The advantages of a crop sensor DSLR over a full frame DSLR

If you have read my recent article, Do I need to upgrade to a full frame DSLR?… it can be evident that depending on your shooting style & needs, you may not really need a full frame DSLR to get good pictures. It’s quite obvious from some images posted on Flickr that many hobbyist photographers can get pretty amazing photos using some pretty basic equipment. The question will always come to mind is that Was it really the camera at work?

I’m going to put out some points on the advantages of a crop sensor DSLR over a 35mm full frame sensor DSLR. Pro-full frame DSLR users beware! I know that you have invested heavily on some really expensive gear when you upgraded to full frame & may want to justify your investment. I too have both a 5D Mark II & a 7D. Shooting both full frame & crop sensor has shown me that many times, you can get just about as good a photo as you can get on the 7D over the 5D Mark II. It’s just that the field of view is different, that is all.

Advantages of a crop sensor DSLR over a 35mm sensor DSLR

Price vs quality ratio of the camera gear is significantly in favor of the crop sensor DSLR. It’s difficult to argue that an APS-C DSLR kit lens is pretty cheap nowadays compared to a standard kit zoom equivalent for a full frame DSLR. Even if we compare f/2.8 zooms, a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 costs about RM4k where else a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 is more than RM5k. For the cameras themselves, a top of the line Canon EOS 7D costs RM4k+ when a Canon EOS 5D Mark II will set you back RM7k. All in all the initial investment comparison assuming you are going for a f/2.8 standard zoom, we are talking about a difference of between RM8k vs RM12k. Take those figures & roughly divide by 3 if you want the equivalent in USD. Things will be more affordable if you go for a lesser camera like the Canon EOS 60D with an 18-135mm kit lens… only about RM4k for that combo.

Field-of-view vs weight is also in favor of APS-C DSLR users. For you folks who love super-zooms, a Canon 18-200mm weights in at 595g vs a full frame super-zoom Canon 28-300mm at 1670g. Of course I’m using an extreme in terms of comparison but you get the idea.

It is possible to use full frame lenses & APC-S lenses on a crop sensor body… but you can’t use a crop sensor lens on a full frame DSLR. Nikon users will argue that they can use both on their D700, but don’t forget you lose the resolution when you attach a crop sensor lens to it. Not ideal & seems like a big waste if you did that!

When composing a photo on small subjects, it’s easier to fill the frame on an APC-S camera. While you may need to crop an image during post processing if you used a full frame DSLR, there is less need for this if you use a crop sensor camera. You don’t need to get so close when using an APC-S camera, but sometimes you may reach your closest focus limits if you are shooting with a full frame DSLR.

The crop factor gives you a range advantage over a full frame coverage. 100mm will appear as if shot with a 160mm lens on an APC-S DSLR.

It’s easier to auto-focus on an APC-S DSLR because the focus points are more spread out compared to a full frame DSLR. You will see this difference if you look through the view finder of let say a 7D compared to a 5D Mark II. Many times when I shoot using the 5D Mark II, I need to resort to half shutter focus then recompose to get the shot. Sometimes I give up & have to manual focus. On the 7D or even the 60D for that matter, since the focus points are more apart from one another, it’s easier to land the focus points on the subject you want to focus on. This is a big deal to be honest!

When using a full frame lens on an APC-S DSLR, there is less vignetting. Vignetting is the product of a design limitation on lenses because at the corners, the brightness is reduced compared to the center part of the frame.Since full frame lenses were designed for full frame cameras, using them on a crop sensor DSLR will give you this advantage.

Also when using a full frame lens on a crop sensor DSLR, you get the best part of the lens optics right at the center. Due to limitations in design, all lenses made have a common weakness in the quality of the resolution at the corners. Since a crop sensor DSLR essentially crops the corners off, you eliminate the weak parts of the lens resulting in better resolution output on your final image.

Depth-of-Field advantage using a crop sensor camera (macro or landscape) because you are further away from the subject. You simply get a broader depth-of field using an APC-S DSLR. Full frame users will argue that you can’t get nice bokeh on a crop sensor camera body… but honestly bokeh is overrated!

Since an APC-S DSLR can use both APC-S lenses & full frame lenses, you have better flexibility on choice of gear, from close-up fisheye lenses to super telephoto lenses like the 500mm L lens!

Conclusion

Well, it all boils down to your photographic needs & the budget that you have to spend. If you have the means, then go for a full frame solution. But on a whole, you’re not in any way disadvantaged if you should decide to stick to a crop sensor DSLR!

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