helping you improve.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a full-frame Nikon D750 and 50mm lens, but it was years of learning about composition, lighting, and other photographic principles that helped me get this shot.

To extend the vehicle metaphor just a bit, buying a Formula 1 car will not automatically make you a better driver. Certainly, it will allow you to have access to the unique capabilities of such a fine automobile. But simply parking an F1 racecar in your driveway will in no way upgrade your own ability to operate a motor vehicle. Some photographers mistakenly think that purchasing a full-frame camera will give their photography a boost. But in truth, it’s the day-in-day-out work of practicing the fundamentals of photography like composition, lighting, color, contrast, etc., that will lead to improvements.

Myth #3 Full-frame is too expensive for casual photographers

If you do decide that you want to invest in full-frame gear, you can take solace in the fact that price is no longer the barrier to entry that it once was. The first full-frame camera was the Canon 5D, which came out in August 2005 and cost about $3500 USD, which made it prohibitively expensive for all but the most dedicated professionals and ardent enthusiasts. Crop-sensor cameras were far cheaper, making them the default solution for many photographers around the world. To this day they remain a perfectly viable option for almost any type of photography.

However, as prices have gone down over the years it is now much more feasible to purchase full-frame gear compared to days gone by. New full-frame cameras such as the Nikon D610 or Canon 6D are about $1400-1500 (at the time of writing this) and can often be found on sale, which is a steal compared to just a few years ago. And while more expensive models such as the Canon 1DX Mark II or Nikon D5 can easily cost as much as a used car, you certainly don’t need those high-end models to take advantage of many of the benefits of shooting full-frame.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a full-frame Nikon D750 and 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I could have taken a similar shot with a crop-sensor camera and different lens, but I specifically wanted the wide aperture of this lens and the control over depth of field offered by the D750.

Another benefit of the passing of time is that full-frame cameras which were cutting-edge a few years ago are significantly cheaper in price now that they have been replaced by newer models. Consider the Canon 5D Mark II, a camera which is so good it was used to film the season finale of the TV show House in 2010. While it can’t match the blistering high ISO performance and other tricks of its newer counterpart, it’s still a phenomenal camera and can be found used online for much cheaper than the shiny new models.

Myth #4 All serious photographers will eventually go full-frame

Friends and family members often ask me for advice when it comes to buying cameras and camera gear, and this used to be somewhat precarious territory due to the understanding that real photographers always ended up buying full-frame cameras. Thus, advising someone to buy a crop-sensor camera was to tread on dangerous ground because in a few years that person might realize his or her gear is a second-class citizen in the world of photography and it would have been better had a full-frame model been purchased from the start. Thankfully nowadays, as Princess Leia said to Han Solo at the end of Return of the Jedi, “It’s not like that at all.”

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a crop-sensor Nikon D7100 and 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Sensor technology in cameras today is so good that you can shoot professional photos whether you have full-frame, crop-sensor, medium format, micro-four-thirds, or in some cases even just a mobile phone. Camera gear is not the limiting factor it once was. So while many professionals certainly like to shoot full-frame, there is a growing number who prefer the features, size, convenience, and price of smaller models especially in the world of mirrorless cameras like the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II or Panasonic GH5.

If you have specific needs that are not being met by your crop-sensor camera then it may be a good idea to consider a full-frame camera. But otherwise, the gear you have is probably good enough and you’d be better off investing your money in lenses, lighting, and education rather than a new camera body.

Four Common Myths About full-frame Cameras Addressed

Taken with a full-frame Nikon D750 and 50mm f/1.8 lens. Why that particular setup? Honestly, I just like how that camera feels in my hands and I enjoy using it.

Conclusion

I’d like to hear from you, the DPS community, on this one. What type of camera gear do you shoot with, and is there any way in which you find it to be limiting? Do you shoot with full-frame and if so, what do you like about it? Are you content using crop-sensor cameras?

For the record, I personally use both crop-sensor and full-frame cameras and have specific purposes for both. But it’s always interesting to hear from other photographers on subjects like this. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Simon Ringsmuth

is an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for photography on his website and podcast at Weekly Fifty. He and his brother host a monthly podcast called Camera Dads where they discuss photography and fatherhood, and Simon also posts regularly to Instagram where you can follow him as sringsmuth.

