full frame and crop camera

What Is Full Frame And Crop Camera?

A Simple Intro For Full Frame And Crop Camera

There is a lot of discussion on full frame and crop camera. This post would tell you the difference between full frame and crop camera in the simplest way. Full frame camera is different from other small/compact digital cameras. Their sensor size is bigger than cropped cameras. Cropped cameras are like your eye-glasses. The vision is clear only with in the frame of your eye-glasses. You can only see through the cropped frame of your specs. Full frame cameras are like contact lenses to your eyes. Contact lenses make vision much broader than eye-glasses. Nikon names its full cameras as FX and crop cameras as DX.

Sensor of Full Frame Camera:

Full Frame sensor size is equal to the 35mm film size. It was first introduced by Agfa in 1932 and Kodak in 1934. The film was 35mm wide. The standard frame size was 24mm x 36mm for still cameras. 24mm x 18mm became as half-frame film. The sensor size of DSLRs are known as 36mm x 24mm in today’s digital world. It has been designed as same 35mm film size. The 35mm sensor is bigger than APS-C sensor. But, It is smaller then medium and large format cameras. Medium (40.3mm x 53.7mm) and large format (102mm x 127mm) cameras are more expensive. They help you to get much larger prints for advertising shoots.

Sensor of Crop Camera Or APS-C Sensor:

APS-C is also an image sensor size. It is the short form of ‘Advanced Photo System – Classic’. APS was first introduced by Kodak in 1996. There were three formats in this Advanced Photo System:

  • High Definition format, 30.2mm x 16.7mm
  • Classic format, 25.1mm x 16.7mm
  • Panoramic,  30.2mm x 9.5mm

Now, cropped cameras have different APS-C (Classic) sensor sizes. These are smaller then 35mm (Full Frame) image format. Designing and manufacturing APS-C sensors are comparatively cheaper. That is why, There are so many choices in the market for cropped cameras. Camera manufacturers even design lenses dedicated to cropped cameras now.

Cropping Factor:

APS-C sensor is like your eye-glasses as I mentioned earlier. It crops the view out of the frame. This cropping factor makes a difference in the depth of the image and its quality. Nikon cameras have 1.5x and Canon cameras have 1.6x cropping factor. There is a rule for this cropping factor.

  • Nikkor 70mm – 200mm, f-2.8, F-mount, lens specifically designed for full frame becomes ( 70 x 1.5 =)105mm x ( 200 x 1.5 =) 300mm on cropped camera (APS-C).
  • Cropping factor does not apply to the lenses which are designed for APS-C sensor only.
  • There is an option to turn your full frame camera into crop camera. You can choose DX format through the camera setting on your FX format camera. In this case, the focal length of the lens will be multiplied by cropping factor.
Full Frame And Crop Camera

Focal length: 70mm, ISO: 1600, f/2.8, 1/320s, Image Format: FX (click on the image)

Full Frame And Crop Camera

This image was made with full frame camera by setting the camera on DX format. You can see the difference with same lens and focal length. Focal length: 70mm, ISO: 1600, f/2.8, 1/320s, Image Format: DX (click on the image)

Full Frame And Crop Camera

This image was made with full frame camera by setting the camera on DX format. You can see the difference with same lens and focal length. Focal length: 70mm, ISO: 1600, f/2.8, 1/320s (click on the image)

Nature of Full Frame Cameras:

  • Full frame cameras are capable to capture the wider view. That is why, these are the most sought after cameras by sports, landscape and wildlife photographers.
  • The sensor size is bigger than cropped cameras. This gives an advantage to absorb more light. Photographers can make photos with high ISO range. It helps them to use fast shutter speed. (Read here)
  • Full frame cameras produce low noise with high ISO range. The sensor of 35mm format absorbs more light.
  • They work perfectly well in low light situations. That is why, wedding photographers prefer to have full frame camera bodies in their kit.
  • One can get large prints because of their high resolution.
  • Viewfinder is more brighter and larger than crop camera.
  • Full frame cameras are highly expensive and heavy in weight.
  • Fast lenses for full frame cameras are not cheap, and demand more money for investment.

Nature of Crop Cameras:

  • Cropped cameras are cheaper. Manufacturing the APS-C sensor is more cost effective than 35 mm sensor. That is why, crop cameras have gained popularity in the recent years.
  • These days crop cameras come with high megapixel range. You get high definition images of day light.
  • Nikon’s F-mount lenses are interchangeable. F-mount lenses can be mounted on any nikon DX series’ cameras. Cropping is a science of zooming in into the image by cutting the edges. So, 200mm F-mount becomes 300mm on crop camera.
  • Lenses for DX series also come cheaper than FX series.
  • Crop cameras are good for wildlife, sports and landscape photography in daylight and cheaper too.
  • APS-C sensor does not perform well in low light situations because of its small size.
  • Wide angle lenses do not give the actual wide view of the scene on crop cameras because of small sensor size.

Conclusion:

  1. If you are into professional landscape or an architectural photography, you need to have a full frame camera. You will get better and broader view even in low light.
  2. You can buy crop cameras for not being into professional job of providing prints. Full frame cameras are helpful to get larger prints.
  3. As a hobbyists, you can buy a mid-range crop camera and one multi-purpose lens. (Read here)
  4. It is good to invest money in telephoto lenses by having a crop camera.

fullframecollage


I tried my best to explain this topic in the simplest and easiest way. In case of no clarity on the point of cropping factor, feel free to drop your query in the comment box. 

Siddharth Malkania

Siddharth Malkania is a journalism graduate. He studied photography at India's premier institute. Having worked as a photojournalist for two years, he traveled to Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam to brush up his skills of photography. Currently, He is a professional photographer based in New Delhi, India.

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