50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?

Started Nov 10, 2012 | Discussions
REShultz
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50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
Nov 10, 2012

It is frequently said that the 50mm is a normal field of view. Does this come from a FF perspective or a crop sensor?

Thanks for any answers.

amosf
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to REShultz, Nov 10, 2012

In the old days, 35mm (FF) film cameras often came with 50mm lenses, and this became the 'norm' I guess. But it really depends on what you like and what you shoot I think. I used a 50mm a lot mack then, but that was what I had

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Virginia Bill
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to REShultz, Nov 10, 2012

50mm is the "normal" lens for full frame -- approximately equal to the diagonal of a 35mm frame. On an APS-C sensor it's equivalent to a 75mm lens, more or less -- in other words, a mild telephoto. If you want a "normal" field of view on an APS-C camera, use a 35 to 40mm lens.

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Deleted1929
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to REShultz, Nov 10, 2012

In a strict sense 43mm is a normal FOV on Full Frame.  Traditionally we've had 50mm f.18 and f.14 lenses instead ( I know of only one 43mm prime ).

On 1.5x crop frame 43mm translates to about 28mm, so that's my normal starting point for "normal" FOV on crop.  Typically we actually have 30mm and 35mm lenses at f1.8 and f1.4 for crop frame, so those are fairly good "normal" FOVs.

That said don't get too hung up on "normal" FOVs.  What matters is what you find useful, not what is notionally normal.  Personally I find 50mm on crop frame a good length for portraits, and generally a 35mm and below would be too wide for my style ( although some people love it ).

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Lee Jay
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Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to REShultz, Nov 10, 2012

REShultz wrote:

It is frequently said that the 50mm is a normal field of view.

And anyone that says that is wrong, and doesn't understand either field of view or perspective.

Does this come from a FF perspective or a crop sensor?

Neither.

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Lee Jay
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amosf
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to amosf, Nov 10, 2012

Of course you have to remember that a 50mm lens is still a 50mm lens, we just get a crop of the image on a crop sensor camera. So to me a 50mm still looks more 'normal'.

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mgd43
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to Lee Jay, Nov 11, 2012

50mm is considered normal with 35mm cameras or FF digital cameras. If I remember my ancient history, it is considered normal because it had more or less normal perspective, ie the perspective that our eyes see.

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RaymondR
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to amosf, Nov 11, 2012

unless you have a very unusual view finder/lcd screen on your camera, won't the viewfinder/lcd screen show you approximately what your crop sensor sees (as opposed to the image circle cast by the lens?  in which case a 50mm lens is going to give you only the effective frame of "view" of a 75mm lens, so your comment does not seem to make any sense.

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Lee Jay
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to mgd43, Nov 11, 2012

mgd43 wrote:

50mm is considered normal with 35mm cameras or FF digital cameras. If I remember my ancient history, it is considered normal because it had more or less normal perspective, ie the perspective that our eyes see.

Yeah...that's the myth.  It's entirely, completely bunk, but there's a tiny shred of truth deep down there that might have led to that horrible-to-kill myth.

If you view the final print at a viewing distance equal to the diagonal of the print, the focal length at which your angle of view of the print would match the original angle of view of the camera is equal to the diagonal size of the sensor (similar triangles).  The diagonal of a 35mm full-frame camera sensor is 43mm (not 50mm, by the way).  Of course, this same argument can be made of any viewing distance and any matching focal length.

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mgd43
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to Lee Jay, Nov 11, 2012

ljfinger wrote:

mgd43 wrote:

50mm is considered normal with 35mm cameras or FF digital cameras. If I remember my ancient history, it is considered normal because it had more or less normal perspective, ie the perspective that our eyes see.

Yeah...that's the myth. It's entirely, completely bunk, but there's a tiny shred of truth deep down there that might have led to that horrible-to-kill myth.

If you view the final print at a viewing distance equal to the diagonal of the print, the focal length at which your angle of view of the print would match the original angle of view of the camera is equal to the diagonal size of the sensor (similar triangles). The diagonal of a 35mm full-frame camera sensor is 43mm (not 50mm, by the way). Of course, this same argument can be made of any viewing distance and any matching focal length.

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Lee Jay
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OK, but there aren't a lot of 43mm lenses on the market. The closest prime lens readily available was the 50mm so by default it became the "normal" lens, although a lot of us older photographers considered the 35mm lens a better choice.

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Lee Jay
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to mgd43, Nov 11, 2012

mgd43 wrote:

OK, but there aren't a lot of 43mm lenses on the market. The closest prime lens readily available was the 50mm so by default it became the "normal" lens, although a lot of us older photographers considered the 35mm lens a better choice.

