Full Frame Camera vs Crop – 2021 Comparison Guide

Andy
| Last Updated: April 24, 2021

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Getting the right camera to capture accurate images requires an adequate understanding of the different kinds of cameras available on the market.

A crop frame camera and full frame camera have very different sensor sizes to support different types of photography.

This article will compare full frame and crop frame cameras to help you decide which one will serve you better.

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What is a Full Frame Camera and What is it Used For?

A full frame camera is a camera with a bigger sensor, similar in dimensions to an analog 35mm film. The distinctive feature of a full frame sensor is its lack of crop factor or focal length multiplier. Instead, it uses a 35mm image sensor format to capture a wide-angle of view.  

A full frame camera has low pixel density. In other words, it has larger pixels spread over a larger area. Having a low pixel density makes it easier to capture more light, so it takes sharper photos with better dynamic range and less noise – especially in low light conditions. It is an excellent choice for low light or night photography.

While you may use it for leisurely or fun photography, it is more common in photojournalism. With a full frame camera, photographers can capture extra-large images that they can either print out or project digitally into large-sized images without losing image quality.

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What is a Crop Sensor Camera and What is it Used For?

A crop sensor camera is one that has a smaller sensor that is less than 35mm film frame size. The cropped sensor crops the edges of the frame to increase the focal length.

A photographer can use a long focal length crop sensor camera to capture a full-frame size image even for subjects that are far off. Due to the crop sensor multiplier that increases the focal length, the camera has a longer reach and is thus suitable for telephotography. Some of the key genres where crop sensor cameras are used include sports and wildlife photography where the photographer can't get too close to the subject.

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Similarities and Differences

Full frame DSLR cameras and the wide-angle lens style are rapidly gaining popularity. As digital camera technology advances, most photographers prefer using cameras with a larger sensor for high-resolution images. However, it is important to understand the differences and similarities between crop and full-frame cameras if you are to appreciate them better. Let's break down these differences and similarities for a deeper look into each.

Full Frame Camera and Crop Similarities

Image Sensor

Crop and full frame cameras have different sensor sizes to operate optimally. A full-frame camera uses a larger full frame image sensor. A crop sensor camera has a smaller sensor to enhance the effective focal length, so a cropped sensor camera can capture images with finesse even when the subject is far off compared to the position of the photographer. 

Circular Lens

Both crop and full frame cameras require a lens to determine the zoom factor. It is worth noting that a full frame lens can still work on crop sensor cameras. For better performance, a crop sensor camera has a variety of lenses to help alter the output to fit the desired image parameters. 

Rectangular Crop

Although both full frame and crop sensor cameras have circular lenses with a circular field of view, both end up with a rectangular crop of the image.

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Differences Between a Full Frame and a Crop Sensor

Camera Size

Full-frame cameras have larger sensors than crop sensor cameras. Large camera sensors require larger camera bodies to accommodate the increased sensor size. 

Cost

Crop sensors cameras come with a lower price tag compared to full frame. Since they use smaller sensors, they require a smaller housing structure and camera body. This results in lower production costs because fewer materials are used, which is reflected in the sale price. If you need something affordable, a crop sensor DSLR is a solid choice. 

Image Quality

A full frame camera allows you to take high-quality images under varying photography environments. Notably, full frame cameras excel when you are operating in low light. A full frame camera produces better images at night than crop cameras.

Distance

Distance is an aspect that affects the details of your image. In that regard, the crop sensor is the more suitable option.

However, you can still make the full frame camera better by putting the telephoto lens on the camera to enable you to capture more incredible details at a distance. 

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Field of View

Full frame cameras are an excellent option for capturing a wide field of view. You can only boost the performance of a crop sensor in this aspect by placing a wide-angle lens to get a wider field of view.

Why a Full Frame Camera is Better

A full frame camera has a higher resolution with a higher megapixel rating. The higher resolution allows the sensor to capture finer details. Again, a full frame camera can capture wider angles of view. 

Why is a Crop Sensor Camera Better?

A crop sensor camera has small sensors and as such, the whole camera is smaller compared to the full frame cameras. The smaller size allows for easier portability and helps reduce the cost. When paired with a fast lens, it gains more depth of field hence suitable for landscape photography

Top Pick Between Full Frame Camera and Crop

The buck for us stops with the full frame cameras. You do not have to struggle to get the right picture in dim light. The images are clean and sharp, allowing the user to get the correct impressions about the whole picture since the black and white portions are more elaborate.

Full Frame vs Crop Image Quality

Full frame cameras produce higher quality images than crop cameras. A full frame camera has better image quality since the field of view is wider and the camera works better at high ISO speeds. It is the more preferred option when you are doing architectural photography due to the wider angle.

On the contrary, the crop sensor provides lower image quality but is very useful in telephoto photography due to the crop factor multiplier that increases the focal length. It is ideal for shooting wildlife and sports.

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Conclusion

Both full frame cameras and crop cameras have their advantages and limitations. For better image quality, a full frame camera takes the lead. However, the crop sensor camera wins on costs. Depending on your preferences, you can use this information to make the right purchase decision according to your preferences, budget, and photography needs. 

People Also Ask

Different people usually have similar or related questions concerning these two types of cameras and how they function. This section seeks to provide answers to these questions to further help users have an easier time deciding which camera they should go for.

Do Professionals Use Crop Sensor Cameras?

Professionals across various photography genres like sports and wildlife photojournalism since with them can capture finer details of their subjects from a safe distance. This is especially important where the safety of both the photographer and the camera has to be guaranteed.

Is Full Frame Sharper than Crop?

Sharpness is what defines a full frame camera when it comes to image clarity. A full frame camera has an accurate focus to capture more image details to produce high-quality pictures without much effort. 

You can still get better images even if you are shooting your video at night or indoors in low light conditions. The camera has a better focus on the white and black aspects of the subject.

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Is a Full Frame Better for Low Light?

A full frame camera is good enough for use in low lights. It has larger pixels that enable it to capture more lights and produce high-quality images. It is more light-sensitive than a crop sensor camera. 

Do I Need a Full Frame Camera?

A full frame camera is a good choice to meet your needs. Such a product has a depth of field, which implies that you can draw more foreground and backgrounds into focus. If you are looking for better image quality and have no qualms about the higher cost, then you can go for a full frame camera.

Andy

Hi, I’m Andy. I’ve been taking pictures for just about as long as I’ve been old enough to hold a camera. I studied photography in community college after high school but was encouraged to follow a career path that was more stable. I do gigs here and there on the side but never took the leap to focus my efforts full-time. When Pam reached out to me through a mutual friend, I jumped on the opportunity to be a writer. Favorite type of photography: macro and street.