I have both. The Sony A7 is a great full frame, better in low light, faster and allows more flexibility in cropping than my Panny m4/3s but I also love these crop sensor cameras since they are so light in comparison and the lens reach is astounding (since it's x2).
In the end it's personal; choice and depends on what you are photographing, IMHO.
@Wendell Kennedy Physics is physics and a full sensor will produce a better file every time. A full-frame sensor will provide a broader dynamic range and better low light/high ISO performance yielding a higher quality image than a crop sensor. The crop senor main benefit is cost, weight, and reach.
I have held off getting a lens for my crop sensor because of the advantages of a full frame. Now waiting for Sony prices to come down, buying used because I want good lenses. A lot to be said for better ISO - makes it so much easier to get good images without having to make adjustments with the light meter and ISO range. Editing becomes less of a hassle, images are sharper with more light and as mentioned less noise.
oh and you get a much better zoom ratio with a crop. so your long is 300, on a crop its like 450 or something. but then it kills your wide. its probably why journalists carry one of each so they can get the reach and the width, if they don't mind head separation from the straps.
"The crop sensor main benefit is cost, weight, and reach."
And those are extremely important considerations! I was just talking to a fellow professional photographer and he says he has no intention of ever getting a full frame. Like me he is heavily invested in Nikon cameras and APS-C and FF lenses. Sure the would be great for his travel photos to places like Iceland. But he also does a lot of Real Estate and water sports as well as birds. Who really cares about dynamic range when you are doing HDR blends. And with todays noise reduction programs noise is much less of a problem than just a few years ago.
I recently bought my first FF Nikon. A refurbished D 610. Now I can go and build up my FF lens collection right? Not really. A lot of my commercial work requires me to work fast and that means handheld. The fast and sharp FF lenses are missing an essential feature. That is image stabilization. I just don't have the time to set up and adjust a boom tripod on my food shoots. An F/2.8 lens is not much of a help if you need f/5.6 or f/8. For an online menu how much quality do you really need? Same for Real Estate photos that will be mostly viewed as a small file. The main reason I have the 610 is just to say I have it when a client asks. On the rare occasion I do a wedding it gets a lot of use, but so does my crop frame.
I find it nice to sometimes mount my long lenses on the 610 when I don't need as much magnification. Like when I am shooting ships. I appreciate the dynamic range. I also like that with 2 bodies I get more flexibility with my prime lenses. For example when I am out shooting nature I put my long lens on the crop frame and the my 105 macro on the D610. That way if there is a flower or an animal track I am set up.
Now If I ever can afford the Nikon mirrorless lenses I can start buying more FF lenses. The image stabilization is in the camera not the lens. It's not just the cost it is the return on investment. I established the rule that camera gear must pay for itself or it is not a wise investment. I tend to buy Nikon refurbished gear or used and occasionally new. Except in rare cases I am not going to make more using a FF lens. I would say for someone that does mainly landscapes and does not use HDR, then the FF is a better choice. Of courser FF lenses are always better, but the work on crop frame cameras too.
Of course I would never give up my crop frame camera even when I eventually go FF mirrorless. It gives better reach to my long lenses and a 400 is a lot easier to carry then a 600mm lens.
So you see it is not such a simple decision. And the parameters are not the same for every brand.
I did everything with APS-C until late in 2018 when I bought a Z6. It's great, has some powerful features that I use. But after taking the Z50 on a couple of trips, I realized its image quality is so good that I can't see any significant difference, except in very low light. I've done some of my best photos with it.
If you want to shoot at night, on the street, then yes the Z6 is da bomb.
It's all about dimensions. Bigger pixel count means bigger prints means higher prices means more money...
Cropping is a one way street as well... Crop cameras are not much smaller than full frame. Maybe the real debate should be mirrorless vs SLR... IBIS has me getting interested in mirrorless.
