Are you ready for a full frame camera?

  • Canon 5d mark III full frame camera

Are you ready for a full frame camera?

Can you spot which image was taken with a crop, and which was taken with a full frame camera?

Both of these images were shot using the Canon 100mm L lens, at ISO 200, SS of 1/400 and an aperture of f/4.5. I underexposed both images by 1 stop. They are both relatively framed the same and shot only minutes apart. Can you pick out which was shot with a Canon 6D and which was shot with a Canon T5i?

Maybe you can, but honestly, does one look “better” than the other?

Are you ready for a full frame camera

Are you ready for a full frame camera

I see a lot of photographers who want to jump into the full frame world. That’s all fine and dandy, but, are you really ready for a full frame?

Here are some reasons you may NOT be ready for a full frame:

My images aren’t very sharp.

Okay, more times than not, this is either user error or a lens issue. It’s extremely rare that a focusing issue would be caused by your camera itself.

If you’re struggling to get sharp images, I’d consider taking a look at what you’re doing. Is your shutter speed fast enough? Is your aperture too wide? Do you have enough light on your subject? Is your lens consistently back or front focusing? These are all things to consider if you’re struggling to get sharp images.

Because I’ll be able to create better images

My question to that would be “What will you be able to create with a full frame that you can’t do with a crop?” If you don’t know the answer to that question, you’re not really in NEED of a full frame.

If you think getting a full frame will magically make your images better, that alone won’t do it. If you’re producing poor images with a crop, a full frame isn’t going to be the answer you’re looking for. It’s only going to allow you more room in post to correct your mistakes. I would suggest practicing and really nailing down your workflow BEFORE you invest in a full frame.

Because everyone else is doing it

If you’re wanting a full frame simply to try and “keep up with the Jones’ “, this isn’t the best reason to upgrade. Not to mention, it’s expensive.

Too often I see someone feel the pressure to get a full frame camera simply because their friend did or because they see so many photographers in groups upgrading. Or maybe they see someone say “my images improved so much when I upgraded”. Likely, they either perfected their craft a little more or, like I mentioned above, they have more room to play around with in post processing.

All I can say to this is to stay focused on yourself and your own journey. When you’re really ready, you’ll know it.

Reasons you might want to stick with a crop sensor:

Full frame cameras are expensive

Unless you find a good one used, they run upwards of $2000. That’s a very large investment.

If you don’t have a true need for a full frame (i.e. you’re only doing photography as a hobby or not photographing weddings/births or other low light situations) then save your money and invest in some good glass instead. Glass will outlast your body anyway and it hardly loses its value over time. That’s not the same for camera bodies.

You mainly shoot landscape and/or wildlife photography.

If you’ve done any research on the difference between a full frame and a crop sensor, you will have learned that there is such a thing called “the crop factor”. You can read more about it here.

Basically, because of the crop factor, subjects in your viewfinder will appear closer than they would with a full frame. This is especially ideal for wildlife photography as it will bring you closer to those furry (or scaly) creatures you’re trying to capture.

You may not have the right lenses

With a crop sensor camera, you are typically able to use both EF-S and EF lenses (for Canon) and Dx and Fx (for Nikon) but, with a full frame, you can ONLY use EF lenses (Nikon is a little different). So if you’ve built an arsenal of EF-S lenses, you really want to make sure you take that into consideration.

You want to be able to actually use your full frame when you get it, and you won’t be able to do that if you don’t have the right lenses. And if you need to upgrade your body AND your lenses, see #1.

Reasons you might be ready to upgrade to a full frame:

You’ve learned your crop camera inside and out and you’re ready for more

If you’ve had your crop sensor camera for awhile, you know how to use it to the best of its ability, then you might be ready for an upgrade. I highly suggest learning how to use any piece of gear you have fully before upgrading to something else.

If you don’t fully understand what your gear is capable of doing, you may end up spending more money down the road when you need to upgrade again.

Your camera can no longer handle your ISO needs.

This is a great reason to upgrade if you’ve gotten to this point. Crop sensors do not have the low light capabilities that full frames do.

The sensors are larger in full frame cameras, allowing for more light to come into the camera. If your current camera is holding you back in low light situations (and you find yourself shooting in them often), then yes, in my opinion, you’re ready to upgrade.

You’re wanting to do more low light photography (such as birth photography).

This is one of the main reasons I needed to upgrade. I needed a camera that had the capability of being at a high ISO and still producing useable images that I could deliver to my clients. That’s when I went with the Canon 6D.

There are good reasons to upgrade to a full frame camera, but there are also so many reasons not to. I really recommend taking the time to figure out what you need and why you need it.

Oh, and if you guessed that the full frame camera was the image on the left, then you were correct 😉

About the Author:

Laura is a natural light photographer servicing the San Clemente and Orange County areas in Southern California. Her focus is on capturing the emotional connection while drawing the viewer in to make them feel the emotion in the frame. Visit Laura Ludwig online.


  1. Mandy Jul 16 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Thank you. These were very good thoughts and clarified some things for me as I consider what I am going to save up for someday. 🙂

    • Laura Jul 28 2017 at 9:59 am - Reply

      So glad you found them helpful, Mandy!

  2. Amanda Myers Jul 28 2017 at 7:19 am - Reply

    I totally agree with your points! I’d love a full frame camera, but until I’m shooting wedding receptions (never gonna happen!) I’ll stick with my ol’ d5200. I don’t at all believe that a full frame camera will make anyone a better photographer. Figuring out how to use light, how to capture genuine expression, interaction and connection, and looking for cool compositions – that is what makes a better photographer.

    • Laura Jul 28 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Yes, Amanda! Exactly. Perfect your TALENT first! ❤️

  3. Toria Latrice Aug 07 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I have had my crop (D5000) for nearly 8 years and I’m ready to upgrade. I really want to take more indoor photos of my family and it’s difficult getting the higher ISO I need. I also really want to use my 50mm to it’s full capacity which I can not do with my crop. I love my 50mm but I have to switch to my 35mm a lot when I’m trying to get certain shots because it gives me the extra space I need. I always wish I could use my 50mm instead. I also have some things to set up an in-home studio but not really enough space with my crop to get the shots! I’ll be upgrading soon but I won’t go the expensive route just yet. I’m going to get an old and used full frame first and upgrade from there in the future.

    • Laura Ludwig Aug 07 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Toria, it definitely sounds like you’re ready for an upgrade! How exciting. In case you don’t know, I wanted to mention, your 35 on your crop sensor, is actually more like a 50mm and your 50mm is really more like an 85. Because of the crop sensor, the lenses will have more compression than they would with a full frame. That’ll be something to keep in mind when you upgrade. Also, this is just my opinion (for whatever it’s worth), but, why not save up for the camera you really want? Yes, you may have to wait a bit longer, but if you’re getting by with the camera you have, why not? That way, you don’t have to spend more money later to upgrade yet again. If you haven’t heard of it, is a great place to purchase new, USA warrantied gear where you can actually name your price (they can choose to deny it, but it’s still worth a shot to ask). Maybe consider checking them out. Either way, I’m excited for you that you’re looking to take the next step with your gear.

  4. Tabitha May 25 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    I am a lifestyle family photographer so I am always looking for creative ways to get more wide angle shots. When I used my crop sensor, the 35 acted like a 50 and it was a bit too tight. Plus, I need to be able to crank that ISO way up when the lighting is not good! I have only had my full frame for about a month but I am excited to continue mastering it and getting more consistent images!

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