3 Helpful Tips on Using a 50mm Lens on an APS-C Camera

The nifty 50 lens is wonderful for so many photographers out there.

The 50mm lens is a place where so many photographers start. They get one and figure out if they want to go wider, longer, or use a zoom. Most folks opt for APS-C cameras for a cost savings benefit. And if you’re going for one of those, then you’ll probably reach for a 50mm lens. So we’ve come up with a few tips to remember when shooting with a 50mm lens on an APS-C camera.

The 50mm Lens is Pretty Much a Perfect Portrait Lens.

A 50mm lens on APS-C cameras is nearly a perfect portrait pairing. On Canon cameras, it’s a 1.6x crop, which is around 80mm. But for the rest of the world, it’s a 75mm equivalent. 75mm lenses are a classic portrait focal length before 85mm came around. Plus, you’re only using the center of the 50mm lens. So you’re getting rid of any possible distortion. Pair this with a fast aperture, and you’ve got a winner in so many ways. 

With all this said, let’s return to it being perfect. The lack of worrying about distortion means that you can go nuts with it as a portrait lens. You’re going to get a flat field of view no matter what. 

Some of the latest portrait lenses are also almost flawless. The Fujifilm 50mm f1 R WR is absolutely perfect.

Remember, It’s Not an 85mm.

No matter what, you should remember that it’s not an 85mm lens. To that end, it’s not going to act like one. First off, it doesn’t render an 85mm field of view. A longer focal length is still a longer focal length no matter what. That brings with it the inherent properties of one lens vs. the other. It still means that you’re going to be moving back and forth to get the right framing. In fact, you’re going to be moving back and forth even a bit more. 

More importantly, think of this in terms of the bokeh. An 85mm at any equivalent aperture will render a thinner depth of field than a 50mm lens. If you want more bokeh from your 50mm lens, you need to go for a faster lens. An f1.8 will probably be enough. F1.4 is the easiest to get. But an f1.0 or f1.2 is where you’ll see the most differences. According to the math, a 50mm f1.0 lens on a 1.5x crop APS-C sensor will be a 75mm f1.5 lens. If you’re an old school Voigtlander lover, this will be familiar. Realistically speaking, it’s also the best you’re going to get for a portrait lens. 

You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of sizing, of course. A Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss on an a6600 is probably a bit impractical. But you’ll get stunning photos!

The Perfect Street Photography Lens and Street Portrait Lens?

A 50mm lens on an APS-C camera body makes for a great street portrait, candid portrait, and street photography lens. This is especially true with social distancing. If you’re nervous about people looking at you and being confrontational, put more distance. And that’s where a 50mm lens works fantastic. You can capture candid moments safely out of people’s bubbles. And if you want to garner the courage to ask for a portrait, it will still work. 

I’ve advocated for using longer focal lengths for a while now. You get a more cinematic look that’s tough to beat. The idea that you have to get close to a subject is a romanticized one. We don’t need to always follow the same rules that our predecessors did. But we indeed need to follow better ethics. Before you go shooting, always check your intentions. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.