Photography

Full frame vs APS-C sensor cameras

What is the difference between the two most commonly used camera sensors? Let's find out which one is better at what in Full-frame vs APS-C sensor cameras.
Gaurav Achpalea
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What is Creative Life?
Creative Life is a series through which I share my knowledge about photography and videography skills. Both these crafts have become quintessential for people wanting to become digital content creators. The more you develop these skills the more you raise the production value of your digital content. This eventually could translate into producing quality content that has the potential of gaining traction and popularity with time.

Are you a complete newbie to digital photography on the lookout for your first digital camera? If you answered yes, you have very much reached the right place. Over the next few minutes, I am going to tell you exactly what is the major difference between entry-level APS-C sensor digital cameras and their pricier siblings that come equipped with a full-frame sensor.

Just in case you wanted to know all about different camera sensors, there will be a separate post for that. This post only deals with highlighting the difference between the two most commonly used camera sensors –  Full-frame sensors and APS-C sensors. A full-frame sensor refers to a sensor that is of the same size as a 35mm film i.e. 24mm x 36mm. Now because the film is the immediate predecessor to digital camera sensors and 35mm was the most widely used film, it has become the standard size to refer to in photography terms. The focal length and aperture sizes of most modern-day lenses hence remain truest when used in cameras equipped with a full-frame sensor.

The next closest camera sensor to 35mm film in terms of size is the APS-C sensor. An APS-C sensor is slightly smaller in size when compared to a full-frame sensor. However, these sensors render images with a crop factor that ranges between 1.5x to 1.7x crop, depending on the brand and model of the camera you are using. So let’s say that you are using a 50mm lens with a camera that has an APS-C sensor with a 1.5x crop factor. This translates to the focal range of the camera being altered by 1.5x; so the actual focal length is now 75mm as 1.5 x 50mm = 75mm.

There are other sensors like micro 4/3 and medium format sensors that professionals may use in order to get very specific commercial and/or artistic results. But if you are a beginner, you are less likely to pick up these as your first camera. This is because both, micro 4/3 and medium format cameras, score lower for all-round performance that is generally required by mass-market photographers.

So what exactly are the things that make full-frame and crop sensor cameras a popular choice among most photographers? Well, this is such a good question that it deserves a separate post in itself to answer it well. However, a very brief answer to it would be that it is a mix of contributing factors like lens choices, price range and ease of use.

Lastly, here’s a quick list of pros and cons to round up the Full Frame vs APS-C Sensor comparison.

Full Frame Sensor:

Pros:
No need to calculate focal length, etc.
Better image quality.
Better for compact spaces like packed streets, etc.
Better for wide-angle photography.
Better for shallow depth of field/bokeh.
Registers more light at any given aperture. (Compared to APS-C sensors)

Cons:
Expensive camera body.
Expensive lenses.
Heavier camera body.
Heavier lenses.

APS-C Sensor:

Pros:
Entry-level pricing for camera bodies.
Cheaper lenses in most brands.
Better for telephoto photography.
Lower weight camera bodies.
Lower weight lenses.

Cons:
Calculating crop factor to know the exact focal length.
Slightly lower quality images.
Less suitable for tight spaces due to crop factor.
Registers lesser light at any given aperture. (Compared to Full-frame sensors)

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