Do I need to upgrade to full frame?

July 03, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Hey everyone!  Hope everyone is healthy and safe. This week's topic is about upgrading your camera kit to a full frame sensor camera set up.  Is the grass always greener on the other side?  As photographers we are always looking for an advantage or something to make our photographs better.  Buying new gear is something we think will improve our photography.  I am no different than any of you.  I love gear and do have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).  Nowadays, I try to do it smarter and research instead of emotionally making decisions about gear.  Almost every YouTube video by your favorite photographers praise the advantages of full frame cameras over smaller sensor cameras.  But they are all professionals or professional-want-to-be's and make their living from photography.  I am not.  I am a hobbyist and do photography just for me. So do I need to go by the same standards that professionals go by?  I have owned and used both full frame and crop sensor cameras and will give you my take on this subject.  Today we're going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of full frame cameras and the questions you should ask yourself before you buy one.

Advantages of Full Frame.  There are lots of advantages of full frame cameras, especially if you make your Living as a professional Photographer and depend on your equipment to put food on your table.  Full frame cameras tend to be built better than their smaller sensor counterparts.  They are heavy duty and sometimes built like a tank.  They tend to be better weather sealed in most cases to keep dust and moisture out in rugged weather conditions.  Larger sensor cameras collect more light than smaller sensors, so they are better in low-light conditions.  They can have more resolution with massive amounts of megapixels, and you can print larger prints.  Depth of field (the amount of what is in focus in the frame) is shallower.  They are great cameras and perform well under many circumstances.

My Camera'sMy Camera's Disadvantages of Full Frame.  There are some disadvantages of full frame also that aren't talked about as much as advantages are on YouTube videos.  Full frame cameras have large files.  The files take up lots of space on your computer, and your computer needs to be pretty fast to edit them.  So if you get a new full frame camera, you better upgrade your computer system also.  Full frame cameras are big and bulky and heavy, whether they are mirrorless or DSLR.  Although the mirrorless camera body may be smaller, the lenses are the same size.  A 70-200mm f2.8 lens is heavy!  Shallow depth of field was mentioned in the advantages, but can also be a disadvantage.  If you're doing landscape or architecture photography, you want depth of field, not shallow depth of field.  And of course the elephant in the room is price.  On average, full frame cameras are at least twice the cost of smaller sensor ones.  Lenses are much more expensive also. 

Questions you should ask yourself.  There are many questions you should ask yourself before going to a full frame sensor camera.  The first question is what type of photography do I do, and do I need full frame to do it?  If you are a professional, I think the answer may be yes, but many professionals do use smaller sensor cameras with lots of success.  If you are a portrait photographer and that's all you do, the answer may be yes.  If you are a landscape photographer, the answer may be no.  In landscapes you want the largest depth of field in your subject, not mentioning the weight of the equipment you'll have to carry to get to those subjects.  If you are a street photographer, I would say no.  The small size and being able to conceal your camera is an advantage over the large sensor.  If you shoot sports, the answer may be no.  Many sports photographers shoot crop sensor cameras in JPEG to make the files smaller because they shoot so many photographs at one time, like a machine gun.  The same may be said for wildlife photography.  If I am a hobbyist and only shoot for myself and my photos go to Instagram and Facebook and only print occasionally, then the answer is, no, I don't need a full frame camera.  If you're a gear head and really enjoy spending lots of money on new gadgets and must have the newest, then knock yourself out and buy that full frame.

My Two Cents.  As a former full frame Nikon shooter and now a crop sensor Sony shooter, I can see both sides of the argument.  For me it kind of happened full circle.  I started with a crop sensor Nikon and had to have that full frame and all of the gadgets that went with it to big fast glass.  And the photos I was getting were great.  Then I got a mirrorless camera for hiking because the full frame with a 24-70mm lens was over seven pounds and heavy and the mirrorless was much lighter.  I started using the mirrorless more and more.  And before I knew it I was grabbing the crop sensor 90 percent of the time over the full frame.  Finally, after a couple of years, I went on a workshop where my crop sensor camera was my main camera, and my full frame I used as my backup.  I go to this workshop every year, and the photos are similar year after year.  I compared shots from the crop sensor and from the full frame from the year before and really had to pixel peep (zoom in really far) to tell the difference.  To the naked eye I couldn't tell.  I had over $15,000 invested in the full frame set up and only a few thousand for the crop sensor.  That's when I made the choice to go to crop sensor and sell all of my full frame stuff.  I took a beating on selling everything, but in the long run I'm really happy with the kit I have now and feel confident that my photos are of the best quality.  I shoot as a hobby.  I don't need all of the megapixels, and I'm not printing a lot.  Most of my photos go on Instagram or Facebook.  When I go on photoshoots with my friends, I have the smallest kit, and I love it.  It doesn't weigh me down, and I have more energy to go exploring and find new things to shoot.  It is totally the best decision I have made in my photography journey, and I wish I had asked these questions before I jumped into full frame in the beginning.  Those are my thoughts on the subject.  Please think long and hard before you commit to full frame. If it's right for you, great.

Until next week keep shooting, stay safe, and go outside!


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