A lot of people (as in photographers that I know) have been talking about replacing or augmenting their current DSLR systems with mirrorless systems. The benefits are hard to ignore (See: Comparing the Fuji X-E2 and the Canon 5D Mark III) as mirrorless systems are less expensive and lighter and smaller. There are always trade offs of course and the mirrorless systems are often more awkward to use quickly and difficult for those with larger hands. For me personally, the portability side of mirrorless systems more than makes up for the downsides. But what about lenses? How do focal lengths differ between the systems?  This isn’t so much a mirrorless vs DSLR debate as much as a cropped vs full frame sensor. While there is one full frame mirrorless system (The Sony A7 and A7R), it currently lacks options for native lenses and costs more than double than the more popular cropped mirrorless models (Olympus OM-D E-M1, and Fuji X-E2 and just announced Fuji X-T1).

I have had a few comments about the Sony A7 and A7R cameras. You can indeed get the Sony A7 for as low as $1700 these days, and the A7R for $2300 (the X-E2 is $900). So one is almost twice the price and the other is more than twice the price. There are a handful of native lenses available but nothing that I’m personally interested in because of the size and cost (example: the FE 28-70mm FF3.5-5.6 is $2000). It has been pointed out that you can basically use any lens on the Sony cameras and if you have another system, you don’t have to buy any new lenses. For me this makes no sense at all since one of the biggest reasons for a small camera, is so that everything is smaller. My Fuji lenses range from 1/2 to 1/3 the size of my Canon lenses. Also, when using adapters for non-native lenses you have to focus manually or you get very slow auto-focus. Again, this is something I’m not personally interested in.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you want to.

For the type of work that I do and they way that I shoot, the Sony system just isn’t ready for ME. Great if you have found a way to make them work for you.

Full frame sensors vs cropped sensors + lenses

Without even touching the merits of different sized sensors or even the size, weight and cost of the respective lenses, this mini-comparison is designed to simply compare how using different equivalent focal lengths on different systems affects the images themselves (because that’s what really matters!). Since I don’t have many camera systems available to me, this comparison will compare my Canon lenses on full frame with my Fuji X-E2 with its APS-C (1.5x) cropped sensor.

Lenses in this comparison

Fuji 23mm F1.4  Equivalent of 34.5mm F2.1 on full frame compared with Sigma 35mm F1.4 on Canon 5D Mark III
Fuji 35mm F1.4  Equivalent of 52.5mm F2.1on full frame compared with Canon 50mm F1.4 on Canon 5D Mark III
Fuji 18-55mm F2.8-4.0  Equivalent of 27-82.5mm F4.2 – 6.0

Lighting in these comparisons comes from both natural and Cheetah CL-360 lights.

There are a lot of arguments about focal length equivalents on cropped sensor cameras.  The crop affects the DOF but not the light gathering ability of the sensor. This means that the smaller the sensor, the broader the depth of field at a given aperture. Simply put, the bigger the sensor, the more blurred the back ground gets at the same aperture, and the easier it is to mis-focus. This is good and bad and depends on your requirements. If you base your entire style on blurry back-ground photos, full frame sensors are probably your best choice. If you need a broad depth of field and things more in focus, cropped sensors are a big benefit.

Fuji 23mm F1.4  Equivalent of 34.5mm F2.1 on full frame compared with Sigma 35mm F1.4 on Canon 5D Mark III

I wouldn’t often use a 35mm equivalent focal length for a studio portrait but it’s a great lens to include more context in an image (as you can see by the various clutter). This illustrates the difference in back-ground blur between cropped and full frame. As you can see, the blur is noticeably greater with a full frame sensor while the aperture and shooting/lighting settings remain the same.

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Interestingly, the 35mm F1.4 below at F2.0 still has more blur in the background than the Fuji 23mm F23 at F1.4

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji 35mm F1.4  Equivalent of 52.5mm F2.1on full frame compared with Canon 50mm F1.4 on Canon 5D Mark III

As the focal length increases we see an obvious increase in compression and background blur. The difference between cropped and full frame results become oven more obvious. The nice part is that you actually get some great blurring with the cropped sensor so the apparent advantage of the full frame sensor is decreased.

