Crop Sensor vs Full Body

jargon busting

Feb 15, 2023

Welcome to the primary in our new sequence of jargon-busting posts, aimed toward these of you simply beginning out in your pictures journeys. On this sequence, we’ll be making an attempt to demystify some phrases that you simply’ll hear being bandied about in pictures circles that may depart you scratching your head.

These are ideas it’s going to assist you to to be aware of and which we’ll be explaining in broad phrases with the intention to develop a basic understanding, with out getting slowed down within the technicalities.

This time, we’re taking a look at what is supposed by “crop” and “full-frame” cameras, the variations, and why it issues.

The Normal Gist

  • For crop sensor cameras, you could multiply the lens focal size by round 1.5x to find out the equal size;
  • Crop sensor cameras and lenses are sometimes lighter and cheaper;
  • Full body cameras are typically higher in low gentle conditions and have higher dynamic vary;
  • You should use full body lenses on a crop digicam, however typically crop lenses received’t be appropriate with full body cameras, or could also be awkward to make use of;
  • You don’t want a full-frame digicam to be an expert photographer.

For those who’ve heard the phrases “crop” and “full-frame”, you could have already got an concept that they’re associated to your digicam’s sensor. However maintain your horses there, cowboy. What even is a sensor?

In broad phrases, the sensor is the digital equal of the movie that’s utilized in non-digital cameras. It’s the a part of your digicam’s internal workings that, when uncovered to gentle, converts that gentle into an image. Intelligent, huh?

Relying in your digicam’s make and mannequin, that sensor could also be a distinct measurement and form.

Let’s cue the harp music and fade the scene for a visit into the magical world of movie pictures…

Whether or not or not you’ve ever used a movie digicam your self, I’m positive you possibly can recall to mind what the movie really seems like:


? Craig Turner-Bullock

Every one in every of these rectangles pertains to one image, and is 35mm on the lengthy facet. There are some various kinds of movie for different makes use of, however for stills pictures, the 35mm movie is the usual and we nonetheless relate many issues in pictures again to this customary.

Coming again to the digital world with a bump, a full-frame sensor is just outlined as when the bodily measurement of the sensor in your digicam is strictly the identical measurement as a kind of body rectangles on the movie.

A full body sensor is the scale of a full 35mm body. Bought it? Easy!

However, a crop sensor digicam is the place the scale of the sensor is smaller than the scale of that 35mm movie body. It’s, fairly actually, cropped.

So, to recap, take a roll of movie. In case your sensor is similar measurement as a single body of that, it’s a “full-frame” digicam. If the sensor is smaller, it’s a “crop sensor” digicam.

Bought that? Fabulous. We will all go house now.


Nicely, who even cares?

What this implies in actual phrases on the most elementary degree is that there are a number of key variations. The primary pertains to the quantity of sunshine hitting the sensor.

Think about, if you’ll, placing a dinner plate and a facet plate out within the rain for ten seconds. I feel you’ll agree that the bigger dinner plate will accumulate extra drops of rain in the identical time than the facet plate. Equally, a bigger sensor will accumulate extra photons of sunshine than a smaller one will in the identical period of time. And, simply as extra raindrops imply extra water, extra photons imply extra gentle. So, a bigger sensor can accumulate extra gentle.

Which means, the whole lot else being equal, a full-frame digicam ought to be higher in low gentle conditions.

? Charlotte Reeves

RAW Picture: Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS @ 104mm, ISO 1250, 1/500 sec, ƒ/2.8

Check out this side-by-side comparability of a full-frame digicam and a crop sensor digicam. The settings have been chosen to be similar. Do you see that there’s a little bit extra grunginess or “noise” within the one on the fitting – the picture from the crop sensor digicam? This demonstrates that it’s not fairly pretty much as good because the full-frame digicam at managing gentle on this state of affairs. On this case, it’s nothing that may’t be cleaned up very simply in modifying software program, nevertheless it’s value noting that it’s going to develop into much more pronounced as the quantity of sunshine accessible decreases.

Cactuses could be pets too, proper?

Secondly, now we have one thing referred to as “dynamic vary”, which we’ll cowl in additional element in one other submit. That is the vary of brightest to darkest tones that may be captured earlier than we begin shedding element at one finish or the opposite. As canine photographers taking pictures in pure gentle, we are able to typically discover ourselves having to work with better dynamic vary than our cameras can seize (consider taking pictures a darkish canine in entrance of a vivid sky) and so a digicam with better dynamic vary can imply that we are able to recuperate element within the actually vivid and actually darkish bits.

A full-frame digicam typically has higher dynamic vary than a crop sensor.

After all, there’s much more element lurking inside a RAW file than the unedited model we initially see, so solely when edited does all this dynamic vary develop into seen.

? Charlotte Reeves

Canon EOS 1D X, Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS II @ 100mm, ISO 1250, 1/500 sec, ƒ/2.8 

Lastly, we come to one thing referred to as the “crop issue”.

You’ll most likely bear in mind that lenses are available in all types of various focal lengths. You’ll see speak of 50mm, 24-70mm, 135mm, and the ever-present 70-200mm, amongst many others. We’ll preserve the dialogue about focal lengths for an additional day, however for now, we’ll simply say that, in fundamental phrases, the smaller the quantity, the smaller your topic will look within the body when they’re on the similar distance away.

So if you wish to shoot one thing farther away, you typically need a longer focal size (greater quantity) to assist them look greater within the closing photograph.

These numbers, nonetheless, all relate to full-frame sensor dimensions. Line up 5 full-frame cameras in a line, every with a 200mm lens on them, and the topic would be the similar measurement in all of them.

Put a crop sensor digicam subsequent to them, with the exact same lens, nonetheless, and the topic will seem a lot greater.

Say what?

With out entering into the physics of all of it, suffice to say that, for a crop sensor digicam, any focal size might be magnified by about one and a half instances (typically 1.5x for Nikon and Sony, 1.6x for Canon) to provide the equal focal size for a full-frame digicam.

I’ll follow the one-and-a-half instances calculation for the remainder of the dialogue, however for Canon bear in mind it’s a smidge extra in case you’re being pedantic.

Which means a crop sensor digicam with a 200mm lens can have the identical attain as a full-frame digicam with a 300mm lens! For those who’re taking pictures far-off objects, that’s an enormous distinction!

Canon EOS R5 (full body) at 135mm

FujiFilm X-T3 (crop sensor) at 140mm – the topic seems a lot bigger within the body

FujiFilm X-T3 (crop sensor) at 95mm, provides equal focal size the identical because the full-frame 135mm.

After all, the identical holds true on the wider finish of the dimensions, so in case you like taking pictures with huge angle, then it’s important to have in mind {that a} 24mm lens immediately turns into 36mm on a crop sensor digicam, and you’re going to get much less of the topic distortion that’s ubiquitous with huge angle pet pictures.

Nonetheless, even while you have in mind the totally different focal lengths, if we examine two photos taken side-by-side with the identical equal focal size, you possibly can see that there are some refined variations. The photograph on the left was taken with a full body digicam at 100mm, and the one on the left is with a crop sensor digicam at 68mm. The crop issue signifies that the equal focal size of the one on the fitting is similar 100mm. Are you able to see that, despite the fact that all of the settings are the identical, the complete body picture has a creamier background? It’s not an enormous distinction, however in case you yearn for these silky-smooth backgrounds, it’s one thing else to have in mind.

Canon EOS R5 (full body) at 100mm

FujiFilm X-T3 (crop sensor) at 68mm

Some keyboard warriors can have you consider {that a} “skilled photographer” solely makes use of full-frame cameras and wouldn’t be seen lifeless with a crop sensor. This, like so lots of the polarizing statements you see on-line, is balderdash. Actually, there are a lot of individuals who make a residing from pictures (aka “skilled”) who use crop sensor cameras, and there are a lot of amateurs who use full-frame. And, while it’s true that the costlier cameras in a producer’s vary are typically full-frame, that doesn’t imply that crop sensor cameras are dangerous. 

What makes a crop sensor digicam higher than a full-frame digicam:

  • Often cheaper
  • Often lighter
  • Extra attain at longer focal lengths
  • Smaller file sizes

What makes a full-frame digicam higher than a crop sensor digicam:

  • Often higher in low gentle conditions
  • Higher dynamic vary
  • Wider subject of view

To complicate issues just a little extra, there are lenses made particularly for crop sensor cameras, in addition to full-frame lenses. We might be digging deeper into lenses in a future submit.

So briefly, full body lenses are typically higher constructed, typically have weather-sealing, and take sharper photos than crop lenses. They’re additionally much more costly and heavier!

Full body lenses can be utilized with crop sensor cameras, whereas, relying in your digicam system, it is probably not potential to make use of a crop lens on a full-frame physique or, in case you can, it’s important to change the settings in your digicam in order that it shows the proper info via your viewfinder, in any other case you could end up chopping bits off across the edges.

There is no such thing as a such factor as the very best digicam, solely the very best digicam for you, right now. That takes into consideration what forms of topic you wish to shoot, in what types of surroundings, what your funds is, and the way a lot weight you possibly can handle, in addition to who you’re taking pictures for.

Moreover, the know-how in mirrorless cameras is approaching so shortly now, that the hole between the newer crop sensor cameras and older full-frame cameras is changing into smaller and smaller.

For many individuals, this implies beginning out with a crop sensor digicam, including full body lenses when potential for the additional picture high quality they will provide, after which perhaps, if acceptable, making the change to full body in a while if you end up butting up in opposition to limitations together with your know-how. For those who by no means do, then that’s OK, it means your digicam is the fitting digicam for you! Not everybody wants full body!

Greater than the rest, understand that it’s not the digicam that makes the picture, it’s you, the photographer! Sure, gear is superior, nevertheless it at all times begins with you, your data of the basics of pictures and lightweight, understanding of your topic, and find out how to get probably the most out of the gear you might have.

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