When deciding whether to purchase a digital SLR with a full frame sensor or a smaller sensor, there are quite a few factors to keep in mind.
First, of course, is the price—cameras using full frame sensors can cost between twice as much and 10 times as much as an entry-level DSLR with a smaller sensor.
The full frame sensor lets you get closer to your subject and still capture the same field of view. This can substantially improve fine detail and keep digital noise to a minimum.
In addition, a full frame sensor enables you to capture significantly more of the field of view, actually capturing two-and-a-half times as much of a scene as the same lens/zoom on a smaller sensor camera.
On the flip side, the smaller sensor magnifies the effects of your longer lenses, so if you often find yourself straining across the police barricade to get just a bit closer to the starlet on her way to court, you may want to keep an APS-C sensor camera handy, too.
Back to the serious side. Whether you’re a landscape photographer or photojournalist or sports photographer or shoot in a studio, working with a camera using a full frame sensor may make sense now or in the future.
Capturing more of the scene in the field and being able to move closer to the subject in the studio both provide benefits that you’ll see in your final prints. Whether it’s better detail and less noise in-studio, or more of the action in the field, full frame sensors can help you capture the pixels you need.
One further note: If you’re transitioning from a camera using an APS-C size sensor to a camera using a full frame sensor, you might want to start budgeting for a couple of additions to your camera bag.
Expect the files from the new camera to be larger, which may necessitate a few extra—or larger—flash cards, and if you were happy with that 70–200mm zoom lens, start saving up for a 100–400mm lens.
Editor's Note: For more great digital photography books and videos, check out the following titles:
The Moment It Clicks
Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers: Video Training Book