Expensive Full-frame vs APSC sensor – the difference will dazzel you

Many ask me the question of what camera sensor should I consider while buying a DSLR or a mirrorless camera – a full-frame vs APSC sensor. APS-C means Advanced Photographic System. This question of full-frame vs APSC sensor is something that I usually get from those who already know something about Photography or at least they understand the basics of Photography or I can say, amateur photographers. Many consider that you get the best images only because of the full frame. But, before we comment anything about that, one should know where to use a full-frame vs APSC sensor camera.

I will not be speaking about which brand is good as most of them have almost the same technical specification. I’m currently a Nikon user and my explanation will be based on my hands-on experience in using Nikon Full frame camera. Here are a few things that you might want to consider before choosing one.

Full-frame vs APSC sensor size

Full-frame vs APSC sensor

A bit on Full-frame vs APSC sensor size – The full-frame camera has a sensor that is of the same size as a frame of a 35mm film. An APSC camera has a much smaller sensor size and has a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x depending on the camera brand. So, when a 300m telephoto lens is used to capture an image: using a full-frame you get the same output of 300mm whereas using an APSC sensor you get a zoom of around 450/480mm, for the same lens with the same settings.

Full-frame vs APSC sensor – Quality

Quality and Size – The images are larger and are of the best quality. A 14-bit RAW image on my Nikon D610 is about 30 MB. Quality-wise, a full-frame performs much better than a camera with an APSC sensor. One is because of the 24MP+ sensor and the other is the large sensor size, with much larger individual pixels.

The size of the photosites (individual pixel) is larger in full-frame than the APSC sensors even though both the cameras can be of 24MPs. Full frames have a much better way of handling low light as they have larger photosites and hence users will not have an issue even if the ISO is increased to a much higher level to a few thousand.

Paro Dzong at night

Usage type of Full-frame vs APSC sensor

Usage type – A full-frame sensor will give you a smaller depth of field and is ideal for portraiture so that you can use a wide aperture and blur the background, thereby making the subject look great. But if you are looking for a larger depth of field then an APSC sensor would be better. This is useful in case you want everything to be in focus like landscape shots. It’s not that you cannot achieve the same using full-frame, but you need to have a lens with a low aperture and a tripod is a must as you will be using slower shutter speed.

When it comes to wildlife and sports, it’s the same story where you might need that extra zoom to get to the subject and APSC helps, but people go for full frames because of the quality and the features that a full-frame camera provides.

APSC Sensor

The price difference between a Full-frame vs APSC sensor

Price – Full frame cameras are very costly and each of its lenses will be even costlier. When you are spending money on buying such an expensive body, do not think about buying a cheaper glass. Go for high-quality glass, it is costly but it’s worth buying if you are into the professional photography business.

Camera and Lens Combination

Here goes the lens and camera combination (for Nikon and the same is the case for other brands as well) that you need to know before buying a camera lens or body.

Camera with APSC Sensor = DX Body; Camera with Full frame Sensor = FX Body

DX Body + DX Lens = DX Output ==> Ideal for beginners.

DX Body + FX Lens = DX Output ==> If you have plans to upgrade to Full Frame.

FX Body + DX Lens = DX Output ==> No point in having a FX Body.

FX Body + FX Lens = FX Output ==> Best Pro output.

It’s up to you to choose which camera sensor you want depending on the usage type. Also, usually, people start photography with a camera that has an APSC sensor and later upgrade to a full-frame. There is nothing like a full-frame is used only by professionals or having an expensive camera doesn’t make you a Pro. It’s just that these full-frame cameras have better technology used in handling other stuff like low light capability, more cross points, better body, and many more features.

My Verdict

The first image was captured using Nikon D610 (Full-frame) with an FX/DX lens at Surathkal beach, the Arabian Sea where the cargo ships were waiting in line ready to be docked at New Mangalore Port. I would say invest more in the lens than the camera body as the camera body is for upgrade whereas the lens is for a lifetime.

If you can afford to buy a full-frame then go for it. The camera that I use is Nikon D610 and above have both DX and FX modes of capturing an image, FX by default. I usually use FX, but sometimes just to get closer to the subject, I switch to DX mode. Here is an interesting video that you might want to watch: