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Has anyone ever said to you, “That’s a nice photo, you must have an expensive camera!”?
According to photography legend Ansel Adams, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”
Your camera is simply a tool, that you use to create your vision of the scene in front of you. A camera can only do what you tell it, so it’s not going to capture that “nice photo” all by itself. But, what if the camera doesn’t perform up to your expectations? Then, it may be time for an upgrade.
I recently made the jump from a cropped-sensor camera to a full frame body (a Nikon D750, used in all the images below). For the purpose of this article I am not going to get into a technical discussion about the differences between a crop sensor (APS-C), and full frame camera (the main one being is that the full frame has a larger sensor, the size of a frame of 35mm film).
But how do you know if, and when, upgrading to a full frame camera is desirable? What follows are some points to consider if you’re on the fence.
So, how do you know if you are ready to make the jump to a full frame camera? Ask yourself these questions:
As mentioned above, the cost of buying a full frame camera is significantly more expensive than a crop sensor one, plus new lenses will most likely need to be purchased. There isn’t much use in changing to full frame if you are not going use high quantity lenses designed for full frame cameras. If you plan to make the jump to full frame, you may want to begin by upgrading lenses to those compatible with full frame DSLRs.
Full frames have advantages and disadvantages for different types of photography.
If you are a portrait or landscape shooter, there are many benefits that might convince you to make the switch to full frame.
Every camera has a limited number of shutter releases, so if your camera is nearing the end of its life cycle, it might be time to consider an upgrade. If your older crop sensor DSLR is limiting your results in low light, and you are constantly frustrated by high levels of noise, you might benefit from an upgrade to full frame.
Keep in mind that it’s convenient to blame a camera for taking poor images, but it may not be the camera holding you back. Many times photographers don’t get the results they expect by underutilizing high-end equipment. No matter what type of camera you shoot with, get to know it, and how all of its features work, before moving on to a different one.
A full frame camera is probably not the best one to use as a beginner. Start shooting with a more entry level DSLR, and work up to a full frame model. If you are looking for a camera to take photos of family and friends, a crop sensor DSLR is a very satisfactory choice. Having a good handle on the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) and how they work together is a must if you’re going to take advantage of all the benefits of full frame. You must be comfortable with shooting in manual mode. If you earn any part of your income from photography, you may benefit from switching to a full frame camera.
A full frame sensor has a larger pixel size, which will capture more light and detail, which results in sharper images that are conducive to making large prints. If you never make any prints larger than 8×10″, then a full frame DSLR may not be of benefit to you.
You may have heard this quote, “Skill in photography is acquired by practice, not by purchase.”
Do you need a full frame camera to capture great images? No, of course not! Most new crop sensor cameras on the market today are engineered to take beautiful images! But if you are an experienced photographer who makes money with your camera, you may gain an advantage by switching to full frame.
If you are thinking of upgrading from a crop sensor camera, be sure to consider the price, lens compatibility, and type of photography you do, before you make the change to full frame. Jumping to full frame can be quite a leap! But if you are ready for that big step, the results can be rewarding.
Are you ready to go full frame? Please leave your comments below.
Editor’s note: Wow this one has certainly sparked a rigorous discussion, thanks for all of your comments. This article shares our author’s personal experience and opinion, but we appreciate that there are many variables at play and many alternative points of view.