The Queen Photographers

Which is Better: Full Frame vs Crop Sensor

What is the difference between a DSLR camera with a full frame and one with a crop sensor? Which is better?

What are Full Frame and Crop Sensors?

Most beginner photographers start out with an entry level DSLR camera. Depending on what brand you choose, the Canon Rebel,  Nikon D3200, or comparable model shot your first photos.  These models are quality, cost-effective options for photography-enthusiasts and beginner photographers.  Both the Canon Rebel and Nikon D3200 models have a crop-sensor or APS-C (Advanced Photo System Type-C) sensor. What does this mean?

In short, the full frame sensor represents the standard size 35mm film camera. Formats larger than the standard 35mm include medium format and large format. Formats smaller than the 35mm are referred to as crop sensors.  What does this mean for your photos? Essentially, what you capture with a crop sensor camera will show a smaller area than that of one with a full frame sensor.

crop-factor

Image via Digital Photography School

Black – Full Frame
Red – 1.3x Crop Factor
Yellow – 1.5x Crop Factor
Green – 1.6x Crop Factor

If you’re interested in learning more about the technical specifics for crop and full frame sensor, check out this article by Digital Photography School.

In this post, we’ll highlight the differences between two Canon model cameras: Canon Rebel T3i and Canon 5D Mark III. The Canon Rebel T3i has a crop sensor, while the 5D MIII is full frame.

The Full Frame vs Crop Sensor Test

The Queen Photographers decided to perform our own experiment to test test the two. The “Nifty 50” 50mm f1.8 lens was used on both cameras. Secondly, both photographers were standing at the same position while shooting. Each shot was taken using the same relative focus points in the camera for reference. The Queen Photographers Co-Founder, Sierra Collins is our model.



queen-photographers-crop-87                                      queen-photographers-full-88

First shot:

queen-photographers-crop-88
queen-photographers-full-87

The first shot we took were both in the portrait orientation.  As you can see, the crop-sensor shot appears to be zoomed in a bit more than the full frame. This is due to the sensor being cropped in at a scale of 1.6x.

Second Shot:

queen-photographers-crop-89

queen-photographers-full-89

The second shot, in Landscape orientation reiterates the point above.  We see more of the scene provided in the shot with the full frame camera.

Which is Better?

It depends on what you shoot? Portrait photographers may want the flexibility of the full frame sensor to include more of the scene or include more details in a shot.  This isn’t to say that you cannot achieve this with a crop sensor; you’ll just have to adjust either yourself or your subject if the crop factor affects what you’re able to capture.  Ways to mitigate this would either be to invest in wider lenses, step back (provided you have the space to), or have your subject move.

Sports photographers may not be as bothered by the crop factor. Their job is to capture action shots, many of which are close-ups of the athletes. Having a crop sensor is an advantage in that case.  Sports photographers also use telephoto lenses instead of wide angle lenses. Some of the most compelling action shots are those that are up close and personal, capturing the raw emotion and sweat of the athlete.

So, you tell us. Now that you know the difference between a full frame and crop sensor, which is better for you?

 

 

 

Comments

  • Jeanette Brewster

    October 27, 2016

    I am still torn as to whether or not I want to move to a full frame camera. I have kind of built my photography style around the crop sensor. I typically shoot a lot of tighter shots and I am less drawn to wider angles. However as time goes on and as I grow it can be limiting because I want to be able to offer my clients a full variety of images. For now I will stick with the crop sensor but who knows one day I may upgrade. Thanks for sharing. Great information.

  • Denise

    October 29, 2016

    Currently on a crop sensor camera, but looking forward to adding a full frame camera to my work tools to experiment and build my style. Thanks for the article and explanations!

  • Destiny

    August 28, 2017

    What lenses did you use for this comparison? It looks like the crop photos are shot on a 50 and the full on a much wider lens.

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