the photoshooter's journey from taking to making



Fronted by a 70’s-era Nikon 24mm lens, a digital crop-sensor DSLR  makes this frame look closer to 35mm. 


ANY TIME YOU MOVE FROM ONE PHOTOGRAPHIC PLATFORM TO ANOTHER, there are tradeoffs in either approach or technique. Things you used to do that you can’t do anymore. Others that were formerly impossible and are now achievable. And so forth. In my recent move from crop-sensor DSLRs to full-frame mirrorless cameras (a long and torturous journey, I assure you) there was one main objective that kept me eagerly engaged: a desire to unleash the full power of my existing wide-angle lenses.

Some of us have come of age completely in the digital era, and so there must be a significant number of people who have never used their wide-angles to their complete potential. Given that a lot of glass, especially old glass, was manufactured well before the introduction of smaller, or “cropped” sensors in digital SLRS and compacts, it’s possible that you, yourself, may have shot thousands of images with  lenses that could not capture the dimensions that the same optics would capture on a full-frame camera. On my Nikon DSLRs, I came to understand that, for example, a 24mm lens shot at a 1.5x crop factor, meaning it was really shooting at around 35mm. A 35 shot closer to a full-frame 50, and so on. And for years, I merely adjusted my thinking as to what defined a wide shot.


Same scene with the exact same ancient lens, but mounted on a new full-frame mirrorless body, so that 24mm is really 24mm.

Now, with full-frame, I have to re-learn what do to with all that…. space. I am looking at compositions I used to shoot with built-in cropping (see the top shot, done with a 24mm lens on a cropped DSLR) and find that the same shot in full-frame (the second image seen here, also with a 24mm lens, but at its intended width) drags in a hellacious amount of extra clutter on the left and right sides. Some of it is welcome, in that I used to want to include that extra info in the smaller frame, but a lot of it is like too much extra birthday cake: thanks, but no thanks.

Tech reviewer Ken Rockwell ( is famous for saying that a wide lens is not just for getting more stuff corralled into the frame from left to right, but for putting yourself, and in turn your viewer, further inside the shot…..kind of the difference between placing your stereo speakers directly across from you, twenty feet apart, and grouping them around you in a sonic surround. It’ll take me a while to make the mental trip back in time to when a lens shot exactly as it was purported to shoot, but I think I’ll net a needed refresher in Composition 101.


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