APS-C & Full Frame Sensors - What's The Difference?
Photography is a flexible realm where photographers have a large variety of camera gear to choose from yet most photographers who purchase their first camera are probably from either Nikon or Canon. When purchasing a camera you may have come across a few main keywords such as Full Frame and APS-C / Crop Sensors, which simply defines the dimension of the sensor inside the camera. Full Frame sensors are the same dimension as the traditional 36mm x 24mm frame (used in film cameras), while APS-C are 23.6mm x 15.60mm (Nikon APS-C) or 22.2mm x 14.8mm (Canon APS-C).
You may be wondering `what are the marginal differences between an APS-C and a Full Frame Sensor?'. Well continue reading to find out the answer and make the right choice for your photography needs!
Sensors - a piece of light sensitive silicone that captures light which comes through a lens. These silicones have photo sites (sensor pixels) that records an analog image projected from the lens, then transcoded into information by a processor, next stored onto the camera's buffer, then buffer will move this file onto your memory card where it will be stored.
APS-C (Advance Photo System Type-C) or Crop Sensors have smaller sensors than full frame camera, meaning it is cheaper to manufacture. As the name states, APS-C sensors have a specific amount of crop added onto the lens, changing the way the lenses behave (crops into the image circle of your lens).
For example. a 50mm attached onto a 1.5x crop sensor will result a field of view (focal length) of 75mm. The amount of bokeh (background blur) is also reduced. To calculate the depth of field you will get with the lens and sensor combination, you will have to multiply the crop factor with the aperture value of your lens. Crop sensors are favoured by many sports and nature photographers because of the extra reach they obtain while using a telephoto lens on a APS-C sensor. Macro photographers will also favour the extra depth of field when using a APS-C sensor, as they will have more of the subject in focus whilst being able to get up close however; with extra reach and depth of field comes with more responsibility. APS-C sensors have smaller photosites and they are crammed into a small piece of silicon, resulting in more noticeable noise while shooting with high ISO in dimmed environments.
DPReview comparison of the Nikon D7100 (APS-C Camera) vs Nikon D600 (Full Frame Camera)
Full Frame sensors are approximately 2.4x larger than APS-C sensors, allowing more flexibility with shallow depth of field, better dynamic range, higher ISO capability and better colour depth. They are also more expensive to manufacture and this means buying full frame cameras is a more expensive investment. Full frame sensors will allow landscape photographers to take advantage of wide-angle lenses without the crop factor. Full Frame sensors also make it possible to obtain a shallower depth of field, known as `bokeh' (blur) for portraiture, street photography and much more! Using a lens on a Full Frame sensor will not affect the focal length and depth of field of the lens, meaning a 50mm lens will behaves as a 50mm lens, depth of field will no longer need to be multiplied to calculate depth of field.
So…Does expensive mean better performance?
The answer is not that simple. I have to say the best sensor in the market depends on your needs as a photographer and how you like to shoot. If you do lots of portraiture, landscape and therefore require high iso, full frame may be the better option for you. If you do lots of sports and require that extra reach and portability APS-C may be the better option for you. Different sensors are made for different tasks, so its up to you to figure out what works best for your needs!