Q&A: Full-Frame Sensors vs Crop Sensors

Ashley asked:
“Can you explain DX vs FX and if it is ever worth the upgrade if you are not a professional photographer?”

Hey Ashely! When digital cameras replaced film cameras way back when, the image was captured on a digital sensor instead of film. When the first digital cameras were developed, instead of developing a digital sensor that was the same size as 35mm film, they developed a sensor that was smaller to make it more affordable. Today, we call those crop sensors (or in Nikon’s specific case, DX). Later on, they began to develop cameras with sensors the same size as 35mm film, which are known as full-frame sensors (Nikon=FX).

Here’s how the size of the sensor affects you. Take a 4×6 printed picture. Now cut that picture down to a 3×5. This is what a crop-sensor is – a cropped version of a full frame sensor. If you put a full frame camera with a 50mm lens on a tripod and take a picture, and then put a crop sensor camera with 50mm lens on the same tripod and take another picture, the viewpoint of the two photos would be different.

Maybe a graphic will help? (This isn’t necessarily to the official scale, but it’s close and demonstrates better than words!)

What this basically means for you is that on a crop sensor camera, a 50mm lens won’t have a “true” 50mm focal length. It has more like an 80mm focal length. Likewise, a 28mm lens on a crop sensor will be more like a 45mm focal length on a 35mm film camera.

Are you confused? Don’t be. Although full frame cameras tend to handle low light situations better and have a higher resolution, they definitely aren’t a necessity. My favorite camera, my little Fuji X100s, has a crop sensor and I swear to you, it has better image quality than my full-frame Canon 5D mark II. :)

If you’re finding that your 50mm it too tight of a focal length to use indoors, buy a 28mm or something even wider. That was my biggest complaint when shooting with my Canon Rebel.

I hope this helps! Feel free to ask any follow up questions in the comments section!


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