Buying a camera is a big investment and no small decision. One huge factor of picking a camera is deciding whether to get a full frame (more appropriately called a 35mm frame size) or a crop sensor camera. So in this article I'm going to cover some pros and cons to each to hopefully help you understand them better. So lets get to it.
Pros to Full Frame
1) Low light capabilities - because full frame cameras actually have larger sensors, larger photosites, and have to use larger lenses, they collect light better. This allows them to do really well in low light conditions
2) Low ISO Noise - because of what I just stated above, they also handle ISO beautifully! You can use higher noise than on a crop sensor and still get low noise. Most full frame cameras also have enormous ISO ranges. For example, the new Nikon D4 can reach up to 204,800 ISO. Even the Nikon D7000 (Top notch crop-sensor) can only go up to 25,600 in HI2 mode. So you can see what I mean.
3) Wide angle- without the crop magnification you can get a lot wider angle. This and the listed benefits above are part of why full frames are so popular for landscape, arcitecture, etc. Cause they can get really wide angles. For example, 18-55mm kit lenses on a 1.5x crop-sensor are acting as 27-82.5mm. So on a full frame camera, an 18mm lens is actually shooting at 18mm.
4) Dynamic Range - full frame cameras also have great dynamic ranges. They capture more detail in shadows and highlights. This also slightly affects color. You can get more correct colors (assuming you can take a proper exposure to begin with) and give you smooth colors due to details captured.
5) They just look impressive. (hehe, my favorite!)
Pros to Crop Sensor
1) Magnification - the crop sensor magnification can actually be a great thing. Crop sensors are sometimes preferred for sports, wildlife, etc. because a 300mm lens on a 1.5x crop is suddenly acting as a 450mm lens. It actually allows you to get a little closer crop and that can be desirable depending on what you're shooting
2) Depth of Field - Crop sensors have quite a high depth of field. This could allow you to catch sharper details in both foreground and background. So opposite of having a super-shallow DOF with a lot of blur in the background. Now this point still depends your lens, aperture, focal length, and distance from subject. But it does have some affect.
3) Cost - They're a lot cheaper than full frame cameras. Ranging from $300 for entry level to $1,200 for better models. Full frame cameras can get up to around $6,000.
4) Weight - They're also lighter than full frame cameras. Lenses are slightly smaller, smaller bodies, and smaller parts inside.
5) Lenses - You have a wide variety of lenses to choose from.
Cons to Full Frame
1) Cost - They're expensive. Because of the way the sensors are produced, the cost gets bumped up a lot. Again, they can get up to $6,000 for the body only. My Nikon D600, which I've absolutely loved, was only roughly $1,400 and is still an amazing beast of a camera body.
2) Weight - Some people may not mind, but they are heavier. Add a heavy lens and a long day of shooting a wedding and you've suddenly got very tired arms and forearms.
3) Lens Availability - There aren't as many FX lenses available. A full frame lens (FX) will work on a crop sensor, but a crop sensor lens (DX) will not work on a full frame camera. You will get major lens vignette around all your images. FX lenses are made larger to handle the larger sensor, but there's not a HUGE variety like there is for crop sensor cameras.
4) The wide angle of view - Again, this is only a drawback depending on what you are shooting.
I'm not going to do cons for the crop sensor because you get the idea. If I've already said something about one, then the inverse is probably true for the other type. So hopefully that helped give you a bit more info on the differences between the two. If you found this article helpful or interesting, please share it with friends and family by using the Twitter and Facebook share buttons below. Thank you.