Which had to do only with what was easiest to build (widest without going retrofocus), and had nothing to do with your eye's field of view.  And it's only "natural" for a particular viewing distance relative to print size.  In other words, it's basically meaningless.

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jon404
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to Lee Jay, Nov 11, 2012

Basically meaningless... true. But we DO get used to visual conventions... and that gets to your 43mm on a full-frame as the best answer to 'what's a normal lens.' I think Pentax made one, maybe still does.

Beyond that, it's immediately personal. I like a 35mm lens on my old Nikon FG... the view feels 'normal' to me for street photography. But I also like my old 85mm lens for portraits, and an even older 20mm for landscapes. What's interesting is that for each application, what I see in each of the lenses looks 'normal.'

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jrtrent
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to REShultz, Nov 11, 2012

REShultz wrote:

It is frequently said that the 50mm is a normal field of view. Does this come from a FF perspective or a crop sensor?

Thanks for any answers.

As others have noted, 50mm has long been considered a "normal" lens for 35mm film and full-frame digital cameras. For APS-C sensors, 30 or 35mm lenses are generally considered normal. Four Thirds is 25mm, and a 6 X 6 roll-film camera will likely have about an 80mm lens as normal. Tamron has a page on lens fundamentals; they note, as some posters above have already mentioned, that "normal" isn't necessarily just one focal length, but can include a range. For example, with respect to the 35mm format, they say, "Generally speaking, a focal length range that provides a similar perspective to the human eye is considered to be somewhere between 40-60mm." Below are a few other excerpts on the subject of normal lenses:

http://www.tamron-usa.com/lenses/fundamentals.asp

"A focal length approximating the diagonal dimension of the camera’s image plane will render an angle-of-view with negligible magnification—similar to normal human vision. Focal lengths numerically lower than normal will render negative magnification, resulting in wider angles-of-view (wide angle), while those numerically greater than normal render positive magnification, producing narrower angles-of-view (telephoto.)."

"A photographic lens provides a visual effect, making closely located subjects larger while remotely located subjects smaller. As the focal length becomes shorter in a wideangle lens, this perspective difference expands making closely located subjects even bigger and remotely located ones even smaller (exaggerated perspective). In contrast, in a telephoto lens, as focal lengths become longer, less difference is observed between close and distant subjects, making it appear as if they are closer regardless of the distance between them(compressed perspective)."

In terms of actually choosing normal, wideangle and telephoto lenses, and using their properties creatively in landscape photography, the article linked to below by Alain Briot has long been a favorite of mine.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/composition-3.shtml

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Detail Man
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to jrtrent, Nov 11, 2012

jrtrent wrote:

"A focal length approximating the diagonal dimension of the camera’s image plane will render an angle-of-view with negligible magnification—similar to normal human vision. Focal lengths numerically lower than normal will render negative magnification, resulting in wider angles-of-view (wide angle), while those numerically greater than normal render positive magnification, producing narrower angles-of-view (telephoto.)."

It has been my impression that the term "normal" is intended to relate to the ratio of focal length divided by diagonal dimension of film/sensor being close to unity value (1.0), and is otherwise not intimately related to particular characteristics of human visual, or techno-social, perception ...

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Barrie Davis
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to Lee Jay, Nov 11, 2012

ljfinger wrote:

mgd43 wrote:

OK, but there aren't a lot of 43mm lenses on the market. The closest prime lens readily available was the 50mm so by default it became the "normal" lens, although a lot of us older photographers considered the 35mm lens a better choice.

Which had to do only with what was easiest to build (widest without going retrofocus), and had nothing to do with your eye's field of view. And it's only "natural" for a particular viewing distance relative to print size. In other words, it's basically meaningless.

Yes. Lee is correct, (as is usual).

It means that if we choose a different viewing distance for the image, then a different focal length will appear to be the more normal one.

Or, put another way, we can impose the appearance of wider or more tele lenses having been used to shoot with, merely by holding the picture at different distances..

  • Viewing the picture from CLOSER (than nominal "normal") creates the compressed perspective associated with having shot with a telephoto lens.
  • Viewing the picture from FURTHER (than nominal "normal") creates the expanded perspective associated with having shot with a wide-angle lens.

GRIPE at DPR :-

WHY is the line-space I put between bulleted points irradicated when posted?
BOY am I sick of this damned editor!

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Baz
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Jim Bracegirdle
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to jrtrent, Nov 11, 2012

jrtrent wrote:

REShultz wrote:

It is frequently said that the 50mm is a normal field of view. Does this come from a FF perspective or a crop sensor?

Thanks for any answers.

