For an up and coming professional photographer, wedding photography is pretty much your bread and butter. It’s a good way to get started, demand is high, and you will frequently get started with friends and family members, or contacts you meet through those sources. A common question asked is if you can shoot a wedding with a crop sensor or not.
Yes, you can shoot a wedding with a crop sensor. However, the pictures will not look the exact same as with a full-frame camera, so you will need to adjust for the crop factor.
Recently, crop sensors have become much more technologically proficient, particularly in low light situations. Photographers newer to the industry frequently find themselves wonder if a crop sensor is the best initial investment. They are certainly less expensive to start! With your camera being the keystone of your career, you need all the information about crop sensors that you can find.
How a Crop Sensor Differs from a Full Frame
The most obvious difference is the field of view. Take a picture with a full-frame camera and take the same picture with a crop sensor camera, and you will immediately see that less of the background around your focal point is visible with the crop sensor camera. This can make your focal images appear larger than they would with a full-frame shot, and the field of view appears narrower.
Different crop sensor cameras have a different “crop factor” associated with them. Crop factor is used in a mathematical equation that allows the photographer to determine approximately what the field of view will look like compared to a full-frame shot. The equation is provided crop factor multiplied by focal length of your lens.
The crop factor for a Canon Digital Rebel 70D is 1.6. Assume you have a 24mm lens on the camera. Multiplying 1.6 x 24 is 38.4 (1.6 x 24 = 38.4). Basically, that tells you that your 24mm lens on your Canon Digital Rebel 70D will look more like a 38mm lens on a traditional full-frame camera. For additional crop factor information, check online.
If you don’t know the crop factor on your crop sensor camera, there is a fairly complex mathematical equation to determine it. It is physical size of sensor divided by diagonal of the crop sensor. To determine the diagonal requires the use of Pythagorean theorem, so I’m just going to send you to this link to get more information if you’re into this sort of thing.
In case you aren’t 100% sure of what kind of camera you are looking at, “full-frame” camera has a sensor size of 35mm. It is called “full-frame” because 35mm is the same size as old 35mm film and is considered the “standard” in photography.
Also, “crop sensor” cameras have sensor sizes smaller than 35mm. Anything less than 35mm is considered a “crop sensor” camera.
Pros and Cons of Crop Sensor vs Full Frame Cameras
Every decision, including what camera, or even what lens, to use comes with pros and cons.
Full Frame Camera
The full-frame or 35mm camera is the gold standard in photography and is the camera people tend to be most familiar with.
Speaking generally, the full-frame sensor is known for having a broader dynamic range. It also generally performs better in low light situations and offers an overall higher quality image than the crop sensor option. Finally, the full-frame camera offers a shallower depth of field and a wider-angle view.
Full frames are appreciated in architectural photography, night sky shots, and landscapes. Anywhere where low lighting and wide angles are the goal.
Primarily, the biggest disadvantages for the full-frame cameras are weight and price.
A starter-level full-frame professional-quality camera is going to run $2500 or more. That is a lot for a beginning professional! They also have a tendency to be a little heavier and come with a wider assortment of lens options.
Crop Sensor Camera
The crop sensor camera is much newer on the market and is becoming the camera of choice for the younger or less established professional.
The primary advantages to the crop sensor option are the lower cost and increased focal length. That increased focal length acts somewhat like a telephoto lens, drawing the eye to the focus of the shot and reducing clutter from the background.
Crop sensors are perfect for sports shots, photojournalism, and any other photography that has a singular focus.
Until the photographer is accustomed to it’ use, the shots may not come out exactly as anticipated, particularly if the user is used to a full-frame camera. As in most things, practice makes perfect.
Top 5 Best Crop Sensor Cameras
After reviewing several different consumer rating sites, the general consensus of the top 5 best crop sensor cameras are:
- Canon EOS 90D Digital SLR 4K Camera. This #1 pick is rated 4.6 of 5 stars by 108 consumers. It features 32.5 megapixels, advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF™ technology, enhancing autofocus, particularly when shooting video. It has a 3” LCD touchscreen (1,040,000 pixels) and 10.0 fps continuous shooting capability. Available on Amazon.com for around $900, body only, or $980 for a storage bundle.
- Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR Camera. Rated 4.8 of 5 stars with 394 active ratings, this #2 choice is a pretty good bet. Featuring 24.2 megapixels, full 1080p HD video capability, and Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus™ system with phase detection. Like the 90D, this gem also has a 3” LED touchscreen. Additionally, the ISO has been upgraded to 25600 for improved low light performance. Available on Amazon.com for $700 stand-alone, or $1,040 with DLSR bag and SD card.
- Canon EOS Rebel T6i 24.2 Megapixel DSLR Camera. Rated 4.5 of 5 stars, with 353 consumer ratings. This choice is a close 3rdplace. Like it’s close brother in 2ndplace, it features 24.2 megapixels and shoots full 1080p HD video. However, it offers a hybrid CMOS autofocus AND full-time autofocus. This combo will keep you locked in on your subject, whether you’re shooting still shots or full video. Available on Amazon.com for around $800.
- Panasonic Lumix GH5 4K Digital Camera. Rated 4.7 of 5 stars, with 170 consumer reviews. Featuring 20.3 megapixels, micro 4/3 sensor, and a low no pass filter for sharp images, with a high dynamic range and artifact-free performance. 4K video capture, with internal 4:2:2 10-bit 4K video recording. Available on Amazon.com for around $1,400 body only or $2,000 with 12-60mm lens.
- Nikon D5500 DX DSLR Touchscreen Wi-Fi Camera. Rated 4.5 of 5 stars, with 533 consumer reviews. Features 24.2 megapixels, DX-format CMOS sensor, with a no optical, low-pass filter (OLPF). 39-point autofocus system, 1080/60p HD video capability, and 5-frame per second continuous shooting. Available on Amazon.com for around $550 body only or $750 with 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses.
As with most professions, it is the knowledge, skill, and experience of the photographer that matters more than exactly which type of camera he/she decides to utilize.
Whether you choose a traditional full-frame or a more cutting-edge crop sensor, with skill, talent, and professionalism, you can get the same high-quality shots. The biggest difference is budgetary and personal preference.
If you’ve never used a crop sensor camera, you probably don’t want to start with your sister’s wedding. Give yourself some time to play with the settings and become familiar with the different traits of the crop factor to make sure the photos you do take of her wedding are spectacular!