DX vs. FX: It's Not a Debate, It's a Choice

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A friend of mine recently took a step into a brave new world of digital SLR photography when she shelved her point-and-shoot camera and purchased a Nikon D5300 and kit lens. The purchase was not without an amount of trepidation: confusing controls, buttons everywhere, multi-function interfaces, knobs, an interchangeable lens, and increased size.

For many customers, moving from your camera phone or compact point-and-shoot to a larger and more complex photographic tool is a big decision. Some immediately feel at home with the DSLR, and others never get past what can be an intimidating technological leap.

Within a few days of purchasing her new camera, a friend of hers, a "professional" photographer, did exactly what a friend/mentor/advisor encouraging a shy new photographer entering the DSLR world probably should not have done. He told her that she had purchased the wrong camera. Why? Because the Nikon D5300 has a smaller than full-frame sensor, what Nikon calls its "DX," sensor. "You should have gotten an FX (full-frame) camera," he told her.

"DX" and "FX" are Nikon's designations for the size of the cameras' sensors. It was not very long ago that all DSLR cameras came with sensors whose dimensions were smaller than a frame of 35mm film. However, things have changed, and photographers may now purchase DSLR cameras with "full-sized" sensors from Canon, Nikon, Sony, and others. Once the sensors grew in size, the debate over sensors grew in volume. For the purposes of this article, I will use the Nikon DX/FX nomenclature to refer to the sensor sizes, but the reader should be aware that this discussion applies to any manufacturer who makes 35mm equivalent full-frame and cropped-frame sensors. For example, Canon's cropped-sensor lenses, in Canon nomenclature, are known as EF-S.

A Nikon DX sensor (left), compared to Nikon FX sensor (right).

My friend was immediately filled with self-doubt after having made a sizable financial investment in her new camera. Should she return the camera to the store and spend more on a larger and more expensive camera that requires more expensive lenses, or should she just retreat from DSLR photography altogether and use her new D5300 as a paperweight?

If you, like many photographers, have been inundated with blogs, chats, and editorials about this issue, you are likely on your way to being firmly entrenched in the FX side of the camp, as the DX stalwarts are becoming few and far between.

No need to panic, DX fans! There are many out there who still enjoy the benefits of the DX sensor while living, happily in many cases, with its drawbacks.

PROS AND CONS

FX Sensor
Pros Cons
Low-light performance/Image quality - directly attributed to larger pixels Higher Price
More control over depth of field because you have to get closer to your subject Size (the full-frame cameras are generally larger and heavier - there are exceptions)
"True" angle of view/focal lengths - No conversion needed Cannot use lenses designed for smaller sensors without cropping to the smaller image
Higher dynamic range Image quality - by using a large portion of the lens image circle, edge softness and vignetting can occur
DX Sensor
Pros Cons
Lower Price (cameras and DX lenses) Low-light performance inferior to FX
Size (usually smaller and lighter cameras) Smaller dynamic range
"Telephoto" effect (a 200mm lens is virtually a 300mm lens) General lack of "super-wide" lenses
Versatility - uses specially designed smaller lenses as well as all "normal" lenses Smaller viewfinder image
Image quality - captures image closer to the center of the image circle. This usually offers more sharpness and less vignetting (darkening) around the edge of the frame  

Moving away from the technical differences and impassioned sales points in the battle between the FX and DX sensors, I feel that photographers hoping to educate and inspire new photographers should steer clear of telling other photographers that they are "wrong" simply because they purchased a DX-sensor camera.

My father used to tell me, "Some of the world's greatest photographs were taken with a cardboard box (pinhole camera)."

My father used to tell me, "Some of the world's greatest photographs were taken with a cardboard box (pinhole camera)." This is true. Pulitzers have been won with photos taken with $20 plastic cameras. Point-and-shoot disposables have captured exquisite beauty.

The camera is a tool used to gather light. And, like any tool, there are different cameras for different jobs. The DSLR might be the photographic equivalent of a pocket-sized multi-tool, but it is not always the right camera for every job. Continuing that thought process, there is not only a market for the DX sensor cameras, there are real-world benefits to their operation and those fans of DX should not be criticized for their choice of tools.

So, if you are shopping for a new DX DSLR camera, or you are a fan of the DX sensor and its advantages, know that there is no reason to bury your head in the sand or feel envy when someone comes by with their FX machine—the world will keep spinning about its axis. Meanwhile, go out and create some great photographs with your camera—regardless of the sensor size.

850 Comments

Thanks Todd. I was a member of a walk-about group of photography enthusiasts in London and I tired of the snobby full-frame guys. A bit lke those who think tat you need a Martin or some such acoustic guitar to play good music. But then, I  am biased as I do have a Canon 7D which is not full frame!

Hi Des,

Yes, it is us biased APS-C shooters who are all tired of the full-frame propaganda. I always say that, if sensor size truly matters, all of those full-frame folks should be shooting at least medium format, if not large format. Then they can tell me how important sensor size is!

Thanks for checking in and reading Explora! Long Live APS-C!

