Cameras can be confusing. Especially when you’re first starting out, knowing the difference between the terminologies that people use can be utterly mind boggling. Two of the most common terminologies that you’re going to hear are ‘APS-C’ and ‘full frame’, though unless you’re an experienced photographer, it can be difficult to know what these terms means.
If you didn’t know, the terms APS-C and full frame refer to the size of the sensors in each camera. Essentially, whilst a full frame camera is designed to be the same size that film used to be (35mm), APS-C are a cropped version of this. The majority of affordable cameras will be APS-C, and they’re the best choice for most people.
This is the prominent difference between the two types of camera. Of course, this has an effect on how you use the camera, how expensive it is and a whole host of other things that you’re going to have to consider if you don’t know how this will effect the cameras performance itself. So, lets have a look at how those differences will have an effect on the photographs you’re going to take.
Differences between APS-C vs Full Frame
The main differences between APS-C and Full Frame are;
- How much of the image you can see
- Depth of Field
Let’s look at these in more detail.
1. How much of the image you can see
To explain it really simply, if you use a 50mm lens on to a full frame camera, you’re going to get a 50mm field of view. If you use a 50mm lens onto a APC-S (also called a crop sensor camera), then you’re going to to get a 75mm or 80mm field of view depending on what Brand of camera that you’re using. Let me explain a little.
This is determined by what we called crop factor. The crop factor is the difference between your cameras sensor size and what we consider an original film frame (35mm). Here’s an example of what I mean;
As you can see from the above image, there’s an example of a 35mm film. This is the field of view that we would get if we used a full frame camera. But with a crop sensor camera, this is going to be a narrower field of view as the sensor is smaller than the film. This is respective of each camera, as Nikon uses a 1.5x sensor whilst Canon and most other brands use a 1.6 sensor.
So, this explains why if you used a 50mm lens with a Canon APS-C camera, you’d actually be getting a 80mm field of view (50mm x 1.6). With a Nikon camera, this would be 75mm (50mm x 1.5). This might not sound like much of a difference, but it does completely change the photography.
For example, if you’re trying to take pictures of something at a far distance, then a crop sensor camera might actually be a better idea. This is because you won’t have to for out for an expensive, bulky lens as you would with a full frame (which is why full frame cameras have always been considered as a professionals choice).
If you shoot with a 200mm lens a full frame camera, you’re going to get a 200mm field of view. However if you do the same with a APS-C camera, you’re going to get a 300-320mm field of view, which can be easier to use for long range photos. So, APS-C’s aren’t all bad.
2. Depth of Field
Depth of field can simply be described as the blurring effect that you’ll get in the background when you’re taking photos. This blur can help isolate a subject, for example in portrait photography.
The two key factors that will have an effect on your background blur are focal length and aperture. We usually first set the aperture so that you can use a shallow depth of field (maximum aperture) and then use a longer focal length, which can help to create background blur and isolate the subject.
To the average person, this is not going to make much of a difference and will barely be noticeable. But with a full frame camera, you’re going to get a shallower depth of field which will create more of a blur. If you want a more in depth explanation on depth of field, check out this awesome guide.
One thing that you will have to consider nowadays is what lenses that you already own. We know that lenses can be very experience, particularly in astrophotography, so it’s important to be sure that your lenses are going to fit your camera.
One problem that many people have is their upgrade from APS-C to full frame. When they do this, they can find that some of their lenses are specifcally designed for use with the APS-C. Whilst you will find that some lenses are usable on both, APS-C only lenses are cheaper to make and there is a market for them. That means that when you do eventually upgrade to a full frame camera, the lenses that you’ve bought for old camera aren’t going to work with our full frame.
There’s a reason that entry level cameras use APS-C sensors – they’re smaller and cheaper than full frame sensors. For anyone looking for a new DSLR, I’d never recommend investing in a full frame camera, especially to begin with. It’s sort of like giving a Lamborghini to someone who’s just passed their driving test – it’s a bit of a waste, and you’re not going to be able to use it to it’s full potential. You’d be much better off opting for a budget DSLR like something from the Nikon D Series.
An APS-C camera is a good ole’ fashioned 35mm film camera with a digital sensor instead of film. What does this mean? The image is captured digitally, but the resulting image size is very close to that which would be captured by a 35mm film camera. What makes APS-C so darn great, then? What makes it better than your run-of-the mill compact camera or standard point and shoot? What makes you go “ahhhh”?
0.3x Crop Factor
Let’s say you’re taking photos in an area that has a lot going on around you, such as attractions at Disney World or something like that. You notice some awesome scenery and snap away—you love capturing the fun times! What if your photos did not come out as you wished? What if you had to crop a lot out of the photo in order to make it Instagram worthy?
What if your camera is an APS-C one, with a 0.3x crop factor? What that means is that the image sensor of your camera will be bigger than what you are used to (compact cameras and point and shoot cameras have smaller sensors). Well, larger image sensors mean more detail captured! Did you notice how beautiful the background was in some of those photos I took at Disney World last year ?
That’s because there was so much going on around me , and my Sony NEX-6 had no issue capturing it all. This allows for greater depth of field; meaning everything from near too far can be perfectly clear.
In any conclusion, you’re going to get disputes between opinions. Many people claim that a full frame isn’t an upgrade to an APS-C, but you are definitely going to have the ability to take more high quality shots – if you can utilize the FF to it’s full ability.
For beginners looking to get into photography or astrophotography, a expensive camera isn’t necessary and you’d be fine with a budget DSLR. But if you’re looking to take the next step in your photography career or go professional, then a full frame camera is a good choice for those looking to take things to the next level.