Why SERIOUS Photographers Should Go Big Or Go Home- Understanding Full Frame Cameras

Nikon D200

Professional photographer Karl Taylor does a fine job explaining the differences between full-frame and crop sensors.

If you’re unsure of what the benefits of the full-frame sensor would be, I’m sure this video will give you all the information you need.

 

About Johnny Yakubik

Johnny Yakubik is the Founder- Editor- Publisher- Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at Modern Lens Magazine. He's a professional family and portrait photographer living in Southern California. You can see some of his work at http://californiabeachphotography.com

106 comments

i don’t see any help in this article… he never explains how small sensor acts compared to a full frame… if u use a 50 mm lens in a full frame it will perform the same at the Dslr with a small sensor? useless

i don’t see any help in this article… he never explains how small sensor acts compared to a full frame… if u use a 50 mm lens in a full frame it will perform the same at the Dslr with a small sensor? useless

This article is not very good, and is contradictory. The author says you have to close down one stop on the full frame for same depth of field and then later lists better ISO performance in the Pros. If you need the same depth of field on a full frame sensor you don’t have better ISO performance because you have to increase the ISO by one stop.

I don’t agree with the author advising to buy full frame lenses. Some full frame lenses work very well on cropped sensors, but most of the time you will get best results using lenses for cropped sensors.

Take a look at this taken from DxoMark

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon on D7100 gets 17 Perceptual Megapixels of image sharpness (lens is for cropped sensor). Since you can open up one stop from lenses with same magnification on full frame you can still get a similar look in depth of field

Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Nikon on D610 gets 16 Perceptual Megapixels of image sharpness.

As you can see all the the pros mentioned about full frame just vanished when comparing good lenses. The two lenses were chosen as example because they are both top performing wide to medium zoom lenses. The equivalent focal length of the sigma on a full frame is 27-52mm. The victory in this comparison would go to the Tamron 24-70mm on the full frame because the lens gets similar overall results but has a little for reach.

This brings me to the biggest con for cropped sensors and that is the range of lenses offered specifically for cropped sensors that also have the same equivalent focal range. We also need to see more f2 zoom lenses designed for cropped sensors to get the same depth of field compared to the f2.8 options for full frame. This sounds like I am saying make more expensive and heavy glass for cropped sensors, but in theory it shouldn’t need to be this way. Lenses designed for cropped sensors are smaller and lighter since they don’t have to project an image to cover the larger sensor area. In theory you could make lenses one stop wider for a cropped sensor that both costs the same to make and has a similar weight. I think the Sigma lens I listed is a good example of this.

One big thing that has an impact on image sharpness is magnification and shutter speed. It would be less confusing for people if each lens has a magnification along with focal length. You shouldn’t need to calculate focal length equivalences, instead we need to know what the magnification is. A 35mm lens on an APSC sensor has the same magnification as a 50mm lens on a full frame sensor. In order to capture an image without camera shake you need to use the same shutter speed for the same magnification. If you find you need a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th of a second with a 50mm lens on a full frame camera you cannot use the same shutter speed with a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor or you will see a loss of image sharpness due to camera shake. For the same results you would need to use a lens with the same magnification and so on an APSC sensor you would be able to shoot at 1/60th of a second when using a 35mm lens.

Diffraction was also mentioned in this article. Understand that diffraction is relative to sensor size and aperture. On an APSC sensor at the same megapixel count as the full frame the lens may start to diffract at f8 when the full frame camera will start to diffract at f11. Let’s reinforce here that f8 on an APSC sensor will yield the same depth of field as f11 on a full frame sensor with the megapixel count.

Mathematically both APSC sensors and full frame sensors can get very similar results. I find practically though full frame sensors have the slight edge in image sharpness when shooting wide. Shooting wide the full frame gets a hair more detail, though this can only be seen at 100% viewing in a side by side comparison. Without comparing side by side you would have no idea the full frame sensor was any better. On the APSC sensor I love having extra reach with less weight. I shoot with a 135mm lens on my cropped sensor and love having a 200mm equivalent magnification on such a small lens.

