APS-C Sensor vs Full Frame (Find Out Which is Right For You)

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The APS-C sensor vs full frame sensor debate is a hot topic. Sensor size plays a crucial role in image quality, with both APS-C and full-frame sensors offering unique advantages.

An APS-C sensor, an abbreviation for Advanced Photo System type-C, is commonly found in digital cameras like DSLRs while full-frame sensors are typically seen in high-end professional cameras.

Each sensor impacts how your camera interacts with light and ultimately affects your final image.

This post delves into the differences between these two types of camera sensors, shedding light on their functionalities within different camera bodies – from film to digital cameras – and their influence on megapixels and overall photography.

Camera sensor

APS-C Sensor vs Full Frame

Full frame and APS-C sensors are both found in digital cameras, but they’re different. Full frame sensors are bigger, capturing more light and detail, making them great for low-light photos. APS-C sensors are smaller and common in more affordable cameras. They multiply the lens’s focal length, which is good for zoomed-in photos but not for wide shots. Choosing between them depends on what the photographer needs and can afford. There is a less common type of sensor in cameras, and that is medium format. Medium format sensors are bigger than full frame but considerably more expensive and outside the scope of this article, but it’s worth mentioning for context.

You might also like: Micro 4/3 vs APS-C: Battle of The Sensors (Everything to Know)

Origin and Differences of Sensor Sizes

Let’s dive into the world of sensor sizes, how they came about and what makes APS-C and full-frame sensors distinct from each other.

Historical Development of Sensor Sizes

Back in the day, film cameras were all the rage. The “full-frame” term comes from the old 35mm film size, which was considered the standard. Digital cameras came along and tried to replicate that size but fell a bit short due to cost and technology limitations.

APS-C, or Advanced Photo System type-C, was one solution to this problem. It offered a smaller, more affordable sensor while still providing great image quality.

Physical Size Differences Between Sensors

Camera without a lens attatched

Size matters.

A full-frame sensor is larger – roughly equivalent to a 35mm film frame. On the other hand, an APS-C sensor is about two-thirds its size.

This difference means that a full-frame can gather more light than an APS-C sensor – kind of like having bigger windows in your house lets in more sunlight.

Pixel Density Variation in Both Sensor Types

Pixel density refers to how many pixels are crammed into a given area on the sensor. More pixels usually mean better detail but there’s a catch!

Full-frame sensors have larger pixels because they’re spread out over a larger area. This leads to better light gathering capabilities and less noise at higher ISO settings.

In contrast, APS-C sensors have smaller pixels packed closely together which might result in more noise under low-light conditions.

A camera sensor being manufactured

Impact on Field View Due to Sensor Size Differences

The field view changes with different sensor sizes due to something called “crop factor”. Imagine looking at a scene through your camera as if it were printed on a billboard – now imagine cutting out part of that billboard – that’s essentially what happens with smaller sensors!

A full-frame camera captures everything you see through your lens while an APS-C camera only captures a smaller portion of it.

How Crop Factor Varies with Sensor Sizes

The crop factor, also known as the focal length multiplier, is a term that describes the difference in the angle of view between different sensor sizes.

This is a critical concept in photography that affects both the composition and framing of your shots.

A full-frame sensor has a crop factor of 1. This simply means that it offers the standard field of view – the frame captures exactly what you see through your camera’s viewfinder. Full-frame sensors are larger and often produce better image quality because they can capture more light and detail.

On the flip side, we have APS-C cameras which typically have a crop factor of around 1.5 to 1.6. This means they “zoom in” slightly on the image compared to full-frame sensors. It’s like having a built-in telephoto effect.

The reason behind this is that APS-C sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors, so they capture a narrower portion of the scene, effectively giving the impression of being zoomed in.

For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens on an APS-C camera with a crop factor of 1.5, it would offer the same field of view as a 75mm lens on a full-frame camera (50mm x 1.5 = 75mm).

However, it’s important to note that while this “zoom effect” can be beneficial for capturing distant subjects or shooting in tight spaces, it could also limit wide-angle shots. Therefore, understanding your camera’s sensor size and its corresponding crop factor can greatly influence your photography results.

Impact of Sensor Size on Image Quality

Larger Sensors and Depth-of-Field Control

Bigger is often better, right?

In the world of photography, this saying rings true when we talk about image sensor size. A larger sensor, like a full frame, offers more control over depth-of-field. Think about it as having a bigger canvas to paint your image on.

Why does this matter? Well, with greater depth-of-field control, you can isolate subjects from their background more effectively. This means that dreamy blurred background effect (known as bokeh) is easier to achieve with a full frame sensor.

Smaller Pixels in APS-C for Detail Capture

On the flip side, APS-C sensors have smaller pixels. Now you might be thinking: “Isn’t bigger always better?” Not necessarily! Smaller pixels can capture finer details in an image.

A small sensor

Imagine each pixel as a tiny bucket collecting light. With smaller buckets (pixels), you can fit more into the same space – meaning more detail in your images!

