The Difference Between Full Frame vs APS-C Cameras

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You've come to the right place if you're looking to know the difference between APS-C cameras. Knowing which format to buy can be daunting and even detrimental to the compatibility of previously owned gear. Let's dive in.

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The Difference Between Full Frame vs. APS-C

Full-frame and APS-C formats indicate the sensor's physical dimensions, entirely different from pixel count. A full-frame sensor has 36mm by 24mm in size based on the traditional 35mm film format. An APS-C sensor is 1.5 times smaller, 25.1mm by 16.7mm, and named after the Advanced Photo System type-C film format, hence its abbreviation.

35mm film has historically been the more popular format due to its near-perfect size for capturing almost anything under the radar. In the analog world, it's much easier to carry a 35mm camera than a medium or large format camera, no? While more compact, they're seemingly large enough to produce high-quality photos making them a highly desirable piece for professional and amateur photographers alike.

This term – full-frame – was defined in contrast to more minor, or APS-C, camera sensors. A full-frame lens is roughly equivalent to a 35mm film frame, while an APS-C sensor is slightly smaller. When you mount a full-frame lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor, you will get a crop factor; your camera's APS-C-size sensor magnifies the scene to produce an image that will match the lens's full-frame image circle.

The effect is that a 50mm full-frame lens mounted on an APS-C body with a 1.5x crop factor will capture a field-of-view that is the same as a 75mm on a full-frame body.

The "Crop Factor"

APS-C cameras are often known for the effect created by its smaller sensor. When you shoot with an APS-C camera, the field of view changes, thus making the impression of a cropped image. For example, if you photograph a subject at 100mm on a full-frame vs. crop (APS-C) camera, the camera will look tighter due to the smaller sensor capturing a smaller portion of the scene.

However, it's important to note that the focal length of your lens doesn't experience any fundamental shift, nor does the depth of field change. The only actual altar is a field of view, making your lenses appear longer.

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Is a Full-Frame Better than APS-C?

Many creatives correlate a full-frame to high quality because of its sensor size due to the amount of data captured with higher resolution. And while this might seem like an obvious benefit, this doesn't automatically mean the APS-C sensor is inferior.

The truth is — you don't need a full-frame sensor to succeed. There are several scenarios where an APS-C camera can excel in performance. And whether you'll do better with an APS-C camera or a full-frame camera has nothing to do with one's level of creative professionalism; it has everything to do with your specific photography for filmmaking needs.

As technology has become even more impressive throughout the years, so has the quality progression seen in APS-C lenses and cameras. Most notably seen in situations where having lighter, smaller equipment is favorable such as an event, street, and travel photography.

When To Go APS-C Over Full-Frame

There are a few disadvantages of paying the higher price for a full frame, as with anything. Along with the more shiny price tag, full-frame cameras and lenses are heavier in size and weight, thus much more cumbersome to carry for travel enthusiasts. Additionally, if you're looking to shoot far away subjects or wildlife, you'll need a ton of extra reach. Because of the crop factor, an APS-C camera will give you a 1.5x or 1.6x extension on your lens focal lengths, which is invaluable for achieving the close-up shots that sports or wildlife photographers adore. And finally, because of the way an APS-C crop factor works, it's easier to gain a deeper, more rich depth of field. If you want to capture an entire scene sharply, you won't have to stop down as much–which is fantastic for shooting in low-light situations.