I would love more high quality professional lenses to be manufactured for cropped sensors. Right now there are very few lenses that get incredible results but they do exist and overall you can get results that are just as good with cropped sensors. I always get fantastic results and no one would ever be able to tell it was shot with a cropped sensor.

This article is not very good, and is contradictory. The author says you have to close down one stop on the full frame for same depth of field and then later lists better ISO performance in the Pros. If you need the same depth of field on a full frame sensor you don’t have better ISO performance because you have to increase the ISO by one stop.

I don’t agree with the author advising to buy full frame lenses. Some full frame lenses work very well on cropped sensors, but most of the time you will get best results using lenses for cropped sensors.

Take a look at this taken from DxoMark

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon on D7100 gets 17 Perceptual Megapixels of image sharpness (lens is for cropped sensor). Since you can open up one stop from lenses with same magnification on full frame you can still get a similar look in depth of field

Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Nikon on D610 gets 16 Perceptual Megapixels of image sharpness.

As you can see all the the pros mentioned about full frame just vanished when comparing good lenses. The two lenses were chosen as example because they are both top performing wide to medium zoom lenses. The equivalent focal length of the sigma on a full frame is 27-52mm. The victory in this comparison would go to the Tamron 24-70mm on the full frame because the lens gets similar overall results but has a little for reach.

This brings me to the biggest con for cropped sensors and that is the range of lenses offered specifically for cropped sensors that also have the same equivalent focal range. We also need to see more f2 zoom lenses designed for cropped sensors to get the same depth of field compared to the f2.8 options for full frame. This sounds like I am saying make more expensive and heavy glass for cropped sensors, but in theory it shouldn’t need to be this way. Lenses designed for cropped sensors are smaller and lighter since they don’t have to project an image to cover the larger sensor area. In theory you could make lenses one stop wider for a cropped sensor that both costs the same to make and has a similar weight. I think the Sigma lens I listed is a good example of this.

One big thing that has an impact on image sharpness is magnification and shutter speed. It would be less confusing for people if each lens has a magnification along with focal length. You shouldn’t need to calculate focal length equivalences, instead we need to know what the magnification is. A 35mm lens on an APSC sensor has the same magnification as a 50mm lens on a full frame sensor. In order to capture an image without camera shake you need to use the same shutter speed for the same magnification. If you find you need a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th of a second with a 50mm lens on a full frame camera you cannot use the same shutter speed with a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor or you will see a loss of image sharpness due to camera shake. For the same results you would need to use a lens with the same magnification and so on an APSC sensor you would be able to shoot at 1/60th of a second when using a 35mm lens.

Diffraction was also mentioned in this article. Understand that diffraction is relative to sensor size and aperture. On an APSC sensor at the same megapixel count as the full frame the lens may start to diffract at f8 when the full frame camera will start to diffract at f11. Let’s reinforce here that f8 on an APSC sensor will yield the same depth of field as f11 on a full frame sensor with the megapixel count.

Mathematically both APSC sensors and full frame sensors can get very similar results. I find practically though full frame sensors have the slight edge in image sharpness when shooting wide. Shooting wide the full frame gets a hair more detail, though this can only be seen at 100% viewing in a side by side comparison. Without comparing side by side you would have no idea the full frame sensor was any better. On the APSC sensor I love having extra reach with less weight. I shoot with a 135mm lens on my cropped sensor and love having a 200mm equivalent magnification on such a small lens.

I would love more high quality professional lenses to be manufactured for cropped sensors. Right now there are very few lenses that get incredible results but they do exist and overall you can get results that are just as good with cropped sensors. I always get fantastic results and no one would ever be able to tell it was shot with a cropped sensor.

I love this. Ten years ago Nikon went DX and convinced us to sell off our old 35mm lenses. Now they want us to buy them all back (FX) and spend a premium on “full frame” bodies. I’ll pass.

