Which is Better – Crop Camera vs. Cropping Full Frame

On this video wildlife and nature photographer Steve Perry (from backcountrygallery) takes a look at a very interesting subject – comparing a crop camera to the crop mode of a Full Frame sensor camera in both detail and sensitivity.

Perry has heard this question again and again (and we did too) which one is better – using a crop camera (in this case the Nikon D500) vs. a full frame camera (the D5 and the D810).

So let’s go straight to what we see as the conclusions from his testing:

  1. Resolution is king (if the crop camera has 20MP and the FF at crop mode has 9MP or 16MP – the crop camera will win in terms of details). This is true when you are talking about more or less the same sensor technology (a 10 year old crop camera D90 12MP will probably not be as good as the D5 in crop mode).
  2. Crop camera will not always be as good – if you are on Canon than the 50MP 5DS R should be more or less identical in terms of image quality to the 7D MKII with a 20MP resolution.
  3. Crop cameras don’t fall behind FF cameras (in crop mode) when it comes to sensativity – when looking at just the crop portion of the frame in FF, the quality (again when talking about more or less the same sensor technology) will be similar or even lower.

So what you should do with this info?

We would probably do what Perry also suggested – if we have both an FF and an APS-C camera and in order to get the shot that we are looking for we need to crop the FF camera significantly – we would just use the crop sensor (when all other things being equal of course).

You can check out many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section here on LensVid. We have a special page dedicated to all of Perry ‘s videos which you can find here.


Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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