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d600-crop-frame-full-frame Gear & Apps

Crop Frame Sensors vs. Full Frame Sensors

By Leo Hoang on May 11th 2012

With all the rumours floating around about the new Nikon D600, and with the recent releases of the Canon 5DMK3, 1DX, and Nikons D800 and D4, I thought it would be best to discuss what the benefits and drawbacks are of owning a Full Frame camera.

There are plenty of people out there keen on getting the Nikon D600 because it is a cheaper Full Frame option, and with the rumoured specifications of the HD Video, 24mp, no internal motor, and possibly coming with a kit lens that is 24-70mm f/3.5-4.5.

It raises the question; why would anyone want this? To me, this camera is not bringing anything new to the table; it is just something that has been stripped down to be made cheaper and more available to the hobbyist. Which is fair enough, but if you are only a hobbyist, is there really a necessity to go Full Frame?

Especially when there is a newly announced Nikon D3200 which also has HD Video capabilities, 24mp, no internal focusing motor and comes with a kit lens which is 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6.

Undoubtedly, everyone would like to own a Full Frame camera as it is dubbed as the better sensor, better in low-light conditions and larger field of view. Where that is all true, there are some drawbacks to owning a Full Frame camera.

First off, cost is the main factor with the initial and additional cost of photography.

There is no point in buying an expensive full frame camera, and not have a lens to full utilise the sensor to attain full sharpness and image quality.

DRTV did a video on the topic of “Pro DSLR + Cheapo Lens vs. Cheapo DSLR + Pro Lens” which discusses this topic further shown below.

The initial cost of a Full Frame Camera is significantly higher than a high-end Crop Sensor camera. Both Nikon D300s/D7000 and Canon 7D come in at around £1000, and then the next model up for Full Frame for both makes is either D700 or 5DMKii, and both of those come in at around £1600 for Body Only.

So for the cost of one Full Frame camera, you could purchase a high-end DX camera with a purposeful lens.

The costs of the lenses are also significantly higher in FX format as opposed to DX also. Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens equates to around £600, whereas the FX equivalent you could purchase a 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 for around £700, but with those lenses side by side, you would not notice the difference unless you really pixel peep, even at that, I do not think the hobbyist would notice. If you regard yourself as professional, then you would need to opt for the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8, and for both Nikon and Canon you are looking at almost £3k or above for those two lenses alone.

So as a hobbyist, I think that is an excessive amount of money to be spending on photography equipment for where you are not earning that same money back, unless of course you do have the money to spare.

The other disadvantage is the size and weight of the equipment, for quality lenses. I know from experience, carrying around FX gear can be extremely tiresome.  The weight of the 14-24mm f/2.8 comes in at 970g, and the Nikon DX equivalent, 12-24mm, is 485g. The FX lens is double the weight, and when you think this is just one item I am discussing, the added weight difference could equate to a few Kg’s.

Looking beyond the cost and weight of the equipment, you do benefit from sharper images with less ghosting and colour fringing with the FX lenses.  With the FX lenses on a Full Frame sensor, you would then be benefitting from the complete field of view, with that, you could also gain a shallower depth of field with each lens as you do not have to stand back to gain your field of view, as focal distance plays a major part in depth of field.

As a hobbyist, I love shooting my DX gear, the camera equipment does not weigh me down as much, and as these shots are for my own pleasure, I don’t feel the pressure of trying to have a perfect shot. I also feel at times I need to shoot for fun, and therefore I do choose the lighter DX gear to walk around with.

As a professional, shooting Weddings and Events, I did notice some limitations of shooting DX, and that was mainly field of view (as my lenses were FX), and overall speed and ISO performance.

When I moved to FX, it made my life easier when shooting a Wedding, but as a hobbyist, DX equipment offers me more or less all of the thrills but a lot less of the drawbacks.

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Leo Hoang is a professional photographer based in London who shoots Weddings, Events and Real-Estate.

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