Why Wedding photographers Should Use Crop Sensor Cameras

1185863_57451503Wedding photography is a huge photo industry. There’s so much that goes into photographing a couple’s wedding celebration that photographers can get very busy, and very wealthy, very fast.

However, just like with any other photographer, wedding photographers can buy new gear too often or buy photography gear that is frankly not even needed to shoot a quality wedding. The main thing I see wedding photographers buying that they don’t necessarily need is a full-frame camera. Don’t get me wrong, full-frame cameras are great… for landscape and nature photography. I just don’t see their benefit to weddings and portraits.

What’s the Difference?

When I’m talking with people interested in photography, people always ask me, “What is the difference between a full frame DSLR and a crop sensor DSLR?” Let’s go way back to the start of the saga with the death of film. Film’s most popular size was 35mm, however, when the DSLR camera came out, none of the sensors, which replaced film, were equivalent to 35mm. So, the big wigs at Canon put their heads together and came up with a sensor that was equivalent to 35mm. Thus began the great debate of full frame vs crop sensor.

Once the full frame sensor was introduced, Canon had to label all other sensors something. So, they chose to call them crop sensor DSLR cameras. Full frame sensors are actually 35mm equivalent sensors and crop sensors are APS-C sized sensors (as you might have seen them called before).

Positives of a full frame DSLR:

1) Low Light Performance – The performance of a full frame DSLR camera in low light situations cannot be beat. Their ISO goes WAY up there!

2) Depth of Field – You may have tried to copy someone’s photograph using a lot of depth of field and noticed you can’t get as much as they could even with a wide open aperture such as f/1.8. That’s because full frame DSLR cameras can produce more depth of field because of their larger sensor size.

3) Bells and Whistles – Unfortunately, camera companies stay stingy when it comes to features that are built into DSLR cameras. Full frame cameras get more features built in, and crop sensors get the basics. It’s sad, really. If you want a crop sensor that has a lot of features (it still won’t have as many as a full frame would) look for the Canon 7d Mark II under Hobbyist Cameras on my recommended gear page HERE

Negatives of a full frame DSLR:

1) Price – Full frame DSLR cameras are ridiculously expensive. Like, save for a couple years to buy one, expensive. In recent years, some full frame DSLR cameras have come down in price to tease us, but they are still very expensive. The best and cheapest full frame you can buy is the Canon 6d. Look it up under Hobbyist Cameras on my recommended gear page HERE

2) Field of View – If you are a landscape photographer, don’t even read this because you want a larger field of view. All other photographers beware. Full frame DSLR cameras have a much wider field of view which won’t allow you to zoom as close to a subject like you are used to if you have been using a crop sensor.

Something else to watch for: When you are purchasing lenses, be careful which ones you buy. Canon EF lenses will work on both full frame and crop sensor DSLR cameras, however, EF-S will only work on their line of crop sensor DSLR cameras. As for the Nikon users, Nikon says that both FX and DX lenses will work on full frame and crop sensor, but some DX lenses won’t be able to handle the full frame and will show shadowy black borders on the edge of photographs. Just be careful what you buy.

My thoughts: To be honest, I like full frame DSLR cameras because my passion is landscape photography, but I do not think they are necessary. I’m actually currently using a crop sensor. I can accomplish everything a full frame DSLR can do with my crop sensor DSLR. It’s just a matter of positioning yourself to get the same effect that a full frame would have. If you are a landscape photographer, I’d fully support your decision to go full frame although I don’t think it’s necessary. However, if you do portraits, wildlife, or anything that might require a lot of close up photographs, I’d think twice about a full frame DSLR because you will lose the extra zoom that a crop sensor DSLR will provide.

Advantages of Crop Sensors in Weddings

The one advantage that makes me recommend crop sensor cameras for wedding photographers is their ability to get the extra bit of zoom. Very rarely are you in any situation that would require you to get a crazy close wide angle shot of a couple, and even if you had to do that once in every one thousand shots, you could have an appropriate lens to do so.

So often in weddings, photographers are shooting from the rear of the audience, trying to get the perfect shots of the perfect moments. And often times, having just a slight boost in zoom will allow the perfect shots.

Look, if you’re a wedding photographer and you’ve done very well for yourself, you can shoot with a full-frame if you want. However, if you’re new to the game, don’t blow a bunch of money on a full-frame camera. You can still shoot an amazing wedding with a crop sensor.

