DX or FX for Sports and Wildlife Photography

It seems like the debate of DX vs FX for wildlife and sports photography is a never ending one. DX shooters argue that they get more reach, stating that DX is like a “built-in 1.5x teleconverter”, or that DX setups are lighter due to smaller lenses and less expensive, or that DX chops off the corners of lenses, thus reducing vignetting and other optical issues. On the opposite side of the fence, FX shooters argue that they get better image quality at pixel level, better viewfinder, less diffraction issues, better AF performance in low-light, etc. Seems like we have two camps, each defending their own side for various reasons. Having spent a number of years shooting both DX and FX starting from the first generation Nikon FX cameras and every single DX camera manufactured by Nikon to date, and having talked to a number of other photographers that shoot for a living, I came to a conclusion that there are some myths surrounding the DX format that need to be debunked. In this article, I will provide my personal insight to this topic and explain why I believe that FX is always better for photographing sports and wildlife. This article evolved as a result of recent discussions of the subject with some of our readers.

American Pika

1) The Myth of the DX Built-in 1.5x Teleconverter

A lot of people seem to be very confused about the effect of a crop sensor on the focal length of a lens. Stating that a crop sensor increases the focal length of the lens or acts as a teleconverter is completely wrong, since focal length is an optical attribute of a lens and has nothing to do with the camera. I talked about this in detail in my “Equivalent Focal Length” article that I published a while ago. Simply put, a DX sensor can never change the optical parameters of a lens, so if you are shooting with a 300mm lens, it stays as a 300mm lens no matter what camera you mount it on. The confusion of “equivalent focal length” comes from manufacturers that initially wanted to make people understand that the field of view on a cropped sensor camera is tighter than 35mm, because the image corners get chopped off. The word “equivalent” is only relative to 35mm film. So you cannot say that your 300mm lens becomes a 450mm lens on a DX body. It does not and never will. All you are doing, is you are taking an image from a 300mm lens, cropping it in the center area and magnifying that center with increased resolution.

2) DX Pixel Size and Resolution

The only reason why some people thought that DX provided longer reach, was because DX sensors historically had similar resolution as FX. For example, both Nikon D300 (DX) and D700 (FX) have about the same resolution – 12 MP. So despite having sensors of completely different sizes, the two cameras produce images of similar size / resolution. Ultimately, this means that the D300 can resolve more detail from the center of the lens (which is typically the sharpest on any lens) and thus magnifies the subject more, which led people to believe that DX was better than FX to get closer to subjects. One aspect that was rarely talked about, however, was the fact that the D300 has a lot more noise than the D700 due to smaller pixel size. So despite having this magnification advantage, photographers had to constantly deal with cleaning up apparent noise even at relatively low ISO levels. I personally had to constantly down-sample images and clean them up via noise-reduction software to get rid of the artifacts visible at anything above ISO 800 (and noise was visible even at base ISO!). So at the end of the day, taking a DX image and down-sampling it aggressively, versus simply cropping an FX image produced somewhat similar results, with a slight advantage on DX that resulted in more detailed shots, thanks to the down-sampling process.

Dolphin Jump

But these advantages pretty much went away with the D800. The Nikon D800 has a 36 MP sensor, which has the same pixel size as the Nikon D7000. In DX mode, the camera resolution is reduced to 15.4 MP, which is pretty close to the native resolution of 16.2 MP on the D7000. What this means, is that the Nikon D800 is capable of producing images of about the same detail as the Nikon D7000 at pixel level. Thus, the Nikon D800 can be thought of as a two-in-one camera – it can be both a D800 and a D7000 at the same time. I remember when the D800 came out, many DX users that wanted to move up to FX were extremely unhappy with it, because of its slow fps rate and small buffer. What they did not realize, was that the D800 actually produces images with less noise (newer sensor technology and better image processing pipeline) and at all ISO levels compared to the D300/D300s in DX mode and has a larger buffer in comparison. Here is the buffer capacity information that I grabbed from Nikon’s website:

Nikon D300s Buffer (NEF, Lossless Compressed, 12-bit): 18
Nikon D800 Buffer (NEF, Lossless Compressed, 12-bit): 38

Yup, the Nikon D800 can accommodate more than twice the number of images in the buffer in DX mode compared to the D300s. Now there is a difference in speed – the D300s is capable of shooting 7 fps compared to 5 fps on the D800 in DX mode, so the D300s is certainly faster. But for those that don’t particularly care for 2 fps speed advantage, the D800 sounds very appealing. It is not like we are talking about 5 fps vs 10 fps. Plus, with the added battery grip and a different power source, you can push the D800 to 6 fps in DX mode, which is good enough for most situations.

So let’s get back to increased magnification advantage of a DX sensor. The current Nikon D7100 has 24 MP of resolution, which, if we convert to full-frame would result in a 56 MP camera. That’s a lot of pixels, a whole lot more than D800′s 36 MP. The question becomes, is the glass you attach to the D7100 going to be capable of resolving that much detail? If it does, what happens when you attach a teleconverter on top of that (which degrades pixel-level sharpness)? The advantage of greater amount of detail on DX sensors is arguable – at pixel level, DX cameras are more demanding on optics, which is not always good, especially when using teleconverters. As I have pointed out in my “image degradation with Nikon teleconverters” article, the Nikon TC-17E II and TC-20E III eat up quite a bit of resolution. At what point will the added resolution make no difference due to lens + TC combo not being able to provide enough details for such a high-end sensor? Nikon knows that they are pushing the limits, I suspect that it is one of the reasons why they are getting rid of that anti-aliasing filter now. If a Nikon D400 ever comes out, most likely it won’t sport an AA filter either.

Let me give you an example of what I mean here. Take the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G lens, for instance. While it does a great job with the TC-14E II, it just loses too much resolution when either the TC-17E II or the TC-20E III are mounted on it. It gets to the point where you start evaluating if it is better to just use the lens with the TC-14E II and crop, or use the TC-17E II / TC-20E III and down-sample. In my experience, due to the fact that TCs affect AF accuracy and speed, you are better off with the former than the latter, especially for photographing anything that moves. The same logic can be applied to high-resolution sensors. At what point does DX’s added megapixel advantage start wearing off when compared to FX?

If we take similar sensor resolution on both FX and DX (say 24 MP when comparing the D600 to the D7100), the D7100 will obviously offer greater amount of resolution in the cropped area than the D600 (assuming the image from the D600 was cropped to yield a similar field of view) – but that’s only true with three conditions: a) that the photographer had a good technique and did not introduce more blur due to high pixel density, b) ISO was in the lower range (generally below ISO 800-1600), where DX produces similar noise as FX at pixel level and c) the lens was good enough optically to be able to resolve the detail. The last condition is generally not an issue on pro-level super telephoto lenses, which can definitely resolve beyond 24 MP on DX, so it is mostly the question of technique and shooting at lower ISOs. But when shooting birds, for instance, what was the last time you shot at ISO 100? With shutter speeds typically above 1/1000, your typical range would be ISO 800-3200 and that’s where FX clearly has an advantage over DX (again, we are talking about pixel-level quality). So if you end up with an image on DX that has a lot more noise than on FX, you will often resort to down-sampling the image to reduce that noise.

In summary, the “reach” advantage of DX sensors is quite debatable. With the added noise, more visible effects of camera shake due to high resolution and other issues, I would not say that DX has a lot to offer when compared to FX.

3) The Impact of Diffraction

Smaller pixels magnify a lot of things and one of them is diffraction. DX sensors are typically impacted by diffraction at f/11 and smaller. While you might not notice diffraction issues at f/11 on the D300, you will surely notice them on the D7100. You will have to look closely, but the difference is there at 100% view and even more obvious as you stop down to f/16. The theoretical maximum diffraction limit on a pixel is about 4 microns and the D7100 is already at 3.9µ! So diffraction can be seen more on sensors with higher pixel pitch and DX has already pushed that limit.

Take a look at the following chart:

Nikon DSLRD300SD7000D7100D600/D610D800D4
Effective Resolution12.3 MP16.2 MP24.1 MP24.3 MP36.3 MP16.2 MP
Image Resolution4,288×2,8484,928×3,2646,000×4,0006,016×4,0167,360×4,9124,928×3,280
Sensor Size23.6×15.8mm23.6×15.6mm23.5×15.6mm35.9×24.0mm35.9×24.0mm36.0×23.9mm
Diffraction Limitf/17.6f/15.3f/12.5f/19.0f/15.6f/23.4

The above numbers were derived from the following math: ( 1600 lp/mm Rayleigh limit / ( Horizontal Image Resolution / Horizontal Sensor Size in mm / 2 lp/mm) ). See this and this.

Note that the Nikon D800 is diffraction limited at f/15.6, which is very close to the f/15.3 that the Nikon D7000 is limited to. Thus, at pixel level, both the Nikon D7000 and the D800 would be similar. However, note that I specifically used the words “pixel level” – the diffraction limits would not apply the same way once the images are “normalized” or re-sized to the same resolution. If you took the 36.3 MP Nikon D800 image and normalized it to 16.2 (to match the resolution of the D7000), the Nikon D800 would have a serious advantage over the D7000 in terms of diffraction, landing to about f/23.4, which is about the same as what the Nikon D4 can do!

Now let’s take a look at how two sensors with similar resolution would compare. In the above case, it is the Nikon D600/D610 vs the Nikon D7100. As you can see, the full-frame sensor in this case has a little over a full stop advantage in terms of diffraction limit. This basically gives us a good summary – FX sensors have a full stop advantage over DX sensors when it comes to diffraction.

4) Depth of Field Impact

Another issue that seems to be the topic of misunderstanding is how the sensor size impacts depth of field. There is a general consensus among photography experts that DX sensors increase depth of field (with certain conditions discussed below), but a lot of people do not understand what this actually means. The fact is, depth of field is only increased on DX sensors when the framing or the “field of view” between DX and FX is exactly the same. For example, if you are shooting a bird with two Nikon 500mm lenses from the same distance at f/4, one mounted on the D7000 (DX) and the other on the D800 (FX), depth of field on DX will only be larger when framing is exactly the same. Obviously, to get both cameras to frame the bird identically, you would have to physically move away from the bird with the D7000. Since the camera to subject distance is changed, while all other variables are staying the same, depth of field is also increased on the D7000. Now here is another fun example to add to this: since the DX mode on the D800 yields the same field of view as the D7000, you could simply set the D800 to DX mode and you would end up with very similar framing and exactly the same depth of field on both cameras. If you are confused about this, read this excellent article on the subject, which explains all this in detail.

Harris's Hawk

5) The Myth of Lighter Lenses

One thing I have heard a lot from the DX crowd, is that DX lenses are lighter and cheaper. While that statement certainly holds true for wide and standard lenses, it is absolutely not true for telephoto and super telephoto lenses. DX shooters have no super telephoto DX lenses to choose from – Nikon completely ignored that segment. The longest focal length DX lenses are the Nikon 18-300mm and Nikon 55-300mm, both of which are a joke for serious sports and wildlife photography. This leaves DX users with the same heavy pro lenses used on FX. Now some will say that a DX camera allows one to use a budget option such as Nikon 300mm f/4 + 1.4x TC to get to 600mm focal length and the only way to get to 600mm on a full-frame body is to use much more expensive choices such as 300mm f/2.8 + TC-20E III. First, this is only true for low resolution FX bodies, as discussed above (the D800, for instance, would yield a similar result in DX mode as the D7000). Second, this again becomes the question of magnification versus crop and ISO performance. Lastly, you cannot just compare 300mm f/4 to 300mm f/2.8 – both lenses are built differently and provide different options.

6) Crop Advantage

Sure, DX sensor crops out the worst part of the lens, which diminishes vignetting and other optical problems, but who cares about that on super telephoto lenses? Take a look at MTF data for most super telephoto lenses – they all look excellent in the corners. In addition, I do not know of any wildlife / sports photographer that cares about corner performance. Most sports / wildlife shots have the subject in the center or slightly off-center. Nobody will take a shot of a bird in the extreme corners of the frame. So the crop part of the sensor is pretty much irrelevant – DX has no advantage here whatsoever.

Nikon FX and DX - Field of View

7) Viewfinder Size

FX cameras have much bigger viewfinders than DX. This makes it a whole lot easier to see if the bird you are photographing is indeed in perfect focus. With DX, you have to rely on AF a lot, because you just can’t see that well through the viewfinder. If you have not seen how huge the difference is, put a DX and an FX camera side by side and check it out. You will be amazed to see how much brighter and larger an FX viewfinder is in comparison.

8) MultiCAM 3500DX vs 3500FX

In my experience, the MultiCAM 3500FX works better in terms of AF accuracy than MultiCAM 3500DX. While a lot of people argue that both AF systems are the same, having shot with both for a long time (I used to own a Nikon D300) I disagree. In my experience, MultiCAM 3500FX is better than MultiCAM 3500DX. I think it has to do with the fact that FX cameras have a much larger mirror and hence the AF system might receive more light from the lens. Try shooting birds in low light with both the D300 and the D700 (or with the D7100 and D800), and you will quickly realize which camera will end up with better AF accuracy. Hence, my conclusion is that AF on FX bodies is slightly better than on DX. There might also be physical size differences between 3500FX and 3500DX – if the AF modules for both DX and FX were exactly the same, Nikon would not have named them differently. I noticed the same thing with the D600 and the D7000. The former has the same AF module as the D7000, albeit modified for FX. I did some birding with the D600 and the D7000 and I came back with more keepers on the D600 than I did with the D7000. Perhaps I am biased towards FX, but that’s my “real world” experience.

Those who try out FX for wildlife almost never come back to DX. Some people shoot with both, but if you ask those that do, they will tell you that they prefer their D3 to their D300/D300s. FX makes a difference, whether it has to do with image quality, AF accuracy or other reasons.

9) The Original Intent of DX

DX was never designed as a “feature” for getting closer to action, as I have numerously pointed out in my articles. If digital sensors did not cost so much money in the past, manufacturers would not have made DSLRs with small sensors. APS-C was designed for cost reasons alone, to make DX cameras cheaper, not to make DX cameras lighter or better for reach. Most of the advantages of DX cameras are simple marketing tricks.

Nikon DX vs FX

10) DX Cost Advantage

The only real advantage of DX over FX today, is cost. But with such offers as the D600 and the price of FX sensors continuously coming down, that huge cost difference is not there anymore. If in the past you had to spend 2-3x+ to move up to FX, today that difference is much smaller. Manufacturers are now making feature differences between cameras and intentionally removing functionality from FX cameras like D600, so that their high-end DX lines are not threatened. Can you imagine what a D600 with a MultiCAM 3500FX + 1/8000 shutter + big buffer would do to D7100/D300s sales? With recent promotions, the D600 dropped to as low as $1800 and the price is going to continue to drop. That’s why I believe that DX has no future. Nikon might try to push a D400 later this year, but it probably will be the last high-end DX camera we see from Nikon. As soon as the D600 gets a 51 point AF and a bigger buffer, it will be the end of the high-end DX.

Island Fox

11) Summary

In summary, FX is better than DX for shooting wildlife and sports for the above reasons. The only reason why anyone should be shooting with DX is lower cost. If you can afford high-end FX, there is very little reason to stick with DX. Don’t listen to photographers that say that their D300s or D7100 is better than the D4, because it gives them better “reach”. If the D4 cost the same as the D7100, you know which one everyone would be buying.

