The answer to this is simple in that there is no right answer!
It all depends on what you want to shoot and what you want to pay, they key aspect is to make an informed and considered decision.
First of all - what is a sensor
This is the electrical component part of the camera that captures the image. Thin of it as a silicone chip that is covered in thousands of light sensitive cells or Pixels. This is what it means when you by a camera and it is referred to as 45 mega pixel - this is the number of light sensitive pixels on the sensor. You would think the more pixels the better but this is not always the case as it is the intersection of these pixels that image noise is generated. Sensors have developed over the years to increase pixels (resolution) whilst at the same time reduce the noise (image grain).
What effect does sensor size have
In simple terms this determines how much of the view the camera can see. We can see from this example that the the full frame sensor sees more of the view. Remember however that this is at that location you are stood and if you move back then you will reach a point where the cropped sensor captures the same image as the full frame did at the original location
How many types of camera sensor are there
Used in video and stills cameras, offer superior image quality to CMOS sensors, better dynamic range and noise control. Used in budget compacts, but their higher power consumption and more basic construction has meant that they have been largely replaced by CMOS alternatives. They are, however, still used in medium format backs where the benefits of CMOS technology are not as necessary.
Were considered inferior to CCD, CMOS sensors but now are considered match or better the CCD sensor performance. With more functionality built on-chip than CCDs, CMOS sensors are able to work more efficiently and require less power to do so, and are better suited to high-speed capture.
As such, they are required in cameras where burst shooting is key, such as Canon’s 1D series of DSLR cameras.
Foveon X3 sensor
Foveon X3 is based on CMOS technology and used in Sigma’s compact cameras and DSLRs.
The Foveon X3 system is based on a totally different construction to the other sensors with several lavers to the sensor. Shorter wavelengths are absorbed nearer to the surface while longer ones travel further through. each layer receives a value for each red, green and blue colour,
LiveMOS technology has been used for the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds range of cameras.
LiveMOS is claimed to give the image quality of CCDs with the power consumption of CMOS sensors.
Types of Camera Sensors
What are some of the types of sensor you will find on cameras
36 x 24mm
28.1 x 18.7mm
23.6 x 15.8mm
17.3 x 13mm
What is the effect of the Sensor Crop Factor?
This as you can see is a magnification affect and it works in relation to the focal length of the lens you have fitted.
If we compare a Full Frame Sensor (1x) and a Four Thirds Sensor (2x) then the table shows how this magnification impacts the lens fitted apparently changing the apparent focal length of the lens. So we can see form this why the four thirds camera is poor for wide angle work but great for wildlife work. You can apply this calculation to any of the sensors
10mm lens fitted
50mm lens fitted
200mm lens fitted
Technical what does full frame versus crop sensor mean to the average photographer
Typically professional photographers use full frame cameras as they can afford the cost or often get the kit for free from the manufacturers
Full Frame Sensor
Cost of Camera
Low Light Performance
Shallow Depth of field
How does Sensor size impact Lenses
Manufactures produce lenses for full frame and for crop sensors and they ad a code so you can tell what the lens is designed for.
If we look at Nikon then an FX sensor is designed for a full frame camera and a DX lens is designed for a crop sensor camera. In most cases you can use an FX lens (full frame) lens on a crop sensor camera or a DX lens on a full frame camera. You will see an impact in the latter of the two as you will see significant vignetting as the full frame sensor is trying to see more that the camera can show it
So what's the Answer!
All in all the answer is simple its based on what you can afford and the features you want. We find people often start with a cropped sensor as its cheaper and then as they develop as a photographer they move to full frame
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