A full frame digital camera is equipped with the full frame CCD which is the simplest form of sensor in which
incoming photons fall on the full light sensitive sensor array. To
readout the sensor the accumulated charge must then be
shifted vertically row by row into the serial output register and
for each row the readout register must be shifted horizontally to
readout each individual pixel. This is known as "Progressive
Scan" readout. A disadvantage of full frame is charge smearing
caused by light falling on the sensor whilst accumulated charge
signal is being transferred to the readout register. To avoid this,
devices sometimes utilize a mechanical shutter to cover the
sensor during the readout process. However, mechanical
shutters have lifetime issues and are relatively slow. Shutters
are not needed however in spectrographic operations or when a
pulsed light source is used. Full frame CCD’s are typically the
most sensitive CCD’s available and can work efficiently in many
different illumination situations. This is in
contrast to cameras with smaller sensors, typically of a size equivalent to
APS-C-size film, much smaller than a full 35 mm frame. As of 2009,
there are only 6 Full Frame 35mm Digital cameras in production. The majority of digital cameras, both
and SLR models, use a smaller-than-35 mm frame, as it is easier and cheaper to manufacture imaging sensors at a
smaller size. Historically, the earliest digital SLR models, such as the Kodak DCS 100, also used a smaller
Use of 35 mm film-camera lenses
If the lens mounts are compatible,
many lenses, including manual focus models, designed for
35 mm cameras can be mounted on the latest
When a lens designed for a full-frame camera is mounted on a camera with a smaller sensor, only the center of
the lens’s image circle is captured. The edges are cropped off, which has the effect of zooming in on the center
section of the imaging area. The ratio of the size of the captured image to the size of the full-frame 35 mm
format is known as the “crop factor” or “focal-length multiplier″, and is typically in the range 1.3–2.0
for non-full-frame digital SLRs.
One advantage of full-frame DSLR cameras is that lenses designed for
35 mm film cameras provide the same
view on the new DSLRs as that to which photographers were accustomed on their film cameras. This can be very
useful with wide-angle lenses and with
zoom lenses whose ranges were chosen for the full-frame 35 mm format. The
full-frame sensor can also be useful with perspective control or tilt/shift lenses; in particular, the wider
angle of view is often more suitable for architectural photography.
CCD image sensor architectures
The term full-frame is also used to refer to a type of charge-coupled device sensor technology
in which the sensor elements occupy the entire sensor surface rather than
sharing space with associated pixel storage sites.
The use of full-frame CCDs is typically restricted to digital SLRs since they require the use of a mechanical
shutter and do not output a continuous image. The two uses of the term full-frame are not otherwise related.
135 film cameras
In 35 mm (135 film) cameras, the terms full-frame and half-frame were used to
distinguish the 24 × 36 mm and 18 × 24 mm film formats the half-frame 35 mm film
format is also known as single-frame in movie film, and as a result, full-frame
film cameras were sometimes known as double-frame
The Nikon E2/E2n and E3/E3s digital SLRs, which were Nikon's first entry into the field of professional
digital photography, used a reduction optical system to compress a full 35mm visual field onto a
smaller digital sensor.
therefore full-frame digital SLRs, although in common with full-frame digital SLRs they had no crop factor.
Nikon has designated its full frame cameras with the FX and its smaller sensor cameras as the
Similarly, Canon EF is their full-frame line, while the
EF-S lenses only work on the
smaller sensor bodies.
Prototype full-frame digital SLRs
Pentax MZ-D (presented in 2000, based on Pentax MZ-S, with the same sensor as Contax N, it never went into production)