Full Frame vs APS-C – Image Quality is Fundamental!
Should you upgrade to a total frame camera? Are APS-C (ingather) sensor cameras good enough? You know about the size differences, it’s the image quality you need to see. Is it worth it?
Well, hither we are going to examination the deviation in epitome quality between full frame and APS-C sensor cameras. We volition expect at the divergence in noise, dynamic range and the fine particular between the two.
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Full Frame and APS-C Sensor Basics
Before we move onto the test let’south get the nuts out the way. Of course, if you are familiar with all this, so simply scroll downwardly the page to the test results.
What is a Camera Sensor?
Let’southward keep this uncomplicated! A camera’s sensor is what captures the lite and creates an prototype, in the sometime days it was camera film that captured the light. Now it’south a digital chip, commonly known as a camera sensor.
Why the different sensor sizes?
There are three common sizes of camera sensors and here they are in society of big to small:
Full frame sensor – 35mm forth its longest edge (based on the former 35mm negative size).
APS-C Sensor (too known as Crop Sensor) – 22mm along its longest edge.
Micro 4 iii sensor – 17mm along its longest edge.
For this blog we will be focusing on full frame and ingather (APS-C) cameras only.
The main departure between a crop sensor (APS-C) and a full frame sensor is its size. In full general, the bigger the sensor, the bigger the camera body will be, and more information will be captured.
In that location are two chief reasons photographic camera companies make different size sensors. The showtime is cost – it cost less to manufacture smaller sensors therefore that cost can then be passed onto the customer. In this very competitive world of ‘What camera should I buy?’ toll makes a large difference in your determination.
The 2nd is size – Full frame cameras are bigger and heavier, so some people chose the crop sensor system to brand their kit smaller and lighter. Not only will the camera body be smaller merely so will the lenses and all the accessories.
Your Sensor’s outcome on Image Quality
At present we’ve discussed the unlike sizes, it’s time to consider the image quality in relation to the size of the sensor. In curt, the bigger the sensor size, the ameliorate the image quality volition be. Only, is it enough to warrant upgrading to a full frame camera or is the quality of a crop sensor sufficient enough for yous to ditch big total frame systems?
When deciding which is right for you, firstly consider the following pros and cons.
Full Frame Sensors
Bigger sensors mean more detail – Comes into effect if printing very big images or doing loftier end retouching and digital manipulation.
Better in low calorie-free situations – A bigger sensor has bigger pixels which means each pixel tin capture more lite and this creates less noise at higher ISOs. To learn more most ISO and noise, click here.
Bigger camera bodies and bigger lenses – Total frame sensor kits are a lot larger and heavier. Don’t forget, the bigger the camera the bigger the lenses and tripod needed. When you start carrying effectually a full frame camera, three lenses and a tripod that volition take its weight, you’ll detect the difference believe me!
Expensive – Full frame cameras tend to exist more expensive. Not only this, merely the lenses and accessories for full frames are besides more than expensive, so make sure you have deep pockets!
APS-C Ingather Sensors
Smaller kit- in dissimilarity to the above these kits are a lot smaller and lighter. If you desire to carry effectually a small kit with a light tripod, then this will be the way to become.
Focal Lengths go further – The same focal length on an APS-C camera will zoom in further than on a full frame camera. I.eastward. 600m on a full frame camera will be 400mm on a crop sensor. In short, a lighter and smaller lens tin can zoom in farther.
Cheaper – in full general smaller sensor cameras are cheaper, particularly the APS-C system. The APS-C (crop sensor) system is the nearly mutual and therefore there are a lot of camera brands competing for your money and that’s where bargains can exist had. The most cost-constructive system is the starter camera kits virtually of the large names offer. Remember, it’s not what y’all’ve got information technology’southward what you can exercise with it and so don’t exist fooled by spending big money to go nifty shots!
Lower quality than total frame – Just permit’s exist articulate on this, because APS-C is lower quality than total frame, doesn’t mean it’due south ‘depression quality’. These days all new cameras produce fantastic results.
