Full Frame vs. APS-C Image Quality Comparison

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Full-frame cameras are now becoming more affordable and popular, and now, a new generation of photographers are seeing the full potential of shooting using high-resolution sensors.

However, changes in technology, especially in crop-sensor cameras, allows photographers to take massive images up to 50MB in resolution without having to spend too much, and that is now known as APS-C.

Full Frame vs. APS-C Image Quality Comparison General Overview

A lot of photographers believe that full frame cameras and lenses are so much better than APS-C cameras and lenses. This may be because of the larger sensor size of full frame cameras and the fact that they are used by professional photographers.

Full frame camera on black background

However, the choice of full frame vs. APS-C must not be about the size of the sensor or the price. The most important aspect that you need to focus on is the image quality that it produces.

Full Frame

Full frame cameras can give you a wider dynamic range. It has cleaner images, especially when you are in a low light condition like using to shoot with a 50mm lens. That is because of the pixel count.

Full frame cameras and lenses have larger pixels and these can help gather more light.

Since more light can get in, the stronger the image signal is. You can even push the ISO up to the highest setting without having to risk getting a distorted image.

APS-C

When it comes to images taken using an Advanced Photo System or APS-C camera and lens, you will be able to get a clear and sharp image especially when you are in a brightly lit area. Lens that can be used for Nikon D5600 are similar when it comes to getting sharp images. If you happen to be in a low lit area, you will need to adjust the aperture of your lens.

What makes  APS-C cameras and lenses a favorite among some photographers is its impressive depth of field which you can see both of these lenses in Canon T5 and Canon T3I. If you are very particular with how your image’s foreground would look and if you want to give the background of your image a beautiful blur, then the APS-C camera’s 23.6mm x 15.7mm image sensor is for you.

APS-C cameras come in three different digital image formats:

  • H which stands for high-definition
  • C which stands for classic
  • P which stands for panorama

Full Frame vs. APS-C

For years, the two most popular types of camera sensors have been full frame and APS-C. Those who are new to photography often mistake one for the other, and they are not aware about the features that each camera has.

Full frame may be the standard for professional photographers and videographers, however, APS-Cs also have their strengths that can provide incredible results.

Similarities

A full frame camera is known to have a bigger sensor than an APS-C camera. However, there is more to it than that. The two types of cameras have their similarities, as well as their differences.

Below are the important features of a full frame camera and an APS-C camera and the aspects that you can find on both.

Low Light

Both the full frame and APS-C cameras can be used in low light conditions and they can also be used in nighttime photoshoots.

APS-C image quality camera

Although you will need to adjust the aperture for APS-C cameras, it can still capture great images even if there is not enough lighting.

File Size

Since the full frame cameras and the APS-C cameras are used by professional photographers, it only makes sense that it has an impressive file size.

The file size of the two cameras can store so many high quality pictures. SDHC memory card is enough to hold many high quality pictures. You can also use an external hard drive or cloud if you need more storage.

Differences

Full frame cameras and APS-C cameras have notable differences, which leaves a lot of photographers divided.

Below are the two differences that will make an impact on your images.

Sensor Size

The sensor size refers to the physical dimensions of the camera’s sensor, and it is not about the number of pixels on the sensor. The full frame sensor measures 36mm x 24mm, which is a traditional size for 35mm cameras.

Meanwhile, the APS-C sensor size is smaller, as it measures 23.6mm x 15.7mm. The smaller APS-C sensor crams more pixels onto a smaller space, which is not always better.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder of a full frame camera is a lot brighter compared to an APS-C camera. That is because a full frame camera has a larger mirror compared to its crop sensor.

Although both full frame cameras and APS-C cameras use electronic viewfinders or EVF, full frame cameras have a bigger sensor so more light comes in when you use the viewfinder to focus on the subject.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The major distinguishing factor between the full frame and APS-C cameras is the sensor size. The image sensor that is inside a full frame camera is 24mm x 36mm.

The ratio of width to height of a sensor is known as the aspect ratio which leads the proportions of the image. The ratio of a full frame camera, which is 35mm, is a standard in photography.

Meanwhile, an APS-C sensor is small, which crops a lot of images. Despite the size of the sensor, it can be found in mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras, and compact ones.

When to Use Full Frame

Full frame cameras allow you to deliver high resolution images. The full frame sensors can also be configured to give higher MP ratings and greater resolution than smaller sensors. This can help the ability of the camera sensor to capture the image’s detail.

Canon camera on grass background

If you wish to capture wide-angle images, a full frame camera is the one that lets you take in more of the scene in front of you compared to an APS-C model with the same lens.

Full frame cameras can be used in the following genres:

  • Wildlife photography
  • Landscape photography
  • Night photography

When to Use APS-C

APS-C cameras used to be for people who wanted to do something more substantial than a point and shoot. Now, they are incredible all-around performers that can be used by professional photographers for a lot of different genres of photography. The crop factor of APS-C cameras becomes an advantage when shooting subjects that are far away.

Below are the different genres of photography that you can use the APS-C cameras with:

  • Portrait photography
  • Nature photography
  • Event photography
  • Sports photography

Final Verdict

Full frame vs. APS-C formats will continue to exist together. With that said, upgrading to full frame cameras and lenses will always be a great recipe for incredible creative potential.

Full frame’s system will never be obsolete, so investing in one is a great idea. Future technology advancements in both kinds of sensors will be driven by the demand for a higher resolution.

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.