I still remember the first time I was in the market looking for a good camera that would help me kick start my photography career.
I thought cameras were easy to buy, to be honest, but boy was I wrong. The moment I started my research, I was welcomed by a flurry of options that confused the life out of me and to be honest, I did not know what to go for at that time.
The one thing that intrigued me the most was the full-frame cameras, to be honest. At that time, they were a lot more expensive than some of the other cameras, and for a beginner, I had no idea what a full-frame camera was.
It was only when I started researching what is a full-frame camera, I realized what I had been missing on. This is the reason I have brought you this definitive guide on full-frame cameras and why they are so great.
What Is A Full-Frame Camera?
Honestly, understanding a full-frame camera is not that difficult. Any camera that has a 35mm sensor is considered a full-frame camera, whether you are talking about SLR, DSLR, a mirrorless, or some other form of camera. The complete measurement of a full-frame camera is 35x24mm.
These cameras are comparatively more expensive than their crop sensor or APS-C sensor cameras and also the MFT cameras.
However, if you are looking to buy one of the full-frame cameras but are not in the mood to spend the extra money on it, you can always look for some of the entry-level options from Nikon, Canon, and Sony.
With that said, there is a sensor size that is bigger than the full-frame sensor, and that is called the medium format camera, but they are more on the commercial and industrial level of use.
If you are looking to pursue a professional photography career, getting a full-frame camera is more than okay for you as it is going to fulfill all the needs that you might have.
Just get a good lens to go along with it, and you are good to go.
How Does A Full-Frame Camera Work?
If you are wondering how a full-frame camera works. To be honest, it works the same way any other camera would work. But still, I am going to break it down for you. A full-frame DSLR consists of a mirror or a prism.
The light hits pass through the lens, hits the mirror, and is then directed towards the optical viewfinder. The optical viewfinder shows you the image that you are going to take.
The moment you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, allowing the light to hit the sensor, and the sensor captures the image and displays it on the screen of the camera.
If you are wondering about how full-frame mirrorless cameras work, they work on the same principle. However, you no longer have a mirror here.
So, the light passes through the lens, hits the sensor, and the sensor displays the image on the electronic viewfinder.
Whatever adjustments you make to the image in terms of exposure and other variables are reflected in real-time. This means that you get to see the image exactly how the camera will be taking it after all your settings are applied.
Rest assured, if you are looking to buy a full-frame camera, no matter which camera you are buying, it is going to work on the same principle.
The difference will only be whether there is a mirror or there is no mirror, and that is the only thing that you should be aware of.
Mirrorless cameras are preferred for modern-day use because they have become a lot more advanced and commonly available, too. So, if you do want to take some really good photos, you can always get a mirrorless and get started.
Common Features of Full Frame Cameras
Now, it might not seem like much, but full-frame cameras ship with more features as compared to their crop sensor counterparts.
That is because these cameras are often considered professional-level cameras, and these do have features that would be used by the pros.
I have listed some of the most common features that are found in full-frame cameras, but you might also come across these features in crop sensor cameras. So, you must be aware of this.
- Larger, more rugged bodies.
- In-body image stabilization (in some models)
- Better depth of field due to the larger sensor size.
- Higher megapixel count.
- Better performance at higher ISO.
These are some of the common features that are associated with full-frame cameras. If you are looking to buy one, these features could be there on them.
However, modern APS-C cameras are slowly catching up, and while the sensor size is still small, they do often have these features. Therefore, it is better that you are aware of these, to begin with, and that should solve most of the issues you might have.
The first thing that you should know is that when you are using a full-frame camera, the overall performance in terms of ISO is going to be better as compared to the crop-sensor cameras.
The reason behind that is simple, the larger sensor allows for more light to get through the lens and hit the sensor, and therefore, does not have to use a higher ISO in all conditions and most cases, even if you do go to a higher ISO, there is still enough light there that will compensate, and you will not be facing massive noise issues.
Just take a look at the Sony A7SIII, a camera that performs well even when you are going as high as 3,200 ISO or more. This has always been a testament to a good full-frame sensor.
Another thing that is good with a full-frame sensor is the image quality. Although photographers have been arguing that the size of the sensor does not make a difference to the image quality, but it does.
