Full frame vs Crop sensor: can you tell the difference?

Oct 3, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Full frame vs Crop sensor: can you tell the difference?

Oct 3, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Many photographers with crop sensor cameras dream of switching to full frame sensor. But is it really essential for raising your work to a next level? Photographer Manny Ortiz has created a real-world comparison of the photos taken with a full frame and a crop sensor camera. He shot with a full-frame, $5,000 Sony A9 paired with Sony 85mm 1.4 G Master lens. His crop sensor camera is $1,400 Sony A6500, paired with Zeiss 55mm F1.8. Can you tell the difference between the results?

YouTube video

Manny notes that he post processed the photos because you’d also do it for a client, and they are all edited the same way. He shot both in good and in poor light and got almost the same results with both cameras. Here are the photos he made. You can compare them and try guessing which camera he used to make them, and the answers are in the video:

Of course, Manny points out there are some advantages to full frame cameras. They give you a better dynamic range, better color and shallower depth of field. They also produce more detail, which clients won’t notice, but you might as you zoom in. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll level up your work.

At the end of the day, things that really make a difference to your photos are retouching, composition, and lighting. A good lens, more than a full frame camera, will help you produce good photos. So, upgrade your skills instead of upgrading the gear.

I must say that the point of this video isn’t to undermine full frame cameras or photographers who use them. After all, Manny uses them too, and they have their purpose. This is rather a friendly reminder that you can just use what you have, try doing as much as you can in-camera, and you’ll still get great shots. And if the budget doesn’t allow you to upgrade to a full frame body, I hope this video will make you grab that crop sensor camera and go make some awesome photos.

[Full frame vs Crop sensor | A REAL WORLD COMPARISON! | Manny Ortiz]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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75 responses to “Full frame vs Crop sensor: can you tell the difference?”

  1. Ignasi Jacob Avatar
    Ignasi Jacob

    Yes.

  2. Luigi Ginosa Avatar
    Luigi Ginosa

    Yes

  3. Joshua Prieto Avatar
    Joshua Prieto

    I wouldn’t care if I could if it’s a strong image. They have different uses.

  4. Franco Ho Avatar
    Franco Ho

    No,

    “So, upgrade your skills instead of upgrading the gear.”

    1. Luigi Ginosa Avatar
      Luigi Ginosa

      If you need to “upgrade your gear” to switch to FF you probably are not a professional in the first place.

    2. Franco Ho Avatar
      Franco Ho

      For example, shoot the moon with a 400mm , I think apsc is good

    3. Rob Gipman Avatar
      Rob Gipman

      Franco Ho Yup, did that and it was fine in Afrika

  5. Richard Snippe Avatar
    Richard Snippe

    I think + €2000 for the body and + €2000 for the lens for the most photographers is a apsc or m4/3 good enough.

  6. Sylvia Ford Avatar
    Sylvia Ford

    Absolutely

  7. Dimitris Servis Avatar
    Dimitris Servis

    There’s total light effect everywhere

  8. Sebastian Merca Avatar
    Sebastian Merca

    yes i can but not always matters, the background perspective(lens compression)

  9. Leonardo Picco Avatar
    Leonardo Picco

    Even my phone takes stunning pictured in Good Light Conditions: The differences are easily spotted in “real” low light.
    With the above said: I am the first to admit to be taking more and more pictures with my phone rather than my camera.

    1. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
      Del Robertson Somerville

      If my phone was shaped like a dslr I’d probably do the same, but it’s not, and the DR is terrible.

    2. Conon Barrett Avatar
      Conon Barrett

      What’s an iPhone got to do with the difference between a cropped and full frame sensor!

    3. Michael McLaughlin Avatar
      Michael McLaughlin

      That’s not so true anymore about full frame having better low light capabilities. My 7Dii is better in low light then the 5dii

  10. Luigi Ginosa Avatar
    Luigi Ginosa

    If you take a full frame shot and you crop it to compare it to a crop sensor shot you are ridicolous

  11. Chase Stiles Avatar
    Chase Stiles

    Definitely

  12. Alexandre Grondin Avatar
    Alexandre Grondin

    There is a very visible difference between the two, but if you can’t afford full frame APS crop still takes a decent picture.