At the end of the day, however, keep something else in mind – any camera, whether DX or FX is capable of producing excellent results. It is not the gear, it is the guy behind the camera :)


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Mansurov;
    Thank you very much this useful article. Could you please prepare an article about diffraction issue with photos.
    Best Regards,
    Ümit Alper TÜMEN

    • Umit, can you explain your request? Do you want to see diffraction examples in photos? You don’t have to wait for an article, just take a picture at f/8 with any lens you have, stop it down to f/16 and look at both images at 100% – you will see diffraction :)

      • Dear Mr. Mansurov;
        Thank you very much for your answers. You are right, if I take picture with f8 and f16 I will see but I would like to understand the real reason of the diffraction. My questions;
        1-) Why diffraction happens
        2-) Which factor effect amount of diffraction or can we ask like this.:)
        3-) Any kind of lens (wide angle, normal lens, macro lens, tele zoom photo lens etc) effect same amount of diffraction what is limitation value of aperture various lens
        4-) Is there anything commonly like that (Example) wide angle aperture limit f18, normal lens f16, tele photo lens f22 etc. ?
        5-) For macro photo case as you know big aperture values must use but which aperture value of our limit for diffraction.
        6-) A full sunny day, if I have a lens with f32 and I would like to take picture a repair man work with the hammer and I would like to emphasize movement of the hammer plus I don’t have ND filter . I have to use big aperture value because of to get slower shutter values as much as I can for emphasize movement of the hammer. What is your advice in this case
        Shortly is there any chart to explain us limitation of diffraction (e.g this brand’s this wide angle lens this aperture etc.)
        Thank you very much for kind answers
        Best Regards,

        • 149
          ) Colin Scott

          Umit,

          Q1 is an exercise in physics: Diffraction occurs because of the so called wave/particle duality of light for which Nobel Prizes have been won.

          As a picture paints a thousand words, I suggest you enter “Young’s slit patterns” into the images section of your search engine and note that the effect (ie diffraction) becomes observable as the width of the slit approaches the wavelength of the light. That is, the wider the slit, the less diffraction.

          Next, as we are concerned with circular apertures, enter “Airy Disc” (or disk) . Rather than receiving a straight forward “lump” of light, each photosite on the sensor is being presented with this strange pattern of rings. There is no problem for us photographers so long as the rings associated with each photosite do not overlap. As you stop down, the diameter of the aperture approaches nearer to the wavelength of the light and the size of the Airy Disc increases. As the Airy Discs overlap the image will begin to degrade.

          It also follows that as you increase pixel density, the distance between photosites is reduced and the sensor becomes susceptible to diffraction effects at larger apertures.

          I hope this helps.

      • 205
        ) Riad

        Dear Nasim,

        I am happy with this article for one main reason: My cam is a FX!
        I have been reading so many articles about that kind of stuff, and to be honest don’t understand it since it sounds to me too much theory. Yesterday, I read an article about whether to get a 7100 or a 600 for wildlife. Everybody recommended the D7100. I mean if every new and even older camera is better than the D600, whats the use of it? Without following up every new model Nikon releases, The D600,100,200,300,400… all the hundreds should be in my opinion a higher level than the thousands such as 3000, 5000, 7000 and so on… Why is the D600 being degraded so much!!
        I was even about to sell my D600 and exchange it with a D7100 due to so many articles. But when I read this article with the attached photos, and I myself keep saying not the cam but the photographer makes the photo, I will rather keep it now, get a 300mm f/4 and a 1.4 converter for wildlife, and learn how to use it properly. Am I right about this, Nasim?

        PS: Please excuse my English, am not a native speaker or living in a English speaking country. Hope it can still be understood what I mean to say :)
        Thanks
        Riad

  2. 2
    ) Donz

    Thanks Nasim. This is a very useful article as I am one of the many who have been waiting on the D400 and this is real ‘food for thought’ on the real/perceived advantages of DX

  3. 3
    ) KSPGM

    Great article as usual Nasim. Thankyou. I just wish you had included CX in your arguments! There are definate advantages in terms of size, weight, focal length etc. So if DX is dying, and there are those of us that have not the stamina to hunk FX equipmet around, where do we turn. Well I for one am currently getting great results from my V2+FT1+70-200f/4 – nearly 600 mm at just over 1 kg of weight – and it all fits in my shoulder bag – no additional camera bag. Thom Hogan also seems to be developing a gruding soft spot for the CX and wildlife applications – and he seems to have the stamina for full FX gear!

    • 6
      ) Peter-Paul Binnewerg

      “…nearly 600mm”
      If you follow the laws of of physics, you still shoot with 70-200mm as Nasim already pointed out above ;) For serious applications your solution is maybe not that good but should give good results for (also serious) amateurs.

      • 13
        ) KSPGM

        I should have persisted with the ‘myth’ and said EFL 600 mm! … but point taken Peter!

        There are a lot of us ‘serious amateurs’ out there Peter. My guess is that the bulk of the DX market is comprised of just such owners. Hence I believe a serious examination of CX capabilities in this field (Sports plus wildlife) is entirely justified. Nasim’s site is not just for ‘professionals’ who have to make thier living from what they sell and arguably do need the enhanced capabilities of FX …. but what about the rest of us ….probably the large majority of users!

        • 15
          ) Peter-Paul Binnewerg

          That’s the point, “the large majority”. I think Nasim wrote that article with serious photography in mind and maybe not looking on amateurs concerns. At least maybe the only fault he did :D

          • Peter, exactly :D

            Now I am getting some heat from those amateurs and I have to clarify exactly what I am trying to say in this article :)

        • KSPGM, yes, I agree – the site is not just for professionals. My main debating point in the article, however, is specifically targeted at people that can afford high end FX and assume that DX is still better because it gives you longer reach, better corners, etc.

          • 71
            ) Vern

            I guess we lowly amateurs, who like DX as well as FX, might as well leave. Your explanation that the article is only for pro’s didn’t come across in any of the discussion. Sure FX is superior and I have two fine FX cameras (D3 and D600). And I have been using 35mm cameras since the 1950′s. But I also have great DX bodies (D300, D200 and D7000). As you admitted, it isn’t the camera, it’s the photographer! Please don’t knock DX. It has its place and has been very successful and of great value to amateurs and pro’s alike. Guys like Bob Krist have used DX right along and been very successful. I don’t agree with all your points against DX. It was greatly oversimplified. If bigger is always better we should all be using medium format.

            I do enjoy your writing and am well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of DX. But I definitely don’t think DX should be put down as you did in the article. It certainly has its merits and there are many users getting professional results with that format.

            Best wishes,

            Vern

            • Vern, I mean no disrespect to amateurs at all, not sure why you thought my comment was so negative. DX has its place, mainly because of cost. I have no intent on “knocking” DX – for a lot of people, DX makes perfect sense. Specifically for wildlife photographers that can afford both DX and FX, my argument is that FX is better, that’s all. It is your choice to shoot with the medium you like. Some people like KSPGM love CX and use it for wildlife with adapters. I am not going to say that CX is a bad choice in this case – it obviously works for him and he loves the results. And I never said that DX was bad, I only stated that it was inferior to FX for the reasons pointed out in the article.

              As for the future of DX, I will stand my ground – DX is seriously threatened by mirrorless at this point. Give it a couple of years and when mirrorless catches up in terms of AF speed, accuracy and features, DX market will surely diminish. Again, that’s not to say that I dislike DX at all – that’s just my analysis and personal opinion…

              Thank you for the discussion and I very much respect your opinion. I know Bob Krist and he is a phenomenal photographer and teacher.

      • Peter, judging from some of the comments in this article, I think some of the heat is coming from amateurs. I should have clarified, that we are talking about professional sports and wildlife photography with high-end equipment :)

        If a person can afford both high-end DX and high-end FX, I am simply debating that shooting with DX just because of perceived “reach” does not make much sense…

    • KSPGM, I did not want to over-complicate the article, because it is already pretty long :)

      CX + long lens with TC does sound attractive, but I would have to look into that in more detail and see how practical it would be for real life situations. Again, keep the crop aspect of this in mind, with implications on depth of field, diffraction, etc – it would be similar to DX and even more pronounced.

      • 101
        ) Stefan

        Well,
        I had V1 and used it with 70-200 f/2.8.
        The IQ coming from this setup is far lower than every “advanced amateur” would like.
        I returned the camera. A good concept, crappy results.

      • 153
        ) KSPGM

        Hi again Nasim and thankyou for your patience in answering so many differnent aspects of this phenomena.
        I guess my ‘misunderstanding’ arrives from my history. I have owned a D90, D300s and am now using a V2+FT1 all with the 70-200 VR f/2.8 and just lately the V2 witha 70-200 VR f/4.0.

        In my case, by using the V2 I am actually increasing the number of pixels available (albeit smallet ones) i.e. 14 M v 12 M, approx. I cannot crop out a smaller version from my DX sensor to gain the equivalence you describe. Thus ‘apparently’ I am seeing longer reach and more detail.

        My eyes tell me that I am not seeing a big diference between the images between the D90/300 sensor and the CX sensor in this application. . . . but I have gained hugely in terms of ‘reace’ and practacle photograpy (weight and size of equipment) which allow me to carry this set up most places I go. . . . not to mention the capital outlay between the cost of DX and CX systems.

        You have made a strong argument on technical grounds why FX is as good or better than DX with current equipment. My point is that if you rule out DX, because it can be replaced by FX ( for those that have the bank balance and musculature, to afford it!) – then where do the rest of us go?

        You say mirrorless – well the only mirrorless system Nikon offer at present is CX based. Are all the ‘non-FX’ birders going to fly to Olympus? I for one am considering the EM-5 . . . but for now I’m sticking with Nikon for legacy reasons . . . I have quite a few DX/FX lenses. and for now seem to be getting good results from the V2 . . . the jury is out!

        Intersting debate and thank you once again Nasim for stoking it up!

  4. 4
    ) Scott

    Nicely written, Nasim. Hopefully this article, which has incorporated most of the so-called “debatable points” in one place, will finally put the issue of DX vs FX to rest.

  5. 5
    ) Paul

    Hi Nasim

    Under part 4) Depth of Field Impact

    you say….

    Obviously, to get both cameras to frame the bird identically, you would have to physically move closer to the bird with the D800

    Is this not a reason why birders use DX?

    Getting physically closer is not quite so easy

    • 7
      ) Peter-Paul Binnewerg

      But this will just result in same angle of view with much more resolution and detail on the side of the D800. You will get the same results if you crop from the D800s photograph compared to a D7000.

      I also want to add something:
      For me, the point that you receive same DOF with constant focal length and aperture whether you use DX or FX is not stated exactly as this in your article. DOF is connect to focal length and aperture and not to the angle of view or the “equivalent focal length”. So the bokeh stays the same, no matter if use e.g. the 50/1.8G on DX of FX.

      Greeting from Germany and:
      Toller Artikel!

      Paul

      • 40
        ) Paul

        ref Peter-Paul Binnewerg’s reply to my original message

        Whilst I hear what you are saying regarding using the D800 and cropping, , I much prefer framing/composing/focussing a distant bird shot (for example) within the DX viewfinder on my D7000 (at 100%) than a smaller subject in my D800′s viewfinder or in the D800′s DX crop box

    • 9
      ) ertan

      Completely agree with Paul.

      • 10
        ) ertan

        I mean the first Paul :)

    • Paul, like Peter-Paul pointed out, getting closer with the D800 in this example would give you a lot more – you could stand from the same distance, shoot in DX mode and end up with the same shot, like I continued in that paragraph.

      So the “reach” advantage of DX is highly debatable. If I shoot with a D7100 and a D4, do you really think I would be better off with the D7100, because it has a lot more pixels? My argument is obviously no. For birds in flight, we are talking about fast shutter speeds – in the range of 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second and potentially even more for totally freezing fast action. Under very good lighting conditions, we are talking about ISO 200-800 that needs to be used at f/4-5.6 range to get to that shutter speed. Take a look at how ISO 800 looks on DX at pixel level, then take a look at what the D4 can do at ISO 800. In anything less than ideal lighting, see what the DX sensor will do at ISO 3200 and compare that to the D4. Suddenly you will find yourself having to down-sample and apply noise reduction on the DX, while FX will look good without much need for adjustments. Yes, some of that DX noise will be reduced when down-sampling, but again – you catch yourself wondering if you would be better off with a noisy image that needs to be down-sampled and worked on, or with a cropped image from the D4. And then there are all other inherent problems with a smaller sensor mentioned in this article on top of that…

      • 104
        ) Stefan

        I completely agree with Nasim here!
        I experienced similar “issues” with my D7000 – in bird shooting.
        When I went to Alaska and I had to take shots of jumping whales in rainy and cloudy day, keeping at least 1/500 – 1/1000 speed, you realize where is the DX limit.
        Yes, I have some amazing shots, but the noise is quite there, because I had to crank the ISO.
        I tried to keep ISO800, but it’s still very noisy in the conditions mentioned above.

    • 187
      ) RVB

      DX is just a crop,nothing more.. you could shoot from the same position with the D800 and crop it later to match the framing of the smaller DX sensor… focal length remains the same always … I had a canon 1ds mk3 and 1d mk4.. the full fame gives more coverage and leaves room for cropping…the main advantage of tghe smaller sensor is DOF

  6. 8
    ) ertan

    I disagree with some points.
    24MP DX7100 still has a lot of advantage for birders and other wildlife shooters. Shoot between f2.8 and f8 under ISO1600 from the same spot with the same lens, and you’ll get more details compared to D800. No questions asked.
    In the text, D800 is given as the advantageous body with its superior AF performance and 36MP sensor, bu then under “cost advantage” section D600 is given as a cost-efficient body. The “cheap” D600 is not 36MP, it’s “only” 24MP and does have an inferior AF module than D7100 and D800, so does not have the same advantages as D800 has. D7100 (DX) still has cost advantage.
    If you use D7100 + 1.4x + 300mm f4 AF-s, which lens setup do you need with D800 to get the same detail? 500mm? 1,4x + 400mm? Any diffraction problem here? Diffraction does not effect D7100 as it’s claimed in the text unless you use 2.0x (in which case you’d get a way better magnification anyway). Wildlife photos are taken mostly under f11 anyway and even at f11 D800 loses some detail due to diffraction.
    I agree that D800 has a D7000 in it (compared the prices lately?), but D7100 is a leap forward for DX and the “cheap” D600 is no contender.

    • 14
      ) Peter-Paul Binnewerg

      In some way I do agree, ertan. In situations like those you pointed out, there can be an advantage using the D7100, but when you stay on that spot until dawn or a bit longer, the D800 will probably deliver better results because the settings change. Noise and also pixel level sharpness is just one thing but usually not everything. Is the D7100 better on pixel level? Nasim pointed out several facts that include numerous cases of taking photos. Maybe in special cases, DX can be equal or better, but overall Nasim is right and I can underline nearly all his points due to own experiences ;)

      • Exactly my point! Take a look at what a DX sensor will do at ISO 1600 and compare that to the D800 or D4. D800 has a down-sampling advantage, while D4 has the pixel level advantage.

    • 32
      ) keith whitehouse

      +1

    • 39
      ) mpe

      I think Nasim will need to write a followup on this article to debunk another myth . Now about how important an AF system (and framerate) for wildlife photography really is.

      I think it is actually one of a few differences between sports and wildlife. For wildlife I would always get a FX camera with state-of-art noise performance (a D600) over a camera with average noise performance and arguably superior AF system (a D7100). Having more than two stops of usable ISO means that I can shoot at 1/1000 instead of 1/250 and that is great difference and in reality gives me much more keepers than camera with better tracking speed or bigger AF area. I would even take D3 sensor with just one single focus point over DX-sized sensors with 150 AF points.

      Obviously birds in the flight is a very specialized discipline in wildlife photo and my experience is that not even a D4 can guarantee me perfect results. It is always a matter of experience, backgrounda and light conditions perhaps more that camera performance and performance of AF module.

      Obviously it is always better if you can have both (perfect AF tracking and perfect noise perf) like the Nikon D4 but I would personally still get D600 over D7100 any day.

      • MPE, AF system is super important, and you can get by slower frame rates . It is nice to have faster frame rates for specific situations, but there are also consequences to spraying and praying – a lot more time spent going through thousands of images after the shoot. I have done both and I try to balance it out.

        FX in general has better AF performance than DX – like I said, I think it has to do with larger mirror and more light getting to the FX AF sensor. Personally, I find the D600 to have better AF than the D7000 (and I have a post or two that shows that), despite the fact that both share a similar AF system. So like you said, the AF system advantage is arguable.

        And yes, good technique and experience are both equally important. I have been out shooting with other photogs that had no idea what they were doing with their D3s/D4 cameras. And they wondered why their images looked so bad and a lot of the shots were blurry…

    • Ertan, a lot more details at the expense of noise – keep that in mind! Smaller pixels always mean more noise (on same generation sensors). So the extra detail you get is only a true advantage at the lowest ISO levels. Compare ISO 800 at pixel level on the D7100 to ISO 800 on the D4. You will quickly see what I mean.

