Welcome to the Full frame vs. crop frame debate! It’s important to remember how many different ways we can shoot nowadays and that one format is not better than the other, just simply better suited for certain styles!
Lets first start with some background.
Back during times of Film photography, 35mm was the standard film size. When DSLR’s came about, the sensor that became used was much smaller than the one in film cameras until 2002 when a sensor was built of equal proportion to film cameras.
However, “full frame” is not really full. It is just the equivalent of the previous sensor standard so hypothetically a bigger sensor could be implemented. This would call for a new name for sensors.
If we’re being technical, a full frame sensor should really be called 35mm equivalent sensor and the crop frame should be referred to as an APS-C sized sensor.
So what are the advantages of using this kind of sensor?
Full frame cameras perform better in low-light situations; the reason behind this logical statement relies on the fact that they actually have more photosites, which allows them to capture more light and perform with less noise at high ISO values than common compact camera’s sensors. To think of working at ISO values nearing 12000 on nonfull-frame cameras may seem as an insanity, whereas for full frame models it’s actually a not so common adjustment for night photography.
In general, full frame cameras are way more expensive than cropped frame ones, along with their accessories. For putting this into a countable example, Nikon FX cameras are valued around 1.8x the value of DX cameras; the same comparison can be applied to Canon ones – also lenses and other accessories are that much expensive as they are considered cameras for professionals and not for amateur users. On the other hand, you can expect the viewfinder of these cameras to be brighter.
This brings us to the drawbacks of Full frame sensors.
Their higher cost effects lens availability. Most cropped sensor cameras will take a full frame lens but it doesn’t work like that vice versa. This means that inventory for full frame lenses isn’t as large as you can expect it to be. Therefore, you should take this into consideration, mostly if you aim to take a huge jump between an entry level DSLR to a Full Frame camera model.
Because the full frame sensor is bigger than the cropped frame, it affects the field of view. For photographers that need more zoom, the smaller sensor is the more compatible option.
Crop sensors open up a much larger variety of lenses that are often times smaller too making them more portable and ideal for certain types of shooting. If you’re a videographer, crop sensors are the way to go as they are much more conducive to moving images and rich videos.
Moving back to the previous point on lenses, imagine that you are a travel photographer – how much pricey is it going to be to be using a full frame camera + telephoto lens combo instead of working with a crop-based camera and a good, professional telephoto lens?. If you are on the budget, the answer is pretty obvious.
For the average consumer with a kit lens and a consumer grade body, stick to the crop sensor. For simple family pictures and a light camera to have around for events, a crop sensor will get the job done just fine. Camera companies have been really hard for many years to provide consumer level cameras that produce beautiful images which they absolutely do.
For working photographers and folks entering the professional arena, I encourage you to invest in a full frame. The image quality and wide angle options are necessary to make good photos deemed professional. If you like shooting with natural light and low light settings, again, a full frame camera is better because it has more photosites and noise reduction capabilities.