Crop Sensor vs Full Frame Camera | The 3 Most Important Differences Explained

January 10, 2019

Hey, there! You must be sitting there wondering either 1) what kind of camera you have or 2) what kind you should get. I’m going to share with you the differences between a crop sensor and full frame camera and hopefully, answer the question you need answered.

  1. It can handle low-light situations with it’s ISO capabilities. The difference we love between a crop-sensor and full frame, aside from all its technicalities is the full frame’s ability to shoot in low light. This is the main difference that we adore about the full frame. Plus, I no longer have to cringe shooting at an ISO higher than 400 with my full frame. On my D3100 crop sensor camera, if I shot above ISO 400, my images would have so much “noise” and look grainy. With my full frame, I don’t hesitate to shoot at ISO 1600 or even ISO 3200, knowing my camera can easily produce sharp images with minimal noise. If need be, I can make a minor adjustment in Lightroom to compensate for slight grain if I’m shooting in a dark church at ISO 5,000. Yikes, that’s high! But like I said, I trust my full frame to perform well in any light.
  2. It will not crop your images like a crop sensor camera does. The sensor is cropping out the edges of the frame, which essentially is changing the focal length of your lens. What you see in your viewfinder in the full frame camera is what you are capturing. Think about it: if you’re shooting with a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera (a very common lens, wide enough to be comfortable and capture most everything—”nifty fifty”), it will crop your photo by 0.78x, making an image taken with a 50 mm focal length appear to actually have a 75 mm focal length.
  3. The price is greatly differently. Crop sensors are much more affordable, because they’re marketed to amateurs and produced cheaper.

Aside from these, it’s much more of a professional grade camera. These are two of the main reasons why I love my full frame and would recommend it to anyone. And purchasing the baseline full frame for either Canon or Nikon will be a HUGE leap from any crop sensor, so there’s no shame in that. We went from our D310 to our D610 and saw incredible differences in the 2 above factors I just explained.

However, I always get asked the question: what camera should I buy? And can you see how it’s SUCH a hard question to answer? Whether you’re a mom-tographer and hobbyist or amateur starting out, it really can differ greatly in its use and price range. Maybe this post will help you narrow it down.

I may have had 10 months experience learning on a crop-sensor, but I truly noticed a HUGE difference in my images after I got my full frame camera. I noticed that I gained confidence because of this difference, and I realized how beneficial these babies are.

So to you, we recommend first investing in your 50mm 1.8 and secondly a full frame camera. Unless you DON’T have a camera, and then I would say that’s a tough question!

Either 1) buy an inexpensive crop sensor, the nifty fifty and start gaining experience with inexpensive gear like we did or 2) if you’re financially-able and confident in the direction you’re headed, go for the full frame. Just know—after that investment, you’re committed. There’s nothing wrong with buying a crop-sensor to be financially-wise as you learn. The tortoise beats the hare.

Boom. It’s tough, and I honestly cringe every time a friend or photographer asks what camera they should buy first.  Hopefully, this can shed some light on why it’s difficult for me to answer.

I am very proud of my story and learning the ropes on a crop sensor, because we were wise with our investments, and it paid off tremendously. I know you can do the same too.

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Lindsay Davenport is a wedding photographer and industry educator based in Dallas and available for travel worldwide.

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