      And yes, the D600 cannot be compared to the D7100 in terms of features, because the D7100 clearly has a better AF system. But my argument is that if D600 had the same AF system as the D7100 and the cost difference is several hundred dollars, there is little appeal to the D7100. See some of my responses above regarding noise issues at low ISO levels on DX bodies. The D800 has small pixels, but its sensor area is more than twice bigger than DX – this gives the D800 the serious advantage of down-sampling. If Nikon developed an extremely fast processor and fast memory that could handle 36 MP files at 10 frames per second, there would be no need to buy the D4 anymore. Today, we are limited by throughput, buffer and memory issues for high resolution sensors – that’s why they can’t quite deliver what smaller resolution sensors can. Give it some time and you will see a high resolution FX body with fast frame rates in the future.

      “If you use D7100 + 1.4x + 300mm f4 AF-s, which lens setup do you need with D800 to get the same detail?”

      Great question – the answer is, you shoot with the same setup on the D800 and you will end up with the same, if not better results. Again, keep in mind one major factor here – image quality at different ISO levels. D800 has larger pixels than D7100, so its noise performance at pixel level is better. So the extra resolution you have on the D7100 does not mean that you will get cleaner details. Try shooting with a D4, then compare the results with the same lens on the D7100. Yes, you will get more details from the D7100, but at the cost of high ISO noise. When photographing birds, for example, you have to use very fast shutter speeds, which means that high ISO performance is extremely important. ISO 1600 on the D7100 will look a lot worse than ISO 1600 on the D4 at pixel level. So you will end up having to process your image with noise-reduction software and having to down-sample your images to get a similar result. And I am not taking other factors into consideration here.

      “Diffraction does not effect D7100 as it’s claimed in the text unless you use 2.0x (in which case you’d get a way better magnification anyway)”.

      Go to this site, put the data for D7100 and then the D4. Take a look at the diffraction limit on both. Then take a look at my previous article about loss of resolution with the 2x TC and make your conclusions…

      At the end of the day, DX has two inherent problems compared to FX (factoring in just image quality) – sensor size disadvantage and as a result, small pixels. These two factors will always affect other variables that are important for high-end sports and wildlife as mentioned in the above article.

      • Boss ,eagerly waiting on your D7100 review ,it’s way past March 30th :)
        Most shots I’ve come across in Crop of DX mode are either sharpened in PP or shot with kit lens.
        Please include the 1.3x crop in crop mode shots in your review with 200-400 and 300 F4 with and without TC14.

        D800′s DX mode pictures above ISO 1600 are much better than D7000′s

        Regards :)

  7. 11
    ) Arun

    Your articles are always informative, helps to get rid of misconceptions! thanks for sharing.

    regards

    • 17
      ) FrancoisR

      Arun: Well said.

      But: “It is not the gear, it is the guy behind the camera :)” sounds like “size does not matter” to me. Compare a 1972 Corvette to an Opel GT, a Miata and a Jaguar XK8 or take a Jacques Villeneuve give him a winning car and he will win. Take an Alonso give him a clunker, he’s going to loose.

      ah ah ah…
      Thanks!

      • FrancoisR, I had to draw that conclusion, because people sometimes think that it is only all about the gear :) For two pros with same qualifications, FX wins. But if there is a pro shooting with DX and a newbie shooting with FX, you know who will get a better picture :D

    • You are most welcome Arun!

  8. 12
    ) Michael Espinola

    again a very good article indeed… well for now knowing the difference between two type since I was able to borrow my friends cameras both in DX and FX format I’m very happy with my DX body… it is more than enough for a newbie like me….

    • Michael, absolutely – DX is great for someone starting out or for an amateur. The above article is aimed at those that have the experience and budget, but think that DX has more to offer than FX…

      • 188
        ) RVB

        Glad to see you help dispel the myth that aps-c or DX adds focal length..

  9. 16
    ) keith whitehouse

    Hi Nasim, Very interesting but highly contentious article in some areas. This quote for example: ” I would pick a used D700 over a brand new D7100 any time for sports and wildlife photography…”
    I’ve used both for bird photography and there is no way I would go back to a D700 after using a D7100. Just on image size alone a DX crop on a D700 is only 6Mpx compared to 24Mpx on the D7100 – that’s a massive difference when photographing small birds. Noise is not that much of problem with the D7100 and it will do 6fps. The AF system on the D7100 is excellent with the number of “keepers” no different to the D700 I have found.
    Coupled with a Nikkor 300mm f4 and TC14E it is a superb lightweight rig. To take full advantage of that sensor I also pair it with the Nikkor 300mm f2.8 VR2 and TC20Eii.
    I don’t think the true potential of the D7100 as a wildlife camera has yet been realised.
    It’s great to hear the opposing views of DX vs FX

    • Keith, my experience with the D7100 has been different for shooting birds I guess. I prefer the low noise and excellent image quality from my D700, although it is an older generation DSLR. Yes, you can get great results from the D7100, but with a bit of processing work, especially at high ISO.

  10. Thanks for the article. I’m a Canon shooter and have already made up my mind to switch to full-frame. Being an enthusiast, I had been using and still use the crop bodies for wildlife photography. But noise free better IQ is the main reason that got me attracted to full-frame. All the other advantages are additional bonuses. Luckily, all my prosumer lenses are of EF mount so, I won’t need to buy new glasses.

    I hate to even think about the high pixel laden new Canon crop bodies, same goes for new Nikon DX bodies. Have advised my Nikon shooter friends to do the same.

    BTW, is there any update on Nikon fixing the oil spot issue on its D600 sensors?

    Thanks again for the article.

    • Quazi, thanks for your feedback.

      I do not think there is an update to the D600 sensor situation, except from Nikon that says you should send it to Nikon for repair/cleanup.

  11. 19
    ) Jacob Langlands

    Nasim,

    Your nugget is really in the last sentence – it’s not what you shoot with, but who’s doing the shooting that makes the real difference.

    In percentage terms, when we’re talking solely about DSLRs I would guess that the photographer is 95% of a good picture, but the kit is 5%. Yet we angst and sweat SO MUCH over that 5%!

    Professional photographers will (should!) have a high degree of competence as an image-taker, and thus the finer points of kit make a difference. For novices, or even many serious amateurs, there is still a lot of room for improvement on the image-taking side which makes the kit less important to improving their output.

    The photography world needs a cultural shift, where photographers hanker after knowledge and experience of how to take better photos, rather than hankering after the ‘best’ kit.

    For many, ‘kit’ is the fall guy for poor photos. It’s the excuse, not the reason. Developing the skills to take beautiful photos is a long-term commitment requiring patience, practice, and a willingness to make mistakes.

    The same is true in many other hobbies – e.g. music. Much consideration is given to getting the best instrument to transform one’s playing, when actually more practice would produce higher benefit!

    Jacob.

    P.S. I’m currently taking a ‘backwards’ step in my choice of kit and have put down my D700 for a bit to use an old Olympus Trip 35!

    • Jacob, isn’t that true with any kind of photography though? :)

      The above article is not for everyone – certainly not for beginners and enthusiasts, since it covers a lot of advanced topics. I wrote it for the crowd that can easily afford FX, but thinks that DX has an upper hand.

  12. 20
    ) MartinG

    Hi Nasim, I read your article with great interest. I upgraded from a D90 to the D800 and have now upgraded most of the lenses. (I now have: 50mm 1.8G, 16-35mm F4, 85mm 1.8G and 300mm F4 and TC1.4II) I kept the 70-200 F2.8 VRII which I used very successfully with the TC20e III. Given the list so far should I opt for a 7100 or a D600 as a second body?

    They both have advantages and some compromises. I picked up a D7100 and looked through the viewfinder – it seemed small. On the other hand the D600 looks like it has been deliberately underdone in a couple of key areas to prevent it meeting all my needs as a second body.

    Cost is a factor, I already have quite a lot of capital invested. Alternately should I forget the idea of a second body and buy a macro lens instead?

    • Martin, you have a great selection of lenses for the D800, congrats!

      Why the need for a second body? I can understand if you were doing this professionally and need a backup, but I would rather spend money elsewhere than a camera body :) Just my 2 cents!

      • 110
        ) MartinG

        I am considering it. A macro would be the next logical choice in lenses. RE: Why a second body, sometimes it is difficult to stop and change lenses. I am wondering if I had another body with the 70-200 on it, would it provide a quick way to change when the 300 is too much?

    • 64
      ) Jano

      Martin, have you done a direct comparison between the viewfinder of the D7100 and D600?
      Today I looked through both at my local dealer and was surprised to see that the viewfinder of the D7100 was quite large and hardly smaller than that of the D600.

      • 118
        ) MartinG

        I would like to try taking images with both. The shops are not very co-operative however. I am leaning towards the 7100 because the quality is there in the image, according to the reviews and I am not convinced I want 2 different AF system set ups to work with. If you think about it having both FX and DX would add some versatility to how the lenses would function. The cost is on a par with an FX lens cost (A 7100 is less thank an FX 24-70 f2.8 or a 24-120 F4).

        One worry is whether DX really has a long future. Maybe the system will wither through lack of development. Where are the new DX lenses of the quality of the 16-85 (great lens but I sold it) coming from? If they had a great DX 300 or a 80-400 surely they could be lighter and more affordable. The newly released 80-400 really is pretty pricey. To make one they wouldn’t need it to be as long (54-267). ;-)

        I will wait some time, I am in no hurry. I may simply opt just to enjoy the equipment I have.

  13. 21
    ) André Bherer

    Thank you very much for this article, it would be very interesting to have pictures that really shows the details and diffractions differences between dx and fx . I would love to see that but I dont have a fx camera to do my own test pictures.

    And while I am at it …. it would be great to see a short article about VR. So many users states that if you have a fast enough shutter speed keeping VR on will only result in image degradation. They state that VR is only beneficial when your shutter speed is to low to take a reasonably sharp picture. theres so many confusion about this it would be great to see what you guys think about all this.

    • Andre, I will see if I can do that sort of comparison – I will need to show either test charts or something very detailed that shows the effects of diffraction.

      As for VR, don’t be confused. What you have read is absolutely true. When photographing fast action at extremely fast shutter speeds, you are always better off turning VR off. It is only really useful for hand-held situations, long glass and slow shutter speeds in low light. That’s why I love my 300mm f/4 so much. VR would be nice for low light, but I tend to shoot at 1/1000 or faster with it anyway. And when shooting with my 200-400mm or longer super telephotos, I have VR turned off if my shutter speed is above 1/1000.

      The reason why you want VR turned off at fast shutter speeds, is because it is not necessary and can actually hurt image quality if you do it wrong. VR needs time to stabilize, which a lot of people don’t do and they end up with blurry images. Where VR helps, is when hand-holding a lens – you can see a little better through the viewfinder, because the lens+camera don’t shake like crazy.

      Hope this helps :)

      • 198
        ) David

        Hi Nasim,

        I read your point about VR with interest. I bird shoot with a D5100+Sigma 150-500. I shoot hand held, with a high ISO, shutter at 1/1000 , F/8 and usually at 400m. A few snaps have come out soft. I am now asking myself if VR is the culprit.

  14. 22
    ) MartinG

    One benefit of moving from DX to FX is that I now have a proper wide angle lens. I did have the 16-85 DX which was a lovely lens but never quite wide enough when in a tight spot. I never did find a suitable very wide lens in the DX range. In the FX world there is more choice when looking for wide-angle lenses.

    • 29
      ) Jim

      Did you not look around at all? There are quite a few DX ultra wide angle lens options out there. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is very well regarded with its optics. Sigma has the 10-20mm f/3.5, 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 or the Nikon 10-20mm f/3.5-4.5. Tamron 10-24mm?

      • 36
        ) MartinG

        I certainly looked but was not convinced by the lenses on offer in the DX range. In the end I had to ask why I wanted a wide angle lens and why I was not keen to invest in the ones on offer. They are all variable aperture, I think the fact that the crop factor adds 1.5 means you have to go to 10 to get to 15mm. The Nikon 10-24 looked good but the plastic mount and distortion was a little worrying. It is therefore a little ironic that I opted for the Nikon 16-35 F4 which also has a lot of distortion prior to around 22mm. At 24mm there is no distortion, I can use it handheld down to 1/20th second and sometimes less, a great low light lens. I wanted to find a great landscape lens. I am glad I took Nasim’s advice and bought the 16-35. I was very pleased to find that his comments were totally correct.
        The colour, contrast and sheer quality of the FX lens on the D800 is a totally different experience, I was surprised by the depth of colour and dynamic range it presented me with.

        • 38
          ) Jim

          The Tokina 11-16mmf/2.8 and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 are both constant aperture lenses. The Tokina at f/2.8 would give you an equivalent of roughly f/4 on a full frame sensor and at the widest end of 11mm is equivalent to 16.5mm on FF.

          I believe that distortion at the wide end of any zoom lens particularly ultra wide angle zooms is prevalent across any brand of lens due to the physical design. Distortion can be easily compensated for in post in Lightroom or Photoshop. Even the 16-35mm f/4 suffers from distortion at 16mm. From what I have seen, primes perform better in terms of distortion, but of course lack the versatility of a zoom.

          As you’ve upgraded to the D800, the hunt for a suitable wide angle DX lens is no longer applicable. Just some food for thought for current owners of crop sensor DSLRs.

          • 112
            ) MartinG

            Jim, you are correct, of course, but asI looked to my plans for the future, I felt that the real effort in developing high quality lenses was going into FX lenses not DX at both ends of the spectrum. If you buy DX lenses, you are more confined, to get to 300 with enough quality you find yourself looking at FX lenses. I had the 70-300 but beyond 200 the quality dropped off.

        • Nikkor 16-35mm is superb. It is better than the 17-35mm it replaced and has advantages such as ability to mount filters compared to the 14-24mm. I still own the 14-24mm, but I am probably going to sell it and replace it with the 16-35mm. I grabbed the 14-24mm when Nikon offered camera + lens rebates a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, the 16-35mm is so popular, that Nikon doesn’t want to offer any incentives on it! :D

      • 197
        ) David

        Hi,

        I find that there is a better range of very wide angle lens available for Canon DX than Canon FX. I am weighing in a Canon 6D vs Canon 60D . For the latter , a Tokina 11-16 would have been a no brainer but I cant find a similar stand out lens for the former. Would appreciate your comments.

    • Martin, I have used the 12-24mm f/4 in the past and I remember it was a wonderful lens. Quite costly though for a DX lens :( The Tokina 11-16mm is a clear winner for DX in my opinion.

      • 142
        ) John Petter Hagen

        I bought the nikon 12-24mm second hand, cost me about 320 pounds. It’s very sharp and great build quality. I use it with my D5100 for mostly landscapes and I love it!!

        I tend to buy most lenses second hand, and it has saved me a lot of money.

  15. HI Nasim,

    Interesting article as always., you seem to be writing with more passion, are you getting annoyed with the constant screams for a D400 all the time?

    One question about FX and crop modes. Is there any advantage to taking the picture in DX crop mode rather then simply taking the picture and cropping in post pro? The only advantage I can see is if you physically move back after switching to crop mode to increase depth of field (correct me if I am wrong there!).

    Interesting point about the D700, I am still waiting for the big price drop I was hoping for on the second hand market!

    • 30
      ) André Bherer

      +1

    • Mark, not really, not annoyed by D400 requests – I think it is quite natural, given how let down people feel by Nikon for not updating the D300s.

      As for FX crop mode – it is only an advantage for the D800 if you want to get 1-2 extra fps and a longer lasting buffer. Otherwise, there is no advantage in shooting in DX mode at all – you are better off cropping in post.

      As for the D700 price drop, as more people realize how good the D700 was, they may be in the same boat as me, holding on to their treasures :) But I believe a lot of D700 were on sale as soon as the D800 came out. There was another spike when the D600 came out as well, but not as big as the D800. Look at craigslist or other local photography resources – I am sure you will find good used bodies for an attractive price!

