Getting Geared Up – part 2

How you can get build to professional photography equipment on a budget Part Two: Full Framed or Cropped camera body?   Written by: Adam Bevan – We’ll be starting […]

How you can get build to professional photography equipment on a budget

Part Two: Full Framed or Cropped camera body?

gear on a budget


Written by: Adam Bevan –

We’ll be starting with an age old question – full frame, or cropped?

Firstly, what’s the difference? In simple terms, a full frame or FX camera body has a sensor that replicates a 35mm film that would have been found in SLR cameras of the past. It presents the largest possible frame size of any camera on the market and, in proportion to this, most of even the low end full frame cameras have more megapixel power than the high end cropped camera bodies, whilst a cropped sensor has a smaller (hence cropped) total frame size. There are other benefits, too. Most of these cameras are professional specification, meaning you have more settings and controls to use and other “nice to haves” such as a great number of AFs.


On the other side, we have the cropped body. The most common cropped body is known as APS-C and different lenses also have slightly different “crop factors” to resemble this, such as 1.3x, 1.5x or 1.6x or sometimes even 2.0x. This is because the sensor (which is the digital equivalent to a film) in a cropped body is physically smaller than in a full frame. The information of what crop factor your body has is easily available to you if you google it, so you know how much of a reduction you are getting between your cropped lens and a full frame equivalent. This is also very important when considering the lens that you are buying as if you buy, for example, a 35mm lens but you have a crop format camera with a crop factor of 1.6x, then in actual fact your 35mm lens is going to be shooting as a 56mm lens in reality.


As you might expect, getting a full frame camera body is expensive in comparison to its cropped younger brother, such as the widely available APS-C cameras. Prices for a new full frame camera range from around £1000 (Nikon D610, Canon 6D) all the way to £3500 for a Nikon D4S or, even more impressive, £10,000 for a Canon 1D. When you compare this to the relatively modest starting point of £200 for a D3100 (admittedly, a relatively dated model, but still capable of very respectable results) and a top end price of around £815 for a Canon 60D or similar for an APS-C body, it does seem that to go FX, you need a good reason to jump from DX, so here’s a simplified look at what you need to consider:



Full Frame




Larger Frame Size

Cropped Frame Size

More Megapixels

Less Megapixels

More potential for distortion

Less potential for distortion


What sort of photography will you be taking?

If the answer to this is portraiture, wildlife or sports then it is most likely safe to say that sticking with an APS-C format camera will be fine and you should invest more money into good lens than a full frame body. If, however, you will mostly be looking at shooting landscapes or architecture, then you would benefit most from the larger frame size that FX cameras will afford you.

How big is your overall budget?

Essentially, you cannot spend all of your money simply on the camera body – there are lots of other equipment you must budget for – high quality lenses, filters, carrying cases, cleaning equipment, a tripod, to name but a few. If the answer to this question is, say, around £1000 (a relatively common, but relatively low starting figure) then you simply cannot afford to get a full frame camera body at this point, because a good rule of thumb is to spend at least half of your available budget on a good quality lens. If your budget is say, £5000, then this is when you can really consider moving up to full frame, especially with some of the other tips that you will be given throughout this series.


As strange as it may sound, weight really is a big factor in this debate. If you buy a full frame camera and full frame lenses, the overall weight and size of objects that you will be carrying will be massive in comparison to a cropped camera body and cropped lenses (especially if you decide on a superzoom lens, such as an 18-200mm). If you are looking to do wedding photography or work in a studio, this won’t be an issue as you will make provisions for this extra weight, but if (like me) you mostly shoot whilst travelling, then this extra weight can be a nightmare and not worth the extra quality that the FX body and lenses afford you.

Mo’ body, mo’ problems?

Full frame or FX Lenses tend to cost more and it’s harder to cheap out on these lenses, too, as if you do you are likely to get a more exaggerated optical and curviliniar distortions, as well as chromatic aberration and lens diffraction. Basically, to move up to the big leagues, you have to have plenty of money to back it up!


See you in Part 3!


Please post comments about which body you have and why you chose it.



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