Full Frame DSLR camera side by side
Full Frame DSLR camera side by side

Should I get a full frame DSLR camera as my first DSLR? Lately this is a question that I see quite a lot popping up on the internet. I think that you won’t be surprised if I tell you that in the wast majority of cases the answer is NO. Why? The reasons are multiple. I will try to get through all the aspects that you need to take into account went buying a full frame DSLR as my first DSLR. Today’s APS-C cameras or crop factor cameras can deliver very similar, high end results like the full frame counterparts. But there is a that crop factor which is the problem. So let’s jump in and see what we need to pay attention:

  • cost of the full frame DSLR camera
  • you need additional lenses to start with
  • are you willing to carry a heavy camera with you
  • do you have the skills for it
  • do you want to make money using the full frame DSLR camera

Cost of the full frame DSLR camera

For sure that you are asking yourself “Should I get a full frame DSLR as my first DSLR?” that means that probably you have the money to buy yourself a full frame DSLR camera. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading these lines. Indeed, the price of a full frame camera is considerably higher than of an APS-C camera. Also there are people willing to pay the necessary money to get the best camera out there money can buy. Unfortunately I cannot argue here with someone who considers quality over price. But, I need to add something to this part.

Not in all situations the full frame DSLR camera outperforms a crop sensor camera. For sure in low light conditions you will be able to gain some extra stops of light. Returning to the main idea of cost. You will need to take into account that you will need to pay more than the price of the camera. The price of the lenses, accessories and so on are higher in comparison with APS-C DSLR’s.

You need additional lenses to start with

As a beginner photographer I soon realized that even though the stock lens that came with my camera is overall a good lens, it wasn’t enough. Soon enough I realized what were the limitations of the single lens I owned. For those that are curious at the moment I am writing this article, I own an old Nikon D3100 APS-C camera and at the beginning I owned only the 18-55 mm lens that came with the camera. In the meanwhile I found out just how important that lenses are in comparison to the body. If a you can exchange the body with a new one, a quality glass is much harder to leave.

Contrary to the belief that each lens is the same taking into account the high quality standards that they are requiring for the manufacturing process my philosophy is different. As each camera lens is manufactured by human hand, the overall skills of the craftsman putting together the lens will have an impact on the overall performance of that lens.

Canon EF lenses
Canon EF lenses

Why are lenses so important?

It is very similar to the way the Japanese Katana swords are made. You get a master by repeating the process over and over. At a certain moment some of the people assembling the lenses become a master of what they are doing and also my personal belief is that each lens has a small part of the soul of the man/women that assembled it. I consider that is very important to take care about the lenses that you own.

Returning to the need of additional lenses, my personal suggestion is to pick the lenses that you need and according to the subject matter you are shooting. It would be great if you owned at least 3 lenses that cover all the focal length that you will need. Also I recommend buying a prime lens as these are great lenses. If you want to take a look at some interesting lenses that you may take into consideration I recommend you to read this article. But pay attention! Generally full frame DSLR camera lenses can be quite expensive and can easily set you back a couple of thousand of $. But it money isn’t you concern then ignore what I have previously said.

Are you willing to carry a heavy camera with you?

Although many of us don’t take into account the weight of the camera this is certainly an important aspect that you may consider. Even if you plan to take the camera on your vacation and taking some shots you will fill the pain. Whether you like it or not a full frame DSLR camera has weight. If you consider the overall weight of the lens as well soon enough you will have a heavy equipment to carry around. I know that a lot of you will consider a cool thing to carry a beefy DSLR around. As a matter of fact you don’t buy yourself a full frame DSLR camera just to look cool.

Therefor most of the cases you will need to get yourself a camera bag or back pack for your gear. If you plan to travel a lot and most of the time by foot you should consider the weight. Carrying 20 pounds worth of equipment will leave its foot print at the end of the day. I almost forgot. If it is a must for you to have a full frame camera but don’t want to brake your shoulders you could get yourself a full frame mirrorless camera like the Sony A7 product line.