I do not have a full frame camera. My stable includes an old Nikon DSLR at 23 MP, an Olympus Micro Four Thirds at 16 MP and an iPhone at 12 MP. The iPhone is always with me so it gets used when I "discover" an unique shot. When I plan to go shooting I usually take the Oly gear unless I know I need a really wide shot because my Nikon has a quality 10-20 zoom.
So...for me, I don't really care about full frame. Because I don't have one? No, if I cared I would have one.
the biggest downside is the price. you can get a lot of camera with a cropped frame. but full size is very expensive. usually starting at $2000 or more used, and $3000-$4000 new. that is really the biggest downside. though it depends on make and model.
the other one is correct bokeh. you get more depth with a small unit. so when you switch, the depth really matters. i've often messed up shots because my mind is still in old camera mode. even though i've had a full frame for many years.
I use both. My main camera is my full frame Sony A99ii. My crop camera is my Sony A77. Until I got my full frame, I used my crop all the time. But I love my full frame! Anymore, I use my A77 more for wildlife because of the zoom factor making my 400mm lens 600mm. My full frame has less noise and is sharper. The full frame is also better for low light and interior photos which I do a lot of real estate photography.
Both being very useful, like some others have said I use a full frame for landscape and crop for wildlife because of the extra reach.
I use Canon and my only reason for going full frame is the quantity and quality of the lenses you get in the full frame vs crop.
As said often above: FF is much better in terms of noise and sharpening artifacts produced with further processing. Now I've just got a Nikon Z6 and it is streets ahead of both my old D700 (FF) and D5300 (APS-C), and is also smaller and has internal VR - the future has arrived.
I used to make every excuse to not go FF, but in the end, technology improvements made a way for me to make that jump. My main argument against FF was weight and for a while it made sense. I didn't want to shoulder the f/2.8 glass as I walked the streets of Chicago. To carry a f/2.8 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200 works out to be 7.5 pounds on my shoulder for 6 to 8 hours when I go out to shoot. Add on top of that, a FF body, bag, filters, and a tripod, it was just a no-go for me.
As a result, I shot with a Nikon D7200 Tokina 11-16, 18-105, and 70-200 f/4 & a 50 f/1.8. This was a reasonably light kit and the D7200 was/is perhaps one of the finest APC cameras ever made. For a long time, I saw no reason to change.
The mirrorless bodies, sensor improvements, and IBIS (in-body image stabilization) has changed everything. You no longer need f/2.8 glass because of the IBIS and better sensors. The newer sensors on the FF bodies are just insane when you look at what they can do. With the D7200, I rarely shot over ISO 1,600 and if I did, I had to crank up the luminance/noise reduction. With the Z6 and Z7 sensors, I gained 3 to 4 stops of light and the files are just cleaner. For me to shoot at 6,400 and even 12,000 (under the right circumstances) is not a big deal. With the Nikon IBIS, I also pick up another 5 stops allowing me to shoot below the focal length of the lens! For me to go out with a Z7 and a 50 f/1.8 and shoot at night in the city is nothing. I could never do that with the D7200 unless I carried a tripod.
The final benefit is image file size. Simply put, if I want to crop to make up for focal length, it is no longer a big deal.
For *ME*, it was a no brainer and a justifiable jump to the new Nikon full-frame camera bodies.
One of these days, when I feel flush with cash and can actually get out shooting again, I would be curious to try a "full frame" (a strange twist of language if you ask me) camera, do a double-blind test where people see the same image shot on both cameras, edited the same way, and only differing because of the sensor. If neither the subject or the person presenting the images to the subject knew which was which, and the subject were just identity which picture looked better, then presumably it would be because of the sensor.
You can't do a comparison that amounts to, "this one is from the cheap sensor, that one is from the expensive sensor.....which looks better?" because the language prejudices the outcome, one way or the other.