    1. Mark Snelling Avatar
      Mark Snelling

      And if you can’t afford medium format you can buy full frame and so on, sensor size is totally irrelevant, light and composition are far more important factors to producing an image..

    2. Enne See Avatar
      Enne See

      Nope. Sensor size isn’t totally irrelevant. On the other hand, light and composition are indeed important parameters to consider when trying to catch the desired picture.

    3. Alexandre Grondin Avatar
      Alexandre Grondin

      I believe you misunderstood my point Enne. There is a real difference in the results all other variables being the same. However a good photographer can overcome the shortcomings of the other camera and still come out with a picture that’s worthwhile.

      https://petapixel.com/tag/cheapcamerachallenge/

    4. Terry Fleming McMullen Avatar
      Terry Fleming McMullen

      It depends on what you want your final outcome to be. Enlarging images for trade show displays almost dictates a full frame sensor.

    5. Enne See Avatar
      Enne See

      Alexandre, I absolutely understood your point, for I made my comment on Mark Snelling’s one. ? Have a nice day!

    6. Alexandre Grondin Avatar
      Alexandre Grondin

      Good, I had misunderstood. Thanks for clarifying.

  13. Bruce Kinnaird Scott Avatar
    Bruce Kinnaird Scott

    Only if you do the pepsi challenge

  14. Hayden Gullins Avatar
    Hayden Gullins

    Lol take it into a club in lowlight then show me the result

  15. Mob Sha Avatar
    Mob Sha

    I don’t know, for learning is any camera is good .
    For job delivery all Pro I know have high end full frame and on top medium format

  16. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
    Petar Maksimovic

    Generally very close, but that tiny little bit of dof edge does all the magic, in situation like this.

    1. Richard Jackson Avatar
      Richard Jackson

      Tiny

  17. Ellen-Bob Ingram Avatar
    Ellen-Bob Ingram

    There’s no right or wrong answer to this choice. Crop vs. full frame is relative to what your goals are as a photographer. In addition to sensor size, the advantages of a full frame are the number of mega pixels, high ISO with less noise, and resolution. Each level of camera has its advantages and its limitations. If you want to become a professional photographer, then buying a full frame is worth the investment. But remember, technology alone does not create a quality image – you do.

  18. Michael McLaughlin Avatar
    Michael McLaughlin

    If both photographs weren’t cropped and shot at the same distance I believe the one on the left is the crop framed

  19. Rob Gipman Avatar
    Rob Gipman

    Moved from the 7d to the 5d4. I can see difference yes. Primarily in ISO and Noise especially in evening or morning shots. But the 7d served me well while living in East Africa.

    1. Miroslav Vrzala Avatar
      Miroslav Vrzala

      I have an old 50d and a 5d mk iii what difference in quality of photos 10 by 15 or larger

    2. Rob Gipman Avatar
      Rob Gipman

      Can only say noise levels. But i loved the crop on my 7d. With good light it could do it.

  20. Grevin Cheung Avatar
    Grevin Cheung

    Who fucking cares

  21. Martin D Turner Avatar
    Martin D Turner

    The window behind the model is larger on the left. A for sure giveaway.

  22. HonDaniel Schneider Avatar
    HonDaniel Schneider

    It’s like… why buying Nike when you walk the same way with crocs? Well, it’s about self respect, about the feeling while shooting, about image and nonetheless about the result! If you wanna walk with big dogs you need to learn to p*ss in high grass!

  23. Alexandre Bettencourt Avatar
    Alexandre Bettencourt

    Way too many people are hung up on gear. Just the other day I did a photoshoot where if you closely look at the photos in their full resolution, the eyes aren’t quite there focus-wise. That’s a limitation of my current gear. But what was the purpose of the shoot? To create circa 2-inch wide headshots for a website. Do you think the client complained? Quite the opposite, she loved all of them. It fit the purpose and we were both happy. So know your gear and what are its strengths and weaknesses, and remember that it isn’t “what with” but “what for”.

    1. David Bowers Avatar
      David Bowers

      These days, photos can become TOO sharp. A little softness can be okay.

