How to Choose Between Crop-Sensor and Full-Frame DSLRs

Posted on: 17 August 2015

If you're in the market for a new DSLR (or digital single-lens reflex camera), the various options can be a little overwhelming. DSLRs are becoming more affordable and accessible to amateurs and professionals alike. Many consumers end up buying a camera with a lot of features that they never use. On the other end, many customers choose a camera and then regret not having the capabilities of a more expensive model. One of the first things you need to decide is if you want a full-frame DSLR or one with a crop sensor.

What is a Crop Sensor?

Many of the more affordable DSLR cameras have a crop sensor. As the name implies, a crop-sensor DSLR crops a little bit of what the lens can see. For instance, a 50mm lens would be more like an 85mm lens when it is on a crop-sensor DSLR. These numbers are just an estimation because every manufacturer has different sensors (with varying degrees of crop). To be clear, the image is not enlarged or zoomed-in on. Rather, the sensor just doesn't take in everything that the lens sees.

The Perks of Full-Frame Sensors

The main advantages of a full-frame sensor is that your images are true. That is, they will produce images that are the exact size of the lens without cropping them. If you have a camera with a crop sensor, you will have to use your lenses very differently.

Generally, having a full-frame camera will also mean that you can enjoy better light metering, faster focusing, and superior image stabilization. Proponents of full-frame DSLRs also claim that they get much better colors and overall image quality. 

The Perks of Crop Sensors

The main perk of crop-sensor DSLRs is their affordability. They are also usually smaller and lighter (this is huge perk for travelers) than their full-frame counterparts. You might also find it beneficial to have a crop sensor because you can get a few extra millimeters of zoom out of your lenses.

If you are purchasing your first DSLR, you should feel confident that a crop-sensor camera will be a great place to start. You can use all the same high quality lenses as a full frame and familiarize yourself with the camera system. It is certainly a great route into full-frame DSLR photography, and many professionals have several cameras with a mixture of crop and full sensors because it gives them a little more flexibility.

If you need more help getting started with your new crop-sensor camera, speak with a professional photographer, like one from Moorman Photographics.