  • Christian Allen

    I was taking today with my Photography buddy who is as avid as I am should I upgrade to the 5DMkII from my 70D. Problem is, I’ve become very used to my 70D and like that I know how to shoot well with it. I was thinking I was gonna upgrade my body before getting the 2 L lenses I want, but now, I may just save my money and get the 2 lenses and keep my 70D. Makes sense after reading your article and remembering my earlier conversation. We also talked about changing to the 7Dmk2 over the 70D, but I’m not sure that’s worth the money either….not enough differences to make it worth the upgrade cost. Besides, like you said, learn the gear you have. Which is just a basic 70D and it’s 18 to 135 STM lens. I also have a 1.8 STM 50mm that takes amazing pics. I have rented and uses the 100mm Canon macro and 100-400 series 2 zoom lenses….both of which were amazing and I will own someday soon. These lenses and my shooting ability make me look a professional when looking at my pics. Love it. Thoughts?

  • Lori Carey

    Like you I have both, and each has a specific purpose. The frame rate and auto focus on my crop sensor 7D is much faster than my 5diii, and I rely on it for most sports/action photography. I also often rely on it for the “extra reach” when shooting wildlife. For most landscape and astro/night photography, I use my full frame (although I have taken shots of the Milky Way with my 7d that people swore were taken on a full frame camera). I am a working photographer and I’ve never had a client refuse to accept an image shot on a crop sensor camera, or even know the difference. It’s not until you decide to focus on a specific genre that you understand why one camera’s features might be more important than another.

    To Christian Allen, if you are happy with your current camera and it does what you need it to do, I would tell you to invest in the glass before worrying about “upgrading” your camera. Using quality lenses instead of the kit lens will have the biggest impact, as you already discovered.

  • Russell

    In the Canon world at least, crop sensor cameras can also use a whole range of lenses that simply don’t fit on a full frame. I have a 10-22 zoom that only works on my 80D, not on my 5Diii, and which gives as wide a field of view as the 17-40 on the full-frame, in a package half the weight or cost.

  • That’s a good point Russell, and something to keep in mind.

  • Thanks for sharing those examples of how you use each type of camera for a specific purpose, Lori!

  • If I were you I think I’d definitely upgrade lenses before getting a 5DMkII or 7DMkII. Changing camera bodies isn’t going to do a whole lot for you, but getting some nice L lenses will almost certainly unlock new photographic possibilities.

  • Parker-Esq

    From a telephoto stand point, a full frame can match a crop sensor. Simply crop the full frame picture. Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge, but I don’t see the advantage of a crop sensor over full frame from a telephoto lens perspective. Crop before or after and the results are the same. Am I wrong?

  • You’re right, but when you crop a 24 megapixel FF image down to match what you would get from a crop sensor camera, you lose some quality in the process because you’re tossing out a big chunk of pixels. Compare that to a 24 megapixel Crop Sensor image, which has basically been cropped already but is still a full 24 megapixels which would allow you more flexibility when editing or even cropping further still.

  • Bankslay

    I learned how to shoot B+W full frame in the late 1970’s. Now after being placed on a “terrorist” list after Bank of America stole several hundred thousand from me with forged documents, the police have placed me under indefinite investigation and ordered me not to report any banking/estate/political crimes I have taken up the hobby of photography again.

    I got a Canon 20D and it took fine shots but I wanted more subject isolation and also wanted camera to take product photography type shots to sell unwanted extra camera equipment on Ebay so I bought an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a Canon 5D. I was thrilled with the Olympus OM-D and purchased several adapters and old lenses for it but was extremely disappointed with my results with the Canon 5D with an very low keeper rate, about 1% at best and yet the Olympus keeper rate was about 99%. I began to wish for a Full frame Olympus or at least a speed booster. I sold the Canon 5D and tried a Sony A850 and had a much higher keeper rate about 20-30% but far below Olympus.

    I tried a Nex 6 with a Mitakon lens turbo and got good results but could only use Minolta lenses full frame so I thought hey why purchase more focal reducers when I could just get a Sony A7 and that’s just what I did. I get a high keeper rate with the A7 and can use any lens with a cheap adapter but it is a very poorly made camera with a mediocre viewfinder that I struggle with in daylight and struggle wit the ergonomics and it actually flexes and loses power with larger metal lenses like the Minolta 70-210 beercan.