I love this. Ten years ago Nikon went DX and convinced us to sell off our old 35mm lenses. Now they want us to buy them all back (FX) and spend a premium on “full frame” bodies. I’ll pass.

I can’t fathom why people don’t buy themselves the Honeywell Pentax bodies for peanuts off eBay, as cheap as ten to thirty bucks; and buy a fast prime super takumar 50mm 8-element lens for under $150…makes no damn sense…

Some of the “cons” in this article are the exact reason I (as a SERIOUS photographer) choose to use an APS-C format camera for sports and photojournalism. Not a good article coming from what i thought was a professional publication. Actually, sounded more like a Nikon commercial.

Some of the “cons” in this article are the exact reason I (as a SERIOUS photographer) choose to use an APS-C format camera for sports and photojournalism. Not a good article coming from what i thought was a professional publication. Actually, sounded more like a Nikon commercial.

Well, being a full-frame shooter for all of a little over a week, now, I’ll have to read this to see if I was smarter than I look. lol. Seriously noticing a huge difference.

Well, being a full-frame shooter for all of a little over a week, now, I’ll have to read this to see if I was smarter than I look. lol. Seriously noticing a huge difference.

My photos and my clients are what make me serious and professional, not the size of my sensor.

Typical arrogant, self-serving BS of a headline. There are SERIOUS photographers for whom full frame is NOT the best solution, think of wildlife photographers for example. Not saying full frame bodies are not great (I own two), but I pick the best body/format for what I’m shooting, not what someone tells me makes me “serious” or “professional”.

My photos and my clients are what make me serious and professional, not the size of my sensor.

Typical arrogant, self-serving BS of a headline. There are SERIOUS photographers for whom full frame is NOT the best solution, think of wildlife photographers for example. Not saying full frame bodies are not great (I own two), but I pick the best body/format for what I’m shooting, not what someone tells me makes me “serious” or “professional”.

The problem these day is the cost of these high end cameras, When the Nikon F2 (that’s a film camera) came out, I purchased one without having to mortgage the house. That’s not the case anymore.

The problem these day is the cost of these high end cameras, When the Nikon F2 (that’s a film camera) came out, I purchased one without having to mortgage the house. That’s not the case anymore.

This is ridiculous. A typical attempt by manufacturers to drive people to spend more money. Its all about seeing, not how big your sensor is. Two years from now they will be telling everyone that their images are crap unless they are shooting with a 90 MB sensor. This kind of marketing exercise should be ignored.

This is ridiculous. A typical attempt by manufacturers to drive people to spend more money. Its all about seeing, not how big your sensor is. Two years from now they will be telling everyone that their images are crap unless they are shooting with a 90 MB sensor. This kind of marketing exercise should be ignored.

Having been a professional photographer for almost 30 years, I’ve used Nikon, Hasselblad, Mamiya & Graflex 4×5 up until current digital SLR’s. All my 25 Nikkor lenses still work on my D60. I think what really matters here is …what output will you be using or needing? Internet uses 72dpi while many very good printing systems use 300dpi or something close to that. I can make a great 16×20 from a 6mp file so 10 or 12mp gives you cropping power. Currently, 14 or 18mp is more common and yes full frame will produce a file that has more well, everything than DX ever could. Do you need that resolution for your end product or will it get bottle necked down in the process & use up far more media space than is necessary? Yes, FX beats DX hands down but do you need to drive your kids two blocks to school in Ferrari? Some will be impressed but most will call it overkill. Just sayin’

