Full frame sensor size explained: exploit its advantages for pro-quality pictures

Full frame sensor size explained: exploiting its advantages for pro-quality pictures

How a full frame sensor affects your pictures

The increased size of a full frame sensor affects the look of your photos in a number of subtle ways. It’s not just about megapixels!

How a full frame sensor affects your pictures: image quality

01 Image quality
Full-frame photos tend to have better fine detail and dynamic range than images shot on a DX-format SLR. With the right subject and conditions, the quality advantage becomes obvious.

 

How a full frame sensor affects your pictures: sense of depth

02 A sense of depth
The shallower depth of field you get when shooting with full frame cameras gives pictures a strong sense of depth. This can be a nuisance in landscape photography, when you want maximum depth of field.

 

How a full frame sensor affects your pictures: low light photography

03 Low light photography
If the megapixels are the same, a full frame camera will deliver better results at high ISO settings. A camera like the Nikon D4’s performance is staggering. You have to blow the images up a long way before ISO noise becomes visible.

Why big photosites are better

Your full frame sensor’s photosites are the key to its performance and the quality of your pictures. Click on our infographic below to expand the file and learn why big photosites are better…

Full frame sensors: why big photosites are better

SEE MORE: Night Photography Tips: 9 essential steps for beginners

Pros and Cons of a full frame sensor

How to make a bokeh portrait

Swapping to a larger format isn’t without its issues…

Pros of full frame sensors

  • Great ‘bokeh’ (shallow depth of field effects) – images have a sense of depth
  • Larger photosites offer improved dynamic range and high ISO performance
  • Lenses deliver their ‘true’ focal length – no need to apply a focal factor
  • Higher resolution from the bigger sensor area and more megapixels
  • Bigger bodies for those with bigger hands!
  • You can print pictures bigger and you have more leeway when cropping

Cons of full frame sensors

  • Harder to get enough depth of field for those shots that need it
  • You need the best lenses and best technique to properly exploit any advantage in quality
  • Disproportionately expensive – the D7000, for example, is half the price of the D600 yet has very similar features
  • Big file sizes can quickly fill your memory cards and place heavy demands on your computer
  • You can use all lenses on DX cameras, but only FX lenses, realistically, on an FX camera
  • Telephotos don’t have the same ‘reach’ on an FX camera compared to the 1.5x focal factor of DX cameras

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