  16. 24
    ) bouda63

    Thanks Nasim, very thourough article. I appreciate the quality of you writing and the wisdom of your analysis. That is to say up until now !
    This one appears as strongly prejudiced : you speak from the “rich professionnal pro” point of view. The cost difference is a major advantage for a lot of people around the world. You find some deals (in the US) for the D600 at 1800$, but in a year or so, what is going to be the price of the D7100 ?
    Furthermore, you call the 18-300 DX a joke for SERIOUS photographers (I felt a bit insulted as I own one and use it most of the time) : in most situation for wildlife and sport it is NOT a joke at all and you are able to carry it EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS. In a recent trip to India, I was with a friend who was carrying the perfect FX Nikon set : D800, 28-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8. Most of his pictures where better than mine (because he is a better photographer !) but I shot some he couldn’t have. Birds, details (when he had his 28-70 on and as we where walking as a group). So FX is NOT always better and Swiss knives have their merit. What is better : a 18-300 on a D7100 in usual lighting conditions (I mean not very high ISO) or a D600 with a 70-200 f/2.8 or f/4 with a 2.0x ?

    • Bouda, thanks for your valuable feedback :)

      Perhaps it was not clear from the article, but it was not intended for beginners or amateurs – it is specifically aimed at those that can afford both DX and FX, but somehow think that DX is better. I have seen some photogs shooting with 600mm VR lens and a D300s or D7000 mounted on it. Their argument was that they thought they would lose the reach with a full-frame body, so they chose DX for that reason alone. With this article, I am just trying to show the true advantage of FX for professional sports and wildlife.

      For beginners and amateurs, you can’t beat the D7000/D7100 with a 300mm f/4 + TC-14E II combo. Like I said in the above article, DX makes perfect sense for situations where budget is constrained.

      As for the 18-300mm DX, I am sorry that you feet insulted. But if you compare what you get with that lens to something like 300mm f/4, you will hopefully understand what I mean here. You just cannot compare the performance at 300mm f/5.6 with the 18-300mm to 300mm f/4 – it is a night and day difference. And I am not even talking about AF speed and accuracy. Yes, the 18-300mm has its advantages, being an all-in-one solution, but you just cannot compare it optically to a dedicated prime telephoto. Not even close.

      And to answer your last question – the D600 + 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II + 2x TC is without a doubt a better combo than the 18-300mm for wildlife.

  17. 25
    ) Vern

    Interesting article! As a longtime 35mm and FX user, I love full frame, however use both FX and DX. But I don’t agree with all of your observations. Some of the things you say establish that DX has definite advantages too. For example, you say – “All you are doing, is you are taking an image from a 300mm lens, cropping it in the center area and magnifying that center with increased resolution.” Sounds like an advantage for DX in my book! Note the words ‘magnifying that center with increased resolution! This is a reason why, even though I absolutely love my D3 and D600, I prefer using DX for wildlife!

    When it comes to the D800, I’ll pass. The files are too large, putting too great a demand on computer system and processing, etc, for me personally. Also, the price is not one many can or want to afford! For those reasons I chose the D600. And really, compared with either the D7100 is a huge bargain. As for choosing a D700 over the D7100, sounds a bit ridiculous to me. Even though my first love is full frame I see lots of uses for the DX models and would love to have the D7100. It has great features! I would not discourage anyone from buying DX. II think your article is somewhat misleading. It is simply a different format, not just a crop of 35mm. Using that argument, we can say 35mm is a crop of 6×7 or other medium format, etc. Lens focal length stays the same there too, but they behave a little differently, as the above quote from you indicates.

    The DX format is a fine one and I think it a disservice to discourage DX owners and direct them to something else. Yes, there are many advantages to FX and it is my first love. But there are also many advantages to DX and I enjoy them also. And I had and loved my D700 too. But I would take a D7100 over it in a minute!

    There is room for all preferences, including DX. And there are fine benefits to DX too, as claimed. It’s a fine format! I think you over simplified the choices. By the way, I also love my V1, even smaller!

    Best wishes,

    Vern Rogers (fotabug)

    • Vern, yes, but magnifying at what expense? Noise at all ISO levels. So I would not look at it as a huge advantage, since you will find yourself dealing with noise all the time, especially at anything above ISO 800. Now if DX offered the same pixel size / noise performance and somehow offered better magnification, then that’s a totally different story :)

      As for your D800 argument, if you are shooting in DX mode, the files are less than half the size of full resolution images. Something to keep in mind if you want to shoot in crop mode. But yes, I do agree with price – another $1K over the D600 is not cheap. That’s why DX is attractive to many beginners and enthusiasts, because it is cheaper.

      And please keep in mind that I am not trying to discourage anyone from buying DX. Yes, I believe that DX does not have a long life, simply because of the threat from the mirrorless market, but it will take a while for that to happen and DX has a price advantage at this point anyway. See my DX camera reviews – nowhere do I mention that DX cameras are a bad choice. In fact, I love the D7100 so far and I am about to write the review (hopefully will get started later today).

      But I disagree that it is a different format. Nikon and other manufacturers want you to think that it is. DX would have never existed if it was not for the high cost of sensors. You can’t compare DX to FX like you can compare FX to MF. MF has a lot to offer compared to FX and it is a completely different market.

      Again, I am not trying to direct DX owners elsewhere. All I am saying, is that if one can afford both FX and DX for sports and wildlife, FX is the way to go – that’s all. And I gave my reasons above :)

    • 163
      ) Jon McGuffin

      Vern, you make some good points but owning both the D700 and now the D7100, it certainly isn’t a no brainer to take the 7100 over the D700. No I can say quite comfortably that pound for pound the D700 is easily the superior camera.

      The only benefits I see the D7100 offers over the D700 would be the following:
      - Lighter, smaller body
      - Dual card slots (good backup)
      - Superior LCD

      That’s about it. I can’t think of anything else going on with my D7100 that would make me think its better than the D700.
      The core of everything Nasim said is spot on.. My only

      • 166
        ) Keith Whitehouse

        Jon, My main wildlife photography is of small birds which often involves frame cropping. As I have said I’ve used a D700 and now have the D7100. The big advantage, and it is massive for me, is the increased image size and hence detail from the D7100 – it puts 4.5 times more pixels on the bird or, put another way increases the image size by more than 2x on a side.
        Something else that’s not been mentioned in this debate is shutter noise. I know from experience that the thunderclap from the D700′s shutter can be a real problem when dealing with skittish birds. The D7100 shutter is much quieter.
        No doubt the D700 is better built and may have some superior ergonomic features but for what I do it really is a no brainer to take the D7100 over the D700.

        • 169
          ) Jon McGuffin

          Keith, you made some very valid points and are all well taken. I don’t really do the type of shooting you do so I yield to your authority here for sure.

          You brought up something though which I completely forgot to mention and that is the quite shutter on the D7100!!! Yes!!!! Much like the superior LCD this too is not getting much play in the public via reviews and such. The shutter sound is dramatically muted compared to the D700 and I find that a superior feature for sure.

          I very much appreciate my camera while in public sounding more muted than the large slap of the D700. So another small, albeit important, advantage to the D7100..

  18. 26
    ) Gabriel

    I am glad for having to different systems to choose from. In the end the last sentence of the article is the key.

  19. 27
    ) Prof. G.

    Wonderful discussion — lots of useful information.
    My conundrum : retired Computer Science Professor with a passion for bird and local wildlife photography — now living on a “broken” income — lol.
    Yes, a budget.
    Current equipment — Nikon D200 with battery grip — also F100.
    Lenses of consequence for bird photography — Nikon 300 mm f/4, Nikon 28-300 VR, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR, TC17e II.
    Need detail in bird feathers — but lens/camera combination won’t get me close enough — therefore major cropping and loss of detail.
    Can’t afford Nikon 400mm — of course, I try to shoot smarter, get closer, set up situations, even use camouflage “tent.”
    Love my D200 for its rugged build — no problems — my F100 took me throughout the Middle East — survived without incident — but, quality film processing today is sparse.
    Need an upgrade from my D200 — would have loved a true upgrade of the D700 at a reasonable price that would give me the bird details even when cropped — imagine photographing Hummingbirds — so tiny but can’t get close enough with my equipment AND must focus quickly often in the shade of the afternoon when the birds are looking for water on the plants.
    I welcome sound advice from you and/or your knowledgeable readers.
    Best regards and keep up the great work.

    • 37
      ) MartinG

      I found taking images of hummingbirds with a 70-200 plus TC20e III worked surprisingly well. At Monteverde in Costa-Rica at the hummingbird gallery I just used the 70-200. I think a DX is fine for resolution and details on feathers. The issue on DX for me was that only the centre point on the D90 was reliable enough for hummingbirds in flight outside the areas where they are fed artificially. I think the 7100 may have that problem sorted. Good luck with those hummingbirds.

    • Prof. G, since you are on a tight budget and you are used to DX, I would look at the D7100 or a used D700 as options. I am sure you can rent both, so why not try them both out before deciding what you like best? :)

      • 83
        ) Prof. G.

        Dear Nassim and all who offered sound advice/tips — thank you very much — love this site — so much real world experience.

        I did rent the d800 — found it handled quite similarly to my D200 (with the Battery Grip) — it was for a Seal Watch Cruise — unfortunately the seals did not cooperate — at least 100 yards away — even with my 300mm f/4 and tc17 — also 70-200mm f/2.8 VR — could not crop enough to get a decent photo.
        Will be heading out at the end of April with the Audubon Society for a similar excursion — thinking about renting a D600.
        I can NOT afford the 400, 500, or 600mm lenses —
        I am concerned about negative comments regarding build quality — are those concerns valid? I don’t plan on hitting the seal with the camera — lol.
        Will be using the same aforementioned Lenses and combo.
        Also, probably bring along my F100 (yes, real 35mm film) — shooting ISO 400 film — only problem is sending it into Manhattan for decent professional processing.
        Best regards and thanks again.

        • You are most welcome!

          I would still try the D7100 and the D700 and see what you think of both. Choose what works for you – sometimes smaller is better, sometimes FX makes more sense. As long as you are happy with the results :)

    • 80
      ) Colin Scott

      Prof G.

      I fully sympathise as, I too am retired and on limited income (but mad and spending it on bird photography).

      Even with a 500mm f4, I often find myself short of reach . The only real answer is time and patience and wait for the birds to come close. At least, time is cheap for us!

      In the early morning/ late evening the birds tend to be more confiding but, of course the light levels are low and you need good high ISO performance. My D300s is fine at ISO 400, 1600 is noisy but tolerable for my purposes (happy amateur) and 3200 is just plain awful. The D4 is unbelievable. ISO 3200 is a walk in the park and even ISO 12800 is acceptable (to me) with a bit of work in Lightroom.

      What did I lose from giving up the DX “crop factor”? A lot of money, of course…That’s it! Which, I believe is Nasim’s argument.

      IMO any of the new FX sensors would be a massive upgrade from your D200. However, I suspect you are wary of the lower build quality of the D600 (as was I) not to mention the QA problems.

      If you could find a used D3s d3, or even D700, you would get fantastic build quality and IQ along with great high ISO performance (particularly the D3s) which would allow you to shoot earlier and later.

      • Colin, I think the key to birding is to find the ones that are approachable, the ones that don’t care about people and might be too busy doing other things, or the “young and stupid” that are curious. Here in Colorado, it is often impossible to get close to herons. As soon as they see you from a distance, they take off. If you fly in to Florida and go to some parks, those herons could stay a couple of feet away from you and not care. Another example if bald eagles – you can’t get anywhere close to them here, while in other places they could just camp right in front of you. So I would say that traveling to places and finding where certain species tolerate people the most is the best way to get close. Take Bosque Del Apache, or Bolsa Chica for example – truly marvellous places for chasing birds :)

        • 180
          ) Henrik Manoochehri

          Dear nasim;
          Upper Newport Bay, very near Bolsa Chica is a superior place in my humble amateur opinion. I was always able to get closer to birds there than Bolsa Chica, though i only shot at Bolsa Chica a couple of times. This is especially true during high tide. And it doesn’t hurt that you can drive your car or ride your bike right up to where you can set up your tripod.

    • 154
      ) KSPGM

      Prof G,

      You will not get many on this site to tell you this … but please try a used Nikon V1 + FT1 You have the lenses and you could probably get this set up for £300. You might be amazed by what you can achieve!

      See my posts above on similar issues…

      • I thought of this with V2 body + FT1 but at ISO 1600 and above the in camera noise correction makes the image look like a painting, at least what I saw in sample images at DPreviw. The DX sensor is much larger and holds pretty much detailed image than the CX sensor.
        D800 in DX mode gives even better results than a D7000;s whole picture at higher ISOs. But of course the crop factor is not 2.7x.
        However it will be interesting to see some good shots from D7100′s crop of DX mode as it is nearly 16MP.
        I still consider a 300 F4 +1 TC 14E II or 80-400 VR 2 + D7100′s 1.3x crop mode very interesting.

        • 157
          ) KSPGM

          Prof G’s concern seemed to ‘available money’. If you have the money and the strength to carry the gear, then ‘go FX’. That is Nasim’s advice I believe.

          he, like me, also has some great DX/FX tele lenses to play with.

          what I am suggesting is a way of doing this sort of photography on a budget. How to get 600 mm of ‘reach’ without spending a small fortune. The CX route is a possibility that deserves some serious examination not just ‘rumour and inuendo’. try Brad Hill’s critcal review, for instance:

          http://www.naturalart.ca/artist/fieldtests/fieldtest_NikonV1.html

          That said, I shoot my V2 in RAW and generally hold ISO to 800 or below ….. but then I am not expecting miracles from a £500 camera! . . . but that does not mean I cannot get great shots … I just have to work a bit harder…

          • Hmm .OK after reading his first post and gear he has a D7100 body can be bought by selling one of his similar FL lenses eg. 28-300 and D200 included , or the Canon’s new bridge zoom having 1000mm is giving very good results than the V1 or V2 bodies despite having smaller sensor.

            So, my suggested D7100 + 300 F4 + TC14 in crop of DX mode getting 15.4 MP is a better suggestion ,all he has to do is to get a D7100 body ,other stuff he already has and that gear he owns is not of “limited” budget ;)
            Clean shots at ISO 1600 is the minimum target not 800.

            BYW ,have you anything to share with your V1 shots or still working hard ;)

  20. 28
    ) Peter

    Agree with your summary completely. That’s why I dumped all of my DX lenses and camera a while back and used the money to buy a D700. Never looked back.

    By the way, if anyone wants to dump their DX stuff and wants no part of eBay, compare the used camera prices at KEH and B&H. Recently, I found B&H offered the best prices by far.

    • Peter, I think you would be better off with selling your used gear on Craigslist or Ebay. From what I remember, B&H offered only several hundred dollars for a used D700, which is too low :(

      • 81
        ) Peter

        I am willing to take less money for my used stuff than having do deal with some of the people that I’ve dealt with on eBay and Craigslist. A reputable B&H is better than dealing with Ernie Smutz from East Hartford, CT or Jerry Jerk from Ontario who said he never got the lens that I sent him.

        I’m 72, don’t need the extra money, and would rather have some peace-of-mind than having to deal directly with morons for the sake of a few bucks. Age does have its upsides.

        • LOL Peter, true – some people from Craiglist are downright scary. I also try to avoid dealing with meeting people I do not know :)

  21. 31
    ) Tom I

    Can you explain the math regarding your statement “…Nikon D7100 has 24 MP of resolution, which, if we convert to full-frame would result in a 56 MP camera.” I thought the DX sensor was 40% the size of an FX sensor. If so would that not make the FX conversion a 60 MP camera and not 56MP?

    • 35
      ) mpe

      It’s easy. A pixel or photosite area on D7100 is 15.21 µm².

      If you do the math, you can see that you can get put about 56M of these to FX area (861.6 mm² = 35.9 x 24 mm).

    • Tom, MPE already answered the question – it is not the size of the sensor that you multiply with, but it is the pixel size. If you don’t know what it is, simply divide the horizontal size of the sensor (say 35) to the horizontal image resolution (say 6000 pixels) and then multiply the result by 1000. You will get the pixel size :)

  22. 33
    ) mpe

    Great article! Many people indeed dont’ understand that cropping means just taking out the pixels nothing more. If you have enough pixels you can alwasy do it in the post.The pixel density is what matters.