    It seemed that focus peaking would make product photography and flower close focus manual shots better so I picked up a refurbished E-M10 but kept the E-M5 for weather resistance, I found a deal on the E-M1 that can do what both do even better and has a huge magnificent viewfinder, I haven’t sold the extra O-MD yet.

    I do feel that the camera and lens make difference certainly for hand-held shooting in conditions without a Sherpa to carry your gear for you. The Olympus OM-D series seems to be in a league of it’s own with super consistent performance, great image stabilization, great ability to accurately manual focus and great high speed accurate focus (unlike Canon and Nikon with front/back focus issues) weather resistance, anvil like durability and great latitude in settings not idiot proof of course but very tolerant of crazy metering, AF, ISO, exposure etc. settings. In fact you can even wildly wave the Olympus in a dim room with one hand and it will instantly lock and get a shot, it could be wall outlet, shoe or the ceiling but it will usually get the shot.

    Now I have the A7 a finicky fragile camera with superb image quality if you pay attention and an unlimited range of old manual focus lenses and # Olympus O-MD’s that are fantastic, durable great handling cameras i can also use with a nearly unlimited old lens selection but I have to accept half the background blur of full frame and less flexibility over depth of field and composition but extreme ease in getting a keeper shot manual or auto-focus. I though about Nikon since I was unhappy with Canon quality and handling but I just don’t care for the nervous/busy background blur I get with Nikon lenses and the Nikon 105 DC is to expensive for a hobbyist and is only one focal length. I do have a D200 and few Nikon lens and I like the D200 body but not lens rendering and bokeh.

    Portability is a big issue with me since I have not been allowed to drive since Jan 2005 and I love micro four thirds but would like more control over depth of field at times. I do not see a big jump in DOF with APS-C so really for me APS-C seems to have most of the size of full frame with a lot less subject isolation and it’s silly to get huge heavy fast 0.95, or 1.2 aperture lenses for APS-C when you can just get an f/1.8 for a full frame. In practice the full frame may actually be lighter, cheaper and more portable with the equivalent depth of field. APS-C seems to be a monkey in the middle, jack of all trades master of none dead end format, and yet at the same time more than capable of getting great shots in many conditions and a Canon 7D or Nikon D300 or D500 with a quality telephoto could be a great birding/sports combo that is not to big or to expensive that was weather resistant and not to battery hungry. I think micro four thirds is a much better choice for the majority of people getting low end Walmart type DSLR’s like Canon Rebels and Nikon 3000 series unless they really need optimum battery life and/or sitting watching the viewfinder for a long time waiting for a shot with the camera off like birding in a blind or hidden.

    I was a former upscale contractor from wealthy area before I was taken out by jealous family members with political and mob connections and yes of course I could do a much better job with cheap Chinese tools than homeowners and weekend warriors could with pro tools. As a pro though I used tools like belt drive chop saws with laser cut high precision blades that cost way over $100 and I held tolerances of a little over a thousandth of and inch at a high speed cost competitive pace that I could not do with lessor tools, so it all depends on your needs, preferences and expectations as well as skill level and eye for camera equipment just as contractor and machinist tools. As a pro auto mechanic though I used Craftsman and decided that a $4 wrench is just as useful as a $40 Snap-On I do not think I would have been a better mechanic with $100,000 plus Snap-On tools than $10,000 in Craftmans.

    Studying, practice and talent all make a much bigger difference than the equipment, though except in some circumstances like sports/bird tracking, low light, macro, and large depth of field although often extension tubes and macro filters and technique can often make up for lack of a dedicated macro lens and macro lighting. Mirror-less evf absolutely makes a huge difference for accuracy and speed of close focus large aperture manual focus and Olympus image stabilization is super-effective. I wish Olympus made a full frame and all would be right in the camera world.