Camera equipment in the bag
Camera equipment in the bag

Do you have the skills for it?

As already mentioned from the beginning when asking yourself “Should I get a full frame DSLR as my first DSLR?” I said the for most of the people is NO. Even if you are a beginner who wants to jump into the world of photography learning the secrets of photography takes time and a lot of practice. First of all not everybody has the eye of taking that breath taking shot. Secondly buying yourself a full frame DSLR camera will not transform you into a pro. I have seen a lot of people around thinking that if they buy themselves an expensive camera, people will admire them. It is not the case. Even I thought a couple of years ago that a more expensive camera will transform me into a better photographer.

When I bought my very first DSLR for which I gave my entire one month salary, I thought now I will be the artist I wanted to be. Then the first press on the shutter. The result? Total disappointment. All my pictures sucked. They were worse than the one taken with my point and shoot camera. Luckily soon enough I realized that the problem wasn’t with the camera, but with me. I have seen other people’s photos taken with the exact same D3100 and their pictures were breathtaking.

The learning curve

It meant that I need to learn how to use the camera correctly. This process started 5 years ago and it is continuing ever since. My personal belief is that you learn all your life. But only if you want. Also learning all the information that you will ever need will not guaranty success. Not even with a full frame DSLR camera. You need to have the substance for it. You need to have the necessary skills to exploit it to the maximum. It will take you quite a lot of time to form yourself as a photographer. What makes a photographer unique is its technique. Which need a hell of work to master. Or you are born with this gift. To have the eye for it. It’s not my case I can tell you.

Do you want to make money using the full frame DSLR camera?

This is very important. If you want to have a full frame DSLR just for hobby purposes as mentioned earlier the price is quite high. In the case you want to make money from your shots, then the answer to the question: Should I get a full frame DSLR as my first DSLR? might be YES. Only might be, because it really depends what you plan to shoot. I will give you an example where APS-C cameras might have an advantage. Wildlife photography I personally consider that is better with and APS-C camera. Exactly because of the crop factor. Indeed some full frame DSLR cameras have the option of using crop mode, but in this case you are sacrificing image size. What’s the purpose of having a 36 Mpx sensor when in crop mode you will get only 24 Mpx?

For sure some of you will tell me that you have better ISO performance and the other bla bla which we are aware of. But certain combinations (body + lens) on APS-C will give you better results than on full frame. If you are curious enough then you can head out to DXOmark website which you can access from here. I really enjoy using this website. But it’s not all about the specifications.

Should I buy an APS-C camera instead?

I don’t want you to convince that APS-C cameras are better than full frame DSLR cameras. Just I want you to take the best decision for the purpose you will be using it. If you want full frame camera for wildlife why not. Probably you are or want to be some National Geographic photographer wanting to go on a Safari “hunting” lions. Just be careful. Don’t get to close to them. I was just joking. If you plan to use your camera to earn money then it could be a great investment. I keep repeating myself. There is always a BUT. You need to take care of certain aspects. Otherwise the bill will be quite high.

Full frame vs crop
Full frame vs crop

Final thoughts

There are a lot of guys/girls our there asking themselves “Should I get a full frame DSLR as my first DSLR?“. The answer is not as easy to answer. I said that in 90% of the cases the answer will be NO. The real problem is the remaining 10%. What that means is the if you really want to focus on quality and have the money and skills for it the answer could be YES. But only could be. Because there are a lot of aspects you need to consider as well. Lenses, weight or the kind of photography you want to try are all influencing the answer. My suggestion would be the following. If you are not sure if a full frame DSLR camera suits you, try lending it.

Talk with your friend to let you feel it in your hand. Borrow it for a couple of days from places where this is possible. It will ease your decision quite a lot. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. For full frame owners I invite them to share what is their opinion. Have you made a good decision? Why did you go for a full frame camera?

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