My Recommendations

Sony a6000

a600024 MP, 11 FPS, 179 AF points, ISO 100-25,600. Am I crazy to put such a small mirrorless camera this high in my rankings? Some might think so. However, you should not be fooled by the stature of the a6000. If you’re looking at the size of the camera to determine how good it is, you’re looking at the wrong thing. Yes, the a6000 is small, but it shoots images that rival some of the expert cameras! Plus, if you’re switching from landscapes to wildlife, the 11 FPS and the 179 AF points (which Sony states as being the fastest AF detection system on the market) are going to allow you to shoot unrivaled photos. This is an amazing camera. Size doesn’t matter, results do.

Buy it on Amazon

Canon 7d Mark II

81nBcchm9uL._SL1500_20.2 MP, 10FPS, 65 AF points, ISO 100-16,000. It’s official. I’m obsessed with the 7D Mark II. I’m often upset when manufacturers roll out a second edition of a camera model because it disappoints me a lot, however the 7D Mark II is a different story. Packing 65 AF points, an outrageous ISO range, and 10 FPS into a crop sensor camera is unheard of, but Canon pulled it off! Don’t let the 20.2 MP scare you. Yes, it’s no 36 MP sensor, but it will give you images just as clear. The new APSC sensor allows for a wider ISO range for optimal low light performance. It’s crazy that a crop sensor takes the top spot for the hobbyist category, beating out a full-frame DSLR, but the FPS and the overall quality of the 7D Mark II shines brightly.

Buy on Amazon


, , , , ,

16 Responses to Why Wedding photographers Should Use Crop Sensor Cameras

  1. Rick St. John September 16, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    Hello,

    Thank you for a wonderful explanation for the difference between the full frame and the crop sensor. I needed to read this.

    I am going to photograph a friends wedding for free, they have no budget, and I have a camera. I have two Canon 550d’s that I bought when they first came out.

    I am planning to shoot her wedding using these two cameras, I plan to use a 55mm 1.8 and a 17 to 55 kit lens.

    Since photography is more about composition and lighting, do you think this setup will work ok for me?

    Thank you,

    Rick

    • David Johnston September 16, 2015 at 9:24 am #

      Rick,

      I absolutely think this set up will work! You might have some difficulty with getting shots from long distances, but instead of getting frustrated, compose those far away shots in a way that will make the photograph like a story. So, if you’re in the back venue, frame the couple getting married in between blurred silhouettes of people sitting and watching, or shoot using leading lines! You’ll do great!

  2. Matteo January 20, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

    Thanks a lot for your wonderful article. I have a Sony Alpha 6000 and I found a job as a wedding photographer which is going to start the next month. I know have a Tamron 18-200 f3.5/6.3 VCIII and a Sony SEL1018. I was ready to upgrade my camera to an A7 and I was ready to spend a lot of money on prime lenses. I have also a flash Sony HVL-F43M. What lens kit would you suggest for a Sony A6000 and weddings?
    Thanks in advance for your reply! Kind regards from Italy

    • David Johnston January 20, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

      Hmmm good question… I would say the 16-50 kit lens would be good for weddings because it can get wide enough and has good range to zoom some. That Tamron lens you have should suffice for any distance shots you need to get too! If you want a cool lens for different types of shots look into a fisheye either made by Rokinon or Samyang!

  3. Brenden C. January 28, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi! Great article. I have been a photography hobbyist for a little over a year and dig all aspects of it. I have been toying with the idea of focusing on wedding photography to hopefully one day pay the bills. I have a Canon T5I and have been shooting every chance I get.currently I have my kit 18-55, the nifty 50, the sigma 10-20mm 3.5, and a sigma 150-600 c lens, a decent Cameron flash and have been using lightroom 6 for editing. I plan on upgrading to the 7DMK2 a.s.a.p. and using the T5I as a second body. My question is regarding my “Bigma” lens. Is it too big to be appropriate for a wedding?And does my gear sufficiant enough to see me through until I can look into some quality Canon glass?

    • David Johnston February 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

      My opinion, Benden… Yes and yes. The Sigma has a great range that won’t limit you to any distance. Also, your gear is more than sufficient. One tip, you might want to look into Sony mirrorless cameras. That way you could buy an adapter for all your lenses instead of purchasing all new ones!

  4. John T. February 29, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Great posting. Sensor size and whether or not you must shoot RAW are two major considerations, along with all the associated issues (cost, DOF, etc.)