Having been a professional photographer for almost 30 years, I’ve used Nikon, Hasselblad, Mamiya & Graflex 4×5 up until current digital SLR’s. All my 25 Nikkor lenses still work on my D60. I think what really matters here is …what output will you be using or needing? Internet uses 72dpi while many very good printing systems use 300dpi or something close to that. I can make a great 16×20 from a 6mp file so 10 or 12mp gives you cropping power. Currently, 14 or 18mp is more common and yes full frame will produce a file that has more well, everything than DX ever could. Do you need that resolution for your end product or will it get bottle necked down in the process & use up far more media space than is necessary? Yes, FX beats DX hands down but do you need to drive your kids two blocks to school in Ferrari? Some will be impressed but most will call it overkill. Just sayin’

I was really hoping to to hear some great insight, or hear some great technical expertise to backup the authors point other than “generally your pictures will be sharper” and “lenses designed for a full frame will work on a crop sensor” which is about as technical as it got (outside of the measurements of the sensor).

I was really hoping to to hear some great insight, or hear some great technical expertise to backup the authors point other than “generally your pictures will be sharper” and “lenses designed for a full frame will work on a crop sensor” which is about as technical as it got (outside of the measurements of the sensor).

Forget about a newer and better camera. Put the money into making you better with what you have. An iPhone in the hands of a good photographer can probably outshoot what most of these people telling you to buy the latest could ever hope to produce.

Forget about a newer and better camera. Put the money into making you better with what you have. An iPhone in the hands of a good photographer can probably outshoot what most of these people telling you to buy the latest could ever hope to produce.

PLEASE, i enjoy photography as a hobby, the ONLY way i would make the switch is if I were making a LIVING at this. I have sold a few pics over the years, but that kind of investment is not worth it right now.

PLEASE, i enjoy photography as a hobby, the ONLY way i would make the switch is if I were making a LIVING at this. I have sold a few pics over the years, but that kind of investment is not worth it right now.

my thought on full frame ,,,,way too much money for me …..better wide angle lens shots , ya need a wider angle lens on a crop senor to get the same image , ya get a greater long lens shot with crop sensor ya multiply the lens by 1.5 or 1.6 depending on canon or Nikon

my thought on full frame ,,,,way too much money for me …..better wide angle lens shots , ya need a wider angle lens on a crop senor to get the same image , ya get a greater long lens shot with crop sensor ya multiply the lens by 1.5 or 1.6 depending on canon or Nikon

It’s interesting that they display a non-full-frame camera in an article about full-frames. The D200 is a DX, 1.5 crop factor!

The article is wrong too. I have a full-frame Nikon and a DX. Just bought a mirrorless micro 4/3. The output is wonderful.

It’s interesting that they display a non-full-frame camera in an article about full-frames. The D200 is a DX, 1.5 crop factor!

The article is wrong too. I have a full-frame Nikon and a DX. Just bought a mirrorless micro 4/3. The output is wonderful.

So based on this theory, everyone using FF should just go home too, because you could buy a 645z medium format? I use my 645z for landscapes. Using my 7d2 over my 5d3 for the extra reach/speed shooting birds/animals is a mistake? Use the best camera/lens combo for the job.

So based on this theory, everyone using FF should just go home too, because you could buy a 645z medium format? I use my 645z for landscapes. Using my 7d2 over my 5d3 for the extra reach/speed shooting birds/animals is a mistake? Use the best camera/lens combo for the job.

Pretty much the worst article ever written on the advantages of full frame! Yes there are advantages and reasons for shooting full frame To bad the author was too lazy to do any real research or write an article that might be usefully to people who might be considering full frame instead writing an article full of worthless and meaningless statements.

Pretty much the worst article ever written on the advantages of full frame! Yes there are advantages and reasons for shooting full frame To bad the author was too lazy to do any real research or write an article that might be usefully to people who might be considering full frame instead writing an article full of worthless and meaningless statements.

