Crop sensor camera with full frame lens: Sony a6400 & 35mm Lens


Have you ever wondered what it was like to use a crop sensor camera with full frame lens? Well, you’re not the only one.

I’ve always been curious what it would look like to use my APSC camera with a full frame lens, so I did a portrait shoot and here are the results.

Crop-sensor camera with full-frame lens

I used the Sony a6400 APSC mirrorless camera paired with the Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 full-frame lens. Due to the crop factor of the APSC sensor, the 35mm equivalent field of view turned out to be close to 52mm. This means that the 35mm full frame lens was acting more like a 52mm on the crop sensor camera. If you put this same lens on a full-frame camera like the Sony a7iii, it would give you a true 35mm field of view and not 52mm. 

natural light portrait shoot sony a6400 with sony 35mm f14 lens
Sony a6400 | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss FE Lens | Natural light portrait shoot
Sonya6400 Sony 35mm f14 portrait
All sunshine and curls | Sony a6400 Paired with Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4

Now that the technical is out of the way, let’s check out this quick portrait shoot with one of my favorite models.

Vanessa is a local Dallas model who loves to be in front of the camera when her busy schedule allows. Her unique hair style and fashion sense always makes for a fun shoot.

Getting the portrait shoot setup

Like all my shoots, the goal is to get a great lifestyle mood from my portrait sessions.

They’re fun to do, and I always look forward to collaborating with different models in the Dallas area.

This was the 4th shoot I had with Vanessa and I just feel like my photos of her keep getting better and better as I go.

She moves very naturally and her curls glisten in the sun along with her infectious smile.

I always recommend finding models that cane come ready to shoot, and you connect with on a different level. Her personality always makes for a shoot full of laughs.

model test shoot harsh light sony a6400 sony 35mm f14
Sony Full Frame Lens with APSC camera

Portraits with the Sony a6400 APSC mirrorless camera

This isn’t going to be a technical review of the Sony a6400, but I will give you as much feedback as I can on the camera. I’ll let you know what I like and don’t like but it will be specific to this shoot.

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Coming from the full frame Sony a7ii, this camera did pretty amazing in the natural light. The eye autofocus did great for parts of the shoot, and the regular continuous auto-focus covered the rest as expected.

I shot in continuous shoot mode low so I didn’t have to keep pressing the shutter button. I could hold down the shutter and capture a few shots in a few seconds time. This let’s me capture more movement while my models are interacting with the environment around them.

portrait shoot closeup sony a6400 portrait
Close up shot Sony a6400 paired with Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 lens

Using the Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 FE Full Frame lens

To be honest I only own FE lenses at the time of writing this article, so I had to make it work. It felt slightly front heavy since the Sony 35mm f1.4 is a pretty large lens, but in the mix of the shoot, this combo was great.

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The lens actually felt heavier than the camera body to be honest. I like to shoot one handed sometimes, but I was not comfortable with the added front weight that the lens was putting on the camera.

The Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 is a very sharp prime lens, so I knew it was going to give me great details and color rendering for this shoot. I was eager to test out this combination of APSC and FE lens.

Portrait shoot garage parking lot sony a6400
Low angled shot | Sony a6400 paired with Sony 35mm f1.4 lens

All natural light portrait shoot

This particular outdoor shoot was using all natural light. The area we were shooting in was surrounded by large buildings so much of the direct sun was being blocked.

Many of the buildings were all glass so they suns light was being reflected all over which made for a soft and simple glow.

There were a few times we moved beyond the large buildings and the sun was hitting Vanessa directly.

To solve the problems of harsh shadows, I moved her to smaller shaded areas. I exposed as much as I could for the bright backgrounds and then brought up the shadows in post-production.

Portrait shoot breakdown

Let’s break down some of the details behind these shots so you can understand what I was doing and how I get the final image.

I had Vanessa walking in this sequence of shots. She was in the harsh light, but I knew it matched the vibe of her enjoying a sunny day.

I was about 6-7ft away from her and I asked her to walk towards me so I could shoot a few frames.

full frame lens 35mm Sony f14 with apsc camera
Vanessa is all smiles | Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens
lifestyle shoot sony a6400 mirrorless camera with full frame lens
Vanessa lifestyle shoot | Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens
Sony 35mm f14 sony a6400 portrait
Vanessa flexing with her glasses | Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens

Finding Cool Textures to Shoot With

We stopped at a small area covered off with a dark natural wood fence. I knew these would provide a great background for Vanessa so I had her posing against the wall.

The natural colors of her hair and the highlights complimented the surrounding area so well.

One issue that I did have was working with her large reflective glasses.

As you can see in these next shots I did have to edit myself out of the images or I kept myself to her side so I would not get into the reflections.

Sonya6400 apsc with full frame lens 35mm f14 Sony
On the edge | Natural light only | Sony a6400 portraits
Sony a6400 portrait mirrorless camera
The wind blows | Sony a6400 portraits with Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 lens
sony 35mm full frame lens on apsc camera body
Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens | Shot in the shade of a large building

After the wall we moved to a public parking garage next to the main storefront area. The lighting in the parking garage was pretty great even with the buildings cutting off the main light from the sun.

I was able to find a few interesting elements around Vanessa and used this to add more visual elements and interests in my compositions.

From bars to background textures, I was able to use the environment to get some really cool portraits.

I also used the different levels to get diverse perspective shots like you see here.

sony a6400 apsc camera with zeiss Sony 35mm lens
Foreground elements with Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm Zeiss lens f1.4
parking garage natural light shoot sony a6400 apsc camera
Parking lot hustling | Sony a6400 with Sony 35mm Zeiss f1.4 full frame lens

Moving To the Parking Garage

A final shot and one of my favorite shots. I love symmetry and reflections in portrait shots.

Vanessa to posed against the glass of this large building and I quickly grabbed a few shots.

I really liked the reflection in the glass and how it greats a cool composition for this particular shot.

The sunlight was being reflected from the building across from us, so there was a nice natural glow around me and Vanessa.

Sony a6400 portait natural light shoot
Reflections | Sony a6400 paired with Zeiss Sony 35mm f1.4 lens

Thoughts on using an APSC camera with full frame lens

This combination was very front heavy. I had my Sony 55mm f1.8 lens with me in my camera bag and I thought about taking it out a few times, but I stayed with the Sony 35mm f1.4.

The quality of the images came out great and I was able to use the dynamic range of the Sony a6400 to pull the shadows up a bit when I was editing some of the final images.

I would really need to see side by side comparisons with this APSC camera and a full-frame camera. I’m sure there will be a difference in details but this will not apparent to the average user.

I would be curious to use an actual 35mm made for APSC cameras. I think the wide angle would have made more interesting shots instead of the close up portraits in many of my shots.

Would I recommend using an APSC camera with full-frame lenses

In my opinion, there was nothing really wrong with this combination. I knew what type of focal length I was going to be getting with the full-frame lens on the Sony a6400.

It was expected and I love shooting with it.

Even thought it did feel unbalanced when moving around, I would still use this combination in the future if given the chance.

If you are looking for a wide field of view, I would suggest using a true 35mm or wider apsc lens so you can get your shots.

What I Learned About This Shoot

This shoot was interesting because I was switching back and forth from portraits to video.

I wanted to get some behind the scenes so I essentially became a hybrid shooter in this session. I ended up not liking the video I shot, but I still had some fun doing it.

It made me slow down and really think about my settings. I checked, and then double checked before I starting shooting.

It was a challenge, but I look forward to getting faster at this type of transition.

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