    Two notes:

    - better coverage of the AF points in the viewfinder can be still seen as true advantage of DX cameras at the moment. it is more an issue for static shoots (like perched birds) than birds in flight. Ability to select better located AF point ouside the center of the frame can save me from recomposing. This is especially convenient if you are on tripod with ball-head. There is a question whether the future FX cameras can do something about it as it is a matter of reasonably sized mirror and AF module. For moving subject I think it is less an issue as I was able to get the most consistent results with central point (and dynamic area AF pattern) only.

    - Preferring D700 over D7100 can be tricky. Having shoot wildlife with my D700 last 3 years I found it limiting to have just about 5 megapixels in DX crop area. You have 24 megapixels on the same space D7100 and that’s a difference. That’s why the D7100 have the same reach (reach is ability of camera to pull details out of your distant subject). If you want detailed picture with some cropping freedom you need to either use longer lens or get closer to your subject with D700. Both could be quite tricky. I would take D600/D800 or even D4 over D7100 any day. I would think twice before preferring D700 over D7100. There is a good chance that low-noise performance of D700 could be gone if you compare 5 megapixel pictures. That was my primary reason why I upgraded to higher res FX camera.

    • MPE, true, bigger AF spread can be an advantage, but since those corner AF points lack precision, I often end up using the focus and recompose technique instead.

      As for D700 vs D7100, why would you need to shoot in DX crop with it? I never shoot mine in DX crop mode, I crop in post. The D700 gives very clean images, so I often even just do 100% crops, which give me enough sharpness and detail. And of course I would take the D600 or D800 over D700 anytime, but my point is, even the last generation FX for me is better than the newest generation DX.

      I shoot with the D3s, D600, D700 and D800E camera bodies. Love all four for different reasons :)

      • 86
        ) keith

        Nasim, I’ve been looking back and comparing my bird photographs with a D700 and now with a D7100. I simply cannot see the extra quality in the D700 images. ISO noise in the D7100 is about 2/3 of a stop more than the D700 which is confirmed in the DXOmark sensor scores. The major difference between the two is the image size from the D7100 is more than double that from the D700 and that is what really separates the two bodies.
        I was comparing some of my test shots of the same target (same distance and lens) taken with the two cameras and the extra detail revealed by the D7100 was remarkable. I tried to convince myself once that the D700 was the way to go for bird photography compared to DX but my experience has told me different.
        The newer FX bodies are a different story but we shall have to agree to disagree on the D700 vs D7100

        • Keith, I will spend some time testing the two environments to see what I prefer more. Sometimes it is not just about what you get, but about how it feels and handles in your hands, etc. From that perspective, D700 feels more solid to me. Plus, it has the right buttons like AF-ON that I rely on all the time. I don’t like the fact that Nikon moved the AE-L/AF-L button away from the rear dial – makes it painful to use that button for acquiring focus.

  23. 34
    ) Stan Euly

    Great article! I now understand the difference between DX vs FX.

    • Stan, this one is a bit complex. If you want something that is easy to read and understand, take a look at my FX vs DX article.

  24. 41
    ) Goker

    Hi everyone,

    The major advantage of dx over fx is the denser pixels in a smaller sensor area that accomodates more details.

    Now, as Nasim pointed out, this difference is becoming less significant with the introduction of fx cameras such as the d800 or the d600. Also, their prices have been dropped. So, really no reason left to push over to dx. fx already contains dx inside. In other words, fx has more coverage.

    dx format may not die totally in the future, but I think that it will be like the compact cameras of todays world. fx will surely dominate the pro and the semi-pro photography world.

    Now, the real problem with the wildlife photography is not the “dx or fx” discussion. With the inceasing resolution on the sensors in time, eventually, the problem will boil down to the limits of the lenses. In todays cameras, we are already pushing the resolving power of the lenses. The question is what limits the resolution of the lenses ? The answer is “diffraction”. The visible light has three major frequencies that correspond to the three major colors, the blue, the green, and the red. Now each one of them has the wavelengths of 0.4um, 0.5um, and 0.7um respectively. For a diffaction limited lens, the resolution is proportional to the aperture. In other words, for a large aperture lens (small f number) it can resolve more. As an example, an f/2.8 lens can resolve 206, 107, and 67 mega pixels corresponding to the three wavelengths on an aps-c sensor, where as an f/5.6 lens can resolve 51, 27 and 17 mp for the same wavelengths. Thus, if you have a 24mp camera on an aps-c sensor such as the d7100, this means that the camera is already filtering out some part of the red spectrum. This is also why faster lenses that are made of the same quality optics, with the same sd elements ect.., have better sharpness than the slower counterparts. Try to put a tc-17e on an f/4 lens such as the 500 vr, and put it on a f/2.8 lens such as the 400/2.8 vr or 300/2.8 vr, see which is better.

    In summary, I beilive the fx cameras will continue to evolve both in resolution as well as iso performances, but the improvements will shift towards the quality (iso) more than the resolution after we reach the diffaction limits.

    Thank you all, and Nasim for useful informations.

    • Goker, great perspective on lens limits and diffraction – certainly a concern for high resolution sensors. Nikon has been on a spree with high megapixel sensors and some of the lenses that used to be excellent are already not good enough. So by going with too many pixels, they will have the problem of updating the lens line, especially for DX.

  25. 45
    ) Jon McGuffin

    Great article, very comprehensive and all so true.

    I will throw out a few things though worth consideration for anybody on the fence with the D7100 and say an older generation body like a FX D700. (I own D7100 + D700).

    For the wind that just came out of the sails for everybody waiting for the D400, I wouldn’t let it. There is more to a camera than sensor size. The D7100 is not a professional “built” body. When I head out for a shoot, I find myself grabbing that D700 more because of the stronger, rugged build than I do anything else. There are times I just need a basic shooting camera though and for those times, the D7100 works great. I feel the AF performance is in the neighborhood of the D700 performance wise.

    If I were shooting sports daily or birding, etc. I might feel differently but unless you’re doing that kind of activity, I don’t see the differences being much or anything. ISO performance is good on the D700, it’s pretty good on the D7100. Feels like about a stop or so. LCD on the D7100 is *much* better, I’m really surprised this is not getting more publicity. I love the bright, clear, LCD that seems to be giving me a more accurate rendition of the final photo than what I ever get on my D700.

    DX format shouldn’t die because it’s frankly enough for the majority of shooters. There are features in the d7100 (/1250′th flash sync, bracketing options, 1/8000th shutter, etc) that you can’t have in the entry level FX. So the price difference could very well be over $1,000 between DX and the equivalent FX.

    That’s a lot of dough that can towards glass which I think we’d all agree goes a long ways towards quality images. Don’t believe me? Head over to 500px or Flickr and do a search for images on DX bodies vs FX. There are great images shot on both formats.

    • Jon, agreed, that’s certainly something to keep in mind. Like I pointed out in one of my comments above – I don’t like the ergonomics of a lower-end body, whether it is the D600 or the D7100. The lack of the AF-ON button, lack of being able to zoom in to 100 with a single button on the D600 and other inconveniences are simply annoying.

      And I agree – the LCD screen on the D7100 is beautiful, much better than on the older bodies.

      As for the DX future, what I wrote is my personal opinion, judging from what I see happening in the mirrorless market. With cheaper FX bodies coming into play and mirrorless moving up, DX is getting squeezed from both sides. The format will probably be available for a long time, since many people invested in DX and manufacturers have been doing it for a while now, but it will probably be a small niche that will diminish overtime…

      • 111
        ) Ads

        Its probably more accurate to say DX DSLRs may have a limited future – DX/APS-C sensors will be around for a long time, its just they will likely be in mirrorless like the Sony NEX in future (I think that finer point is confusng a few people Nasim)

      • 128
        ) keith

        “lack of being able to zoom in to 100% with a single button”
        D7100 will do that :)

  26. 52
    ) Sreejib

    Dear Nassim,
    Thank you very much for the unique information. But, still I have some confusion with the following points.
    1. If I use Nikon D800 in DX mode, does the camera handle the same low noise level at high ISO?
    2. The Depth Of Field impact will be the same in DX mode?
    3. The size of viewfinder remain same in DX mode?
    Once again thank you Nasim & awaiting for your reply.

    • Sreejib,

      1) It depends on what you are doing. D800 has a down-sampling advantage compared to DX and other FX cameras. If you shoot in DX mode, you are limiting those options and making the D800 more like a D7000.
      2) If you are not changing the perspective by moving closer or adjusting other factors, then depth of field stays the same.
      3) Viewfinder will stay the same, because it is optical, but you will see the DX frame appear there.

      • 119
        ) Sreejib

        Thanks Nasim,
        For your prompt reply. It’s really help me out form the confusions. Now it’s clear to me that if I have shoot wild life or bird photography with the Nikon D800 cropping in post processing software is the better option instead of using it in DX mode.

  27. 61
    ) Tom

    No matter how you try and slice it, if you compare a 24mp DX sensor to a 24mp FX sensor, the actual pixel size on the FX sensor is larger. Larger pixels equate to less noise. Less noise means you can use higher ISOs. For wildlife photography that means you can use a higher shutter speed, thus there is less likely to be blur from SUBJECT movement. Now if you want your 300mm FX lens to be “450mm” [sic], then just use the very center portion of your FX image. True, the DX camera will show the same area “enlarged” which can be an advantage if you use manual focus. Unfortunately the plus of the “450mm” lens is negated by the 20mm FX lens that is now a “30mm” lens on the DX camera.

    There are way too many other issues that go beyond technical discussions but matter far more in what your end result is. Most of don’t take photos of lens charts so lets leave it at that, and remember the last sentence in Nasim’s discussion. “It is not the gear, it is the guy behind the camera :)”

    • Tom, agreed, larger pixels or more smaller pixels, but on the same size sensor always win (D4 vs D800) compared to DX – exactly my point in the above article. At the end of the day, however, it is always about the technique, experience, vision, post-processing ,etc.

  28. 69
    ) William

    While you bring up a number of interesting points in regards to image quality and resolution, there is still the question of practical use. FX certainly seems to be a great option for wildlife photographers and enthusiast sports shooters.

    However, those of us who shoot sports on deadlines tend to prefer DX cameras for other reasons. For one, I COULD go out and shoot a d800 in DX mode, but I’m still going to come back with rather large files that I’m going to have to downsize anyway, because quite often I have to have my files edited and transmitted on location and as fast as possible.

    Furthermore, I find most FX cameras have slower AF when shooting in low light situations. I’ve shot high school football with a d300, d7000, and d600. The d600 easily had the worst AF for night shooting. It doesn’t matter to me that I can crank the ISO up to 3200 vs. 2000 on the d300, because I’m more concerned with getting the best peak action shots. I can always run my shots through noise reduction in post, but I can’t go back and refocus that missed touchdown run or blocked kick, and I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the next game.

    The one FX camera that I’ve heard great things about for sports shooting is the Canon 5D MarkIII, but I can’t back that up with any personal experience.

    I love my d600 and use it 90% of the time. The high ISO performance makes it great for indoor events, but if I’m shooting night football or indoor basketball, I’m bringing the d300.

    • 70
      ) William

      I meant to add that the resolution on a DX camera is fine for most printing purposes, as I rarely have ever seen the need to print a football picture at poster sizes or larger. Most people who order sports prints tend to go for an 8×10 or smaller.

      Wildlife and nature photography is obviously a different story.

    • William, if you shoot the D800 in DX mode, you will end up with much smaller files and your frame rate will increase. So you do not have to downsample in DX mode – the image is already cropped.

      As for your FX AF performance comment, I totally disagree. In fact, that’s the strength of FX compared to DX – they are better in AF accuracy than DX in my experience. I don’t know what factors influenced the D600 performance in low light. Mine did quite well and I love what I can do with my D3s and D800 in low light. Also, you are comparing an advanced 51 point AF system with a lower-end AF system. Try to shoot with the D700 and compare low light shots with the D300, I am sure you will see the difference :)

      • 113
        ) William

        It is not just my opinion that the d600 AF is slower in low light. In addition to my personal experience, I have read numerous reviews and even watched a video comparison of the d600 with the 5D MKIII and the 60D. The d600 does not even come close, and as you stated, it has a “lower-end” AF system with all the points clustered in the middle.

  29. 72
    ) Michael

    The very best polemic article since now – and jsut right – but my pictures with the D3200 …

  30. 82
    ) Ganesh

    Hi Nasim,

    Excellent article! I used to have a D700 but that was a huge insult to that wonderful camera as I hardly used it (I’m extremely interested in photography but hardly get any time). So I switched to a D3200. For a really long time, I’ve been looking to read somewhere that the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 is a better option than the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 on a DX camera but everywhere it says if you are gonna use the 16-35 in DX camera, get the 17-55. But I just am not able to agree to that because the 16-35 has a wider angle of view and it would be using the sweet spot of the lens. The only advantage I can see on the 17-55 is the wider aperture. Or am I missing something?

    Cheers,
    Ganesh

    • Ganesh, I can’t see much reason to go with the 17-55mm anymore, unless you really need f/2.8. It is too pricey for a DX only lens. The 16-35mm is a better option in my opinion, because it has VR and it works on both FX and DX, so you do not have to worry about future compatibility issues.

      • 98
        ) Ganesh

        Thanks, Nasim. I’ll go with the 16-35 itself then. It would be a bummer for me if Nikon releases the 16-35 f/2.8 VR III within the next few months though.

  31. 93
    ) Photo Phil

    Nasim,

    Who would have thought that your well-reasoned reply to my controversial DX v. FX comment in your recent TC article would have unleashed such controversy, when you turned your reply to me into its own separate dedicated article, earlier this morning!!??

    I couldn’t have asked for a better discussion of the topic from so many different viewpoints! It seems to be as controversial as shooting RAW v. Jpg only, or Nikon v. Canon, or Mac v. PC. :)

    There are no absolutes, and the choice of each depends upon the circumstances, which include budget, weight, ultimate image use, buffer size and frame rate, turnaround time and deadlines, and ability to deal with noise in post processing (LightRoom is getting better and better at noise reduction).

    Whatever camera you have with you (even if it is just an iPhone!) beats the best camera you left at home. Whatever lens you have on that camera beats the Big Kahuna lens you left at home.

    Choice of camera bodies is also not mutually exclusive. Each has their place, and anyone that has an investment in FX glass and an FX body can benefit from ALSO owning a DX body, especially at the D7100 price point. Removable vertical grips and on camera pop-up flashes also help lighten the load when desirable, and add flexibility. We could also all use a sherpa/assistant to carry our gear for us, but usually have to carry it ourselves, which places weight limitations on what we take with us.

    Life and photography are both series of compromises. You can never have it all. Fastest delivery, best quality, and lowest price never coincide. You get to pick any two of three, at the cost of the third!

    The shooter behind the viewfinder makes those choices before ever clicking the shutter, in their choice of equipment, and the equipment settings for the task at hand, with the end result in mind!

    Happy Shooting to All!

    Photo Phil

    • Phil, that’s why I made it into an article, because I knew it would bring some heated, interesting discussions :) So far everyone has been great with their feedback and there are certainly a lot of different perspectives regarding this topic, which is what I love about our readers.

      You put it into a nice summary!

      • 106
        ) Photo Phil

        Nasim, thank you for turning it into its own article! I love the discussion as well!

        I asked this exact question of David Dentry of Nikon, some four years ago, on using the D700 with the TC-14E on the 200-400mm f/4 v. using the D300 alone on the same lens for a hypothetical African Safari, for optimal results. His answer was simply that in low light, the D700 would be preferable, but otherwise the D300 alone would likely be his first choice. I have learned far more from you and all your readers in the last few days than from Nikon’s best!

        Keep up the good work!

        Photo Phil

  32. 99
    ) Ray Schwartz

    You didn’t mention anything about bit depth difference from dx to fx

    • Ray, you mean 12 and 14-bit RAW? I think those are pretty comparable between DX and FX. The only painful part about the D300/D300s was how the cameras slowed down to 2.5 fps when shooting in 14-bit – that was a real annoyance! I believe it was fixed on all DX cameras starting from D7000 though.

