In the field of underwater photography, making the decision of what gear to use can be cumbersome. As technology advances, APS-C sensor and full-frame cameras are becoming closer and closer in regard to image quality and shooting capabilities, but there are some situations where one may excel above the other. When considering using an APS-C sensor, otherwise known as a crop sensor, or going with a full-frame camera for underwater photography here are a few things to consider.

What and where are you shooting?

Full frame cameras do offer a greater dynamic range when shooting so if you do not have a particular subject or prerogative in mind, given the necessary knowledge base on how to use the camera, full-frame cameras offer a few more options than their crop sensor counterparts. Generally, when shooting in low or ambient light, full-frame cameras offer superior capturing capabilities due to the wider ISO range available to use with minimal noise or graininess. This relates mostly to wide-angle shooting. 

Full frame cameras also give the advantage of utilizing a shallower depth of field, advantageous when shooting field-specific subjects in macro photography. Conversely, with a greater depth of field range comes more technical difficulties. That being said, many photographers find cropped sensors more “forgiving” due to the greater depth of field it offers (more in-focus). 

At a given focal length, due to having a narrower field of view, a crop sensor camera will fill the frame more with the subject. These aspects make crop sensor cameras a favorite for macro photographers, especially those who are less experienced or starting out. When it comes to image quality, the full-frame sensor cameras offer unsurpassed image quality second to none, although APS-C sensor cameras are swiftly catching up. 

Travel, size, cost.

The trifecta consideration whenever taking your camera abroad or out for the day, this is where APS-C systems make a comeback against their full-frame sensor competitors. APS-C cameras are generally smaller in size and cost significantly less than full-frame cameras. APS-C cameras and their lenses are generally smaller in size. This can be important when traveling where every inch counts, or even going as far as when you’re shooting. Simply, a smaller camera can offer your camera closer proximity or an angle of your subject that a bulkier camera setup couldn’t get due to its size.  

All in all, both APS-C and full-frame cameras offer their advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your skill level and investment into underwater photography, both kinds of cameras can make any underwater photographer happy with the results they produce.