What is the crop factor and why is it important for photographers?

Crop factor is a term that is often used when talking about cameras and lenses. So what is it exactly? Here is everything you need to know.

Man photographed behind picture frame

The crop factor can be a confusing subject, especially if you’re not shooting with a full frame camera. Here we discuss what crop factor is and why it is important for photographers.

What is the harvest factor?

The crop factor is the formula used to determine the focal length based on the sensor size of the camera. Based on the full-frame 35 mm format (sensor size), a full-frame SLR, DSLR or mirrorless camera system has a crop factor of one. In other words, if you put a 35mm lens on a full frame camera, you have an effective 35mm focal length. 35 mm multiplied by one equals 35.

A Carl Zeiss lens held in hand

The real math comes into play when you are dealing with other popular formats like APS-C camera systems. Most of these cameras have a crop factor of 1.5 (Sony, Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon). A 35 mm lens on a Sony APS-C camera would have an equivalent focal length of 52.5 mm, roughly that of a 50 mm lens on a full-frame camera. 35 mm multiplied by 1.5 equals 52.5.

There are many other camera systems that have different crop factors. Micro four thirds cameras have a crop factor of two, while smartphone cameras have different and different crop factors.

Refer to the instruction manual or search online to find the crop factor for your camera.


What this means for your choice of lenses

Vintage lenses on a table

Depending on the type of photography you’re interested in, the crop factor can make choosing lenses difficult when you need a specific focal length. For example, if you take a lot of landscape shots and need a long focal length like 24mm, it is good to know that full frame cameras give you that focal length for almost any 24mm lens that you use with it.

However, if you own an APS-C camera, for example, then you should look for a 16mm lens for most brands of cameras (1.5 crop factor) or a 15mm lens if you have a Canon APS C (1,6-Crop) own factor). In these cases, you’ll need to divide the crop factors to get the equivalent 35mm focal lengths.

You may also want to learn the differences between prime and zoom lenses before buying a new camera lens.

A deeper insight into the harvest factor

The following video goes in depth and helps visualize the crop factor and its application to photography.

Not to be confused with the crop factor, cropping in photo editing is also helpful if you want to achieve other focal lengths.

Harvest factor is important

From getting the right focal length to choosing the right lens for the job, knowing your camera’s crop factor is important. It will support your photography immensely by allowing you to capture your subjects with the correct focal length.

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