      • 115
        ) Ray Schwartz

        Nasim,
        Yes I was talking RAW, I use a d3x with a d2x as backup, I don’t worry about fps, I shoot still life and portrait mostly, I just started viewing your site and fine it pretty good

  33. 100
    ) Bob

    Excellent article, Nasim.

    Let me pose a specific situation and get your take on the best approach:

    Your subject is an eagle nest. You are prohibited from getting any closer than about 350′. You are using a 600mm f4 lens. Forgetting teleconverters for the moment, would you rather crop the image from a D800 to DX or smaller, or crop the image from a D7100?

    Thanks,
    Bob

    • Bob, I assume you have that 600mm f/4 mounted on a tripod? :) For this specific situation, if ISO level is very low, the D7100 will give you more details than the D800. If the eagle takes off and you find yourself trying to photograph it in flight, then my preference is the D800.

      • 107
        ) Bob

        A Kirk window mount with a Markins ball head.

        Now, what if you add a 1.4 teleconverter to the D800?

        (The eagles do fly and I do prefer the D800, but I have used the D7100 successfully.)

        Thanks,
        Bob

        • 145
          ) Chris Weller

          As stated above. The issue is that anything above f/4 on that 600 will start to defract the red channel. f5.6 only resolved 17 mp of a dx sensor in the red channel. This makes adding a teleconverter to an f/4 lens on a high resolution sensor, then stopping down 1 stop to pick up clarity a real problem. At that point you would be better of with a 24 mp fX sensor than a 24 mp dx sensor.

          I only partially agree with all of Nasim’s opinions. But I must say that I am glad someone is addressing them in a factual and comprehensive manner, so people can draw their own conclusions for their own shooting scenarios. Any one factor could swing your conclusion one way or the other. ISO, F stop, AF coverage can vary between scenarios. If I could shoot 400mm 2.8 lense wide open or with a 1.4 converter, I would prefer DX all the way to 16mp, maybe even 24.

          But if I have to shoot a 300 f/4 with a 1.4, I would prefer a 24 mp fX to a 24 mp dx or even a 16 mp dx. Having said that I find the coverage of my af points restrictive on the fx cameras. THis new 1.3 crop on the d7100 is awesome for tracking af. Nothing in the fx realm can touch it.

          Bottom line for me is that I won’t shoot DX above a 16 MP sensor. If the new D400 (if it comes out) is 16, maybe 18 MP, I’ll buy it and use it for birding and wildlife (prefering it over my D4 even). If it’s 24 MP, I’m stuck in the middle. My D600 at 24 doesn’t have the AF quality or the other features I need and my D4 lacks the pixel density for small criters.

  34. 108
    ) Craig

    This might be a time to have an article on depth of field. I find so many photographers including professional photographers, not getting it right.
    Some have it in their mind that it’s the angle of view of the lens that determines its depth of field. They can’t seem to get it through their head that is the focal length of the lens the determines depth of field. A 90 mm lens is a 90 mm lens regardless what camera you put it on. Put a 90 mm lens on a 35 camera mm and you have a moderate telephoto. Put a 90 mm lens on a DX sensor camera and you have a longer telephoto. Put a 90 mm on a Hasselblad medium format and you have a normal lens (actually 80 mm was its normal). Put a 90 mm on a 4 x 5 camera and you have a wide angle lens. Of course the 90 mm for the 4 x 5 would be a wide angle lens design, but it is still 90 mm. If a photo is taken with all these cameras from the same position and same f-stop, the depth of field will be the same, even though one is a telephoto lens and the other a wide angle lens.
    Let’s take a picture of a flower with the same camera. Full frame or DX, it doesn’t matter, but we will be shooting from the same distance. Make sure that both lenses are set to the same f-stop. Start with a 50 mm lens for the first shot and then switch to a 100 mm lens for the second shot. The 50 mm lens will have more depth of field because it’s a shorter lens. But, the shot made with a 100 mm lens will obviously be larger. To make the 50 mm image the same size as 100 mm image, were going to have to move the 50 mm lens closer. The depth of field advantage that we had at the same distance will be lost, because we’ve had to move closer to the subject. The pictures may look a little different side-by-side even though the flower is the same size. But this is a matter of perspective, the effect of space and depth, which is a completely new subject.
    Okay that was my example. Now let me quote from Andreas Feininger, who is probably my most favorite photographer during the time that I was I was just getting started in photography, which was the mid-60s. One of many of his great books “The Complete Photographer”.
    The focal length of the lens. In practice, the shorter the focal length of the lens, the greater the extension in depth sharply covered by a given diaphragm stop. However, this is true only as long as lenses of different focal lengths are used from the same working distance. If identical f-stops are used and if the image size on the film is the same, the extent of the sharply rendered zone in depth is also the same, regardless of the focal length of the lens. For example, if a portrait is taken with a lens of 50 mm focal length from a distance of 3 feet, and another shot is made with a lens of 200 mm focal length from a distance of 12 feet, the scale of both images will, of course, be the same. And if both pictures are made with identical diaphragm stops, depth of field will also be the same in both, although one was made with a short focus and the other with a long focus lens. However, as we will see later, the perspective of the two pictures would be different.

    • 131
      ) Alexander

      “If a photo is taken with all these cameras from the same position and same f-stop, the depth of field will be the same, even though one is a telephoto lens and the other a wide angle lens.”

      This is incorrect. The circle of confusion criterion, which ultimately determines DOF, scales with sensor size. This is why a physically unchanged projection (like the one your 90mm example) will result in different pictures with different DOF values when falling on differently sized sensors.

  35. 109
    ) treat

    “At the end of the day, however, keep something else in mind – any camera, whether DX or FX is capable of producing excellent results. It is not the gear, it is the guy behind the camera :)”

    Always true.

  36. 114
    ) Ads

    Great article Nassim – and very timely for someone like me looking to upgrade :-) Deciding between the D800 and the D600, and I have a question re: high ISO noise.

    At pixel level the D600 has less noise at high ISO than an 800 from what I’ve seen, but in your experience are the 2 comparable noise-wise with the D800 file downsampled to 24mp?

    Moving from DX to FX primarily for ISO performance, as I often shoot in forests and light can be pretty limited, but my budget doesn’t stretch to a D4 :-) Feature-wise the features of the D600 are fine for what I do, so its really just image quality I’m looking at between the 2 bodies.

  37. 116
    ) Birder

    I disagree that DX is dead or dying. DX is what most people with DSLRs currently shoot and it is what they continue to want to shoot. Perhaps FX is slightly better in terms of sensitivity but one has to consider the trade-offs namely size and cost. As a amateur bird photographer who cannot afford to buy big glass (and frankly has no desire to carry it), I see no reason to own a large expensive camera only to crop out the center of the frame.

    The resolution of the D800 falls short the D7100, is heavier, and costs approx. 3 times as much. In fact, the price difference between these cameras would afford some nice glass! It is widely accepted that good glass outperforms a good body and DX lenses are inherently smaller and therefore should be less expensive than FX lenses. It is really too bad that Nikon refuses to provide the glass that their DX customers demand. In my opinion this is by design as they want to “direct” customers into their more expensive pro line.

    In the long run it is FX that will become obsolete. How many pros still shoot large or even medium format? How many consumers are satisfied with the results they get with their phone’s camera? When technology permits, size and cost will win every time.

    • 120
      ) MartinG

      I cannot agree with you. You assume dollars will drive decisions in a field where quality is what we strive for.

      Quite a few pros use MF. Some may find they only need FX as cameras like the 800 and 800e start to become more popular.

      If the 7100 had more resolution, it would be a complete reversal of the idea that larger sensors have better resolution. There are side by side images comparing a D4 with a 7100 and they seem to suggest you may be mistaken.

    • 123
      ) Ads

      If you look at the sidelines of pretty much any major sporting event you’ll see that there are many, many pros shooting FX/full frame.

      True the price difference will buy better glass, but if you’re a pro that already has the right glass that’s a moot point.

      These days there’s almost no such thing as a bad camera, so this isn’t an indictment of current DX, but the success of the NEX series says to me we’ll reach a point someday where most if not all DX sensor cameras are mirrorless, as you’re right, “size and cost will win every time”, and mirrorless DX has both of those over a DSLR DX.

      • 130
        ) Birder

        “In DX mode, the camera (D800) resolution is reduced to 15.4 MP, which is pretty close to the native resolution of 16.2 MP on the D7000. ” The D7100 has a resolution of 24 MP. “So at the end of the day, taking a DX image and down-sampling it aggressively, versus simply cropping an FX image produced somewhat similar results, with a slight advantage on DX that resulted in more detailed shots, thanks to the down-sampling process.”

        In any case I’m not arguing that DX is better than FX for image quality. I am arguing that the majority of people can/will not afford pro cameras and lenses. In the case of bird photography a pro body, tele lens and tripod runs easily 10-12K and weighs 10-12 lbs. I am willing to bet that there are a lot more non-pros that will opt for a cheaper and lighter solution.

        When the benefits of mirrorless outweigh the drawbacks I am sure we will see it on all cameras including FX. Currently the Sony mirrorless DSLRs are quite good with very high fps, low cost and most importantly expected ergonomics (grip, button layout, control dials etc). The downsides of mirrorless (today) is the loss of light and some lag in the EFV.

        • 133
          ) MartinG

          The DX mode is not something I use on the D800, I can’t see any evidence FX will disappear before DX. I have used both DX and FX for birding. The DX was good value but as Nasim points out you need to buy the FX lenses anyway. Where are the DX (light and cheaper) quality telephoto lenses? A 300 2.8 plus a TC20e III is spectacular on a DX body, but it is an FX lens and costs a huge amount. ( I was lucky enough to borrow one for a day).
          On the other hand in situations when I needed great low light performance rather than reach the DX I used just wasn’t good enough. To be specific the very rare bird we had stumbled across (Hylomanes momotula) was captured but the low light quality made the images unusable. We heard the bird in the early morning deep in the rainforest and then when we turned around, there he was.
          If you look back at my earlier question you will see I am still considering adding a 7100 as a second body, I see a role for it alright, but I cannot say I would rely on DX alone ever again.

        • 144
          ) Ads

          Yup – but if you read Nassim’s comments he said that the article was aimed at people who could afford either FX or DX but were choosing DX for reach.

          If DX is what you can afford its a different situation – get the DX that suits your needs best and work on your technique, which is 95% of each shot. In a lot of situations you can still get great shots, but in low light you’ll miss some (due to either noise or having to use as slower shutter speed).

          And yeah, mirrorless still has a ways to go to match current DSLR performance, but all indications are that it will in the future, and I just don’t see your claim that FX will be the one gobbled up by mirrorless, when mirrorless is cannabalising the bottom end (DX) of the market – obviously we differ on that point…

      • 160
        ) Mark

        With a DX camera you just shoot one stop more open and you have the same low light capability and shallow depth of field like on a FX. And 2 bit more dynamic range and one bit more color depth of FX will hardly be noticed in everydays life.

        • 162
          ) Ads

          ok so I’m shooting a 300mm f2.8 at 2.8 on an FX – how exactly do I shoot that lens 1 stop wider open?

          You are assuming a) that there is only 1 stop difference (hint, its more than that depending on the body you’re talking about) and b) that the FX shooter is shooting the lens stopped down in low light in the first place which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

          PS dynamic range is measured in stops not bits – 2 stops is actually a lot…

          • 165
            ) mark

            as dx user just buy with one stop bigger aperture. instead of 50mm 1.8 you buy 50mm 1.4. then you nearly have the low light ability of fx

            • 167
              ) Ads

              The article disxusses wildlife photography – 50mm isn’t going to cut it for any kind of wildlife shooting and I don’t know of aanuone making a 1.4 super telephoto…

              Besides if the FX shooter buys a 1.4 they will still have better low light ability than DX.

          • 170
            ) Mark

            yes, your “besides” is true enough, but for this one stop you pay over tenthousend dollars to change to full fx equipment. is that worth it for people who dont make a living with it…? if fx would really have much better image quality maybe, but dxo marks let me belive there is nowaddys just a tiny difference left

            • 171
              ) Ads

              DX is definitely cheaper, but I,m nit sure where you are getting a $10,000 peice difference from. 1k is the difference between DX and FX body wise (2k if you are stretching to a D800) and its not going to cost anything like $8,000-9,000 for a longer lens.

              plus as I said befoee the difference is at least 2 stops.

              Sure the extra cost may not be affordable at all for some shooters, but as Nassim said, this article is aimed at people who can afford both.

          • 172
            ) Mark

            Hi Ads

            (just the basics: fx body and fx normal lens and a good fx wide angle lens and a good fx tele lens will summarize to about 10’000$)

            But much more intersting and about our topic:
            Where do you get the TWO stops from? As far as I know 1 stop doubles the amount of incomming light. And the step in sensor size from DX to FX is also about a little tiny bit more than the double. Besides dxo marks also states that iso-performance of FX is a little bit better than double. Why do you think its two stops?

            And the most important question (from our other thread): DO YOU THINK 2 BIT MORE DYNAMIC RANGE AND 1 BIT MORE COLOR DEPTH IS VISIBLE FOR THE AVERAGE EYE? My feeling (without practice) tells me not. Do you have experience, what do you think?

            • 173
              ) Ads

              you said 10k for the extra stop of light compared to a DX setup, then you’ve forgotren about the cost of the DX setup itself – you are talking the cost of ALL stops, not the extra one.

              2 stops comes from shooting cameras. The highest ISO I can shoot with a D7100 noise-wise is 1600 before its too noisy for my uses – D600 I can shoot with no issues to 6400, 12800 is borderline – hence at least 2 stops. You need to put less faith in DXO…

              1 bit in colour may not be noticeable, 2 stops in DR is DEFINITELY noticeable when doing shadow recovery and such – it makes for less lost shots.

              Look, keep shooting DX if that’s what you can afford but ignoring budget as this article does FX produces better shots – otherwise pros wouldn’t waste their money on more expensive gear – it would be money out of their pocket for nothing.

  38. 117
    ) Stephen Berger

    Thanks for this. My first foray into full frame was the D600 but I quickly exchanged for the D800.

    The D800 is THE camera for me specifically because I get all of the benefits of just about the best (or the best) full frame sensor ever made – and all of the tonal beauty, shallow DOF control and high iso low noise that comes with it – plus the reach of DX in either DX mode or by cropping while maintaining the aforementioned full frame tonal benefits. I am over the moon!

  39. 122
    ) Iqbal

    LOL, I sometimes see people with full frame camera, but still their flashes pop out automatically while framing :)

  40. 124
    ) Toni

    It’s a simple thing: DX and DX lens are cheaper. FX and FX lens are more expensive, but are a lot better in noise terms, especially if you “edit” your raws.
    So… If you don’t have much money, buy DX. Otherwise, buy FX.

    • There are cheaper FX lenses and sharper too ,if you look beyond G lenses :)

  41. I used to shoot wildlife with a DX sensor and was perfectly happy with the results. Many of them made the cover of a national magazine here as a series for 12 issues. I thought when moving to FX that I might lose a bit of reach. But having used the 70-200mm VRII + 1.7x TC on FX I had no problems capturing wildlife. If anything, I think it forces the discipline of learning to get closer to your subject, which IMHO, yields better images. Although getting close to wild alligators can be a little unnerving! :)

    Plenty of my FX (+TC) wildlife examples here:
    http://alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog/post/FloridaWildlife

    • 161
      ) Jana

      you forgot to implement picture details in file and on web site

  42. Great explanation and review Boss :)
    You saved me from a lot of answers ,now I’ll just paste the link to this page :)

    cheers!

  43. 129
    ) Mera

    Nasim,
    Great article. I’m getting back into photography In a more serious way after many years of happy snapping, so I still have a 35mm film frame of mind. I have been trying to understand the real benefits of DX v FX given the different world of cropping and image processing which digital offers. Your comments help a lot.
    I still have one question which is around shorter primes and cropping/editing v’s longer primes and zooms.
    Do you think you would be better served by having a 85mm f1.8 and a 135mm f2.0 and cropping images to frame them correctly, or going for a lense such as the 80 – 200 f2.8 (or the f4). I’m assuming that I would use a camera such as the D800.
    Thanks.

