This next portion of ”How To: Shoot Live Music Better Than the Next Guy” is for the photographer who is a little ahead of the curve when it comes to equipment and manual know-how. Today I’m going to discuss full-frame sensor DSLRs vs. cropped-sensor DSLRs and the pros and cons of each – because, believe it or not, but both types have serious advantages.
There are a wide range of cropped-sensor cameras, but only a handful of full-frame sensor cameras. A full-frame sensor is a digital sensor that’s the same size as the film plane on a 35mm negative, where a cropped-sensor is smaller than 35mm. What does that mean exactly? Well, with a full-frame sensor camera, all the lenses from my film camera look exactly the way they did when I shot film; on a cropped-sensor camera however, the focal length effectively changes, because the surface area of the sensor is smaller than what the lens is used to fitting over.
In other words, any lens I used on my film camera is going to give me more zoom on my cropped-sensor DSLR. This is a cropped-sensor digital camera’s biggest advantage. The down side is my film camera wide-angle lenses won’t be wide-angle anymore; they’ll be closer to mid-range focal lengths. That’s terrible for wide-angle photography like landscapes and architecture, but great news for any tele-photo lens I put on my DSLR, as a telephoto lens will now give me more zoom! If you have a cropped-sensor DSLR like I do, how do you figure out what the new focal length will be on your digital camera when using older lenses? Well, that depends on who makes the camera. It breaks down like this: if you shoot a Nikon, Sony or Pentax cropped-sensor DSLR, multiply your older lens’ focal length by 1.5 x. If you shoot Canon, multiply your older lenses by 1.6x. If you’re shooting a Micro Four-Thirds camera, then multiply it by 2x. So, my old film-camera wide-angle 28-90mm lens will be closer to a 36-105mm lens on my Nikon D7000. The advantage really shows when I put my old 75-300mm telephoto lens on there….it becomes a whopping 95mm-450mm zoom lens! This is why many sports and wildlife photographers still shoot cropped-sensor DSLRs – so they can get better reach from their lenses.
Now, the advantages of a full-frame sensor DSLR will be more noticeable in low-light photography, such as live music and evening weddings. A full-frame sensor has significantly larger pixels, which provides cleaner images when shooting at higher ISO settings (a MUST for low-light photography)! Full-frame sensors work this way because the individual pixels are larger and therefore gather more information (color, light, detail) than a cropped-sensor. Keep in mind, 1 megapixel = 1 million pixels. If you have a full-frame sensor camera, you have A LOT of big pixels. That is also why full-frame sensor cameras have less noise at 3200 ISO than a cropped-sensor camera at the same ISO setting.
So, when shopping for your next DSLR and you’re stuck between which one to buy, full-frame sensor or cropped-sensor camera….ask yourself which is more important: better zoom or cleaner images in the dark? That’s the main deciding factor, especially when it comes to live music. Either way you go, you’re getting amazing quality. Still not sure which is better for you? Call and ask our sales staff. If you tell them what you want to shoot, they’ll tell you which to go with. In the meantime, Happy Hunting!