Should You Be Using APS-C Lenses on Full-Frame Cameras?

Many companies are breathing new life into the APS-C lens lines with a bunch of recent releases. These new lenses looks great with modern optics and when you start comparing them to full-frame offerings you get other benefits like a compact size and more affordable price points.

As a full-frame shooter, you might be thinking about whether it is worth picking up one or two APS-C lenses to use. Creator Jason Vong has been using some of Sony’s APS-C lenses with an a7 IV and other full-frame cameras and figuring out how to best use them and what the benefits and drawbacks can be.

When you first pop on an APS-C lens to a full-frame camera you may notice some extreme vignetting. For this you’ll want to head to the menu and turn on APS-C shooting.

This effectively crops in to the same sensor area as APS-C and should eliminate that tunnel effect. That’s how you can basically use them in the right way, but is it worth it?

Image Credit: Sony

An obvious advantage is price and size. Since they are covering a smaller format, APS-C lens designs can be more compact and with that comes a more affordable price point.

One reason you might want to do this is that it makes it easier to upgrade from a crop body to a full-frame camera. They also might be helpful to have in your bag without weighing you down too much.

Another advantage is the “zoom” range. By cropping into the sensor you are effectively getting a more zoomed in image. APS-C lenses give an effective 1.5x boost to the focal length.

That means that APS-C 70-350mm in APS-C mode is going to give you a similar view as a full-frame 105-525mm lens on a full-frame sensor.

There are some drawbacks. Photography sees a massive drop in resolution. You are limited to using only the APS-C image area, which could mean that a 61MP a7R IV is only 26MP in APS-C. That is an example where the end result is still great. However, on the 24MP a7 III you are only getting 10MP in APS-C. Depending on your needs that might be limiting.

Image Credit: Sony

When you are shopping for a camera you might want to consider getting a higher resolution option since you can make use of it as an APS-C camera very effectively.

Unlike photo, video doesn’t lose much when you crop in (on bodies of at least 24MP). The APS-C/Super 35mm modes actually have better recording quality in some cameras.

Reading the entire sensor is difficult, but when you crop in the camera can do a proper downsampling from a 5K or 6K image area to create a better 4K file. It might also permit faster frame rates.

If you are planning on doing a lot of video with something like the a7 IV it may actually benefit you to have some APS-C lenses on hand to better use the crop modes.

For photographers, you will probably want to stick with full-frame optics, though on high-resolution bodies you might occasionally see some advantages when you need extra super-telephoto range.

Have you ever used APS-C lenses on full-frame cameras? Sony does have a bunch of new lenses that look great.

[source: Jason Vong]

Order Links:

  • Sony a7 IV Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sony E PZ 10-20mm f/4 G Lens (B&H)
  • Sony E 15mm f/1.4 G Lens (B&H)
  • Sony E 11mm f/1.8 Lens (B&H)

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