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

The image below taken with studio lights and a blown out back drop. The broader depth of field is now an advantage since less light power is required to use small apertures.

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Want more background blur? Get closer to your subject or use longer focal lengths…

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Lenses


Final Thoughts

When I started this exercise, I intended to compare a lot more images and lenses. This is a lot more difficult to organize than expected and not surprisingly, not all that interesting.  For me personally, when I do a comparison, I’m not interested in numbers and metrics but I do want to get a feel for how the camera works, and how good the files look in camera and after processing. Once I have been through a whole cycle, I can gauge my comfort level. Since I am WAY more used to using DSLRs in a studio environment, I find them easier to use and more intuitive. Using an electronic view finder or the LCD in studio almost feels silly but that’s merely a reflection of what I’m used to. As usual, having the exposure level showing in real time is amazing (and easy to turn off when in manual). Switching between the 2 systems while trying to shoot similar scenes is very confusing so not something that I plan to do in the future.  That said, I know that a mirrorless camera is every bit as capable in the studio with minor limitations.

Strangely, the Fuji files don’t look as good as RAW images as they do as JPGs. They do however, print great and look fantastic when not at 100%. After much reading, I’m under the impression that Adobe does not handle the X-Trans Raw files very well yet. There have been recent announcements that this will change in the near future.

From a purely aesthetic point of view I would have no problem only using the Fuji X-E2 in the studio either with natural or studio lights. The results are virtually indistinguishable from a full frame camera and 16Mp is plenty for 95% of all real world applications. The digital files have similar latitude for processing and once processed, they look equally great. The differences in look will only decrease as the Fuji 56mm F1.2 and Panasonic F42.5mm F1.2 are available.

Thank you to my wonderful photography assistant Jessica for not getting too bored while I fiddled with lights and lenses.

For more reading on this topic, please see:   Comparing the Fuji X-E2 and the Canon 5D Mark III

Andrew Van Beek is an Ottawa Wedding Photographer, Ottawa Commercial Photographer, and Ottawa Portrait Photographer with 12 years of professional photography experience, and over 30 years of general photography experience.

I always find these comparisons very interesting, as most photographers tend to emphasize the, shall we say, strength of the blurring, and not really the beauty thereof. The latter is, of course, the true meaning of bokeh. Well, looking at the photographs, the Fujifilm lenses, even though producing less blur, renders it in a much nicer manner than both the Sigma and Canon lenses. It seems that Fujifilm still understands lens design as a form of art, and not like Sigma and Canon who both tend to see it as pure science.

Hi Jean Pierre,

I live in Photoshop and Lightroom every day and can’t bring myself to go through the hassle of using another system. I do hope that Adobe gets on this and does Fuji some justice. The more popular the cameras get, the more likely this will happen.

Hi Perry,

Thanks for your feedback. You are correct, I did have a typo and have fixed it. I trout about what you said about the model leaning forward and it is a very plausible explanation. You do however see a similar situation in the Fuji 35 vs Canon 50 comparison where she is in the same position. It’s not a big deal to me as it’s a (34.5 x 1.5) F2.1 lens vs a 50mm F2. It was only an observation.

Well done and nicely images!
You show us again, that is very difficult to find an approriate Raw-Converter for Fuji RAW-file. I do not know if Adobe will be able to integrate a special algorithm for Fuji in the common workflow of Camera Raw!!! It is not so easy as we mean. Otherway Adobe has done it, yet!

At the moment the JPEG out of the Fuji X Digicam are awesome!

Or, you will try with an other only Raw-converter for democaising and then continue with Lightroom or Photoshop!

Let us dream and hope ……

Dear Andrew,

Thanks for the work you presented to compare the focal lengths along with their supposed dof equivalent apertures.

I believe you have a typo on the comparison between the Fuji 23 f/1.4 vs Canon 35 f/1.4 at f/2. It’s not the 50 1.4 at f/2 being compared to the Fuji.

