Full Frame Camera vs Cropped Sensor

Apr 12, 2010 | articles

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.