The question of full frame versus crop sensor cameras is yet another topic in the debate about the best way to execute macro photography. First, let's define the terms. A full frame 35 mm camera, whether digital or film, records an image that is 36 millimeters by 24 millimeters. When digital cameras were first created for the mass market, it was not possible to economically produce cameras with this size image sensor, so manufacturers decided to go with a smaller sensor, about 15 millimeters by 22.5 millimeters. So, if you take the image from a full size frame and crop a little off all four sides, you'll get the part of the image created by a crop sensor camera. Crop sensor cameras are digital only.
Probably the main difference between full frame and crop sensor cameras is how the focal length is affected. Even with the same lens, the shots taken with a full frame and a crop sensor camera would be different. The crop sensor's photo would be more magnified than the image captured by the full frame camera. For the macro nature photographer, this would be a distinct advantage. For instance, what would be a tiny photo of a firefly shot with a full frame camera would be a close-up when photographed with a crop sensor camera, even from the same distance. But you are trading some quality aspects. A larger image sensor will produce a better image than a crop sensor because the pixels will be larger. These larger pixels won't have to be magnified as much to get the finished image, producing less "digital noise" that can result in a grainy image. Full frame sensors also perform better in low light conditions.
Digital crop sensor cameras are not as heavy as full frame cameras and don't require the bulky telephoto lenses that are needed to get macro shots with a full frame camera. If you feel the need to experiment with lenses, a variety of lenses for digital cameras have come on the market in the past few years.
On the next page, we'll learn about those lenses and other equipment you can purchase to enhance your macro nature photography experience.