Everything You Need To Know About Full-Frame Cameras

20 July 2021

No matter what your hobby is, there’s probably a discussion about whether size matters when considering performance. For race car driving, it’s the quality of the engine. For boxing, it’s how hard you can hit. For photography, it’s the size of the camera sensor that can really make the difference between your stock standard photo and a Pulitzer prize-winning image. 

Previously restricted to professionals due to their cost, full-frame cameras offer more dynamic range than smaller APS-C crop sensors thanks to their increased size. Read on to learn more facts about full-frame vs crop sensors, including why sensor size matters and which cameras are suitable for your experience level.

What is a full-frame sensor?

In photography, the two main types of camera sensors are full-frame sensors and APS-C, or Crop sensors. The easiest way to understand camera sensors is by comparing them to a fishing net. The bigger the net, the more fish you can catch. For cameras, however, the bigger the sensor, the more light, and therefore, the more detail you can capture in a single image.

Full-frame camera sensors, which are becoming more widely available thanks to the advent of more modern DSLR cameras and Mirrorless models, have sensors that measure 24mm×36mm. For anyone familiar with 35mm film stock, this is roughly the same size as a single film image. APS-C, or Crop sensors, on the other hand, are much smaller and feature a sensor size of 25.1mm×16.7 mm.

Everything you need to know about full-frame camerasEverything you need to know about full-frame cameras

Why does sensor size matter?

Everything you need to know about full-frame camerasEverything you need to know about full-frame cameras

A picture speaks a thousand words. You might not know that it’s not the size of the sensors that matters but rather the size of the pixels. For example, a 24MP photo features 24 million pixels per image. When captured on a Full-Frame sensor, these pixels can be much larger than those on an APS-C crop sensor due to its smaller sensor size. 

This increase in size is most evident when shooting in low-light conditions. When light is at a premium, it can be difficult for APS-C crop sensors to capture enough detail without introducing camera noise and distortion. On the other hand, full-frame sensors can capture more detail across both the darker and lighter areas of a scene for a more natural-looking image.

Although advancements in photography continue to push the limits of pixel density on a single sensor, the fact still remains - size does matter.

Top tip: Don’t forget that shooting in RAW format will maximise the amount of detail you can capture, giving yourself more freedom during the editing and post-production stage of photography.

Using lenses with your full-frame camera

Probably the most significant selling point for full-frame cameras is their shallow depth of field. For example, an identical 50mm f/1.8 lens on a full-frame camera vs an APS-C camera will produce a different hyperfocal distance, which means more background blur or bokeh. 

Because APS-C sensors are cropped, any focal length is increased by roughly 1.5x, resulting in a 75mm lens with an aperture of f2.7, which also affects the camera’s field of view. On a full-frame camera, these numbers remain unchanged, which means no additional calculations needed. Just point and shoot.

Everything you need to know about full-frame camerasEverything you need to know about full-frame cameras

Can you use APS-C lenses on a full-frame camera?

Everything you need to know about full-frame camerasEverything you need to know about full-frame cameras

Yes and no. Because of the crop factor, APS-C lenses can only expose a small portion of the camera sensor, dramatically reducing image quality. In some cases, the APS-C lens may not function at all when combined with a full-frame camera.

Check out our blog post on crop factor to understand the intricacies of APS-C sensors and how to get the most out of them.

Choosing a Full-Frame Camera

Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones, practically everyone on earth now has a camera. However, much like it was in the earlier days of digital photography, full-frame cameras are generally favoured by professionals. Beyond extra functionalities and increased image quality, these larger pro-level DSLR models were often too expensive for entry-level users and enthusiasts.

Fortunately, in 2021, the market is now packed full of relatively affordable full-frame cameras across traditional DSLRs and the newer Mirrorless category.

Discover some of our favourite full-frame cameras for every skill level below:

Full-frame cameras for beginner photographers

Designed to make full-frame mirrorless cameras more accessible to beginners, the Nikon Z5 is a master class in getting more bang for your buck. It’s got a 24.3MP FX-Format sensor, offering 4.5fps continuous shooting with dual UHS-II SD Card Slots and a tilting and touch-sensitive LCD screen, all inside a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. Shut up and take my money.

    The Canon EOS RP is the brand’s lightest available full-frame camera. Inside, you’ll find a 26MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor that’s capable of capturing up to 4 frames per second, alongside 4K Video recording. Top it all off with 4779 selectable autofocus points, and you’ve got one of the best entry-level full-frame cameras.

    As one of only two DSLR cameras on this list, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II provides an entry-level option into the world of full-frame Digital SLR photography. Sporting a glorious 26.2mp Full-frame CMOS sensor with a 45 point cross-type AF system, the EOS 6D Mark II promises clear and detailed images, no matter the conditions.

    Full-frame cameras for enthusiasts

    Sony has made some massive strides in the photography industry since the release of its A7 mirrorless lineup. Compact and lightweight, the Sony A7C knocks it out of the park with more functionality and image quality than ever before.

      The Canon EOS R6 is a top-performing mirrorless camera that offers class-leading speed and full-frame image quality. Shoot 20 frames per second at 20MP and record 4K Ultra Hi-Def video with up to 8 stops of image stabilisation. Coupled with its dual memory card slots and up to 6,072 selectable AutoFocus points, and you’ve got a workhorse camera for a range of scenarios.

      Check out the updated version of Nikon’s Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera. Much like the original, the Z6II is a class-leading camera with a 24.5MP FX-Format sensor and 4K UHD resolution video on offer. Plus, with Nikon’s Dual EXPEED 6 processing engines, the Z6II handles high-speed shooting without breaking a sweat while also performing incredibly under low-light environments.

      Full-frame cameras for professional photographers

      This is the very best that Canon has to offer. Their flagship EOS 1DX Mark III. Boasting a 20.1MP full-frame sensor with a 191-point AutoFocus system, you can capture 16 frames per second in continuous shooting mode, plus 5.5k 60p RAW Movies. It’s arguably the best full-frame camera on the market today.

        Embrace mirrorless technology with the Canon EOS R5. Taking an unprecedented leap forward, the EOS R5 can capture a resolution of up to 45 megapixels, alongside 8K Ultra Hi-Def Video recording, making it one of the best full-frame travel cameras money can buy. 

        Sony is leading the way in mirrorless camera technology with its Sony Alpha A1. Equipped with a 50.5MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ XR Processor, the Alpha A1 captures incredible images and even 8K video. When it comes to team Sony, this is the best full-frame sensor camera they offer.

        Shop full-frame cameras today

        Ready to get your full-frame cameras? Shop full-frame DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras online, or pick up your camera at your nearest Ted’s Cameras store - Ted’s camera experts will be happy to help you pick the best one for you!

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