    However, I cannot recommend Sony e-mount APS-C. Sony does not seem to care about providing quality glass at affordable prices. Their recent a6300 launch included three G series FE full frame lenses that most people cannot afford. Sony is pushing their APS-C customers to FF and all the higher costs associated. I finally gave up on Sony e-mount within the past month and sold all my e-mount gear. I still have Sony a-mount, but e-mount is another story. Sony wants to make the initial NEX/a6?00 sale, but as their kit lenses are so bad, and their e-mount glass is so expensive (and having quality control issues with defocused elements), and Sigma not providing enough here, it’s really a dead-end system. Check the price of Sony’s flash units if you want to get a good feel for how much Sony thinks it can charge above the competition. I’m not the only person Sony has disappointed. Check the dpreview comments for the a6300 launch to see a lot of upset Sony APS-C shooters.

    • David Johnston February 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

      Hey John, thanks for the comment!! I use a Sony emount with all Rokinon lenses plus a lens adapter and everything works great. Plus I didn’t have to upgrade to those G Series Sony lenses.

  5. Phil March 19, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    Great article and makes some interesting reading – I’m on the fence over ditching my ff 1Ds3 for a crop 7D2 and your article is pushing me to the latter. The digital picture.com rates the 7D2 as a downsized 1DX! But on the other hand rates the 1DS3 as Canon’s best ever camera (as of review time) so I’m a bit confused! On the plus side, the 7D2 has two card slots like the 1Ds3 so a bonus there.

  6. Mike N. November 11, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Thank you, I enjoyed this article very much. I am currently a photography student with a growing passion for portraiture, so naturally I am a fan of Mark Seliger. I also recently shot a wedding ceremony with just my D5300,18 – 55mm kit lens, it was a bit of a challenge as it was my first real event. What would you recommend to someone such as myself on a budget, trying to expand on my low light portraiture as well as weddings and occasional family portraits? Should I put my hard earned money towards better glass and wait on upgrading my camera until later?

    • David Johnston November 16, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

      I’d say put money towards better glass first, camera second.

  7. Mani November 22, 2016 at 3:06 am #

    good article helped me well, hey i decided to start a wedding photographer my age 24 lives in india i took months time to learn basics of lens and each camera features for my knowladge i found nikon d7200 do you recommend this camera for wedding ? i am beginner i need advice from you also i selected few lens for wedding let me clear i choosed wrong one or not

    1.nikon dx 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6g ed vr telephoto
    2.nikon 85mm 1.8g prime
    3.sigma 10-20mm F3.5 ex dc hsm wide angle

    thanks waiting for your reply sir

  8. Jithan November 24, 2016 at 12:06 pm #

    Such a wonderful post as I was struggling to decide on what full frame camera I need to buy and your post really helped.I hold a Canon EOS 50D with a 17-85 lens and a beginner trying to get into wedding and occasion photography. Will this be sufficient or do I need to go for another camera. Also suggest on any other low price lens which i need for this?

  9. James Mlodynia December 4, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    I come a little late to this party but I will speak from my wedding photography shootings. I started photographing landscapes and local wild life over 8 years ago, starting with a Pentax K100D super and a 18-55 and 55-300. These were good for basic photography but held me back in wild life photography. I know you say what does this have to do with wedding photography, everything and nothing as they say. Wild life photography and wedding photography have in common is the use of high end gear. I now shoot events for my co-workers and the one thing is if you want to have a good outcome it will not happen with a canon T5 i whatever and kit lens. I shoot outdoor events, the wedding is held outside and will then move indoors or go to a large tent. This is what I have been shooting with. primary camera, Pentax K5ii, second camera K10D. lens kit, 12-24 f4 for dance floor, 17-70 f2.8-4.5 sigma. 50mmf2.8 macro for detail shots and head shots, rent a 77 F1.8. Before I photographed my first wedding, I photographed 4 Memorial Day events. Wedding photography is not to be taken lightly, it is a lot of work, think about 8-10 hours plus processing files. One other thing you will not get rich doing this, after you do a wedding or two you might rethink what you are doing. I took my first wedding for 200$ and spent more than twice that buying the 50mm macro.

  10. Ivan December 23, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    Hy there great article. Me and my wife are making some event photography. We are planing to move to wedding photography soon and are thinking about some glass and second DSLR. We have Canon 70d with Ef 50mm f/1.4 USM, Ef-s 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM and old M42 Zeiss Flektogon 20 mm MC f/2.8. We are thinking what to buy now. She is thinking about used Canon 60d that is at great price and I am thinking about full frame 6D so we have one APSC and one FF camera but that means much more money. And for glass i am struggling between new Ef 85 mm f/1.8 USM and used Ef 24-70 f/2.8 L USM mk1. Any advice?

    • David Johnston December 28, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      I would honestly stay clear of the 6D. I’ve had friends shoot weddings with it and hated the low light performance. All of those lenses look great though!