  • Bankslay

    You lose resolution with a cropped full frame. There also may be the issue that an affordable and/or portable APS-C or micro fourth thirds may have much better tracking than a low end full frame like a Canon 6D. Sure you could go Canon a pro level 1D or Nikon D5 but you have a large heavy expensive camera that also may be a thief magnet, obtrusive and attention grabbing and cumbersome to bring to a sport event, in the wilderness, on vacation or even not allowed in an event. To make it short you may be able to get a high performance aps-c camera like an Olympus E-M1 or Canon 7D or Nikon D500 that would outperform a Canon 6D or low end Nikon or Sony A7 full frame. I have the Sony A7, Nikon D200, Canon 5D and Olympus E-M1 when I went on a once in a lifetime whale watching tour I took the Olympus micro four thirds and was able to get a very high keeper rate at 600mm equivalent with the boat on very rough seas with many people getting sick. I was wildly rocking barely able to keep hold of the railing and almost every shot was centered. I do not think I could have taken any shots except by sheer luck with the Sony A7 or Canon 5D full frame. If I was highly skilled pro could I have gotten shots, yes but not nearly as many and they would have to have been cropped and/or a huge heavy lens. The pro next to me had a Canon 1D (something) with a huge Canon L lens that weighed probably 8-10 pounds and was heavily wrapped in a weatherproof bag, I saw that they attempted very few, if any whale shots and I’m quite sure they had a much higher skill level than me. So there are two technical issues the resolution of cropping and tracking ability/AF points for moving shots in a reasonably prices/sized body, not counting image stabilization and/or dual image stabilization on lens and body and the ability to physically hold or bring with the larger combination.

  • miker33

    Why do you want a full frame? I wanted better low light performance. I have a 70D and bought a used 6D after reading many reviews that say the 6D is better than the 5Dii. I do notice the 70D is much better featured, with more focus points and faster frame rates. But the 6D is fantastic in low light and to blur the crap out of backgrounds.
    based on the 2 lenses you rented, macro and telephoto, stick with your 70D. For macro, you get more depth of field if you want it (and wide open the extra blur from the 6D is meaningless), and for telephoto you get an extra 1.6x reach at full resolution.

  • Mick Cayless

    I am a owner of a 16MP Nikon D5100 which I purchased it as a closeout special in fall 2013. The 24MP D5200 had just emerged and after oohing for a while, I decided to opt for the D5100. I have taken a few classes, read a few books and taken this camera everywhere. It came with the 18-55, and I added a 55-200, 35mm 1.8, and a Sigma 10-20 3.5. This camera is awesome.

    I have a case of the terrible photography disease, ‘Upgradealitis’, and every time I think about moving up to the latest 7*** series camera, or even FF, I read some darn internet comment that reminds me the D5100 has an excellent sensor with great low-light capabilities. I come away with the reasoning that there is absolutely no need to upgrade to the latest and greatest camera. In fact, according to some sources on the web, the 16MP is less taxing on my existing lenses than if they were used on a 24MP. Is this true?

    Oh, and your thoughts about the Nikon D5100 and why I should NOT upgrade. Thanks for the great article.

  • If you don’t notice anything wrong with your D5100, and don’t see any compelling reason to upgrade, then I say just keep using the gear you have. If you had a specific need that was not being met by it (i.e. you wanted better low-light performance, higher burst rate, two control dials, etc.) then you might want to consider something else but it sounds like you are doing just fine with the camera you have 🙂

    Regarding 16 vs 24 megapixels, it’s not that 16 are easier on the lenses but when you start shooting at high values like 24 and 36 megapixels you need really high quality glass to get the maximum sharpness out of your shots. A 16 megapixel sensor generally will be a bit more forgiving in that regard.

  • Mick Cayless

    Simon, I appreciate your feedback.

  • Rick Willingham

    Only one sentence in the article that I had a problem with: “Getting a full-frame camera will certainly allow you to take advantage of the unique benefits that they offer, but it will by no means do anything to actually improve the quality of your photographs.” I get that better gear does not equal better skills or better creativity. I also get that the quality and pricing differences between camera formats is much smaller now than in the past, but given comparable skill and creativity, a new, good full-frame camera will certainly produce better quality, higher resolution photographs than an old, low-end crop-frame with a low-quality kit lens. I just think that the statement could have been written a little differently, such as “Getting a full-frame camera will certainly allow you to take advantage of the unique benefits that they offer, but it will by no means do anything to actually improve the quality of your photographic compositions or photographic skills.”

  • drdroad

    Not sure I agree with this. When I changed from my Canon 22mp camera to my current Sony 42mp one, cropping ended up being one of the biggest gains, to me. Keep in mind Stock Photo Agencies all have a minimum size image they will take. I was constantly wanting to crop more on my 22mp image more than the size my Stock Agency would allow. Never a problem now. In fact, I can actually shoot planning on a 10-20% crop and still get great resolution.

