When I first purchased my first DSLR like most people I purchased a crop sensor camera
I wanted to be sure I was really going to use that camera before investing even more. It was an affordable way for me to dip my toe in the water.
After I realized my obsession with photography was not simply fleeting I invested in my first full frame. I had already purchased a couple of lenses but it would have been really helpful had I understood then what this article explains now.
If you’re still feeling confused after reading this don’t be afraid to post your questions. I’m sure not only us here at Modern Lens will be willing to help you but, our community of readers is super helpful as well.
What is full frame?
‘Full frame’ is the term used to describe a camera with a sensor the same size as a 35mm film negative, measuring 36 x 24mm. Most DSLRs, however, use sensors measuring approximately 24 x 16mm.
This is close to the APS-C film format, which is why these are often referred to as ‘APS-C’ cameras. Nikon makes cameras in both sizes, but uses its own nomenclature. Its full frame cameras are ‘FX’ format, and its APS-C cameras as ‘DX’.
Originally almost all DSLRs used the smaller APS-C format. Sensor technology was in its infancy, and manufacturing large sensors was prohibitively expensive.
They’re still not cheap, but they are just about affordable.
Bigger is better
In the days of film photography, bigger negatives always produced better quality than smaller ones, and the same is true of digital sensors. Nikon’s full frame FX sensors are 1.5x wider than its DX sensors, with an area roughly 2.4x greater. This has an impact on the quality of the pictures.
In general, pictures taken on full frame cameras are sharper, with better fine detail, smoother tones, a wider range of tones and a greater sense of ‘depth’.
Lens loyalties with full frame
The other issue when swapping formats is lenses. Camera bodies come and go, but lenses are a long-term investment. The Nikon D50 you bought years ago may be obsolete but the lens that came will be just as good today as it was then.
Nikon started off making DX-format DSLRs and a whole range of DX-format lenses to go with them. If you do decide to upgrade to the full frame FX format you’ll almost certainly have to invest heavily in new lenses too.
You can use DX-format lenses on FX-format Nikons, but only in ‘crop’ mode. The camera restricts the sensor area to a DX-sized rectangle in the middle, and you don’t get the benefit of the sensor’s full resolution.
If you are considering moving to an FX camera in the future, start investing in FX-format lenses now because they’ll work on any DX-format Nikon DSLR in the meantime.
The following video is great for anyone who wants to see exactly what the differences between full-frame and crop sensor sizes are.
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Source: Digital Camera World