So, you’re new to the photography world and you hear everyone wants to upgrade to a Canon 5D mark ii or mark iii or the Nikon D700 or D800. Why? Because they’re full frame. If you were like me a few years ago hearing that full frame cameras are more expensive wouldn’t have meant anything to me except that they’re pricey.
So what’s full frame? Full frame compared to what…half frame?
When you’re speaking in camera full frame and cropped frame are referring to the size of the sensor on your camera. Your camera sensor is the most important part of your camera because it affects everything you do with that camera.
We have several kinds of cameras with sensors of different sizes, but rather than dive into the various sizes of cropped and full frame sensors we’re going to keep it simple. There are several different variations of cropped sensors depending on the brand of camera you use.
This means a few different things. Cropped frame and full frame cameras have very different capabilities and the difference in the sensor is what can determine a pro level camera from a starter camera. A good camera with a full frame sensor isn’t as limiting to what you’re able to do as a portrait photographer. A cropped frame can sometimes be limiting depending on what you are looking to do with it.
So here’s the outline.
Cropped Frame Sensor
- cheaper price tag
- body is smaller and weighs less
- using a cropped frame is similar t0 taking the middle of an image and disregarding the edges. You get a smaller view of the scene.
- The focal length of a lens on a cropped body can actually be slightly different depending on the size of the crop on the camera’s sensor. A 50mm lens may appear to be more like an 80mm lens in the field of view. The equivalent of a certain focal length on a full frame camera will be different on a cropped camera. A good rule of thumb is that you multiply your lens’ focal length by 1.6 to get the ‘effective field of view focal length’ on a cropped frame camera. Due to this distortion it’s often harder to shoot wide-angle shots with a cropped frame. It’s not actually changing the focal length of the lens, but a cropped sensor does change the effective field of view.
Full Frame Sensor
- overall better image quality
- great with high ISO performance = great low light quality
- easier to use with wide angle lenses
- body weighs more, is bigger, and more expensive
- easier to work in natural light because of higher ISO capabilities.
- Less noise or grain at a high ISO
- focal length of lenses is accurate and normal
- have higher megapixels
- The bigger sensor makes the shallow depth of field in lenses with an f-stop of 2.8 or lower more apparent
- If you compare two cameras with different size sensors, and the same amount of pixels, the pixels on a full frame camera are larger. This means that each pixel has a greater surface area for gathering light. The more light that is collected means the less amplification needs to be applied to the image by the camera in order to process it. The less need to have that amplification applied to all of your images, the less noise you will have in your photographs.
A lot of you ask me what a good starter camera is for your business. I’m a believer that you can take great photos with any camera, even your iPhone. However, I do think that having a camera that doesn’t limit your low light abilities is important for those looking to get into wedding and portrait photography.