    This became obvious to me when I printed out a number of images for an Architect I’d worked with for years. Although, like most photographers I’d think, I’d thought through the images as I was shooting them, but found when it came time to process and crop for printing, I had way more cropping to do than planned. At that time I was pretty happy for the original 42mp.

  • drdroad

    I agree with this. I miss my 18-300.

  • pete guaron

    I don’t have upgradealitis, Mick – but like anyone else, I do read reviews of new products that hit the market, to see what they might offer. You can’t turn something down, if you don’t even know what it is!

    That said – if I ever take any item seriously, as a possible acquisition or replacement, I get out a sheet of paper (‘sOK – it’s scrap from the printer, I just use the back of it) and write down what I get out of my existing gear in one column, and what the new item might change or add to in the other column. Then add up the score. Mostly, it’s a no brainer – I can do what I want with what I have. And the risk of contracting upgradealitis or GAS passes.

  • pete guaron

    Oh dear – well I have a 4/3 compact, a 1″ not-quite-so-compact, a half frame and a full frame. I use the lot – for different purposes. That said, they all produce good photos – the weak link is the user, and learning what the different cameras (or lenses) can or can’t do.
    One obvious thing to think about is cropping – it’s more of a problem, for the quality of your images, if you’re using a smaller sensor – so you have to make sure you’ve composed the shot properly before you press the button. But you should be doing that anyway, even if you have a FF and think you can worry about cropping later.
    For what it’s worth, I just pulled some macro shots of flowers off my 4/3 compact, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in the sharpness or quality of the images between those shots and what the others could have produced.
    I think the “answer” is practice – practice and learning – become a better photographer, and stop worrying about “better gear”.

  • Jim the Photographer

    I shoot crop sensor and will always shoot crop sensor because I’m cheap! I use entry level equipment (Nikon D3000 series) and always buy the last iteration of it at a deeply discounted price (because I’m cheap). I print my photos (to 11×14) and you can’t tell if a printed photo was taken on a full frame, crop sensor, or a (relatively) cheap entry level DSLR. I appreciate that Simon Ringsmuth helped “bust” the myth of the necessity of a full frame camera. Take what you have and use it!

  • “The answer is practice” You’re exactly right about that, Pete!

  • The 2 main reasons I recommend using a Full Frame body over a Crop Sensor body are these:
    – Lower noise at high ISO
    – Shallower Depth of Field

    If you are a professional photographer and are shooting weddings, chances are that you’re going to shoot some of your images at very high ISOs (6400, 12800 and beyond). Going full frame will help you get usable images in scenes where a crop sensor body will suffer from too much noise.

    If you are a portrait photographer searching for pleasing out of focus backgrounds, then a Full Frame body will deliver those to you much more easily than a Crop Sensor body. The reason is easy to understand. Let’s say you want to do head shots for an individual. Using a full frame sensor and a fixed 100mm lens, you stand a certain distance from the subject to take the shot. Now if you take the same exact picture (same composition, filling the frame the same amount with your subject, without cropping the subject further than you did with the full frame), then by necessity you’ll have to MOVE BACKWARD about 1.5 to 1.6 times the distance in order to take the shot (depending on your camera sensor size). Of course, once you move 1.5 to 1.6 times the distance away from the subject, your background now becomes sharper (more in focus). In short, a full frame body gives you shallower DOF for a given focal length because you must get closer to the subject to take the shot.

    Outside of these two things, I generally consider crop sensor and full frame bodies fairly equal. So if neither of these things are important to you, then you might consider going with a crop sensor body.

  • Frank Goss

    I upgraded from the Nikon D40 to the D7100. I have a number of lenses that I really like and changed to full-frame would require a significant outlay to buy new lenses. The D7100 fits my current needs and am still learning all of the features of the D7100.

  • D7100 is a fantastic camera! I’m sure it was quite an upgrade from the D40 and you’ll get years out of use from it 🙂

  • red rackham

    A year ago I decided to move from Canon APS-C to micro four thirds (some will say I downgraded, but I disagree with them) and now I shoot exclusively with micro four thirds camera (the Olympus OMD). I am well aware of the disadvantages of the smaller sensor, but I can live with that.