  24. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    IMO it is either a naive or stupid question depending on the intent.

    It isn’t just if you can tell the difference between the results that are rigged to try to look the same yet pretty clearly were taken at different apertures. It is what do you have to do to get the same results. i.e. use a different aperture, stand closer, stand further away, buy a wider lens, buy a longer lens. This kind of comparison is typical of what makes it difficult for some people to understand the real differences. It is better to point them out than to muddle them IMO.

    1. Kuba Avatar
      Kuba

      But it works both ways. What do you need to do on full frame if crop sensor gives the result you are after?

      1. John Avatar
        John

        The main reason to own a full frame these days in my opinion is if you are shooting landscapes or billboards. How many megapixels do you need on someone’s face?

        1. Richard Jackson Avatar
          Richard Jackson

          Pixel dimensions is resolution based, not physical sensor sized.

        2. CAugustin Avatar
          CAugustin

          Even for landscape, architecture and product/still life you can go with a small sensor like MFT – if you have a camera with pixel shift/hires mode like an OM-D EM-5 MkII, which gives you a 60MP Raw file out of a 16MP sensor (“real” resolution is less than 60MP, but results look stunning nonetheless). Or you can stitch several shots together to get more resolution (the “Brenizer Method”). Not usable for fashion, though …

      2. catlett Avatar
        catlett

        Congratulations on getting my point but not actually understanding that you did. I didn’t say which camera I was describing and described plus and minus of both.

  25. Hert Niks Avatar
    Hert Niks

    I assume the FF were the bottom images.

  26. Michael Boyd Avatar
    Michael Boyd

    She looks hunched on the left and right back straight hmmm biased images

  27. Christina Rodriguez Avatar
    Christina Rodriguez

    If you have a crop and you shoot in ideal lighting and you want better images upgrade your lenses. If you have a crop and you find yourself in a lot of low light situations upgrade to full frame. It drives me nuts when new photographers think that upgrading to full frame will solve their issues. Um, no not unless you’re shooting in low light ??‍♀️

  28. Jan-Uwe Reichert Avatar
    Jan-Uwe Reichert

    Do we always need to repeat that question? Yes there is a difference. Ok it is minor on those examples. But there is one.

  29. Eddy Mison Avatar
    Eddy Mison

    With its own lens, the diff is minimal. But I have only FF lenses, there is big difference in framing. Crop sensor will produced, well, cropped picture.

  30. Motti Bembaron Avatar
    Motti Bembaron

    The main differences are dynamic range, low light and the ability to crop and still get details. Full frame will do better BUT, if you take the D3 for example and you compare with the new Nikon D500 I would think that the D500 will have better dynamic range, low light ability and more details.

    It is never a clear answer.

    1. Nkkr Tbdu Avatar
      Nkkr Tbdu

      Given that these two are cca. 10 yrs apart from each other, it is no big wonder… ;)

      1. Motti Bembaron Avatar
        Motti Bembaron

        True, that’s why there is no clear answer. We shouldn’t care anyway. I bet the D500 produce same quality photos as the D750.

  31. Jyi Offer Avatar
    Jyi Offer

    Comparing an 85mm with a “chopped in” 55mm
    It’s still a 55mm and you can see the difference in the photos, but unless you compare side by side it would be very hard to pick it.

  32. Jordan Moorman Avatar
    Jordan Moorman

    So… why does the author not give a answer to which of these is which?…. I assume the ones with more bokeh are the Crop Censor.

    1. Richard Jackson Avatar
      Richard Jackson

      Plot twist. They’re both shot on the same camera.

  33. shadeone Avatar
    shadeone

    Sorry can’t get my eyes off the model. What’s the question again?

