How Sensor Size Affects Composition

APS-C lenses have a slightly longer reach than full-frame lenses even though they have the same focal length because of the difference in sensor size. If you’re looking for similar results when using an APS-C lens and a full-frame lens, you need to compose accordingly. Photographer Julia Trotti compares the results of some prime lenses on an APS-C body and a full-frame body and shows you how you can get similar results:

Full-frame sensors cover a greater area of the image circle formed by the lens. On the contrary, APS-C lenses cover a relatively small area, more toward the center of the image circle. This is the reason why APS-C cameras have a greater reach than full-frame cameras when using the same lens.

To give perspective on how different prime lenses perform on an APS-C body compared to a full-frame body, Trotti uses her 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and135mm with a Canon 7D Mark II APS-C camera. She then compares the results with the images from her full-frame Canon 5D Mark IV.

Fixed Distance Between the Subject and the Camera

Trotti takes multiple images using her different prime lenses while maintaining a constant distance between the model and herself. The field of view is much wider in the case of the full-frame camera.

Sigma 24mm Prime Lens

24mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 35mm f/1.2 Mark II Prime Lens

35mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 50mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

50mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 85mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

85mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 135mm f/2 Prime Lens

135mm apsc vs full frame

Full Body Composition in Portrait Orientation

Next, Trotti asks the model to stay in the same spot while she herself moves around to fill the frame in a portrait orientated full-body composition with her 7D Mark II. Then, from the same spot, she takes an image with the 5D Mark IV to demonstrate the difference in the field of view.

Using Sigma 24mm Prime Lens

24mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 35mm f/1.2 Mark II Prime Lens

35mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 50mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

50mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 85mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

85mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 135mm f/2 Prime Lens

135mm apsc vs full frame

“Out of these full body tests, my favorite focal lengths on crop frame were the 35mm and 50mm.”

Landscape Orientation Mid-Frame Composition

Again, Trotti has the model stay put in a spot and composes with the model in the center of the landscape orientation using her 7D Mark II. Then, from the same spot, she switches over to her 5D Mark IV to show the difference in coverage.

Sigma 24mm Prime Lens

24mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 35mm f/1.2 Mark II Prime Lens

35mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 50mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

50mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 85mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

85mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 135mm f/2 Prime Lens

135mm apsc vs full frame

Extreme Close-up Head-shots

For the final test, Trotti composes so as to have as much of the model’s face in the frame using her 7D Mark II. Then again, from the same spot, she takes the image using her 5D Mark IV.

Sigma 24mm Prime Lens

24mm apsc vs full frame

There’s a good amount of distortion in both of these images because wide-angle lenses tend to exaggerate features when the subject is close to the lens.

Canon 35mm f/1.2 Mark II Prime Lens

35mm apsc vs full frame

“By the 35mm shot, you can see a lot of distortion on the full frame but not so much in the crop.”

Canon 50mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

50mm apsc vs full frame

At 50mm, the effects of distortion are almost gone in the crop frame. However, with the full-frame, there’s still a bit of distortion visible.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 Prime Lens

85mm apsc vs full frame

Canon 135mm f/2 Prime Lens

135mm apsc vs full frame

“My absolute favorite focal length on crop frame is the 50mm, which isn’t a surprise since my favorite lens for these kinds of close-ups on full frame is the 85. My close second favorite would be the 85mm on crop.”

Which setup do you think produces the best result? Let us know.

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2 responses to “How Sensor Size Affects Composition”

  1. Gary Hook says:

    Wow.

    If you are taking the shots from the same spot, you have -exactly- the same amount of distortion, given a specific focal length, on both sizes of sensor, because it and the geometry of the shot do not change. Same distance to subject elements, same focal length: (almost the) same image. Different depth of field, slightly, if the CoC changes.

    If your model changes her head position, you’ll see a difference. Therefore, the comparisons in this article are specious.

    How can you not know this?

  2. I agree with Gary Hook. What’s the purpose of this article?

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