Even the camera language, crop-sensor vs full frame, prejudices the outcome. That fact is that, either sensor has a given number of pixels and that's that. Maybe larger pixels are better or maybe they're not, especially since "crop sensor" compares it unfavorably to a 35 mm film frame, which doesn't make any sense at all, given the different technologies.
In my hypothetical double-blind test, I'd be willing to bet that crop vs full difference, after editing and printing, would not be identifiable by most observers, especially once it's rendered into the thumbnails and compressed images that people see on line, not to mention the quality and adjustment of buyer's monitors.
Once we settle that, it would be interesting to tackle the RAW vs Jpg battle.
Thank all for the feed back. Currently I shoot with the Sony a7rii 42mp / Sony a7iii / Sony a6000 and I have great glass to go with them but to a photographer the image size and MP makes a big difference but to a buyer they have no idea what the MP or sensor size is.
I have both. Started with film 35mm back in the days. Then got into Canon DSLRs for most of my career. Crop sensor first and then full frame. Then finally got into Sony APSC crop sensor mirrorless cameras I love the smaller size which is less turing when shooting all day esp for street photography. Sony is year ahead of the tech and lead the way where Canon and Nikon were trying to catch up. I shoot a LOT more with my Sony crop bodoes now than with my full frame or even crop DSLR. I still have my full frame Canon 6D for when I need to shoot my macros and portraits as you cant get the super shallow depth of field as you can with full frame so if you shoot lots of portraits or love blurred BOKEH then you need full fon rame but for most crop sensor will save money (especially since its all about the GLASS and full frame good glass is very expensive even if using Sigma or Tamron) and weight. Those with smaller hands or want to travel light then Sony mirrorless APSC cameras like the a6600 / a6400 / a6000 are greast. I own 3 Sony crop sensor cameras (a6500, a6000 and NEX-7) bodies along with my Full frame Canon 6D. When I can save up to afford it I will get the full frame Son A7iii or A7iv when its launched and sell my 6D.
Every camera has its own advantages. When I started my real estate photography business I started with a crop sensor a6000. Because that's all I could afford. I shot everything with it. Then I got a full frame. Now I use the full frame for all interior shots and use the crop camera for most exterior shots.
The a6000 w/ the Rokinon 12mm is a lot smaller and lighter. On almost all 2-story homes I will mount the camera to a painters pole and run it up for main exterior shots because you better results then shooting from ground level. I would avoid mounting my heavy full frame setup to the pole. The small camera feels unwieldy enough. I'm not putting the more expensive camera on there. So the smaller camera gets the win on that.
If you're shooting birds/wildlife the crop sensor camera is going to "reach" out further at the same focal length vs the full frame. It also runs faster. My a6000 blazes in high speed burst mode. The a7iii....not as fast. So when shooting birds in flight and such...you might get an extra frame or two of the motion and that frame or two might be the one that is the winner. So again...crop sensor for the win.
Lens choices tend to be less expensive for crop sensor cameras. And if you have the coin to buy full frame glass...it works on the crop sensor camera in the same family. So there's another win for crop sensor there.
On the flip side, the full frame camera does better in low light. I will often take handheld detail shots when on a shoot and because I am moving very very fast I just shoot using Auto ISO. Up to 6400. The files are usable at 6400 no problem when the low light conditions cause the camera to choose that 6400 ISO. And at 3200...there's zero problems. My a6000 though? ISO 800 in a relatively dark basement with brick on one wall and paneling on the other....it's gonna look like someone threw sand on the image. It's really not good over ISO 400. I don't trust it. So full frame for the win.