However, modern-day crop sensors have improved to a point that the difference can be negligible, at best.
But overall, there is a very specific look to the image quality of a full-frame sensor. Not only it looks different in terms of the framing, which is the obvious difference, but you are also looking at a different look and feel of the image.
It is sharper, with better separation between the background and foreground, and these factors do make a huge difference whenever you are taking a picture and, therefore, cannot be missed whenever you are looking to invest in a camera as it would make little to no difference.
Depth Of Field And Focal Length
One of the best things I love about a full-frame camera is the depth of field that it produces; it is a lot shallower, smoother, and consistent across the board, to the point that you get a really beautiful image.
Granted, people have argued against the depth of field that it is similar across all sensors, but that simply is not the case. A full-frame sensor will always give you a superior depth of field, and that is just a given.
As far as the focal length is concerned, a full-frame sensor does not have any magnification or has a magnification of 1.0x. This means that whatever the focal length of your lens is going to be, it will be the same as what the sensor will project.
So, a 50mm lens on a full-frame sensor will act like a 50mm, thanks to the fact that there is no multiplier or crop factor here.
This is great because you no longer have to worry about the crop factor whenever you are using a lens. It simply is not the case here.
Another thing about full-frame cameras that I enjoy is how wide-angle lenses look on them. I love wide-angle and ultra-wide angle lenses simply because they provide such a good view and perspective in urban and landscape photography.
Thanks to a full-frame camera, there is no crop factor involved, which means that if I am using a 16 or a 24mm lens, I am getting the true focal length, and it will result in some of the best-looking pictures, as well.
If you want to truly enjoy this experience, always go for a full-frame sensor camera, and I can assure you that you would thank me later.
Advantages Of Full-Frame Cameras
We have come far in this article talking about full-frame cameras, but I am not done. Full frame cameras are a lot more than just cameras with having the standard sized sensor as their performance is another thing that speaks for it.
Still, I am going to discuss some of the advantages of full-frame cameras. So, it is better that you are looking at these.
- One of the best parts about full-frame cameras is that you are not going to get any crop factor in your field of view. This means that your images will look like they are composed professionally, and you will not have to worry about the framing all that much.
- With a full-frame camera, you are getting access to better bokeh when you compare it to a crop sensor. You would still need to go with a good lens with a wide aperture, but overall, a full-frame camera is still a good option.
- Another benefit here is that full-frame cameras are excellent in low-light performance. Since the sensor is bigger, it can process more light. Which helps in better low light performance, and the effects of a higher ISO are also mitigated.
Disadvantages Of Full Frame Cameras
While I admit that the full-frame cameras should be an industry standard, another thing that you should know about these cameras is that they do have some downsides.
While these are never in the sense of how functional they are, it is better that you are looking at some downsides.
- Full frame cameras tend to be more expensive than crop sensors or MFT sensor cameras.
- These cameras are also heavier and bigger in terms of overall size.
Honestly, these are the two big disadvantages I think of whenever we are talking about full-frame cameras.
As I have been using one for as long as I can remember, and there have not been any issues in terms of the performance or composition of the images. Full frame cameras have been great in every sense of the way.
Reasons Why You Should Buy A Full-Frame Digital Camera
If you have made up your mind that you want to go with a camera, let it be a full-frame camera. Yes, that is the case even if you are looking to buy your first camera because it is always going to be better if you are investing in a more expensive camera.
You might be wondering about whether there are some convincing reasons behind a full-frame camera, and to be honest. There are a lot of reasons for you to go with a full-frame camera.
Still, I am mentioning some of the most common reasons why a full-frame camera makes more sense than any other offering that is available in the market.
For starters, once you do invest in a full-frame body, you will not have to stress over upgrading after some time. A full-frame camera can take you a long time, you just have to keep adding better lenses, and that is all you need.
A full-frame camera is also more suited for almost every use. Whether you are shooting videos or taking pictures, you can get great results from a full-frame body.
Another reason why you should be going for a full-frame camera is that you can use any lens there is without having to worry about the crop factor ever coming in the way of how you are trying to frame your shot. For instance, a 50mm lens on a crop sensor is almost 85mm, which is not that ideal.