Full Frame’s Larger Pixels Shine in Low Light

When the sun goes down and light becomes scarce, larger pixels come into their own. Full frame sensors with their larger pixels are typically better at capturing images in low-light conditions than their APS-C counterparts.

The reason?

Bigger pixels can gather more light – think bigger buckets catching raindrops! So if you’re shooting under the stars or snapping pics at a dimly lit party, a full frame sensor will likely give you clearer results.

The Sensor Size-Resolution Relationship

Speaking of clarity, let’s chat about resolution. There’s a common misconception that resolution is all about megapixel count. While megapixels do play a part, they aren’t the whole story.

Sensor size also has an impact on resolution. A larger sensor can accommodate more or larger pixels which contributes to higher image quality and print enlargements without loss of detail.

Sensor Size’s Effect on Dynamic Range

Finally, let’s touch on dynamic range. This is the ability of a sensor to capture detail in both the darkest and lightest parts of an image. A larger sensor size generally equates to a greater dynamic range.


More space allows for more or larger pixels. These can capture a wider range of light and dark details, giving your images more depth and richness.

Lens Selection for APS-C vs Full Frame

Lens Compatibility Considerations

Choosing the right lens for your camera is indeed similar to selecting the ideal pair of shoes. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, but rather a careful selection process based on specific needs and compatibility.

The sensor size of your camera, whether it’s APS-C or full frame, plays a significant role in this compatibility. Let’s break it down a bit more.

Full frame lenses are quite versatile.

They can work with both full frame cameras and APS-C cameras. This is because full frame lenses have a larger image circle that covers the entire area of both types of sensors.

So, if you’re using a full frame lens on an APS-C camera, you’re good to go! However, when you use an APS-C lens on a full frame camera, things can get a little tricky.

Fujifilm camera

The APS-C lens has a smaller image circle that doesn’t cover the entire area of the full frame sensor. As a result, you might notice dark corners in your photos due to this incomplete coverage.

This effect is often referred to as vignetting. And let’s be honest, unless it’s an intentional artistic choice, dark corners in your photos aren’t cool!

So remember, while choosing a lens for your travel camera, consider the sensor size to ensure optimal compatibility and avoid any potential image quality issues.

Cost Implications

Lenses for APS-C sensors usually cost less than those for full frames. This could be a deciding factor if you’re watching your wallet or if you’re new to the travel photography game and looking for a beginner travel camera.

However, remember that cheaper doesn’t always mean better. Full frame lenses are often superior in terms of image quality and performance.

Focal Length Multiplier Effect

Understanding the nuances of different camera sensors is crucial.

One area where photographers often get caught up is the focal length multiplier effect, also commonly referred to as the crop factor. This phenomenon can dramatically alter your shots, especially when you’re using an APS-C camera.

Let’s break it down with an example. Imagine you have a 50mm lens, a popular choice among photographers for its versatility.

When you use this 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, it provides what we call a ‘standard view’. This means that the image you see through the lens closely mirrors what you would see with the naked eye. It’s the perfect balance between wide-angle and telephoto perspectives.

However, when you take that same 50mm lens and mount it on an APS-C camera, things change significantly due to the crop factor. Suddenly, your lens behaves more like an 80mm lens. Why does this happen? It’s because APS-C sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors.

They effectively ‘crop’ the image that comes through the lens, making it appear as though you’ve zoomed in closer to your subject.

Close up of a camera

This shift can be advantageous if you’re aiming for close-up shots or portraits as it allows for greater detail capture.

However, it might not be ideal if your goal is to capture wide scenes or landscapes. The cropped sensor will limit your field of view, making it difficult to fit everything into your frame.

Remember, understanding your equipment and how it functions in different scenarios is key to capturing great photographs. So keep experimenting and happy shooting!

Variety of Lenses

Full frame camera systems, without a doubt, tend to have more options when it comes to lenses.

This is a huge advantage for photographers who want to experiment with different kinds of photography. Whether you are a landscape photographer in need of wide-angle lenses or a wildlife photographer looking for telephoto ones, there’s something for everyone in the full frame world.

These lenses can help you capture images with better clarity and detail, making your photos look more professional. On the other hand, APS-C cameras aren’t left out in the cold; they’ve got their fair share of lens options too!

These cameras are smaller and lighter which makes them a great choice for those who travel with camera gear frequently or prefer a lighter load.

They offer lenses ranging from wide-angle to telephoto, just like full frames. You can definitely find some quality lenses that will help you capture great shots.

However, it’s important to note that the variety of lenses available for APS-C cameras isn’t as vast as with full frame systems. While this doesn’t mean you can’t get great photos with an APS-C camera, it does limit your choices somewhat.

For instance, if you’re into macro photography, you might find fewer lens options with APS-C cameras compared to full frame ones.

Both full frame and APS-C camera systems have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to lens options. It’s all about understanding what each system offers and choosing the one that best suits your photography needs and style.

Impact on Angle View

The sensor size also affects how much of the scene your camera captures – this is known as angle view. A full-frame sensor will give you a wider view than an APS-C sensor when using the same lens.