As others have noted, 50mm has long been considered a "normal" lens for 35mm film and full-frame digital cameras. For APS-C sensors, 30 or 35mm lenses are generally considered normal. Four Thirds is 25mm, and a 6 X 6 roll-film camera will likely have about an 80mm lens as normal. Tamron has a page on lens fundamentals; they note, as some posters above have already mentioned, that "normal" isn't necessarily just one focal length, but can include a range. For example, with respect to the 35mm format, they say, "Generally speaking, a focal length range that provides a similar perspective to the human eye is considered to be somewhere between 40-60mm." Below are a few other excerpts on the subject of normal lenses:

http://www.tamron-usa.com/lenses/fundamentals.asp

"A focal length approximating the diagonal dimension of the camera’s image plane will render an angle-of-view with negligible magnification—similar to normal human vision. Focal lengths numerically lower than normal will render negative magnification, resulting in wider angles-of-view (wide angle), while those numerically greater than normal render positive magnification, producing narrower angles-of-view (telephoto.)."

"A photographic lens provides a visual effect, making closely located subjects larger while remotely located subjects smaller. As the focal length becomes shorter in a wideangle lens, this perspective difference expands making closely located subjects even bigger and remotely located ones even smaller (exaggerated perspective). In contrast, in a telephoto lens, as focal lengths become longer, less difference is observed between close and distant subjects, making it appear as if they are closer regardless of the distance between them(compressed perspective)."

In terms of actually choosing normal, wideangle and telephoto lenses, and using their properties creatively in landscape photography, the article linked to below by Alain Briot has long been a favorite of mine.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/composition-3.shtml

Thank you jrtrent for reviving my memories of my 4x5 days. I used a 135mm Symmar as my normal at that time. Regards.

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Lee Jay
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Re: Not the 50mm myth again. That one is tough to kill!
In reply to jon404, Nov 11, 2012

jon404 wrote:

Basically meaningless... true. But we DO get used to visual conventions... and that gets to your 43mm on a full-frame as the best answer to 'what's a normal lens.' I think Pentax made one, maybe still does.

Beyond that, it's immediately personal. I like a 35mm lens on my old Nikon FG... the view feels 'normal' to me for street photography. But I also like my old 85mm lens for portraits, and an even older 20mm for landscapes. What's interesting is that for each application, what I see in each of the lenses looks 'normal.'

I like full-frame diagonal fisheye.  It "feels" the most natural to me.

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Lee Jay
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Lee Jay
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to jrtrent, Nov 11, 2012

jrtrent wrote:

REShultz wrote:

It is frequently said that the 50mm is a normal field of view. Does this come from a FF perspective or a crop sensor?

Thanks for any answers.

As others have noted, 50mm has long been considered a "normal" lens for 35mm film and full-frame digital cameras. For APS-C sensors, 30 or 35mm lenses are generally considered normal. Four Thirds is 25mm, and a 6 X 6 roll-film camera will likely have about an 80mm lens as normal. Tamron has a page on lens fundamentals; they note, as some posters above have already mentioned, that "normal" isn't necessarily just one focal length, but can include a range. For example, with respect to the 35mm format, they say, "Generally speaking, a focal length range that provides a similar perspective to the human eye is considered to be somewhere between 40-60mm." Below are a few other excerpts on the subject of normal lenses:

http://www.tamron-usa.com/lenses/fundamentals.asp

"A focal length approximating the diagonal dimension of the camera’s image plane will render an angle-of-view with negligible magnification—similar to normal human vision. Focal lengths numerically lower than normal will render negative magnification, resulting in wider angles-of-view (wide angle), while those numerically greater than normal render positive magnification, producing narrower angles-of-view (telephoto.)."

"A photographic lens provides a visual effect, making closely located subjects larger while remotely located subjects smaller. As the focal length becomes shorter in a wideangle lens, this perspective difference expands making closely located subjects even bigger and remotely located ones even smaller (exaggerated perspective). In contrast, in a telephoto lens, as focal lengths become longer, less difference is observed between close and distant subjects, making it appear as if they are closer regardless of the distance between them(compressed perspective)."

Pretty much everything from that tamron article is wrong.  The second paragraph is totally and completely wrong.  There's even an article here on DPR that's dedicated to demonstrating that it's wrong.

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Lee Jay
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REShultz
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to Lee Jay, Nov 11, 2012

Thanks for all of the replies, very informative!

I was a little surprised to learn that some "normal" focal lengths extend that far on the tele end. I use a Sigma DP2 which is a fixed 41mm lens (FF equiv) and it always seemed just about right as compared to what my eyes see. Very interesting.

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bjake
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Re: 50mm "Normal" Lens... Ok, but "Normal" on FF or APS-C Sensor?
In reply to REShultz, Nov 11, 2012

I don't care if it normal or not but use 50mm quite a bit.Have a 35mm but hardly use it.When using a prime shorter than 50mm go to the 28mm or 24mm unless I put the 35mm on just to try a little something different.

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