In this video on 35:52 the author compares two photos made with an APS-C and a Full Frame cameras: https://youtu.be/LMKmCZ6Gktk?t=2152

The difference is overwhelming. I'm evaluating switching to Full Frame and in most comparisons the advantage of FF is only incremental (while being significantly more expensive). But here in this macro photography example I see an overwhelming difference.

So my question is - is this example representative of overall FF vs APS-C difference for macro? Is the Full Frame really that much better when it comes to macro compared to APS-C? Or maybe this particular example is just a product of some specific conditions like setting, lenses and so on?


2 Answers 2


I have/have owned LF, FF, APS, 1", 2/3, and more. And I have used them all for macro at one time or another. Everything is a trade-off, but my preferred choice is the 1" sensor (16MP Nikon 1 V2) with a high quality macro lens adapted to it (Sigma 150/2.8).

With smaller pixels diffraction is more of an issue, but a crop sensor gives more DOF for a given composition/settings so you don't have to stop down so far.

Larger sensors do get more light, but with macro a big problem with light is the lens/camera/your shadow. With the crop sensor you don't have to get as close, which often lets more light reach the subject. It's also easier to use supplemental lighting when the lens is not in the way.

As above, you don't have to get as close with a crop sensor, which is a bit less prone to cause insects to flush/hide.

As above, you don't have to get as close, so you don't have to stop down as much for DOF.

Using a smaller sensor of the same resolution (different compositions) IS more resolution of the subject, which is the same end result as using a lens of greater magnification; assuming the lens can resolve more than the larger pixel sensor can. Even if the lens cannot resolve down to the level of the smaller pixels it does not necessarily mean less resolution. I.e. diffraction is a loss of recorded resolution, but that does not mean the result is less recorded resolution than a lower resolution sensor would achieve.

These are all single image captures taken with the Nikon 1 V2 + Sigma 150/2.8.

Orb Weaver Spider enter image description here

Assassin Bug Nymph (?) enter image description here

Juriniopsis (?, horsefly) enter image description here

That is not to say I could not do better using FF, I probably could; but to do better using FF is very difficult... it would most likely require stacking a multiple of images, which introduces its' own challenges/issues.

I think the main difference is what he disclosed when he took the first picture with the APS camera... he used a cheaper/lower quality lens on the APS. Also note that I would call what he was doing "close-up" and not macro (≥ 1:1)

  • \$\begingroup\$ The details on the pictures you've attached are actually pretty soft when zoomed out to 100% and there is a lot of noise also. Look at the edges of insects' "hair" - they are not sharp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gill Bates
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 17:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GillBates These are not full resolution images... the upload limit is 2MP, the originals are ~ 8MP. They had to be downsampled and compressed at a lower quality setting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ The upload limit is actually 2MB not MP, but I get your point. You have to lose somewhere to persuade it up UL to i.imgur \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 17:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin, Ah yes... I didn't remember exactly what the warning dialog said; I also wasn't particularly careful about how the resample/compression was done. For comparison the original nef of the nymph was 81MB, the edited tiff 184MB, the uncompressed jpeg 6MB. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StevenKersting It is usually not difficult to distinguish between unsharp images and compression artifacts. It is hard to believe that the haze or unsharpness e.g. around the hairs on the nymph's right antenna should be compression artificats and I am pretty confident that the raw file will show the same deficiencies as well. The eye is tack sharp though and I am not sure if the haze comes from lack of optical quality toward the edges of the image or if the antenna is out of focus. \$\endgroup\$
    – jarnbjo
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 9:24

It is hard to say FF have significant advantage (when we talk about macro) over APS-C. But by my understanding they have and all is about the light. Here are two point where FF is better than crop camera:

  1. ISO - FF compared to crop (same generation sensors) handle better high ISO and because in macro you are always short in light can produce better image.
  2. Diffraction - to get acceptable DoF you need to close your aperture. But diffraction start to affect the image quality for example with Canon EOS 5D Mark III at F10. With Canon EOS 7D Mark II it start affecting at F6.6

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