For example, if you’re shooting with a 24mm wide-angle lens on a full-frame camera, you’ll get a wider view compared to using it on an APS-C camera.

Analyzing Dynamic Range and Noise Levels

Dynamic Ranges: APS-C vs Full Frame

An APS-C sensor vs full frame sensors offer different dynamic ranges. The dynamic range refers to the breadth of light intensities a sensor can capture, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights.

Full-frame sensors generally have greater dynamic range than APS-C sensors. This is because they are larger and can gather more light, resulting in better detail in both shadows and highlights.

For example, let’s compare two popular DSLR cameras: Nikon D850 (full frame) and Canon 7D Mark II (APS-C). According to test charts, the D850 offers a wider dynamic range at lower ISOs than the 7D Mark II.

A camera and two lenses

Noise Levels at Higher ISOs

Let’s talk about noise levels now. As you crank up your camera’s ISO number, you’ll start to notice graininess or ‘noise’ in your photos.

Full-frame cameras usually perform better at higher ISOs than APS-C cameras. This is because they have larger pixels that can collect more light with less noise.

Again, if we look at our previous example of Nikon D850 and Canon 7D Mark II, we’ll find that images taken with D850 exhibit less noise at higher ISOs compared to those taken with 7D Mark II.

Pixel Size and Performance

The size of the pixels on your sensor plays a huge role in determining noise levels and dynamic range performance. Larger pixels can absorb more light which reduces noise levels even when you’re shooting at high ISOs.

On full-frame cameras like Nikon D850, these larger pixels translate into cleaner images with better depth and detail.

On the other hand, smaller pixels on APS-C sensors like those found on Canon 7D Mark II may lead to increased noise levels especially when shooting in low-light conditions or using higher ISO settings.

Larger Pixels Equal Less Noise

In the world of photography, size does matter. Larger pixels found on full-frame sensors are more effective at reducing noise levels when shooting at high ISOs.

This is because they can collect more light and provide a better signal-to-noise ratio. This results in cleaner, crisper images with less graininess or ‘noise’.

Smaller Pixels Can Increase Noise

On the flip side, smaller pixels found on APS-C sensors can lead to increased noise levels. This is especially noticeable when shooting in low-light conditions or using higher ISO settings.

Since these smaller pixels cannot gather as much light as their larger counterparts, they produce images with more noise and less detail.

Comparing Low Light Performance

Larger Surface Area, Better Performance

Full frame sensors have a larger surface area. This means they can capture more light in low-light situations. The bigger the sensor, the more light it absorbs, which makes your photos brighter and clearer.

For example, imagine you’re taking a picture at night. A full frame sensor will be able to gather more of that scarce light compared to an APS-C sensor.

A Canon DSLR

Deciding the Best Sensor for Your Needs

Factors to Consider

Choosing between APS-C and full-frame sensors isn’t a walk in the park. There are several factors to consider.

Firstly, think about your photography needs. Are you into action shots or more of a landscape person? The choice of sensor can make a world of difference.

Secondly, ponder over your style. Do you prefer crisp, detailed images or is portability more crucial to you?

Lastly, don’t forget about cost implications. Full-frame sensors generally come with a heftier price tag than their APS-C counterparts.

APS-C Sensor vs Full Frame Debate

When it comes to the APS-C sensor vs full frame sensor debate, each has its unique strengths and weaknesses. The choice between them largely depends on your specific photography needs and budget constraints.

Full frame sensors typically offer superior image quality, particularly in low light conditions, but they also come with a heftier price tag.

On the other hand, APS-C sensors are more affordable and compact, making them ideal for amateur photographers or those on a tight budget.

However, it’s crucial to remember that the sensor size is just one aspect of a camera’s overall performance.

Other factors such as lens quality, shooting technique, and post-processing skills can significantly influence the final image outcome.

So before you make your purchase decision, consider all these aspects carefully. And if you need further assistance or information about camera sensors or any other photography-related topics, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


Does a larger sensor mean better image quality?

In general terms, a larger sensor can capture more light and detail which can result in better image quality. However, this also depends on other factors like lens quality and shooting technique.

Are full frame cameras better than APS-C cameras?

Full frame cameras generally provide better image quality compared to APS-C cameras especially in low-light conditions due to their larger sensor size. But they’re usually more expensive.

Is an APS-C camera good enough for professional use?

Yes! Many professionals use APS-C cameras due to their smaller size and weight which makes them easier for travel or street photography.

Can I use full-frame lenses on an APS-C camera?

Yes! Full-frame lenses can be used on APS-C cameras but keep in mind that there will be a crop factor involved which effectively increases the focal length of the lens.

Which should I buy – an APS-C or full-frame camera?

The choice between APS-C and full-frame largely depends on your specific needs, budget, and the type of photography you do. Consider these factors carefully before making a decision.

Does sensor size affect depth of field?

Yes! Larger sensors can provide a shallower depth of field at the same aperture setting compared to smaller sensors.