  44. 132
    ) Subodh

    Hi Nasim,
    Excellent article and clarified lots of doubts.

    If I follow the article, understood it correctly and take only example of D800 (FX) and D7000 (DX) combo then Image Quality & Noise level at High ISO of D800 in DX model should be much better (similar to same in FX mode) as compare to D7000.

    Noise Level D800 vs D7000 as DXO is 2,853 ISO vs 1,167 ISO, i.e. the D800 has excellent image quality 1.3 f-stops higher ISO than the D7000

    Will the performance of D800 in DX mode also have similar difference i.e. 2853 vs 1167?

    Thanks

  45. 134
    ) David B

    Great article Nasim and I totally agree with you here on every point. I think DX in DSLR is a dying breed, although mfrs will try to keep it going for another few years. After all Canon Rebels and cheaper Nikon DXXXX are the bestsellers. And at this point, the size and weight advantage is clearly there (things like Sony RX1 aside). My wife for example states that D7000 is the largest camera she is willing to carry. And D7000 with my very sharp first version of Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 is indeed a very light package that my wife can carry an entire day without even complaining. She always complained about D700′s weight with lenses. On the other hand she does not find Olympus OMD comfortable and prefers the feel, viewfinder, and shooting experience of a small DSLR.

    Now this article is about wildlife and sports photography specifically and for that specific purpuse I agree with you 100%

  46. 135
    ) Roshan Vijay

    Excellent article! This cleared up a lot of doubts I had regarding sensor sizes.. And indeed, shooting with FX is a much better experience than DX as I have seen while comparing my D200 and D800E. DX is slowly becoming irrelevant in the face of falling sensor costs, and I agree with you completely.

  47. 136
    ) Kamil photo

    D7100 + 300mm f4 + 1.4x extender @f8 + iso800 will give you plenty of details. To get the same detail with d800, you need to spend “a lot more” including the d800 itself and the lens would be larger. If I am rich, no problem. But DX’s advantage is obvious. It’s funny that d600 is given as “cheap FF alternative” but with subpar AF and only 24MP it’s no contender for telephoto shots.
    ISO 1600 and even 3200 would be fine with d7100 if you downscale to 16MP which is already more than enough for % 95.

  48. 137
    ) Jay

    Excellent technical explanation. After >60K clicks on the D4, 8K on the D7100, >20K on the D800, >80K on the D7000 and >180k on the D3S shooting mostly wildlife I can say that my preference based on field experience is:

    1. D4 – frame rate and iso are key for early morning and evening shots and when working in the forest. Its the go to body for birds in flight and fast action. D800 does not have the frame rate for the critical moment in many shots. I would rather have 3 shots of the key action than 1 shot. Only downside is the smaller file sizes for printing (the true final product). Fortunately OnOne helps in this regard.

    2. D3s for the same reasons.

    3. D7100. It’s pretty good in practice. AF seems to be pretty damn good and I do not see a difference vs the D800 (just my experiences in early AM bird shooting with 600mm f/4). Plus larger uncropped file sizes make for larger prints. Six FPS is getting there, 8 would be a winner. Great on a 500mm for creeping close and shooting handheld.

    4. D800. Shoot sitting or resting subjects no problem. It just falls apart when action is taking place. Have the buffer fill when you are shooting an eagle trying to lift a large fish our of the water and the crop/downsize arguments are meaningless. If there is a D4x with the D800 sensor and a faster frame rate = winner.

  49. 138
    ) Leon Besaans

    Nice article, and one without a final result. I shoot birdies 90% of the time and enjoy the odd landscape, I shoot DX (D7000), with 400f2.8 and 1.4TC, and my results are more than I will ever need. As a matter of fact, If I posted/ printed some images you would not be able to tell if it was shot with a DX or an FX camera. Even pictures I have printed from my D90 at ISO 1600 is more than you will ever need.

    I once rented a D700 for a weekend, hoping to buy such, but I can tell you that it never really made such a great impression on me. When I compared the pictures from them both and looked at the cost difference between FX and DX I could hardly justify the increased cost of the FX camera.

    People really make to much of this FX/ DX thing, really, find what works for you and then squeeze everything out of it you can, and yes, get a tripod.

    Regards,

    Leon

    • 147
      ) keith

      +1

    • 164
      ) Jon McGuffin

      This is a good post and the point I was hinting at earlier..

      FX is truly superior to DX when you really real it down as Nasim has done quite competently. But in practice, were arguing Lamborghini vs Ferrari here… The differences I don’t think really warrant the cost differential for “most” people.

      Put it this way, if the D7100 and the D800 were the same price, which camera would you pick up? My guess is the VAST majority would grab the D800 and deal with the minimal shortcomings. FX is better… However they’re not the same and these new good DX cameras are quite powerful and if a lesser cost allows you the ability to get better glass, by all means…

  50. I use a D800E for some of my sports photography. I assigned one of the function buttons to be used with the dial to change from FX, to 1:2 and/or DX (depending on the sport and lens). Depending on how far away the action is, I change back and forth throughout the game, knowing that the net effect is to reduce the amount of image I will need to edit away, and it thereby decreases the amount of storage capacity I need, plus reduces my edit time. A lens with max reach of 300mm has an AoV of 360 in 1:2 and of 450 in DX. All the benefits of DX and FX at the same time.

  51. 140
    ) Steven

    Under Section MultiCAM 3500DX vs 3500FX

    One reason 3500 FX is better is its individual AF sensors are more concentrated than its DX counterpart. So on using AF-C with 9-point area, 3500 FX’s 9 AF sensors have a higher chance to enclose (and hence lock in) the subject than the DX system. I shoot a lot on kids on swings. Despite the chains get in the way from time to time, they seldom bother an FX system. On DX, as soon as peripheral AF sensors ‘see’ the chains accidentally, AF becomes off. Try it, it is fun.

    • 141
      ) keith

      “One reason 3500 FX is better is its individual AF sensors are more concentrated than its DX counterpart”
      I thought they were physically the same size. So on a the larger FX sensor it just looks more concentrated but in reality isn’t.
      DX has the advantage in fact since the focal point sensors cover a greater part of the frame.

  52. 143
    ) HomoSapiensWannaBe

    I love the image of the squirrel with a mouthful of grass!

    • It is not a squirrel, it is a rabbit :) Its name is “pika” and it lives at very high elevations and extremely cold temperatures – one of the first animals to die if the earth really heats up!

  53. 146
    ) Alexander

    Назим,
    Великолепный (как, впрочем, и всегда) образовательный материал!
    Фактически и логически безупречно.
    С уважением, Александр Карапетян.

  54. 148
    ) Gary

    “So despite having this magnification advantage, photographers had to constantly deal with cleaning up apparent noise even at low ISO levels”.

    Iv’e had work published for many years using the D300, mostly at 400 iso when photographing action/wildlife, I’ve never had an issue with noise, meaning I’ve never had to spend time on the PC cleaning up files. The D300 is superb at base iso, I’ve many front covers to prove it.

    I love your site Nasim but his is misleading,

    • 150
      ) Keith

      Gary I agree with you.
      FX shooters make a big deal of the extra noise in DX images whereas in reality it is no big problem. I can shoot at ISO 1600 with a D7100 and provided the exposure is correct the noise is easily removed with Topaz Denoise in a couple of clicks.

  55. 151
    ) Marius

    This article would have been better to be posted after a D400 release.
    Since this was targeted at pros (only), it would have been fairer to put a pro FX body (D800) against a pro DX body (not the 6 YO one).
    The D600 seem more appropriate to compare against the D7100, and while the FX sensor will still have the advantages mentioned, maybe they are not that important for an amateur as they are for a pro.
    My guess is a pro already knows what’s best for him (her), it’s the amateurs who are seeking for those articles to help them decide.

    Off topic: I really think D7100 has a place and DX should not ‘die’ in the near future. No matter how low the prices for a FX will drop, a DX with same specs will be cheaper. I accept Nikon’s wish to use FX glass for the telephoto range, but for the normal range please make a 16-50mm f/4 VR (gold ring :)) and let DX ‘live’ for longer!

    • 158
      ) Colin Scott

      Marius,

      Not that Nasim needs anyone to fight his corner but I cannot see how this article is targeted at pros only.

      IMO, and speaking as an amateur, Nasim explains the situation fairly and succinctly. I for one struggled for a long time to understand the DX “crop factor”, for example and, at the time, I struggled to find an explanation as clear as his.

      Nasim cannot be held responsible for Nikon’s policies regarding the D400. It may never see the light of day…Though many of us think it should. But, for me, this is an important article for everyone and follows on neatly from the discussion on teleconverters.

      I own and love a D300s and, as Gary says of the D300 above, at base ISO in good light, it is excellent but early and late in the day photographing birds, I have often been frustrated by the AF speed and the noise levels. There are plenty of comparisons on the web between that camera and the same generation D3s. Why would you choose the D300s? Simple: size and weight and cost. In every other way, the D3s is the winner. This not a question of disrespect for the DX camera or those who own them: it is simple reality and makes no difference whether you are amateur or pro.

  56. 152
    ) Mike

    Just getting into birding, not bad results so far, so this debate is right up my street, did experiment with my D600 and DX with 70-300mm, but did have sharpness issues due to the focus on 39 point varying between the target and it’s surrounds, so will go back to FX mode and experiment with 11 or 39 point focus points, whats the view of the experienced shooters on the focus point issue?

    • Mike, take a look at some of my birding tips here:
      http://photographylife.com/how-to-photograph-birds

      • 185
        ) Mike

        Thanks Nasim will do that, appreciate the feedback.

        As an update on the dreaded oil/dust sensor problems, since the return of the camera from Nikon UK for its FOC repair/clean, I have shot over a 1000 frames although about half have been astro shots, there are no signs of any dust or oil splatters issues, there has been plenty of lens changes and I have just done a blue sky shot just to check, nothing.

        On the Astro shots I shot at ISO1100 and achieved great results, no noise, the interval timer works a treat, once you have worked it out.

  57. 168
    ) monah

    Re focal length. I believe many, like me, when buying telelenses/telezooms go for the reach and not excatly the field of view. If a 300m brings the motive closer like a longer tele it’s a good thing. After upgrading from D7000 to D600 I sold my 80-200mm since it didn’t give me the reach I needed.

  58. 174
    ) max

    Nice article but all those words to say that bigger sensor is better?
    Blondes are better too, but i can afford a chocolate only.

    APSC will continue to rule many years to come, with or without mirror.

    Max

    • Max, yes, sometimes you have to explain why something is better in detail.

      APS-C will eventually end up in a mirrorless, but that’s beyond this article – here I am purely weighing FX vs DX for professional wildlife photography.

  59. 175
    ) Michal

    Hi Nasim,
    Nice article. Wanted to ask if you plan to write something detailed on down-sizing and noise reduction that you mentioned?

    Cheers,
    Michal

  60. 176
    ) Gregor

    I’d like some input please.
    Camera=D300
    Lenses= 24-70 70-200 VR11 50 1.4
    I can afford only one item
    Get the D600 or the 16-35 F4
    Which would be a more useful choice for landscape ?
    Anyone care to comment?
    Btw always enjoy this site . Always great input by all

    • 177
      ) sigint17

      The D600 is the obvious choice, especially if you want to do landscapes. I assume you have a good tripod.

      I currently have a D300, D600 and D4. I sold the 24-70, but have the 16-35mm [also a VR lens], and the superb 70-200mm f4 with the latest upgraded VR. I have a 50mm f1.8 which fills the gap between the 16-35mm and the 70-200mm. There is no doubt that the D600 can technically deliver better images than the D300. Still, are you doing this professionally or as an amateur? If you aren’t making giant prints, the D300 is probably adequate but the D600 has 24 mp and reasonable higher ISO performance, but isn’t in the ballpark with the D4 at high ISOs or high speed bursts photography.

      I am now routinely using the 70-200mm with TC-14E or TC-17E for macros of dragonflies and damselflies. I generally use the D4 instead of the D600 but the D600 potentially has the superior resolution image for giant prints, especially if shot at, say, ISO 200. I don’t make giant prints. I never use the D300 which I leave for my wife but generally she shoots with a Coolpix.

  61. 178
    ) Gregor

    Thank you signin17 for your input. I appreciate it.
    I am not a pro more like an advanced amateur. I used to shoot with DX lenses but since purchasing the pro lenses my photos certainly have improved in quality.
    My thinkiing right now is this.
    With the D300 the 24-70 gives me exellent results but really not wide enough. Thus the interest in the 16-35 lens.
    If I get the D600 I think the 24-70 will be okay in that respect.
    Vr is not that important to me as I use a good carbon fibre tripod. I just want the best quality I can get as an amateur.
    Thankk you again you’ve answered some of my questions.

    • Hi Gregor
      You are getting 36mm AoV with 24mm of 24-70 on your D300.

      Sell the D300 and 24-70 (if you wish) ,keep the 70-200 and 50.

      D600 + New 18-35 G will save you money ,on 16-35 VR as beside being heavy and VR it’s only good from 18-35 range ,I traded my 24-70 for VR and wide as I rarely use a tripod.
      The new 18-35 is as sharp as 16-35 VR ,plus one cannot stack more than one filters on 16-35.

      First get the body and see if real 24mm is wide enough for you, I’d say you might want to keep the 24-70 ,it’s a great glass :)

      cheers!

  62. 186
    ) Gregor

    Hi Adnan
    Thank you for your input.
    I never thought of the 18-35 lens but will have a re-think it now and see which way I will go.
    I really don’t want to part with the 24-70 as I get some great images out the lens and assume with a
    FF body even better if I decide to go with a new body.
    In closing I want to express how thankful I am to Nasim and all posters who with their knowledge and
    experience are williing to help out amateurs like myself.
    Kudos to all!

    • You are most welcome :)
      cheers!

  63. 190
    ) Prof. G.

    Wonderful site — lots of tips and many opinions –
    I, as I have written before, use a D200 as well as F100 — Nikon 300mm f/4, Nikon 70-200 VR, Nikon 28-300 VR (my walk-around lens — really has some good close-up capability, too), TC17eII. Nikon 50mm 1.8 (which I find focuses very fast on my D200 in all light conditions).
    I will be renting the Nikon D7100 to take on a Seal-Watching cruise (6 hours — no Maryanne nor the Skipper — lol).
    I’ll let you know the results.
    I would post some photos but I don’t have a website of my own — suggestions welcomed.
    Thanks again.

    • Prof.G

      Signup here :

      http://www.flickr.com

      At least 200 pictures free with all exif data to see in 4 to 6 MP size ,I already have a Pro account but will make this as well,for $25 /yr unlimited uploads and more features.IMHO Flicker is best for discussion ,interaction and viewing of photos.You can join every type of group imaginable and take part in discussions too.

      http://500px.com/

      Can upload 10 free pics in a week but no full preview.very limited exif data and they have made uploading more complex :)

      Try the 300 F4 without TC but take the TC with you ,the TC14EII works better with 300 F4.
      good luck on your trip ,happy shooting :)

  64. 192
    ) Rosanna

    Nasim, I love your picture of the Pika. I haven’t seen one in years!

  65. 193
    ) Charlie

    FINALLY! Someone debunks the crop factor tele converter nonsense! Thank you Nasim.
    I cannot believe the confusion out there on this topic. People who should know better are constantly saying things like “your old Nikkor 180mm lens is the same as a 270mm lens on a DX body” etc., “I use a DX body because I want more reach”, etc., etc. Its just mind boggling how many people do not understand this basic issue. Its written all over the web wrong, in Amazon reviews, on DPReview, everywhere. It drives me crazy! DX is merely a crop down to an equivalent field of view, but does not change the bloody focal length of the actual lens on the camera! The rest of the article has lots of good information, great site too. Thank you.

