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50mm lens on crop sensor vs full-frame sensor

50mm lens on crop sensor vs full-frame sensor
50mm lens on crop sensor vs full-frame sensor

What are the differences when using a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera vs on a crop sensor camera?

When using a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, the real focal length is 50mm, but when using on a crop sensor camera, the APS-C has a 1.5x multiplying factor, therefore, 50mm become 75mm.

You have or want to buy a 50mm lens, but for the camera you have, you are unsure about this and you want to do some researches to understand it better, therefore, in this post I will try to cover all the aspects and differences of using a 50mm lens on both full-frame and APS-C camera.

50mm lens on a full-frame vs crop sensor camera. In detail.

The above image is taken with a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. If this was taken with an APS-C sensor (crop sensor), the image would look similar to the red square area.

The 1.5x multiplying factor is a standard difference between a full-frame and APS-C camera and not only a 50mm lens but all the lenses would see this difference.

As an advantage is when you have a telephoto lens, this generally works better on an APS-C camera for the extra 1.5x multiplying factor.

To reach the equivalent of a 50mm lens of a full-frame on crop sensor camera, the closest you can get is with a 35mm lens (1.5x crop ratio, which is about 52.5mm)

Therefore, If you like to buy a new lens which to be the equivalent of a 50mm, I would recommend you research your camera first to know exactly what you are about to buy.

  • As an instance, if you own a Nikon D3200, D3500, D5200, D7500, D500 – All those models have an APS-C sensor, and you will need to own a 35mm lens in order to reach the (closest to) 50mm
  • If you own a D750, D810, D610 or any of a full-frame camera model, you only need the 50mm lens for that.

The advantages and disadvantages of a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera vs crop sensor.

Advantages of a 50mm on a full-frame camera

  • Wider field of view
  • Great bokeh results
  • Shallower depth of field
  • Better low-light situations and broader dynamic range

Advantages of a 50mm on an APS-C camera

  • The extra focal length (75mm)
  • Closest results to what you see through your eyes
  • Great for portrait photography
  • Can frame unique composition on a 75mm
  • Drastically reduced vignetting

There should be no visible image quality when using a 50mm lens on a full-frame vs a crop sensor camera, other than the obvious general differences between those two sensor types.

composition taken with a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera.

The above image is the focal length result of a 50mm lens used on crop-sensor camera (Nikon D500) making it a perfect for creating unique compositions

50mm lens on crop sensor vs full-frame sensor

The above image is the result of using a 50mm lens in portrait photography on a full-frame camera.

It is noticeable that when you are using a 50mm lens (like most of the lenses, not only the fifty) on a full-frame camera, you get some vignetting. The vignetting resulted in this image is a bit more prominent for the fact that I used the lens on an aperture of f/1.2 (very wide)

But when stepping down the aperture, this is not visible at all.

For this 50mm f/1.2 lens when used on a crop-sensor camera, the advantage is not only becoming a 75mm focal length but at f/1.2 the vignetting is completely removed.

But did you know that you can use the DX (crop sensor) crop ratio on a full-frame camera?

If you have a 50mm lens and a full-frame camera but you do want the equivalent of a 75mm, all you have to do is go on your PHOTO MENU and select the area of cropping > DX.

The disadvantage of using this function vs an APS-C camera, although you are obtaining the same focal distance, is that on a full-frame camera you basically get the image cropped on a lower resolution.

And the reality is that you can do it on post-processing. To crop the image.

Only one little advantage is that this method highlights the DX area for better framing on your picture, as in the image above.

What about using a 50mm lens on full-frame vs crop sensor camera on different photography niches?

When you are aiming to use your nifty fifty lens on different photography niches, it is better to take in consideration the advantages and disadvantages for both full-frame and crop-sensor cameras.

  • As an instance, for wildlife photography, it is difficult to do it with a 50mm lens but not impossible. On a crop-sensor camera, you have the 1.5x multiplication ratio, which makes it a 75mm and you keep the full resolution. For close-up wildlife photography, this is more than perfect to use. Keep in mind that additional cropping can be done.
  • In astrophotography, using a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera have three disadvantages: Less light to capture due to crop sensor camera, the rule of 500 in astrophotography and a smaller capture area on the night sky. Therefore, I would not recommend using your 50mm on a crop-sensor camera over a full-frame camera in the case of astrophotography.
  • When you think about portrait photography, think about the composition and how this would look better. Although you can take brilliant photographs with your 50 on a full-frame camera, making it 75 brings it to exactly what you see through your eyes. As an instance, if a person is 3m away from you, the same focal distance will appear in the photo, not zoomed in and not zoomed out.
  • For street photography, this is a tie. I would rather recommend using a full-frame camera due to excellent bokeh and a shallower depth of field it can provide over a crop-sensor but this is not exclusive.
  • In the case of landscape photography, I can tell this is a tie also. It is all about the photographer’s preferences. Although many photographers prefer a wider lens instead, many others do prefer most of the focal distances of a lens, from a 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm all the way up to 500mm or above.

In general or travel photography, I do recommend better to use your 50mm lens on a full-frame camera rather than a crop sensor for some obvious reasons:

  • You can create an excellent composition by having a wider field of view (and not too wide) and capture more elements into your image
  • It is excellent for a low-light situation in combination with a full-frame camera. Don’t forget that those lenses are prime fast and cheap lenses, allowing you to capture more detail with a lower ISO during the night.
  • Better dynamic range. This is another obvious reason on all full-frame cameras due to larger sensor but again, combined with a fast prime lens, this adds quality to your photographs.

The hard conclusion on 50mm lens full-frame vs crop sensor.

It is more like an obvious fact that most of the photographers would rather prefer to use their 50mm lens on a full-frame camera for shallower depth of field, better bokeh, dynamic range, better low light. But not all of them.

But before you ask yourself, “hey, but I do have a crop-sensor camera and I want a 50mm lens. Should I buy it“? I would give you a direct answer:

Absolutely yes. A 50mm lens even if this would work more like a 75mm on a crop sensor definitely worth it. I had one for some years and I loved taking photographs with it.

Now think if you love the focal length of a 50mm on a full-frame but you have a crop-sensor camera, what should you do? The answer for this is also simple: BUY A 35mm LENS!

As mentioned above, a 35mm lens on a crop sensor reaches the equivalent of 52.5mm in reality, which is an unnoticeable difference between 50mm and 52.5mm.

There are many niches where you can take advantage of this focal length but that would be a cover for another topic.

Thank you for sticking around until the end of the post. If you like 50mm photography, I strongly recommend bookmarking our website as this is the only one focusing on 50mm photography.

Take care my friend and have an amazing day!


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50mm lens on crop sensor vs full frame sensor - what is the difference and which one is better?
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