Comparing Sensors: APS-C vs Full Frame vs Medium Format

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People spend a lot of time comparing cameras online and it can be an easily distracting and difficult place to navigate. There are a lot of cameras out there and it’s easy to be conflicted on what is the right camera for you to use. Today, I’m going to dive into one of the major differentiating factors when it comes to cameras and that is sensor size. We’ll start off with the smallest APS-C and work our way up to Medium Format. It should be noted that there are additional sensor sizes beyond the three that we will be discussing in this post. It’s important to also know that a full frame sensor references a 35mm equivalent along its edges. An APS-C sensor is a cropped sensor roughly 22mm in size. A medium format sensor

APS-C Sensor

An APS-C sensor is the smallest sensor we will be discussing here. There are some notable pros and cons to utilizing this smaller but still mighty sensor. Some of the benefits include camera size and overall kit size. These cameras tend to be a lot smaller and lighter than their full frame counterparts. Because the sensor size is cropped, you get a larger zoom with lens conversions when using comparative size. For instance a 28mm crop sensor lens is roughly equivalent to that of a 35mm full frame sensor lens. The main stigma against the APS-C crop sensor cameras were that it had a supposed lacking in “quality” of image. In my opinion these days that’s no longer the case. When you look at FujiFilm’s new 40MP sensor you’re able to produce beautiful images no matter the size of the sensor. There is occasionally more noise/grain at higher ISO’s because of the smaller señor size but this will only factor into extreme low light conditions.

Full Frame Sensors

A Full Frame Sensor is larger than an APS-C sensor and this allows for higher detail and definition in photographs. When thinking Full Frame think of the opportunity to create large print images and allow for higher possible editing of the image. Because the sensor is larger, the available information in the photograph is higher which allows you to do more with your pictures. The larger sensor allows for better low light capabilities and it means you can capture more in the darker environments. Because the sensor is larger, these cameras are typically larger than their APS-C counterparts. Bigger bodies allow for bigger lenses and because of this a full frame camera kit can typically be much heavier than an APS-C kit. Additionally while full frame in a lot of ways is superior to its APS-C counterpart, this in turn leads to higher price points on these cameras as well as their corresponding lenses & accessories.

Medium Format Sensors

A Medium Format sensor is one that is larger than the 35mm equivalent sensors in a Full Frame camera. Typically this means anything from 36mm to less than 100mm sized sensor. When thinking medium format think larger film size and the wonderful Hasselblad 500cm. There are plenty of digital medium format makers from Hasselblad to FujiFilm. The difference between medium format and full frame boil down to resolution, and ultimately price. The cost for quality is not a small one and digital medium format cameras are very expensive. With great size comes great cost. Today’s medium format camera are incredible image makers but they are out of the budget for most hobbyist photographers and even some professionals as well. These cameras also tend to be larger, and a much slower work flow when it comes to autofocus and other aspects of the shooting process.

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