More racket at college ISO – Smaller photographic camera sensors tend to perform worst at high ISO’s. This volition come into play in depression lite situations.
Full frame vs APS-C sensors – Test one – Proficient Lighting Conditions
The starting time pictures we will employ to exam image quality are the two below. One was taken on a full frame Nikon D850 45 mega pixel camera, and the other was taken on a Fuji XT-4 APS-C 26 mega pixel crop sensor camera. They were both taken in the same place at the same time with similar settings. They were taken whilst filming our Pro Landscape Photography Course with lensman Tom Archer.
To make this every bit shut to a ‘real life’ exam equally possible, firstly, we volition look at the differences in the images when candy. Equally far as processing goes, they have had small adjustments fabricated in Lightroom. Full details in the video above.
As you can meet from the images higher up there is very fiddling difference in image quality when viewed here. This is the get-go matter to realise, when viewing pictures on the internet similar this, no one will tell whether it’southward been taken with a full frame or crop sensor camera. “No one will detect on Instagram”, I’ve said that a few times and it’s so truthful!
Processed images viewed at 100%
But now permit’due south look at these images zoomed at 100% of its pixels. This is when you view the image at total resolution in a mail service processing programme like Lightroom.
How to employ Lightroom Properly
Here y’all tin get-go to see some small differences in quality. The full frame seems to have more detail only don’t forget that information technology has more pixels which also makes it expect more zoomed in. For arguments sake here, I wouldn’t be worried about these differences viewed at 100%.
Processed images viewed at 200% – Looking at Image detail
But now allow’southward zoom into these images further and view them at 200%
Here we tin can actually see the differences betwixt the two. The main deviation is in the details of the scene. The trees and bushes in this instance. In the crop sensor example, the copse expect painterly, the tree branches and leaves have merged into what looks like a brush stroke. The bushes in the scene take also been reduced to merely blocks of color and tone. Whereas in the Total frame sensor example, a lot more than details has been retained within the trees and bushes.
Processed images viewed at 200% – Looking at Noise
The next thing nosotros demand to note is difference in dissonance betwixt full frame and ingather sensor cameras.
This is where it gets interesting! You lot will come across noise announced more in blank areas of a scene, i.e. the heaven, or within the shadows. When you lot consider the full frame case was taken at a lower ISO, the deviation in noise is minimal. Perchance y’all would expect this in good lighting conditions just yet, hither is a good, real life, case of this.
Acquire about ISO and noise in photography
– Now you may hear people talk about how the colours are meliorate from one brand to the side by side and that is why should buy make A over brand B. I can tell you that is totally irrelevant as you can change the colours so easily in post processing. When shooting in raw, a camera’southward colour profile can exist changed easily therefore testing for colour changes here is pointless. What we are looking at in this test is the differences in item, racket, and dynamic range.
Raw images viewed at 100% – Testing Dynamic Range
So at present let’southward look at how full frame cameras deal with dynamic range when compared to a crop sensor. Dynamic range is the range of tones and colours an image has. The more dynamic range the picture has, the better. As a quick example, if you have good dynamic range within an image, you volition hands exist able to residual the exposure and landscape scene past concealment the highlights in the sky.
For this test, I reset each picture to a pure raw file, and then I lifted the shadows to + 100% and reduced the highlights to – 100%. Further details of this in the video. This is a real-life test that will push button the shadows and highlights to their max.
In the instance above y’all can see that the full frame example holds more than details within the shadows. It besides holds more item in the highlights but not every bit much as inside the shadows. You take to remember though, that these images accept been pushed to limits of their highlights and shadows and in the real world you probably wouldn’t demand to go that far.
Summary – Full frame vs APS-C Sensor – Good Lighting Atmospheric condition
So, every bit y’all await, the total frame sensor does outperform the ingather sensor. That is not what’s upward for argue here. What yous have to decide is – is this amend functioning enough for yous to upgrade?