Also...wide angle lenses are an issue. The Rokinon 12mm effectively works as an 18mm lens. It was okay...but when I got the new camera and the 16-35mm and started shooting at 16mm...it was wonderful. Esp when squeezing into corners of bathrooms to try and get small shower spaces in the shot. That extra bit matters. A lot. On a daily basis. Back in the day I bought the 10-18mm for the a6000. The barrel distortion was bad. Really bad if you ask me. Even with profile correction...if you had shelves or cabinets or anything with straight up-and-down lines at the edge of the frame....they would come out bowed a bit. Not straight. Now they have zero distortion super wides from Laowa...but those run closer to $1,000 vs about $300 for the Rokinon. So a big difference when someone is trying to get up and running buying camera, lens, tripod, head, flash, bag...and all the rest. The 16-35 though at 16....when you profile correct in Lightroom...it's almost perfect. I shoot video with the 12-24 at 15mm and there is no discernable barrel distortion to straight verticals at the edges of the frame. So full frame for the win on barrel distortion.
Bigger definitely is not necessarily better. I have a GFX medium format now too and that thing is a beast to work with. Heavy. Have to stop down past f16 in order to get enough depth of field for many landscapes and exterior architecture scenes. It's a pain. But the trade-off is really high quality files when captured from a tripod. It's like everything in life. There's no solutions. Just trade-offs.
I shoot everything with an Alpha 6000 since 2014. I only use the Sony T E 16-70 mm f/4 lens. I travel light, just the camera, batteries, a couple of Manfrotto tripods (light and mini). I HDR everything so the tripod is often of the essence. I get Full Frame would get better quality and fixed lenses better focus. I fight that with my workflow, both in shooting and processing.
I am considering an Alpha 7, but not because it will get any better sales, but for my personal pleasure. Still considering if that pleasure is worth the cost.
I used to travel with two bodies, four-five lenses, engine, heavy tripod... the works. Don't go for that anymore. I don't think a picture has to be technically perfect anymore. I think it needs a heart. And that's what I am after. Technical perfection I leave to others with higher budgets.
I am sure I will love my FF hen it comes. But I am in no hurry.
Those who care about DoF and how sensor size affects that i.e. landscape and portrait photographers. Those who care about how much dynamic range they have to work with as well as noise. After years of using only FF with digital (an old throwback to shooting 35mm) I tried to save some weight on my back and moved to APS-C. However, as much as I liked the system and the convenience there were times when it just didn't cut the mustard, so I now also use a medium format system which gives me the best of both worlds and I move between them as the subject dictates.
Today we use regular full frame cameras Sony A7R's and Nikon Z6 and 850. We got rid of our ASP Nikon D300 and went to FF D700 back in mid 2000 and saw a hugh difference in image quality and have not looked back since. I used a medium format camera in the film days back in the eighties, I would love to have a medium format again you get a great color depth 16 bit but they are costly and heavy. .So for now I stick with full frame where we get 14 bit color and you also have your signal to noise difference along with larger pixels and that with having good quality lens f2.8 or better which I believe make a huge difference in the quality of the photos. We started out doing architectural photography (not real estate) but after years of doing it was just too time consuming and dealing with perfectionist architects was not alway enjoyable, but we do a lot of large prints and wall murals and we need as much detail and quality as we can get out of the cameras for that now. Right now we have one too many Sony A7R3 ii mirrorless body only, if anyone is interested.
Have both, started with a crop and then went with a full frame, still use both as they both have their benefits Will say that I use the full frame more though for the better image quality, depth of field, and low light permanence but when you need the extra reach its nice to have the added benefit of the crop factor an the smaller sensor
Funny you should ask... in a wildlife refuge now, shooting with a 50-500 lens on a crop sensor Canon 7D MKII. I switch between that lens and a 150-600 for animals/anything telephoto, and use a full-frame Canon 5D MKIII for landscapes and macros. Used both for years and very happy with both.
Someone once tried to explain why a crop sensor doesn’t actually make the subject larger, just appears to be larger, but it went right over my head. Anyone care to try again?
I shoot both depending on how much reach I need, if it is a lot the crop sensor. My choice though is full frame. In post you can crop and still have a large image. I got into full frame 2 years ago buying a used D800 with only 12k shutter actuations. Great camera and never had any issues with it. As long as DSLR's can be had I doubt I will jump to mirrorless in my lifetime. Full frame bodies and lenses are heavier though and cost more but bargains can be had on them too. Full frame is my choice, now if I had the cash I would be shooting medium format that would be a game changer.