    I have to admit that full-frame camera has a much better ability under low-light condition (less noise) and much shallower depth-of-field. But the full-frame camera, even the Sony A7 series are HUGE and the lenses are very heavy. The main reason I move into smaller camera body is to be able to carry a camera and a lens everyday, everywhere, and shoot discreetly on the street. Yes, I know Fuji offer a incredible camera and lens, but when I made a move last year, the price of Fuji primes are beyond my budget, so M43rds was my best choice. Besides, the selection of lens in M43rds world are impressive and fit many budget conditions. Plus, the 5-axis IBIS in Olympus bodies works like magic (now the newer Sony A7 series have them though) and really help when taking a shot in low light condition.

    Now, with ability to carry my camera, and sometimes, 2-3 prime lenses in one small bag, I shoot more than my friends with FF or APS-C DSLR camera and have seen massive improvement in my photography skill compared to few years ago.

    Practices makes perfect they say 🙂

  • Joe Krepps

    Just a minor point of clarification.

    When a local Real Estate photography company poo-poo’d my Nikon D5300, saying they “preferred” a Canon 5DMk3 w/24-70mm lens, I investigated the differences. According to snapsort.com, my D5300 actually has slightly better dynamic range, 1.2 f-stops (and, for what it’s worth, megapixels).

    They’re also saying the D5300 has “Better image quality” though it’s _very_ close. They used DXoMark’s rating system, to determine this figure, 83.0 Vs. 81.0.

    Perhaps this is an exception in the full-frame Vs. crop sensor. I’m just saying you can’t even assume a full-frame camera has better stats. I just haven’t had the $$ for more lenses so, at 151k+ on my Shutter Count, both body and the kit 18-55mm are still earning their keep. I shoot ~50k photos/year, year round, all outdoors. No worries about build quality on my crop sensor.

    Here’s the link for snapsort: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III-vs-Nikon-D5300/detailed

    Is there anyone who can clear up a question I had? Given that my D5300 is running a DX/crop-sensor 18-55mm lens and the realtor’s preference was full-frame w/24-70mm lens, don’t I have a wider field of view? I haven’t ruled out getting a super wide zoom but I would have thought they would also want a super wide lens on the full frame cameras.

    Great article! I used to feel “less” that I was using just a crop sensor when I’d read online articles. A while ago, I started to see great stuff posted by crop sensors and started to see my D5300 as “the middle model in Nikon’s crop-sensor line”, not “a stepping stone to ‘a real camera'”. Obviously, at 151k, it’s been doing what I need done. I really don’t want the weight and bulk of a full-frame, not to mention, the expense.

  • Good question about the field of view, Joe. Shooting with an 18-55mm lens on a Nikon crop sensor camera (which has a 1.5x crop factor) gives you the full-frame equivalent of using a 27-82mm lens. So yes, shooting with a 27-70mm lens on a full-frame camera would actually be just a bit wider. However, I think a better option if you’re doing real estate photography might be the Tokina 11-16mm lens for crop sensor cameras. It’s a great lens and would allow you to capture entire rooms, even small bathrooms and closets.

  • burney

    no one seems to discuss the benefit for huge enlargements. i doubt that a aps-c unit can produce a high quality 5′ x 7′ (foot) image as well as a FF .

  • Buzz Buzzard

    “Longer reach—a 200mm lens on a crop-sensor camera is basically like shooting with a 300mm lens on a full-frame camera.” You just perpetuated a myth. Crop sensor does not give you more reach, it simply gives you a smaller field of view. If you are going to write an article on cameras, do your homework first.

  • Christos

    The larger sensor allows more light than a crop sensors, which means you can shoot at lower ISO levels. FF sensors are just better in lower light which gives them a material advantage when shooting things like concerts, recitals, indoor sports, etc.

  • Lindsay Wood

    A full frame sensor and a crop sensor have their own advantages and disadvantages. While a full frame can provides a bit better overall quality, but both have their uses. The important factor is the quality of the photography that you shoot and the budget that your client have for the photography.

  • Brian J

    I am currently shooting with crop sensor Nikons and I have been since I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D40) ten years ago. I have never been in a situation whee my camera’s limitations have caused me to consider moving to full frame. I already have on eheavy camera body (Nikon D300, which I love!) and I like the compact lightweight body of my D5100 for when I travel. i am constantly amused by amateurs and hobbyists who say they NEED the latest gear to get the image quality they want. Cameras that captured stunning photos ten years ago will still do so now. Crop sensor cameras that were once state of the art will…not can but will…..deliver the same eye popping photos they always have. I don’t buy into hype

  • Brian J

    Yes they do discuss that…..quite often in fact. However, I have been at this for 30 years and have not met more than a handful of photographers who do that (print to 5’x7′). Both formats have their advantages for specific reasons, the author stated that but probably did not feel the need or desire to list all of them. Obviously, he was not thinking of you when he wrote it.

