Cam­era body sen­sors: Full frame vs Cropped

Bird Watching (UK) - - Part One Gear -

DSLR cam­eras sen­sors are ei­ther ‘full frame’ or ‘cropped’. The term ‘full frame’ harks back to the days of 35mm film and re­lates to a sen­sor whose area is roughly 24mm x 36mm, the film di­men­sions of old. As the name sug­gests, with cropped sen­sor cam­eras the sen­sor area is cropped, pro­duc­ing the il­lu­sion of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. Re­gard­less of for­mat, al­most all mod­ern cam­eras pro­duce im­ages whose qual­ity is as­tound­ing un­der the right cir­cum­stances, and any dif­fer­ences are sub­tle. To com­pli­cate mat­ters, cam­eras are avail­able in a spec­trum of sen­sor MP sizes, re­flected in the pric­ing, so you are sel­dom com­par­ing like with like. How­ever, if you take two cam­eras with iden­ti­cal out­put file sizes then the full frame sen­sor’s pix­els will be larger than their cropped sen­sor coun­ter­parts, and re­sult­ing im­ages less ‘noisy’ (grainier in ap­pear­ance), es­pe­cially at ISO set­tings above 800. Crop-sen­sor cam­eras are gen­er­ally smaller, lighter and cheaper than their full frame coun­ter­parts and are an op­tion if the size of the sub­ject in the frame is your main con­cern. But this mag­ni­fi­ca­tion is il­lu­sory and the same ef­fect can be pro­duced by crop­ping an equiv­a­lent full frame im­age in post pro­duc­tion. If your bud­get al­lows, then a full frame cam­era body is prob­a­bly the best op­tion, one whose sen­sor lies in the 25-40 megapix­els range.

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