Full Frame vs. Cropped Sensor DSLR Cameras

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Full Frame vs. Cropped Sensor DSLR Cameras

When in the market for a digital SLR camera, many buyers know that the selection is immense. In addition to brands and their associated accessories, like lenses, different levels and price points of DSLR cameras offer a variety of features that can be hard to keep straight. One important choice that buyers must make is between buying a full frame or a cropped sensor camera. However, before doing so it is important to understand what those terms mean and the advantages of each type of digital camera.


Understanding the 'full frame' sensor

To understand the concept of a "cropped" frame sensor, it is important to review the history of SLR cameras and the concept of "full frame". Before digital photography came about, SLR cameras almost universally accepted 35mm film as the standard. As such, the sensor within each camera was approximately 24mm by 35mm in size to accommodate the film.

However, once digital photography developed, the lack of film allowed manufacturers to reduce sensor size and weight, and thus camera size and weight, for more portability. This led to the development of "cropped" or APS-C camera sensors inside of smaller, entry-level DSLR camera models. While this reduced sensor size helps to reduce camera size and increase portability, it also directly affects the operation of the camera, specifically the focal length of its lenses and a concept called crop factor.

Crop factor explained

Camera manufacturers offer different APS-C sensor sizes, which result in different effects on each photo's "crop factor", or field of view through a particular lens. Since the sensor is smaller, so is the frame of the photograph relative to the size of the lens. How much smaller the frame is depends on the sensor size, which is described as a multiple of the 35mm full frame standard.

Common cropped sensor sizes

Most camera manufacturers offer different sizes of APS-C sensors. Nikon, for example, offers DSLR cameras in two different sensor sizes: FX or full frame and DX, a 1.5x smaller frame. Canon, on the other hand, offers APS-C sensors in 1.3x and 1.6x sizes and Olympus even offers a 2x size.


Advantages of a full frame vs. cropped sensor DSLR camera

While the physical differences between a full frame DSLR vs. a cropped sensor DSLR are easy enough to explain, the changes that they make in the operation of a particular camera model are much more complex. In general, almost all entry and intermediate-level DSLR models are cropped sensor cameras, with only high level and professional DSLRs and traditional SLR film cameras offering full frame sensors. However, there are particular advantages to both systems.

Advantages of a full frame DSLR camera

Its association with professional photography is no coincidence. Full frame DSLR cameras provide superior image quality over cropped sensors, which include a broader dynamic range, better performance in low light situations, and a wide-angle view. For this reason, the full frame option is popular in architectural photography where tilt is incredibly important.

Another important difference between the full frame and cropped sensor DSLR is the shallower depth of field that the full frame provides. The full frame sensor requires a longer focal length lens to capture the same field of view as a cropped sensor. As a result, the full frame camera, when used at the same settings as a cropped sensor camera, produces more bokeh, or aesthetic blur, than the cropped sensor camera.

Advantages of a cropped sensor DSLR camera

The advantages of using a cropped sensor DSLR camera are clear. First and foremost, because this class of camera represents entry and introductory-level models, it is less expensive than full frame options.

Cropped sensor DSLR cameras are quite effective when shooting telephoto scenes. This is because their smaller frame actually allows for a greater effective reach from the same telephoto lens. As a result, cropped sensor cameras have become popular in the fields of nature and sport photography as well as certain niches of photojournalism.


How to buy DSLR cameras on eBay

Buying a DSLR camera on eBay is an easy way to save time and money, whether you are looking for a full frame or cropped sensor option. The reliable sellers on the site offer new, used, and refurbished models as well as DSLR bundles, which include key accessories such as lenses, carrying bags, and tripods. Simply begin a search from any page of the site using the general search bar and then narrow options according to filters such as price, brand, and condition of each item.

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