  • You’re right in that the size of a camera sensor in no way affects the optical properties of a lens: a 200mm lens doesn’t magically change to a 300mm lens just because you mount it on a different camera. However, because a crop sensor takes the center portion of the image circle projected by a lens and magnifies it ~1.5x, the result is a shooting experience similar to a 300mm lens. That’s why I used the term “basically” but I hope I didn’t imply that it’s exactly the same as shooting with a 300mm lens because it’s not.

  • Buzz Buzzard

    The best camera is the one you have when you need it. I have seen a lot of great photos come out of IPhone lately. I wouldn’t suggest it for doing weddings, but there are a lot of images that were captured on these phones that would have never been recorded because they were not carrying a camera.

  • Mark

    Get the lenses as they’re transferable should you change your mind about the 5D mk2. I’d also be wary about “upgrading” to the 5D mk2. I used to have one and it took amazing photos, however the focussing hit rate was particularly low and you’ll get an awful lot of not quite there shots.
    I moved from Canon to the A6300 which is far easier to carry more often and has far far superior focussing capabilities. Continuous eye autofocus is something I now couldn’t do without and makes pretty much every portrait shot a keeper from a focus perspective. The downside is the native lens collection which is sadly a little lacklustre. Although I could use Canon lenses etc I see little point in saving weight in the camera to just then add it back with a DSLR lens. Perhaps Sony will up their game a produce better native APS-C glass. Perhaps Canon will up their game and produce a mirrorless and lens collection to tempt me back.
    As you can see there are pros and cons. If I were you I’d first choose where I sit with regards DSLR vs Mirrorless (mainly a weight consideration) so you know the system you’re aiming at. If you’re sticking with DSLR then get the lenses as the 5D mk2 has a poor focussing system and its sensor is just generations old when it comes to noise and it shows.
    L lenses I would consider are the 70-200mm (f4 to save weight), and the 16-35mm f4. Maybe the 24-105mm – still my favourite lens to this day for its versatility.

  • Balu Godugu

    Simon,
    The 18-55mm lens supplied as a kit lens with the Crop Sensor bodies is a DX lens. A DX lens on a Crop Sensor body will have the same focal length as indicated on the lens. So, a 18-55 DX lens should be definitely wider than a FX 24-70mm Lens.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • User Colin

    I’m afraid Myth #3 is still an issue, unless one wants to limit oneself to vintage second hand lenses. While the cost of full frame bodies has come down, they still sit around the upper-end of the cost of APS-C bodies. But the biggest difference is lens cost.

    On my Sony A mount APS-C, there are plenty “Easy Choice” lenses offering cheaply-built but good optical quality primes such as 35mm, 30mm macro, 50mm, 85mm, which are less than £200 and often less than £100 second hand or special-offer. There are the 18-50 and the 55-300 covering a great focal range for zooms. And lenses like the Samyang 135 f/2 is the equivalent of a 200 f/4 for very little money, albeit manual everything. Compare that with Sony’s FF on either A mount or E mount and you start looking at lenses where “cheap” is less than £600 and many are over £1000.

    These lenses aren’t fully comparable, though, as the FF lenses are often wider aperture (and equivalently wider too) and the dear lenses are better made and better optically. But for many purposes, where shooting wide open is not required, the quality on APS-C is absolutely great and one can build up a great range of primes and zooms that in total are less than the cost of even one of Sony’s professional-level FF lenses.

    If you are prepared to stitch your photos to create multi-megapixel panoramas for landscape or cathedrals, for example, then one can create an image as high-resolution and as sharp and flawless as any FF camera and with the cheapest prime lenses. For that kind of photography, where depth of field is required, FF offers no technological advantage in terms of aperture, ISO, noise — one can achieve equivalence. And if one is also shooting multiple frames for HDR (necessary for indoor cathedrals, say) then dynamic range is also a non-issue.