I’ve shot both and there are some benefits to FF over Crop Sensor. In an effort to find the redeeming value in Crop Sensor, I sold my entire Canon gear (5D MK II and an assortment of L lenses) to dive into the world of crop sensor mirrorless with the Sony A6000 (yes not the A7s II). It was a major leap of faith and sometimes I do regret it. When it comes to low light it’s hard to beat FF. There is just more clarity in Milky Way shots with my 5D MK II over the Sony A6000. Ironically though I shoot indoor portraits as well and found the Sony A6000 with the Zeiss 16-70mm to be just as sharp as the Canon 24-105mm L (both have the same focal range when you apply the 1.5 crop factor on the Sony). Ultimately I plan on going back to FF with the Sony A7s II as it takes some messing with aperture and ISO to obtain the same results with a crop sensor as opposed to FF. It really comes down to what you shoot. If you’re doing sports photography, it’s hard to beat the Sony A6000’s very quick 179 point auto focus and 11fps shooting. But if you’re into bokeh and absolute clarity on low light such as wedding ceremony (where flash is prohibited) or astrophotography, then it’s all FF. You could probably obtain similar bokeh with a crop sensor and a huge fast lens such as a decent 1.4 Sigma Art 35 or 50mm for portrait work, but I found with a FF even a rediculously cheap USM EF lens such as the older film type EF 24-85mm USM lens can obtain remarkably sharp images with a FF. The Sony A6000 could obtain sharp portraits but only when using expensive glass such as the Sony-Tessar 16-70mm Zeiss. The big advantage to Sony was that you could get that package for about $1500. Probably cheaper now that the A6000 has dropped to about $400 body only as of this posting. Can’t wait to try the Sony A7s II as I’m becoming dedicated Sony.

I’ve shot both and there are some benefits to FF over Crop Sensor. In an effort to find the redeeming value in Crop Sensor, I sold my entire Canon gear (5D MK II and an assortment of L lenses) to dive into the world of crop sensor mirrorless with the Sony A6000 (yes not the A7s II). It was a major leap of faith and sometimes I do regret it. When it comes to low light it’s hard to beat FF. There is just more clarity in Milky Way shots with my 5D MK II over the Sony A6000. Ironically though I shoot indoor portraits as well and found the Sony A6000 with the Zeiss 16-70mm to be just as sharp as the Canon 24-105mm L (both have the same focal range when you apply the 1.5 crop factor on the Sony). Ultimately I plan on going back to FF with the Sony A7s II as it takes some messing with aperture and ISO to obtain the same results with a crop sensor as opposed to FF. It really comes down to what you shoot. If you’re doing sports photography, it’s hard to beat the Sony A6000’s very quick 179 point auto focus and 11fps shooting. But if you’re into bokeh and absolute clarity on low light such as wedding ceremony (where flash is prohibited) or astrophotography, then it’s all FF. You could probably obtain similar bokeh with a crop sensor and a huge fast lens such as a decent 1.4 Sigma Art 35 or 50mm for portrait work, but I found with a FF even a rediculously cheap USM EF lens such as the older film type EF 24-85mm USM lens can obtain remarkably sharp images with a FF. The Sony A6000 could obtain sharp portraits but only when using expensive glass such as the Sony-Tessar 16-70mm Zeiss. The big advantage to Sony was that you could get that package for about $1500. Probably cheaper now that the A6000 has dropped to about $400 body only as of this posting. Can’t wait to try the Sony A7s II as I’m becoming dedicated Sony.

So this Johnny dude writes his article on his little blog and pays FB to “sponsor” it… Then, he turns around and says him self that this is “the best article!!! Are you kidding me? Article is so wrong, I won’t even try to analyze it… Does he get payed by number of (negative) responses?

So this Johnny dude writes his article on his little blog and pays FB to “sponsor” it… Then, he turns around and says him self that this is “the best article!!! Are you kidding me? Article is so wrong, I won’t even try to analyze it… Does he get payed by number of (negative) responses?

it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it. i have friends that call themselves pro’s and couldn’t take a good photo no matter what they used. I understand the need for a larger sensor if it is absolutely necessary. i do enjoy the looks i get when using mirrorless and when i get my Sony A7R2 i guess the BIG GUYS might even talk to me. Can’t wait, i feel so alone.

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