  34. tom Avatar
    tom

    I’m always annoyed by articles that purport to offer special insight into some question and then muddle things badly. For something like this, all you need to do is follow the possible answers to their respective logical conclusions. If there were no advantages to larger sensors, we would all be using itty bitty cameras. The only question that is meaningful is the question of what are the compromises of the smaller sensor, and how severe are they. This article made no effort to answer this question honestly. With most cameras that use “crop sensors” (a very idiotic term, by the way), the actual resolution of the captured image is nowhere near the seonsor’s inherent resolution, because the smaller sensor means that the lens has to provide greater resolution density in the image circle. I.e., the same total amount of information, in the image that is projected onto a smaller area. To insure that you’ll not encounter extreme difficulty obtaining images with true resolution greater than 5 – 10 megapixel is to use a camera with a FF sensor. Of course if you shrink your images down to the size of the image samples included in this article, you’ll never see the difference. And if the detail you get with a good APS-C sensor is all you need, then an APS-C sensor is good enough except for the DOF thing and except for the great many everyday shooting scenarios where you are constrained to an EV that is weak and introduces image noise and compells you to select a high ISO to get a correct exposure.

  35. Miroslav Vrzala Avatar
    Miroslav Vrzala

    Can’t see much on my phone but ff on left

  36. Leslie Pettet Avatar
    Leslie Pettet

    No

  37. Martin Cila Cichý Avatar
    Martin Cila Cichý

    IMHO total bullsh*t … comparing photos from two different lenses (and since I do not care about digi cameras I can’t tell for sure, but, I guess there might also be difference caused by different bodies (not the sensor size)) As stated in multiple comments: better gear does not make you better photographer. Go and shoot film, develop it and put it on paper (and yes … no PS post-process). Are you good? Do you suck? Go and find out :)

  38. Ádám Varga Avatar
    Ádám Varga

    I perfectly agree about the part of upgrading the skills, lighting, composition and post processing abilities. However it’s very important, that the lens was not shot wide open on the full frame body. He used 2.8, instead of the 1.4 aperture.
    There would be immense difference if he shot both the 85 and the 55 wide open on the respectable body.
    However the client will never notice the difference, I guarantee that.
    You can get award winning shots with a cheap A6000 and 50 1.8 if you have the lighting, composition and post processing skills.

  39. Gallagher Patrick Avatar
    Gallagher Patrick

    I have been shooting with a T3i for years (I don’t have the money to upgrade) and my only real complaint is that is has poor performance in low light. But otherwise I really like my little crop sensor.

  40. JimCracky Avatar
    JimCracky

    Full frame sensors matter only in the way that they treat the working focal length of any given lens.

  41. Adrian Mirgos Avatar
    Adrian Mirgos

    Full frame sensor have less depth of field… this is the biggest thing.

  42. Alicia Sonshine Fort Avatar
    Alicia Sonshine Fort

    Yes I can. I can see the difference between my D5000 and D750 taken with the same lens.

  43. Juan Martin Gerardi Avatar
    Juan Martin Gerardi

    The REAL difference is the photographer

  44. Kostas Lisajevičius Avatar
    Kostas Lisajevičius

    Where’s the medium format? Both, apsc and FF will look mediocre compared to MF :D

    1. Richard Jackson Avatar
      Richard Jackson

      Canikony don’t do one, so can’t possibly include that…

  45. Radu Borzea Avatar
    Radu Borzea

    Yes, the position of the hand. :))):

  46. Jerry Goffe Avatar
    Jerry Goffe

    I feel that the type of photography one does is just as an important factor. Wildlife photography is a great reason to use cropped sensor cameras whereas landscapes might be perhaps better captured on a full frame camera. As a forensic photographer, I would primarily use full frame but when capturing images of butterflies, you’ll always catch me using a cropped sensor. Just another way of looking at the discussion.

  47. Ignacio Alvarez Avatar
    Ignacio Alvarez

    Any photo shown in a computer screen at the size you are showing is going to look the same. I print my photos and many times I print 24X36 inch or bigger. Why don’t you guys do the same and see the real difference.

  48. JML Avatar
    JML

    No differences for any 800 pixel Facebook posts, of course, but how about this real world comparison: print out of camera a 30×40 inch print and then tell me again that there is no difference! Likewise for 3200 ISO Milky Way shots. Either way, the most important information is missing: who is that gorgeous model?

  49. Joe Dennis Rodriguez Avatar
    Joe Dennis Rodriguez

    can you compare the full frame and crop sensor using the same lens (not equivalents) and same settings (not the equivalent) so that we can see the actual/full potential of the full frame body.