If you are serious about getting a full-frame camera, and you need enough reasons to convince you, these should do the job just fine, and there will not be any issues either.
Full-Frame Vs. Crop-Sensor Cameras
Even though I have talked about this comparison being unfair at several points, the thing is that people still want to know that the money they are spending is worth the use they are going to get out of it and therefore, the comparisons between a full-frame and a crop sensor camera are made all the time.
Now, I do not think that there is anything wrong with these comparisons as people want to have choices, and it is better that you are giving them all the information there is so the right decision can be made.
As far as the decision is concerned, I would always favor a full-frame over a crop sensor, but for your convenience, I am going to take a further look at how things are going to be and how these cameras are different.
- The first point that goes in favour of a full-frame camera is the perspective that you are going to get in the image. Full frame cameras are great when you are talking about perspective because you are getting a much wider field of view even with a common lens like 50mm. The same cannot be said about a crop sensor.
- Full frame cameras are also great when you are looking at the factor such as the depth of field, as well as bokeh because the larger sensor gets the chance to get more light and that is utilized properly, and without any discrepancies.
- Full frame cameras are also more durable and often come with weather-sealed bodies. However, this feature has slowly made its way into the modern crop sensor cameras.
- Full frame cameras are also excellent in low light, thanks to a larger sensor handling more light.
When Do I Choose A Full-Frame Camera?
I have to be honest here. My first camera was a crop sensor camera, and while I used it as much as I could. The one thing that I did not like about the camera was how limiting it was, to begin with.
However, the good news is that the moment I shifted to the full-frame camera, I realized that you are getting access to something that genuinely is excellent in every way.
I choose a full-frame camera every day, whether you are talking about taking shots for my Instagram or covering professional shoots. A full-frame camera is always great in terms of performance.
Sure, you might be just starting, but the reason why I suggest you go for a full-frame camera is that you will not be looking at another expensive upgrade later down the road, and that upgrade will more or less cost you new lenses, too.
Using a full-frame camera is an experience in itself, and for a lot of people, this experience makes them adhere to full-frame cameras for a lot longer.
To be honest, that is how I prefer it too. At least you are getting a better overall image quality, as well as the overall experience in taking pictures or videos.
Sure, full-frame cameras require a higher commitment and a larger investment, but in most cases, you are to invest in a camera body once, and the moment you have taken care of it, you would not run into any issues that might be coming your way. It is not that technical and should work just fine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1- What is the benefit of a full-frame camera?
Answer: There are a lot of benefits of a full-frame camera. Mainly, you are getting a better, wider field of view. The pictures have more depth and separation between the subject, foreground, and background. There is more light entering the sensor, and low light performance is great too.
Q2- What is the difference between a full-frame camera and a DSLR?
Answer: Full frame cameras and DSLR cannot be compared because one is a type of camera while the other is the form factor of a sensor.
DSLR cameras can be full-frame or crop sensor cameras. The same is the case with mirrorless cameras that are available in the market.
Q3- What is the difference between full-frame and crop cameras?
Answer: The biggest difference between a full-frame camera and a crop camera is that the full-frame camera has a 1.0x crop, which means that the focal length on the lens will be reflected as it is. However, a crop sensor camera usually has a 1.5x or 1.6x crop factor, which means that the focal length on the camera gets multiplied by the crop factor.
Q4- Which is better APS C or full-frame?
Answer: In almost every use case that we are talking about, a full-frame camera is better than an APS-C camera in every way possible.
Q5- Are all film cameras full-frame?
Answer: No, there are different form factors available in even film cameras. But most filmmakers are not as concerned because there is a wide range of film or cine lenses available that better suit their needs.
Q6- Do full-frame cameras let in more light?
Answer: Yes, full-frame cameras have a larger sensor, and that allows for more light to enter the sensor. This results in better overall performance when you are shooting a video or taking pictures.
Q7- Why is full frame so expensive?
Answer: Full frame cameras are on the more expensive end mainly because of, the larger sensors, along with some of the other features.
The sensor size is usually the main reason for the price increase, and that is how it works, too. You can buy entry-level full-frame cameras, but even those are going to be comparatively expensive.