Cameras differ in many technical factors. And when choosing a suitable camera, several questions sharply rise at once: a DSLR or a mirrorless one? Full frame or crop? Or medium-format? Why are photographers chasing full-frame cameras? Let’s talk about this.
From the point of view of a professional photographer who earns money by shooting, full-frame cameras take precedence over DSLRs and cropped-matrix mirrorless cameras. They are many times more enduring, more technically savvy, and more beautifully blur the background in the portrait genre of photography. Does an amateur need a full-frame camera? Even if it’s advanced…
To begin with, we propose to understand the technical side of the issue. So, what is full-frame and crop in interchangeable lens cameras? Behind these terms are the physical dimensions of camera matrices:
- full frame – the starting point for defining the term “crop factor” was the size of a 35 mm film frame (24×36 mm); it is these reference dimensions that full-frame image sensors have; their crop factor is equal to one;
- APS-C – this is the name of matrices trimmed in the size grid, which are smaller than full-frame ones by a factor of 1.5x (or 1.6x in the case of Canon DSLRs );
- Micro 4/3 – half the image sensors compared to the full frame (17.3×13 mm); used aboard Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless cameras ;
- medium format – a special caste of professional tools mainly for studio and advertising photography; the dimensions of their matrices are even larger than those of full-frame cameras.
The size of the image sensor affects the ability to obtain a detailed image with minimal noise at high ISO values. This is explained simply – the larger the matrix, the better it absorbs light and “sees” more clearly in low-light conditions of the frame.
Check out Panasonic Vs Olympus Lenses for cameras.
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Why Full Frame Camera Is Better?
Let’s discuss why full-frame camera is better with detail:
Wide dynamic range.
DD determines the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of a photograph. And for full-frame cameras, it is often wider than for crop. As a result, a “knocked out” sky or impenetrable shadows will bother a photographer shooting on a full frame much less often.
Cameras with full-frame sensors reproduce color depth better and provide smooth halftone transitions.
Less depth of field (depth of field)
The depth of field of the frame directly depends on the focal length of the lens, its aperture ratio and the distance to the subject. Under equal conditions, crop optics are often “darker” and in order to get the same cropped image, you have to move away, which increases the distance to the focus object and increases the depth of field. And this leads to less blurring of the background. On a full frame, getting a spectacular background blur is much easier.
Convenient focal lengths of optics
The values of the equivalent and real focal lengths of lenses for full frame cameras are the same. But for non-full-frame cameras, it needs to be recalculated based on the crop factor multiplier. And the conditional fix of 24 mm on an APS-C format camera turns into 36 mm, which provides a completely different angle of view.
The non-obvious advantages of a full frame are associated with the positioning of full frames as flagship cameras. Accordingly, they use an advanced autofocus system, the case has dust and moisture protection (in the vast majority of assemblies), and paired “seats” for memory cards are provided.
Putting the entire available budget into the “carcass” of a full-frame camera is a useless undertaking if you don’t have at least a couple of really worthwhile lenses at your disposal. Not the usual “cheap” lenses that negate the improvements in full frame image quality, but good lenses. Top “glasses” with outstanding optical characteristics and high resolution are produced specifically for full-frame cameras. These are Canon’s Luxury series, Nikon’s gold ring lenses, and Sony’s flagship line of G-Master optics .
Only suitable lenses can be used with full-frame cameras. However, you will need to spend a lot of money to acquire them. On the other hand, “carcasses” with a crop matrix can freely use full-frame lenses – a cut-down image sensor crops the image in multiples of the crop factor (but part of the aperture is lost).
The price is the main deterrent and stumbling block if you want to get a camera with a full-frame matrix. Immodest cost increases the threshold for entry into the profession of a photographer. But in addition to the “carcass” of the camera, it is imperative to acquire the aforementioned interchangeable lenses, which also cost quite a lot.
Here we have prepared an article on Best Interchangeable Lens Cameras For Beginners.
What about cropped cameras?
The modern product line of cameras with APS-C and Micro 4/3 format matrices lays “older” full frames on the blades. Cropped cameras are equipped with fast and tenacious autofocus, and high-resolution viewfinders and their purchase does not hit your pocket so much. Take, for example, the notorious Fujifilm company, whose cameras are enjoyed by both enthusiasts and professional photographers. The range of the Japanese brand is dominated by mirrorless cameras with an APS-C image sensor. Or the “six thousandths” series of Sony cameras – universal tools for photo and video shooting.
The crop is preferred for its accessibility to a wide audience, compact size, and lightweight of the “carcasses” of cameras, the notorious interchangeable lenses (which also cost less). With “straight arms”, cropped cameras show exactly the same picture in night shooting from a tripod, in-studio photography with pulsed light, in nature, and while traveling. Full frame wins overcrop in portrait photography, reportage, and landscape photography, as well as in a narrow segment of astrophotography.
Is it worth buying a full-frame camera?
If the task is to buy the full-frame camera, then the difference in technical terms between an entry-level amateur camera and a full-frame camera is unlikely to be noticeable to a beginner. Investing in a full-frame makes sense for experienced photographers who know why and what they need it for.
The financial component also decides: there is only enough money for a budget crop – we take it without hesitation, the budget is unlimited – here an amateur photographer can buy a full-frame plus a fleet of lenses for it. But when the accumulated amount is enough for a full-frame camera and a budget lens or a cropped camera and a couple of good “glasses”, it’s probably better to follow path number 2. Especially if the camera is not taken for commercial shooting, but is intended to satisfy your own creative ambitions.
You should not expect that the quality of the picture will improve by multiple of the cost of the camera. For starters, it’s better to take a crop and learn how to shoot interesting shots. And only when you need the technical capabilities of a full-frame in the manner of wide dynamic range, high ISO, or spectacular bokeh, then you should think about a full-frame camera.