One possible explanation why the Fuji 23mm appeared to have more dof at 1.4 vs the Canon 35 at f/2 is because the model leaned forward on the FF shot and thus made the shot appear to have less dof.


This gets right to the heart of it, Andrew. For the last couple of years I have been experimenting with landscape astrophotography, but my 8 year old Sony DSC-R1 sensor just couldn’t handle the high ISO. For the longest time I was holding out until a full-frame kit like the Canon 6D came within reach of my hobbiest budget, but the Fuji X-series turned this on its head with its great lenses and pleasing high-ISO results. I haven’t had a chance to do any nighttime shooting yet as it’s been too damn cold, but I’m looking forward to pushing this camera to its limits this spring/summer. In the meantime, my new X-M1 with 18-55mm zoom and 8mm fisheye have been fun for street shooting and daytime landscapes.

Thanks for posting this comparison. It confirms my belief that, for me, the Fuji X was a great compromise as compared to the Canon 6D. And please tell your assistant that she has the most beautiful eyes. 😉

Don Leonard
Princeton, NJ

I suppose that my Sony comment deserves further investigation. I’ll take another look thanks. That said, I don’t think comparing Fuji’s situation in 2012 with present day is valid but worth revisiting in 2 years to see how Sony does. Personally, I would be more comfortable with a system that has lenses now, not “some day”. Even Fuji has it’s limitations for the time being.

Well yes but based on the crazy cost of the Leica system, I don’t see the comparison as a necessary one. It is worth noting however.

” While there is one full frame mirrorless system (The Sony A7 and A7R), it currently lacks options for native lenses and costs more than double than the more popular cropped mirrorless models (Olympus OM-D E-M1, and Fuji X-E2 and just announced Fuji X-T1).”

While a great article this info is incorrect. The A7 costs 1200€ on amazon in europe. The system is 3 month old with 4 lenses. Wasn’t Fuji on the same in 2012 with even less lenses? Again nice article.


Thank you!
One thing I don’t understand: You say there is one FF system, Sony A7(R). You don’t consider Leica cameras + lenses to be a system?

When was this article written ? The Adobe RAW converter has already been updated , are you suggesting that further upgrades are coming shortly ?

I own the 5D and and x-E1 and a gh-3, had a Sony RX1, EP3, LX7

I like all for sort of for different reasons.
When I have nothing to lose I will use the Fuji street fotog
When I have a job I use the Canon, I bring another cam for variation but the canon gets 95%
When I shoot video I use the Panny GH3.

As for the Fuji. The 35mm f 1.4 at wide open is one of my favorite lenses (and aperatures) ever.
The rest of the time Fuji can be finicky when developing on your computer….even in lightroom.
Fuji still misses shots due to non-speedy auto-focus, It’s UI is ok. Not winning me away from the others.

After years of wanting to replace and love the smaller sensor (even cropped cams)
My epiphany is new-found respect for Canon and Nikon for making such all around great systems that you can’t fail with.
Yeah they are big and ugly but they always deliver, very few quirks.

The day they ad an EVF to a Canon or Nikon DSLR so I can use the viewfinder for video too, will be a huge day in my life.
That’s why despite owning 4 mirrorless cameras I won’t be selling the Canon lenses and accessories anytime soon.

Ps; A word on lenses. Now that Fuji, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic are offering lenses who’s prices dwarf those of Canon I will compliment Canon on it’s $100 50 f 1.8 and it;s $300 85mm f 1.8, the macros, the zooms that are damn good enough for pretty much any photographer on the planet.

pps; A word on user interface/ menus’. To me the Canon’s, Panasonics, and the Ricoh offerings have the most pleasurable user interfaces for an old photographer out there. Sony is making great little cameras but the shooting experience is not lovely. Fuji is almost there but the bayer sensor and the expensive lenses make it into a hassle, not unlike when dad would buy a stylist european car back in the 70’s only to find that there were few good places to service a Peugeot, Rover or a JAG.
These cars were so amazing but owning meant you had to have a backup car for when these needed service, which was a lot.
Not that Fuji’s and other mirrorless need service they just are not as reliable, easy or supported as the Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

Thanks for reading