  66. 194
    ) Craig

    I have a question.
    If I take a shot on a full frame and then put that lens on a DX frame camera and take the same shot, I will now have a tighter shot than I did of the full frame
    If both cameras are 24 megapixel, and I take the full frame image into an editor and crop it down to match the shot in a DX image, there’ll be one big difference. Whereas in the beginning both were shot with a 24 megapixel camera, resulting in the same file size, you’ll now see that the full frame shot cropped down is now a smaller file.
    Now comes the question. Will the larger file be better than the smaller file? After all the pixels from the full frame will be larger pixels, even though now we have a smaller file.

  67. 195
    ) Mona

    Regarding DX sensor and crop effect.

    If I shoot birds and wildlife, and I can chose from a 24 MP D600 FX and a 24 MP D7100. When mounting a 300mm it will still bring the subject closer? Or will a cropped image from a D600 be better?

    I’m not worrying much about the focal view or that the 300mm acting like a 450mm on a D7100 is still a 300mm. It brings the subject closer and does the job of teleconverter.

    • 196
      ) Craig

      Take a shot of that bird on a D600 and a D7100 at the same time. With a 300 mm lens on both cameras you will have to crop the image from the D600 to get the same image you got on the D7100. So no, it will not bring the subject closer. Now, your question is, will the cropped image be better? Well, that’s the question I was throwing out there to see how many different answers I would get.

      The DX crop will not change your 300 mm lens, it just gives you a more narrow angle of view. It doesn’t do the same job as a tete converter. A tele converter actually will change the focal length of your lens. Put a 1.4 X Tele converter on your 300 mm lens and you will now have a 420 mm lens. Figure in the DX crop factor of 1.5 and you now have an angle of view equivalent to a 630 mm lens.

  68. 199
    ) Raj

    Thanks a ton for this article. I was agonising over Canon 6D vs 7D. Ive now decided to go with the 6D :)

  69. 200
    ) Spy Black

    I know I’m late into this debate, but a quick look at raw sensor noise over at DPReview between the D7100, D800, D600 and a D7000, I noticed that noise figures for the D7100 and D800 are for all intents IDENTICAL. The D7100 is similar to these two, actually. Only the D600 showed better noise. Depending on ISO, sometimes the D800 was better, sometimes the D7100 was better.

    Don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d7100/13
    Simply select the appropriate bodies for comparison. At ISO 400 and under, there was no significant difference between any of the bodies.

    Considering the AF abilities of the D7100, I think it’s foolish to believe that this body isn’t ideal for sports and wildlife, especially sports. If you’re willing to sacrifice some resolution down to 18 megapixels, I don’t think there is a single body out there, FX or DX, that would be a better AF performer.

    The viewfinder argument is somewhat negated by the fact that the FX viewfinders are set to .7x magnification. Why on earth this is I’ll never know. It’s really annoying. When I look through the finder of my F or F2 bodies, I get a full-sized image that you won’t get with any digital FX Nikon body. Not one. While most DX bodies also have .7x or so magnification, the D7100′s viewfinder is .94x

    It was a difficult decision for me between the D7100 and the D600. The fact that I own so much legacy FX glass, and the somewhat better noise figures of the D600 did I go with the D600. Otherwise it would’ve been a no-brainer. The D7100 is fantastic. You would need to spend a large chunk of change on a D4 or such in order to really get any major advantage overall.

  70. 201
    ) Soumen Bakshi

    Hi , Mr.Nasim Mansurov
    I am soumen from India, I have been consistently observing all your articles and reviews with out fail and I become your fan ,and started to take you as my photographic god.I want to be wildlife photographer with in a tight budget initially.Should I go with Nikon D7000 and 70-300vr or , Nikon D5200 , 50mm f/1.8d and 55-300 vr ?
    I shall be highly glade if you respond to it .

  71. 202
    ) Claus

    Oh my… there are a lot of fundamental errors.
    Better you review tho whole article.

    best regards
    Claus

    • Claus, would you be so kind to point out the fundamental errors?

      Thank you!

  72. 204
    ) Tomas X

    Dear Nasim,
    you have forgotten the main problem of using the DX crop on FX bodies.
    FX body has 0.70x viewfinder magnification and DX body has 0.95x viewfinder magnification.
    If you want to shoot the animal in the centre of the viewfinder, you will see it much smaller on FX body than in DX body!!!!! 0.70/0.95 ratio !!!! You have for instance f=300mm lens and the animal is in the distance you would need f=900mm lens the animal fill in the FX crop and f=600mm lens the animal fill in the DX crop. You have f=300mm lens. You have bigger viewfinder in FX body, but you see the empty space in it and the animal is only 74% size (74% width and 74% height) of the size in DX viewfinder.
    You do not have the perfect viewfinder magnification add-on tool to correct it. No 1.36x viewfinder maginficator from Nikon, not from China TENPA.
    I have bought D7100. If D800 would have bulit in 1.36x viewfinder maginficator I would buy D800.
    FX bodies could be DX bodies too, but only with the build in 1.36x viewfinder maginficator / switch between 1.00x (0.70) / 1.36 x (0.70).
    Do you understand?
    I have 6 perfect DX lenses, one DX (FX) lens and one FX lens:
    Nikkor DX 10-24, Nikkor DX 17-55/2.8, Nikkor DX 16-85, Sigma 18-35/1.8, Nikkor DX 35/1.8, Nikkor DX 55-300, Nikkor AF-S 70-200/2.8 VR I (it is perfect DX lens, worse FX lens) and only Nikkor 85/1.8G as the true FX lens.

  73. 206
    ) Riad

    Dear Nasim,

    I am happy with this article for one main reason: My cam is a FX!
    I have been reading so many articles about that kind of stuff, and to be honest don’t understand it since it sounds to me too much theory. Yesterday, I read an article about whether to get a 7100 or a 600 for wildlife. Everybody recommended the D7100. I mean if every new and even older camera is better than the D600, whats the use of it? Without following up every new model Nikon releases, The D600,100,200,300,400… all the hundreds should be in my opinion a higher level than the thousands such as 3000, 5000, 7000 and so on… Why is the D600 being degraded so much!!
    I was even about to sell my D600 and exchange it with a D7100 due to so many articles. But when I read this article with the attached photos, and I myself keep saying not the cam but the photographer makes the photo, I will rather keep it now, get a 300mm f/4 and a 1.4 converter for wildlife, and learn how to use it properly. Am I right about this, Nasim?

    PS: Please excuse my English, am not a native speaker or living in a English speaking country. Hope it can still be understood what I mean to say :)
    Thanks
    Riad

  74. Avatar of Paul
    207
    ) Paul

    I find this jumbled and over complicated. Of course, there are benefits to the FX format that’s why it can be sold at a much higher price to pay for the increased cost.

    Jumping from discussing a D610 and D7100 to the D800 just complicates the comparison. With equal pixel counts we can compare what we get for what cost using the D610 and D7100 without being so confusing.

    Commenting on noise at ISO 100 is just muddying the waters and hints that this is far from an analytical comparison. It is more trying to sell a view point. Commenting on having to post process to remove noise is in the same category. Up to a point it is no big deal. Of course, above some point nothing can save the image.

    So if we are shooting still subjects with lots of light the D7100 gives us more pixels of subject than the FX D610 using the same lens. It is exactly as if we were using a lens with 1.5 times the focal length as far as subject pixels are concerned. This is a big advantage in wildlife photography.

    But what happens when the light isn’t so good? The ability to use higher ISO’s with an FX sensor may then give it the advantage. It may get a shot that the DX simply can’t get. But we aren’t given the center resolution of the D7100 compared to a D610 nor are we given the number of stops that we can boost the ISO on the D610 over the D7100. The dividing line between DX and FX depends on these things.

    At the extreme we need a D4s with an 800mm F/5.6 on it. Now we might get a shot that is totally impossible with the D7100, the D610 or the D800. However we are now at $25,000 dollars with of equipment which a professional may well be able to justify but is meaningless to 98 % of the amateurs.

    A comparison that doesn’t take cost into account is of very limited value.

    At high light levels the D7100 will cost about 2/3 as much as a D610 solution and give 1.5 times more subject pixels so the image costs half as much in capital costs. That is why the DX has value to some wildlife photographers who otherwise might not get the image at all because they can’t afford higher level gear.

    This article doesn’t help me tell where the dividing line is where the DX solution finally starts to become unworkable. It just thrashes around trying to grab at anything to support the FX solution all the time. E.g., it jumps to a D800 and compares that to the 16 MP of the D7000 which means comparing solutions that are (at today’s prices) separated by a factor of 4.

    • Paul,

      Your comments are spot on. I generally appreciate Nasim’s reviews, but in this case he is an attorney defending his FX client, and not doing a very good job of it, rather than an objective analyst. It would be great if there were a site that provided the information that would allow an informed judgment of when which body is best based on lens, center resolution, light levels, and so forth.

      I own D7100, D800E, and V1 bodies. My wildlife lenses are a Nikon 500mm F4/G and a Siggy 120-300 F2.8 OS, along with a 1.4 TC for each body. So that gives me 12 equipment combinations. For a few shooting conditions my choice is obvious, e.g., for birds at the feeder 15 feet away I’m going to use the Siggy/800E because I’m not going to have to crop a lot, the 800E image won’t have visible noise up to 800 ISO, and the Siggy is biting sharp in the center at F4. But what about a 2 hour walk in a wildlife preserve in decent light with the assumption that I’m going to shoot some interesting birds and will have to crop the images substantially: Ignoring weight differences, should I carry my Siggy/D7100 with 1.4TC giving me a 630mm equivalent field of view at F4, or the 500mm/D7100 without TC giving me a 750mm FOV at F4, or the 500mm/D800E with TC giving me 700mm FOV at F5.6? I don’t know the answer. Nasim’s review doesn’t help. I don’t know anyplace or anyone who can provide anything more than an opinion. And yet, the question has an empirical answer.

  75. 208
    ) Nina Alyson Green

    I maintain both FX & DX cameras and concur that there are greater benefits to the former overall. However, I prefer not to compare them too directly for, features and layout aside, they represent two quite different formats and my approach to each is correspondingly different. Certainly, I’ve thus far tended to approach my D610 with more awe and reverence than I afford the D7000.
    Many years ago, I added a Bronica to my kit and, though this didn’t diminish my passion for Nikon cameras, I was often awed by the image quality of the medium format negative. The difference today, in respect of the DX/FX debate, is that the cameras themselves are so alike. My old Bronica required a whole new way of handling and composing so that the move from one format to another was more keenly felt. With the D7000 and D610, one may s well be handling the same camera.
    Of course, I’m not saying anything here about image quality but, as the article concludes, DX is capable of exceptional results, and has been doing so for far longer than FX. If I fancied myself as a wildlife photographer, I’d certainly choose a D7000, or even D3300, with the 55-300 VR over an F3 with 300mm f4 – being long enough in the tooth to remember such things – the fact that I don’t have to make such a choice is irrelevant and neither would make me a better photographer in itself.
    You choose a format, and adapt to it. It’s that simple.

  76. 210
    ) Jon

    I perfectly well understand all the technicalities you are explaining. I have a d600 and a d7100 and I also have a 1.4 teleconverter. With the teleconverter I am magnifying the good center quality of what comes out of the lens to cover the full frame sensor. I don’t get more quality. I only magnify whatever quality is there to make it easier for the sensor to read. I can also mount the lens on the d7100 instead. Then the sensor will read the center quality in more detail without having to magnify it first. Plus the autofocus will work much better. I see your points but I would also like to say, that if you photograph animals, which are so far away, that you can hardly make them fill out the full frame sensor without magnifying with a teleconverter, then your money might be better spent on glass and staying DX and don’t magnify with a teleconverter at all. I adore my d600, but I do find the d7100 to be an excellent choice for photographing small moving animals far away.

    • 211
      ) Jon

      Now I just spend half a day making A and B tests with my d600, d7100, 85mm f/1.8g and my Kenko 1.4 teleconverter. It’s and extremely sharp setup so it’s difficult to avoid slight variations from shot to shot. But the results are clear: Using the teleconverter reveals more details and so does using the d7100. In fact the results are comparable. What makes a big difference in the two situations is autofocus performance, which is far superior on the d7100 without the teleconverter. An extra little surprise was, that using the d7100 with the teleconverter actually reveals even more details. I would have thought, that the pixel density on the d7100 was high enough to read all the details without the teleconverter. It also confirms, that the Kenko teleconverter is indeed very good. For me the result is clear. Using DX instead of a teleconverter is a superior solution mainly due to AF performance. The advantage with the teleconverter is, that it is considerably easier to carry than a dx camera. Another advantage is, that you can actually use the teleconverter in the dx camera.

  77. Avatar of claire pot
    212
    ) claire pot

    Hi,
    Thank you for this article. I do have a question about the diffetence in image quality between the d610 in dx mode and the d800 in dx mode. I know the d610 will give me anout 10mpixels and the d800 about 15….but will this show off on the picture? I would extremely appreciate some examples of imagedade with the d610 using cropp mode versus cropp mode pictures on the d800. I wonder if the difference in quality will be visible as the image quality ratings show a marginal difference between the d610 and d800 in full frame ( 24 vs 36 mp) …..hope to receive your advice on this topic!

  78. 213
    ) Mike the Tog

    Apologies if this was answered and I missed it…..

    D700 vs D300s with a Nikon 300mm F4 lens at ISO100, 125th, F8. Take a shot of a fixed subject from the same point (on a tripod). The D300s gives a tighter ‘cropped’ image as it’s DX and maintains the 12.2 MP. The D700 gives a wider angle shot also at 12.2 MP but with ‘larger sensor sites’.

    If I crop the D700 shot to make the subject exactly the same size in both shots which will look better???

    The D300s shot will have a higher resolution but the D700 pixels are initially sharper… The D700 shot will lose resolution as I crop…

    I’m going to try and test this as I have both cameras but I was wondering if there was a more ‘scientific’ answer???

    Thanks in advance.

  79. 214
    ) Chuck Lantz

    William: I use the same function button-technique when shooting sports with my D700, switching from FX to DX, both to save space and get faster FPS speed when needed. Since almost all my shots are for online or smaller magazine reproduction, large prints are not a primary goal.

    I bought the D700 used, along with a D2x, to test the waters before making the leap to Nikon from another system. Though the plan was to eventually sell both those Nikons and get either a couple of D3s or D4 bodies, I’ve found that the D700 and D2x, plus a Sigma SD15, are all I need for motorsports and yacht racing shots.

    An added plus is that I worry a lot less about damaging the cheaper cameras when getting sprayed with salt water or dirt clods than I would with one or two costing 5k or more each!

  80. 215
    ) Robert Wilkins

    Why can’t we just have fun with whatever format we use – DX – FX or whatever. I always thought photography was about having fun and if you can make your living doing it then that’s even better.
    I’m just over 70 now and have never owned a camera till I got one from an estate sale given to me by my kids. Its a D7000 with 4 lenses and lot of other stuff i’m still trying to learn how to use.
    I started reading some of these forums to try and pickup some pointers but all I ever read now are people arguing about which is best in lenses formats cameras and anything else they can think about that will cause controversy with someone else. Too bad the fun when out and right and wrong or better ways to do things creped in.
    I’m just gonna take pictures and enjoy what I have left in life and not worry about who can up me on any topic.

  81. 216
    ) Jack trotter

    Great article
    Have u had a chance to handle or eval the new nikon 810 ? If cost not an issue would u take it over the d7100 for sports and wildlife and nature as a single camera

    • 217
      ) Paul Digney

      As a single camera — sure! I am getting a D810 next month. But for squeezing out the most reach? Not so much. The D7100 gives me the effect of turning a 600mm in to a 900mm for reach. The D180 gives and effect of 734 mm. That is a pretty big difference. However, having to have a second camera or giving up what the D810 can delivery for other things is a very big deal also. Having to make tradeoffs is sooo annoying.

      The mythical, mystical D400 (D9300?) would be the second camera for the ‘tog out in the wilderness. And if the specs are as magical as rumored devices can be then maybe it is the one camera to carry. E.g., you might be able to live with a lower ISO capability and have a DX 36 MP super AF camera. For much wildlife and nature work giving up, say, 2 stops of ISO (800 might be ok instead of 3200) but having all that crop room and 1.5x reach might be a good trade off. (The equivalent of over 1200 mm on a D610) Maybe not so much if you are trying to shoot flying owls at night. :)

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