My opinion is the noise difference between a ingather sensor and full frame sensor, in good lighting conditions, is negligible. The dynamic range differences volition but come into effect if you lot have exposed your photo incorrectly or if you lot’re shooting in contrasting situations where strong lights and darks are nowadays. You can also bracket pictures like this one to create a HDR merge which will give you more dynamic range. So, in brusque, shooting in good lighting conditions wouldn’t be a problem if noise and/or dynamic range is what you are worried well-nigh.
For me the chief difference here is in the fine details. As seen in this test, the full frame sensor picks upward far more than detail than the ingather sensor. At present this won’t be a problem if your imagery is but for the internet or for full general size prints only if you are going to be cropping into photos or fine detail is key to your pictures, then I feel using a crop sensor will become an issue.
Full frame vs Ingather sensors – Test 2 – Depression Light Situations
At present it’s all good and well comparison sensors in adept weather but where it will really make a difference is nether challenging atmospheric condition. In detail, in low light using high ISO’s. Then, in this exam I take 2 pictures at the same time, with the aforementioned settings using an ISO of 10,000. The full frame camera used is a Catechism 5D Mk IV (thirty.4 mega pixel) and the ingather sensor camera is a Fuji XT-iv APS-C (26 mega pixel).
As before we volition beginning past looking at the processed pictures. Again, both pictures have had basic adjustments made in Lightroom and the sharpening and dissonance reduction is exactly the same on both. This is to provide a ‘real life’ test.
Every bit before, when viewing on the internet like this, you will see no deviation in image quality.
Processed images viewed at 100% – Looking at Noise
The main issue with shooting at high ISO’s is noise. Before digital this would have been the moving-picture show grain. To larn more about noise in photography, click here.
Let’s zoom in to view the images at 100% of its pixels and see the differences in racket.
When we view both images at 200% of their pixels, we tin encounter a lot of noise. You tin outset to see whats chosen ‘worming’. This is when the pixels bunch together and create wiggly lines. Worming is what happens when sharpening images in mail service processing, and basically it breaks downward to this. The more noise you have, the more than worming you will run across.
We can see in these examples that the full frame camera is dealing with noise a lot improve than the crop sensor. But, when will yous be viewing images at 200%? And is it plenty deviation to warrant that increase in costs and size?
Raw images viewed at 100% – Testing Dynamic Range
In this test, as before, I reset each picture to a pure raw file then I lifted the shadows to + 100% and reduced the highlights to – 100%. Further details of this in the video. This is a real-life test that will push the shadows and highlights to their max in a high ISO situation.
I suppose that this is the nigh surprising test of all. When pushing the highlights and shadows to their maximum, both the full frame and ingather sensor instance, performed very similar. There is degrading in the shadows of both pictures, and information technology looks like they are both even in this degrading.
Now of class you lot generally wouldn’t push images this far, but it just shows that the dynamic range, in low low-cal, in both a full frame and crop sensor, perform every bit well. In this instance at least.
Summary – Full frame vs APS-C Sensor – Low Lite Atmospheric condition
Testing these sensors in low light has produced some surprising results! I really was expecting the crop sensor to perform a lot worst than information technology did. Clearly you can see the difference in the two and the full frame sensor does outperform the APS-C one. Only the crop senor still performed extremely well considering the pictures were taken at an ISO of 10,000!
What camera should you buy? – Is it worth upgrading?
When information technology comes to a photographic camera, the brand quite simply doesn’t matter. They are all good these days.
All-time Beginner Camera – What you lot demand to know
Full frame sensors will outperform ingather sensors when information technology comes to image quality. Full frame systems are bigger than crop sensor systems. These are things we know. The fundamental here is just how much more than epitome quality to you get? And, is that worth the extra money it will cost you and, is it worth the extra size of kit you will need to carry around with yous?
Those are questions but you can ask, and if you exercise have an stance, let us know in the comments beneath.
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About the author
I’yard Marc Newton and I’1000 a photographer, educational speaker, author, instructor of photography and the founder of The Schoolhouse of Photography. Follow my personal piece of work on Facebook and Instagram.