When it comes to buying your first camera or even upgrading, one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is do I want a full frame camera or a crop sensor camera. Some of you might already be saying to yourself, "But Jordan I don't even know what that means." That's why I am here. This decision will come down to a variety of factors: budget, style of photography you plan to shoot, will you need to print images, etc. Let's dive into it.
The term full frame is derived from the fact the sensor size is the same as traditional 35mm film which is as old as time itself. Full frame sensors are larger sensors than crop sensors. A crop sensor is actually what we refer to anything smaller than a full frame sensor. Full frames are able to capture a greater amount of dynamic range in images. They also offer better low light/higher ISO performance in comparison to their counterparts. One important thing to note is that lenses are also sold based on what sensor they are intended to be shot on with. If you buy a FF 16-35 it will produce images just as the focal length indicates. However when using a crop sensor with the same lens you will have to multiply the focal length by the crop factor (usually around 1.5 ish in today's models). Normally crop sensor lenses will have shorter focal lengths so that when multiplied by the crop factor they are close to the equivalent full frame lens focal lengths.
A crop sensor as I previously stated is any sensor that is smaller than a 35mm sensor. As you can see in the image above the size comparison in a crop sensor vs a full frame sensor. Now although with a crop sensor you will have lower image quality, they are still the most popular cameras on the market. This is mainly due to cost. Crop sensor cameras are far and away cheaper than their full frame counterparts. Now cost isn't the only area where you can find advantages with the crop sensor, for certain types of photography having the extended focal length can be incredibly beneficial. If you are shooting wildlife photography I find it essential to be using a crop sensor camera (if you are not a millionaire of course). Professional wildlife and sports photographers always use the high end full frames paired with lenses that run well over $10,000 a piece. There are high end crop sensor cameras on the market than can produce stunning results as well.
What should I choose?
This will all come down to the things I listed above, budget, what you plan to shoot, will you be printing your images? If budget isn't a deciding factor here then I would recommend going all out and getting a intro full frame camera and dive right into things. If you are cautious and are not sure how into photography you will be, I HIGHLY recommend the crop sensor variation (for example my first camera was the Nikon D3300 crop sensor body).
If you plan to shoot landscape, architecture, or events then I would recommend going with a full frame in the long run as well. The dynamic range will be very important. Coupled with wanting to have the widest field of view which is achieved with a larger sensor. If you plan to shoot wildlife or sports photography then I would recommend the crop sensor variation again here as the added focal range will be incredibly beneficial for these images.
If you plan to print your images in a very large format then it could be beneficial to have a larger sensor resolution which is often put on new full frame cameras. Most crop sensor cameras are equivalent on resolution now a days though so this isn't a necessity.
I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions, please let me know.
Stay true to you.