Full Frame vs APS-C Cameras | What do you need?

Full-frame cameras feature a digital sensor that is equivalent to a 35 mm film. The full-frame format is the standard in still photography and these 35 mm sensors are getting a boost with the sudden development of mirrorless cameras in the market. An APS-C is the digital equivalent of Advanced Photo System type-C negative, with dimensions 25.1×16.7 mm. APS-C sensors are significantly smaller than full-frame sensors and are called crop sensors. Let’s compare full-frame vs APS-C cameras in detail.

Full Frame vs APS-C Cameras

A better understanding of the basic aspects of photography is required to understand the differences between the two formats. Let’s breakdown these topics bit by bit.

Sensor Size | Full Frame vs APS-C Cameras

The difference in sensor size is the most obvious difference between full-frame and APS-C sensors. But hows does it affect your photos? This is where the significance of crop factor comes in. A crop factor is the measure of the change in the angle of view with respect to a full-frame sensor. It is the ratio of the diagonal length of the sensor to the diagonal length of a 35-mm sensor. Therefore, the crop factor of a full-frame sensor is 1x. APS-C sensor size is different for different camera manufacturers. Nikon has APS-C DX-format which is larger than the APS-C format of Canon.

But how is this value significant at a practical level? Crop factor is also called focal length multiplier. The crop factor value of Nikon DX-format is 1.5x. So the field of view you’ll get with a 100mm lens on the APS-C camera will not be the same as the full-frame camera. Rather you’d get a focal length of 150mm on the APS-C camera with that same 100mm lens due to the crop factor of 1.5x (100 x 1.5x = 150mm)

The larger full-frame sensor allows the camera to capture more amount of light than an APS-C sensor with the same shutter speed. This in turn gives you more freedom to play with different aperture values as well. Full-frame format will be your best option if you are a professional photographer. But if you are a beginner and would like to understand the aspects of photography before moving to the big arena, going with an APS-C camera would not be a wrong choice. Keep in mind that APS-C cameras are much more affordable than full-frame cameras too.

Resolution

The next most important part after the sensor size is the size of pixels in a sensor. A larger full-frame sensor size allows adding more pixels than APS-C in the sensor to improve the resolution.

Dynamic Range and Tonal Contrast

A larger sensor adds to the dynamic range of the camera. Cameras with a full-frame sensor support a higher dynamic range (up to 15+ stops) than cameras with an APS-C sensor. This in effect produces wonderful tonal contrast between the black and white in your composition. The increased dynamic range allows creating exceptional HDR photos with your full-frame cameras. This is very useful in landscape photography or while shooting portraits.

Magnification Factor

We already discussed the crop factor earlier, and how it changes the effective focal length of the lens. However, it has an interesting positive effect while shooting telephoto in APS-C cameras. If a 150 mm lens has to be used while capturing a frame with a full-frame camera, you can shoot the same frame with just a 100 mm focal length with an ASP-C camera. This, in effect, will let your camera add a slight magnification factor without actually changing the focal length compression.

Cost and Accessories | Full Frame vs APS-C Cameras

Full-frame cameras are much more expensive than an APS-C camera. If you are a budding photographer and have to understand more about a camera, we would suggest that you buy a crop sensor (a.k.a APS-C) camera. After that, you can evaluate your needs and then go for the best mirrorless camera for yourself.

Both full-frame and APS-C cameras are available in the market for many years now and hence both formats have a large collection of lenses and accessories to choose from. However, if you already have a 35-mm film camera, you should buy a full-frame digital camera so that you can reuse the lenses from the old camera. This way, you should be able to save a lot of money.


Here are some examples of amazing full-frame mirrorless cameras you may go for:

Full-Frame Mirrorless CamerasReason to choose
Canon R5(Best & the only 8K mirrorless camera)
Sony a7S III(Best mirrorless camera for low light video shooting)
Sony a9 II(Best action-photography camera)
Best full-frame mirrorless cameras

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Adarsh R

A blend of a photographer, a movie lover, and now a writer.