Last Updated on July 23, 2020 by Tom Shu
Sony makes some of the best mirrorless cameras on the market and has a wide range of cameras to satisfy any photographer’s needs.
One of the biggest questions you might have when looking to purchase a Sony camera other than the specs itself is if the camera has an APS-C sensor or if it has a full-frame sensor.
In short, the Sony a6500 is not a full-frame camera. It has an APS-C sensor, which is 2.5 times smaller than a full-frame sensor. However, although the APS-C sensor is smaller than the full-frame sensor, it contains more than enough punch to get you through any photography or videography situation you might be thrown in.
There are of course differences between using a camera with a full-frame sensor versus one with an APS-C sensor, so today I’m going to go over the pros and cons, throw in some of the most common myths between these two sensor sizes, and end with some final thoughts.
Pros and Cons of APS-C Sensor Versus Full Frame Sensor
When I first heard that the full-frame sensor was 2.5 times larger than the APS-C sensor, I initially thought it meant that a full-frame sensor was more versatile, better and that I should invest in a camera with a full-frame sensor.
However, that is far from the truth.
Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to each.
With technological advances, cameras with APS-C sensors, micro four-thirds sensors, and even cell phone cameras are more than capable of capturing breathtaking images and video footage.
I have used a camera with an APS-C sensor my entire life, including the Sony a6500 for the last year.
I am honestly continually amazed by the quality of photos and videos these little cameras can take.
In the past year with the Sony a6500 and its APS-C sensor, I have produced photography content for multiple brands and used it to capture video footage for my short film Spirit of Matsu, which is about the annual Matsu Festival in Beigang, Taiwan.
The shooting conditions for the short film were intense, with fireworks going off left and right, plenty of low light situations, and many indoor shooting situations.
To my surprise, the APS-C sensor in the Sony a6500 killed it and the film eventually went on to win an award.
If you want other examples of how well the camera performs in poor conditions, make sure to check out my article on if the Sony a6500 is Weather Sealed.
In the article, I show examples of using the camera in the rain, snow, and desert, so you’ll get an even better idea of what the camera can do.
With all that said, the main point I’m trying to get across is that there is no right choice when it comes down to choosing an APS-C sensor or full-frame sensor as both will get the job done.
There are pros and cons of each, so let’s get to those.
Pros of APS-C Sensor Versus Full Frame Sensor
- Price – In most situations, cameras with APS-C sensors, like the Sony a6500 will be cheaper than their full-frame sensor counterparts because both the camera body and the lenses for the cameras are smaller.
- Weight – Going off of the point above, these cameras have a smaller footprint and size, so they will be much lighter. Have you ever tried carrying a backpack with all your lenses and tripod? It gets heavy quickly. Any weight saved is nice, especially when you’re traveling.
- The Crop Factor – This can be considered a positive or a negative. The Sony a6500 with its APS-C sensor has a 1.5x crop factor. So, a 50mm lens on this camera is equivalent to a 75mm lens on a full-frame camera. What this means is that you get extra zoom power with lenses on this camera, without the extra cost.
- Brings Less Attention: If you travel a lot as I do to unfamiliar places, it’s usually better to keep a low profile and not flaunt the expensive camera gear you are carrying. It’s much easier to bring less attention to yourself when you pull out a small APS-C camera than a bigger full-frame camera.
Cons of APS-C Sensor Versus Full Frame Sensor
- Full Frame Sensor Has Better Dynamic Range and Increased Sensitivity to Light – The larger full-frame sensor allows each pixel on the sensor to be larger than the smaller APS-C sensor, which means more light is collected in each pixel. This isn’t always the case though as some more technologically advanced APS-C cameras have a better dynamic range.
- Full Frame Sensor has Accurate Focal Lengths – There is no crop factor on a full-frame sensor so a 16mm lens has a 16mm focal length. On an APS-C sensor that 16mm lens has a focal length of 24mm so that an ultra-wide lens isn’t so wide anymore on an APS-C camera. This could mean the difference between being able to fit the entire building in frame versus cutting some of the building out.
- Full Frame Sensor has Higher Resolution (in theory) – In theory, since the full-frame sensor is larger with larger pixels, taken with a larger lens, it will result in a higher resolution image. The reason why I say in theory is that for most of us who share our work online, have our images published in magazines, or print them out in smaller formats, the higher resolution is not noticeable.
Common Myths of APS-C Sensor Versus Full Frame Sensor
Many people still think that cameras with a full-frame sensor are better than cameras with an APS-C sensor.
You will hear people saying all the time that they want to get a full-frame camera as it’ll offer them more bokeh, or that a full-frame sensor has a better low light performance.
I even thought this was a fact when I first started looking for a new camera to buy.
The answer is a little bit more complicated than that.
With technology improving so quickly, the quality of newer APS-C sensors is close to on par with full-frame sensors.
Although full-frame camera sensors are technically better and you will get more bokeh and an extra boost in low light situations, the differences are not very noticeable.
Like I said before if you’re only posting your pictures to your social media, then there will be almost no difference at all in the quality of your images.
Here are the common myths you might hear when you’re comparing an APS-C camera to a full-frame camera.
- The full-frame camera has a much better low light performance than an APS-C camera. The truth is that although a new model full-frame camera will for the most part have better low light performance than a new model APS-C camera, the low light performance of the APS-C is already very good.
- The full-frame camera will give you more bokeh in your shots. Although this is true, you can also get some very good bokeh on an APS-C sensor depending on the lens you have. Plus, a wide aperture APS-C lens will be much cheaper than its full-frame counterpart.
- Shooting on a full-frame camera will improve your photos. The reality is that you’re the one composing the image, and you’re the one behind the camera. A camera is only a tool and without a person’s knowledge and skill, it’s just another camera.
- You need a full-frame camera to be a professional and get paid for your camera work. Many people have created work for clients professionally, I included, who use an APS-C camera.
As you know now, the Sony a6500 has an APS-C sensor and not a full-frame sensor.
The bigger point that I hope you learned from this article is that regardless, both an APS-C sensor and a full-frame sensor will enable you to take photos or videos in whatever situation you may be in.
I think the bigger question to ask yourself is how you will use your camera and what budget you have.
A full-frame camera is great to have, but do you need it for the type of photography or film making that you plan to shoot when a cheaper APS-C camera could take just as good of a photo or video?
For the price of a new full-frame camera body, you can get a comparable APS-C camera with a nice lens.
In my opinion, if you’re just starting, you’re better off investing the money you will save from purchasing an APS-C camera on a nice lens, editing software, or classes to improve your skill.
Remember, the camera is just a tool.
Without knowledge, skill, and experience, your photos and videos will still be crap even if you have the most expensive camera you can afford.