By Douglas Sonders
Some say shooting with a full-frame DSLR is “better.” Is this true?
With the advancement of sensor technology and lenses you can still get a camera that has incredible quality and depth with a more affordable than a crop sensor camera body such as a APS-C. Most average folks probably couldn’t tell the quality difference between a crop sensor and a similar megapixel full-frame camera with the same lens.
When they first started making digital SLR cameras, they used pre-existing 35mm film camera chassis so when film photographers like myself wanted to transition to digital, we could use the same lenses. Although they created “crop sensor” cameras (usually around 24mm) because manufacturers realized that the larger the surface area of the sensor, the exponentially more expensive the process was to make and sell them. Therefore, to make the first DSLRs more accessible to the consumer market, they made these smaller sensors, which is why you can now buy a nice entry-level crop sensor for $500. Although, as time passes, it becomes more affordable to buy a full-frame camera as manufacturing processes and technology improves. Five years ago, a full-frame from Canon cost $8,000, where today you can buy a full-frame 6D for around $1,600.
If you want to get technical about it, the larger the sensor’s surface area, the greater potential for dynamic range and shallower cinematic depth-of-field. The larger the sensor, the more surface area your pixels have to spread out and absorb light every time your shutter opens. This is why I invested in a Phase One digital medium format, which essentially has five more stops in dynamic range in the highlights and shadows than the class-leading 35mm full-frame cameras, and has a considerably shallower depth-of-field creating more cinematic images when I open up the aperture.