  • ExPat_in_Krakow

    I think that the author created a bit of a straw man with the first point that “full-frame is better than crop sensor”. A camera is a tool. In its most simplified form, it is a box that collects light. A full-frame camera will be a better box, better ergonomics and durability, that will capture light better, due to the larger sensor. You can’t get around these facts.

    The only reasons not to go to full-frame are if you can’t afford it or you can’t carry it. And those are concerns that aren’t to be taken lightly. The cost of lenses for full-frame can cripple your bank account. The ability to carry a camera in your pocket on holiday, or to do street photography without intimidating the subject, can be the difference in having a camera with you or not. This is one reason that pro photographers often buy a nice, but smaller, point-and-shoot backup camera.

    But that being said, full-frame will always have the abilities to take better photos than crop sensors, for the reasons that the author outlined – dynamic range, noise, depth of field, etc. This is not a myth and this is the point made on most photo forums. Whether the cost and size/weight of the full-frame can be tolerated by the user is a very personal choice. But I haven’t often seen arguments that full frame is “better”, rather than it is better at collecting light and better at allowing the photographer direct access to more controls. Crop sensors and POS cameras are better for the wallet (if one likes having more money, that is) and better for your wrists, elbows, arms and sometimes even back.

  • The focal length of the lens doesn’t change, but when you use an 18-55mm lens on a crop sensor camera part of the image is cropped out because the sensor is small. Because of that what you don’t get the same image at 18mm as you would when shooting at 18mm on a full-frame camera. Shooting at 18mm on a crop sensor will give you an image that is similar to (but not the same as) shooting at about 27mm on full frame.

  • Al jonson

    haha sooooo you say all these myths but all your photos are taken with full frame sensor cameras GTFOH man the author is a big time hypocrite at the end of the day it just comes down to the person/photographer and what kind of photography theyll be doing but to say crop sensor are just as good is just utter boooolllshïet? then why do all pros use full frame then????

  • Please watch your use of language – cursing is not allowed here on dPS and your words have been edited and some removed. Also please look again at the images in the article – he has given examples using both full frame and crop sensor cameras and has and uses both. Please keep it friendly, avoid the name calling and read the article before commenting so you have the facts correct. Thank you – admin.

  • Exactly as Brian J mentioned – how many people do you know that actually print that large? I’ve been a professional photographer since 1991 and I have NEVER had an Occassion to print that large. The biggest I’ve printed is about 40×60″ (3.5′ x 5′) AND I might add that was done from a Canon 10D, one of the first Canon digital cameras from 2004. It was 6 megapixels. I printed it on canvas and it was just fine. So fine in fact that I sold many of them at art shows.

    The thing you need to consider here is also viewing distance. You would not view a print that large by standing a foot away from it. That is like sitting in the front row at the movie theatre. You can’t even see all of it. No, you’d view it from several feet back. At that distance I’d challenge you to put two prints (one APS-C and one FF) up and tell me which is which.

  • My guess it has more do with the lens sharpness. The 18-55 is a kit lens, the 24-70 is an L-series top of the line lens. The glass is better, it is more robust, and it should be sharper than the kit lens.

    Why they don’t want super wide for real estate is distortion. Many real estate or architecture photographers won’t go wider than about 24mm or even 35mm to reduce image distortion. If they need to get more into the shot they’ll do a pano and stitch it. https://digital-photography-school.com/real-estate-photography-a-guide-to-getting-started/

  • Answer these questions for yourself:
    1 – Is your current camera letting you down or limiting you in some way?
    2 – Do you plan on making large prints of your images?
    3 – Do you plan on, or are you doing commercial photography where large, high resolution files are required?
    4 – Do you plan on, or are you doing stock photography and they’ve listed “full frame camera” as a requirement?
    5 – Do you have a large bank account with almost unlimited funds which you can use to buy stuff?
    6 – Is your existing camera failing?
    7 – Is it truly a need?

    If you answer NO to most of them, don’t buy the new one. If you answer YES to most, then get it.

  • Joe Krepps

    Thanks, Darlene. That makes sense. I’ve heard the kit lens is “ok” but I haven’t had the chance to try something other than some old, all manual lenses from a friend’s Nikon FE film camera. Looking forward to getting better glass! 🙂

  • Myron Slabaugh

    I have a full frame, but I understand that smaller sensors have better depth of field at a given f-stop.The smallest sensors have amazing DOF.

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