Can You Zoom With a 50mm Lens?

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As you go through various lenses, you may notice the several advantages of using a 50mm lens. Despite its versatility, you may also be wondering about its limitations, like can you zoom with a 50mm lens? Let’s dive into how you can zoom using the 50mm.

Can You Zoom With a 50mm Lens?

You can’t zoom in with a 50mm lens because it falls under the fixed lens group. However, while you cannot adjust the lens barrel to zoom, you can achieve a zoomed-in effect by physically moving closer to the subject or scene.

To better understand why you cannot zoom with a 50mm lens, let’s look at its mechanisms to determine how you can compensate for this setback.

50mm Canon lens

50mm Lenses Explained

Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths, which means you can’t zoom with a 50mm lens to change its angle of view. The 50mm focal range serves as the distance between the camera sensor and the center of the lens.

While it can be pretty challenging at first, especially when you’re usually using a zoom lens, the 50mm’s lack of zooming feature prompts you to be more adventurous with your compositions and framing.

Ways to Zoom with a 50mm Lens

The 50mm lens is one of the best lenses to use, especially when you’re still exploring various shooting styles. However, you can make up for its lack of zooming by trying different techniques.

Sneak Zoom with a 50mm Lens

Sneak zooming is one of the best ways to zoom in with a 50mm lens. Since the 50mm has a fixed focal range, you need to move physically closer or farther away from the subject. Instead of zooming with your hand, you must zoom in and out using your feet.

However, keep in mind that changing your shooting position isn’t exactly the same as zooming. This is because sneak zooming only alters the perspective, whereas actual lens zooming magnifies the subject.

  • When you move closer to the subject, you can isolate it from the distracting background, producing a zoomed-in effect.
  • When you step back, you can also add context using background and foreground, which is pretty close to using a wide-angle lens.
  • Move if you want the background elements to appear smaller or bigger. However, be careful as this may also change the size of the subject against the background.
  • Try to change your shooting angle if you want a macro-like effect. Position the lens directed toward the center of the subject to magnify the shot.

Attach the 50mm Lens to a Crop-Sensor Camera

If your camera has an APS-C sensor, this means you’ll be shooting with a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x. When you use a 50mm lens on an APS-C sensor, the lens produces a narrower angle of view than the actual perspective. 

A crop-sensor camera would make the 50mm angle of view equivalent to a 75mm lens on a full-frame camera like the 5DS R. A 75mm lens has a higher magnification rate than a 50mm lens. While this won’t replace the zooming effect of a zoom lens, this provides an almost similar perspective.

Person adjusting his 50mm lens

Experiment with Aperture Values

The aperture is a powerful camera setting because it influences how the scene or subject would reflect on the photo. The maximum aperture of a 50mm lens determines how you can change the depth of field, especially when you want to make it shallow and isolate subjects. 

When you isolate the subject from the background, you can eliminate the elements in the foreground and blur the background. As you form a bokeh, this photography effect makes it appear as if the subject is closer to the sensor.

Basically, the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. So if you want to focus more on the subject, use smaller f-stops like f/1.4 to f/1.8.

Crop Images on Post-Processing

There may be situations where you don’t have any space to move further away from the subject, or going near the scene would ruin the frame. Cropping photos on post-processing would make an illusion as if the picture has an initially zoomed perspective.

When adjusting your compositions using the rule of thirds, remember that the top left is the number 1 focal point in the intersection. This is where 41% of the eyes would look first, especially on photos taken using a 50mm because of its broad perspective.

Cropping helps refocus the subject to direct the viewer’s subject to the essential part of the frame. It is somehow similar to changing the framing, although note that cropping technically reduces the number of pixels and size of the final photo.


Despite its several capacities, the 50mm lens won’t let you zoom due to its fixed focal length. While you may need to think outside the box to zoom with a 50mm lens, this would teach you to find creative ways to solve compositional and framing limitations.

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.