Please don't tell anybody, but about a third of my sales (more lately) have come from what doesn't even qualify as a "crop sensor" camera, namely an iPhone6S, which has an actual camera unit about the size of a lima bean. Some were big city night shots and really need the darkest possible sky while not having foreground city lights blown out and others are bright-day pictures. As long as I'm careful with editing, try not to crop and don't make them too large, they've worked quite well. It's hard to not see the handwriting on the wall about our treasured gadgets. I'd always prefer my "big" camera, but don't want to miss something when I don't have it. The little one in my pocket has served me well and I can even wipe the lens off on my shirt without too much worry, and, with additional apps, I can shoot RAW or multiple HDR shots.
I can see the value of having oodles of pixels, big sensors and lenses, etc, but it really depends a lot on what's being shot and how it's edited, and the small cameras really seem to be creeping up the big ones. I'm not quite curious enough yet to try one of those multiple lens iPhone 12's, which cost more money than I want to spend for something that's still 12 megapixels and tiny, but I think the creeping camera change just got a little closer from what I've heard.
I will be putting the new iPhone 12 Pro Max to the test this morning for the first time. It’s still pitch black at the swamps with pea soup tule fog. Headlights do not penetrate. Plan to get in position when the sun rises and use the phone’s camera. Hoping for interesting light on the mist rising from the water. This phone supposedly works well in low light. We’ll see.
For sure, my crop sensor body will be useless without good light, though I will use it for bird photos later today, and I’ll use the full frame Canon for landscapes out here. That’s why it’s good to have options whenever possible to cover whatever you’re trying to shoot in different conditions.
I've shot both, I use my full frame sensor for everything now. If shooting wildlife, crop senser gives you more reach than a full frame would BUT if I find that in post processing I can crop more and retain more detail with a full frame sensor. The ISO difference is pretty much amazing between the two find as well. I can shoot at a higher ISO with A LOT less noise than I would get on my crop sensor camera. A full frame senser will make your wide angle lens look more wide angle too which would be good for landscape photographers.
Doug, I'm with ya - for sure. Under the right light situations that 12MP (tiny) phone can create quality prints up to a 40" dimension (here at FAA). I'm sure the customer can't tell the difference - because they have no idea how much somebody paid for their camera.
I have a (musician) friend who has a gallery here at FAA with nearly 300 photographs - ALL shot with an iPhone XR. Yes, he sells. In fact, one of his night captures has sold multiple times. He may become a contributor to my new cell phone photography site (once I take time to work on building it out).
I am currently using an iPhone 6s and the ProCamera app. However my battery is just about toast - so my wife and I have an appointment with a T-Mobil guy this afternoon. I am looking at an upgrade to the 12 Mini. She is currently quite happy with her iPhone 6-Plus.
Kathleen has it right when she said: "That’s why it’s good to have options whenever possible to cover whatever you’re trying to shoot in different conditions."
Personally, I don't enjoy taking photos with my phone. I don't care if the customer knows or not. To me, a phone cheapens my process and doesn't allow me to work as I'd like. In addition, my agent wants images to be able to go 40" wide at 300dpi (I know, I know) and I want to do as little resizing as possible. I spent nearly 10 years working on the technical side of the industry with Canon USA and Lytro and I know for a FACT that sensor size does matter, whether you can see it or not.
I don't think shooting with a phone cheapens anything. What it does for me is to reward me for being able to use the resources I have in my pocket...the "stone knives and bearskins" approach to photography. When I look at what some photogs did long ago with those big old view cameras, glass negatives, flash powder and toxic development process, my hat's off to them too, not that I want to go back to that. Ever since the first image was processed, there's been a steady stream of technology changes, so this is just the next wave.
