Full Frame Camera vs Cropped Sensor

Few folks have asked me what the difference is between full frame cameras an cropped sensor cameras. I try explaining it but some folks just don’t get it. That’s why I wrote this article to explain it using photos instead of words.

The photo below are the three camera bodies I own. From left to right; the Canon 5D, Canon 20D and a Canon Rebel XT. The Canon 5D is a full frame camera and the others are cropped sensors.

As you can see difference is in the size. The white box represents the size of the cropped sensor. Notice the Canon 5D’s full frame sensor is much larger than the white box.

I’ve posted bigger photos of each camera below so you can really see the difference in size. Excuse my photography skills, I had to shoot them all with my camcorder.

Canon 5D Full Frame Sensor

Canon 20D Cropped Sensor

Canon Rebel XT Cropped Sensor

How a full frame camera affects your photo.

Full frame cameras have a much larger sensor allowing more image to fit into one photograph. Below are sample photos from all three cameras using the same 17mm wide angle lens.

Canon 5D full frame sensor with a 17mm lens.

Canon 20D cropped sensor with a 17mm lens.

Canon Rebel XT cropped sensor with a 17mm lens.

Below is a better example to see the difference between a full frame camera versus cropped sensor camera using a wide angle lens.

As you can see, a full frame camera will give you more image area with a wide angle lens.

“But what about telephoto lenses?”

I’m glad you asked. When using a telephoto lens the cropped sensor camera will have the advantage of a further zoom. The examples below will show you the difference.

Canon 5D full frame sensor with a 400mm lens.

Canon 20D cropped sensor with a 400mm lens.

Canon Rebel XT cropped sensor with a 400mm lens.

Check out the comparison sample below to see the difference.

The cropped sensor might appear to zoom closer but don’t let that fool you. You can still get the same photo by cropping your full frame image using your photo editing program.

If you’re debating whether to get a full frame camera or a crop sensor. I would recommend the full frame but you really need to compare cameras. Nevertheless full frame will always give you a better image quality.

6 thoughts on “Full Frame Camera vs Cropped Sensor

  1. Captain Kimo Post author

    No problem Debbie. I had a hard time to understanding it when I started it!

  2. Debbie Richardson

    Thank you for taking the time to explain this! I had heard about full frame and cropped sensors and did not understand the difference. I am so appreciative of someone who takes the time and energy required to explain this, so that amateurs like myself can learn.
    Thank you so much!

  3. Captain Kimo Post author

    It’s all about price… full frame cameras cost more to make. Not everyone is willing to spend 2K+ on an FF SLR camera. That’s why camera companies produce crop sensor cameras to sell to price conscience consumers.

  4. tommy

    Thanks Captain! But 1 question still remains..if full frame is the best in terms of image quality, why build crop camera then? while we always could crop the image later on to get the same result as a crop camera does?

  5. Captain Kimo Post author

    To me a full frame works better since I have more room to work with. But since you’re such a sharp shooter I think a crop sensor is perfect for you ;)

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