There is simply no substitute for pixels and a quality camera/glass. Walk into a Peter Lik or Thomas Mangelson gallery, you simply cannot produce that grade of work with a phone. One of these days, I want to start shooting medium format.
I wouldn't argue that there are plenty of photos that are beyond the reach of an iPhone with the lens wiped on my shirt, but from what I see, the gap between the two keeps shrinking. I'm actually thinking about replacing my current "big" camera, so I haven't entirely given up on the heavy-gear approach, but I actually know people that make some sort of living from phone photos. Their strength is that they are available and quick and simple. Their weakness is on carefully constructed shots with a lot of fine detail.
I get seriously aggravated at my big camera when I struggle with a device that has 200 shooting modes, only 3 of which I actually use, so especially when shooting in cities and other dynamic environments, I'd miss a lot if I didn't have that phone. They key is to not exceed its limits and take advantage of all the editing that you can do.
When I get promos for monsters that cost many thousands and produce 100 megapixel RAW images, I can't help getting a confused feeling on the "why" part of it.
Kathleen...the reason why a crop sensor makes images look “more zoomed in” is this...
Imagine you print up a photograph 8x10. It’s a marsh landscape scene and in the middle there is a white water bird.
You get out a pair of scissors and cut the edges of the print off on all sides around the bird. What do you have left?
A zoomed in picture of the bird.
Same idea with the crop sensor camera. The crop sensor has the edges of the full frame sensor chopped off. What remains is a smaller rectangle in the middle.
The effect is the same. If you capture the same marsh scene with a 24mm lens on a full frame...you see the marsh and the bird. If you detach the full frame body from that same 24mm lens and swap in a crop sensor body and take the same shot again...you will essentially have chopped off the edges of the full frame sensor and be left with only what was in the middle. The bird.
The difference is...of course...that the scientists can cram 24 million pixels into a larger full frame sensor...but they can also cram 24 million pixels into the smaller crop sensor.
They just make the pixel absorbing diodes smaller.
So in our example when I shoot the mash with the 24mp Sony a7iii I get the picture of the marsh and the bird on a 6000x4000 pixel file. When I shoot the same scene with the Sony a6000 crop sensor body...I get only get the bird in the middle. But the file is still 6000x4000 pixels.
And here’s where the difference is on quality...
Larger pixels on a sensor perform “cleaner”. They create less noise. Less grain. When you manufacturer smaller pixels and cram them into a smaller space on a crop sensor...they create more noise.
In bright light situations...this won’t matter. The files will be just as clean on both camera. But in low-light situations (shooting at twilight without a tripod) you need to ride up your ISO to keep shutter speed fast. And on crop sensor files this is where the problems arise. Those 24 million ultra tiny pixels crammed into the smaller sensor just cannot perform as well in low light.
Finally...there’s one other major issue. Crop sensors do better with depth of field. Larger sensors need you to stop down the aperture a LOT in order to get everything sharp front to back. My a6000 can capture everything sharp front to back on a deep landscape scene at f4 and is very acceptable at f2. My medium format camera? Deep scenes don’t start holding together really front to back sharp until f16 and often I have to go to f22.
@Doug Swanson I think in the not too distant future, cameras, as we know them, will be very small. I seem to recall reading about an electronic lens that doesn't even glass. I wish I could find that article right now. :(
Thank you, Brian! Pardon my denseiocity but are you saying that the same telephoto lens shooting a bird at 450mm on both a crop sensor and full frame sensor will yield the exact same size bird, and that the only difference (other than DOF, noise, etc.) is that the shot with the full frame will include the marsh? In other words, you get the same size bird either way? If that’s the case, then there’s no further “reach” with a crop sensor than a full-frame, correct?
Wow there're some great PRESPECTIVE here. We have even cover the cell phone aspect. we all try together great result with whatever we shoot with. it may not be what everyone else prefer but it seems to get the job done from looking over your images.