Best,

Todd

Hi Todd:  Thanks for the great articles and answers to readers' questions.  I recently bought a Nikon Z5, my first full-frame camera.  I am very happy with it.  I am wondering about my Nikon 70-300 DX telephoto lens.  Could you give an explanation of how DX lenses such as this one fit into the full-frame world.  It appears that the only Z-mount telephoto from Nikon (the 50-250) is a DX lens.   Is it worth buying the 50-250 if I own the 70-300DX lens?   it seems to me that the former has a shorter focal length than the latter and the only advantage is that an FTZ adapter is not needed.

Thanks:

Helen S

Hello Helen,

Thank you for the kind words and great question!

Congrats on getting your new Z5!

In general (there are exceptions) you can use a Nikon DX lens on a Nikon FX camera. The camera will automatically crop the image to remove the vignetting caused by the smaller image circle projected by the DX lens. When a DX lens is on an FX camera, because of the crop, you will get the same 1.5x magnification that you get with the DX lens on a DX camera, so the equivalent focal length of the 70-300 is: 140-450mm.

There are a few other Z-mount telephotos for your FX camera:

Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1546137-REG/nikon_nikkor_z_24_200mm_f_4_6_3.html]

Z 70-200mm f/2.8 [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1538574-REG/nikon_nikkor_z_70_200mm_f_2_8.html]

I personally would not recommend getting more DX lenses now that you are in the FX world, but you can keep using your 70-300mm if needed.

I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you have more questions.

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Todd

Thanks - very helpful.  When I bought Z5, I got the 24-200.  It's very versatile and I find myself using the 70-300DX lens less often.

Hi Helen,

You are very welcome! Please let us know if you have more questions!

Best,

Todd

Hi Todd, 

Thank you for the awesome insights.  Need help with a recent hobby: Astrophotography.

I have an old Nikon D60 and newer Nikon Coolpix B700 (I know that's not really a DSLR, but I managed to get a couple of good shots of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction with it at max zoom and manual focus using a tripod).  but I guess I'd prefer to use the more manual D60 for the bulk of my work.

In my very few experiments with the D60 I tried getting the Gas Cloud in Orion using the stock lens 18-55 mm.  using the 500 rule with a margin of error, (and accounting for the effective 24 odd mm focal length at max aperture 3.5 and I managed decent exposures of 10s without start trails).  Took multiple images and stacked them, but got poor results. 

I do realize that the 3.5 f stop is limiting.  Can you recommend a not-too-expensive faster lens that I could invest in for starters?  If i get hooked, might cough up more money for better lens(es).

Thanks,

Yours truly,

Sriram

Hi Sriram,

Thank you for your kind words!

It looks like you are doing all the right things in your approach to shooting the gas cloud in Orion. I wonder why your images didn't work out.

Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

1. The D60 is a bit long in the tooth for a digital camera. It might be time to think about upgrading. I am saying this as I recently took my D300 out for a spin! The D60 is a fine camera and still capable of capturing great photos, but for noise/ISO performance, it is old technology (as is my D300!).

2. While there are excellent performing 18-55mm lenses out in the wild, it is obvious that there is better glass out there. I find that a 75mm (ish) focal length (50mm on your D60) is great for getting all of Orion in the frame. If you want to get tighter on the nebulae, you need to get a longer lens. If you want something around 50mm, then immediately get the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (any version you get is fantastic)...my long-time favorite lens.

3. If you want to get a different focal length and a larger aperture with astrophotography in mind, you won't go wrong picking up an older manual focus Nikkor lens like a 20mm, 24mm, or 28mm (usually available with f/2.8 apertures). You won't need autofocus because you aren't photographing action and, the manual focus lenses have hard stops at infinity—great for star photos. One of my go-to astrophoto lenses is the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 that was just discontinued. No, I don't shoot it at f/1.2 (soft everywhere!) but I do shoot it at f/2 and it is as sharp at f/2 as it is at f/8. You can also get an older 50mm f/1.8 manual focus lens for a song...if you don't want to splurge on the f/1.2.

And, some extra reading, if bored:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-to-do-basic-backyard-astrophotography-part-i-introduction

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/who-killed-infinity-focus%3F

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/the-one-lens-every-photographer-should-have-and-use-the-50mm

Standing by for follow-up questions!

Thanks for reading Explora!

Best,

Todd

Awesome.  Thank you for the advice.  Hope to be able to share my experiences after trying some of the stuff you recommend.

Best regards,

Sriram

You are welcome, Sriram! Let us know how it works out!

Hi,

What would you recommend from the following:

1) "Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 for Nikon with built in motor"

2) "Nikon 50mm Nikkor F/1.8D AF Prime Lens for DSLR Camera"

I can see that the first option will allow me to use the AF motor for daytime photography (not a must-have), the second option will require manual focus.  The first one gives me a 17 mm (appx 26 mm on my D60) wider field of view, but a higher f-stop.  

The 1st option is twice the price of the 2nd (1st is used, 2nd is new)

Would appreciate your advice. Thanks for your patience.

Regards,

Sriram

Hi Sriram,

First of all, no worries...no patience required! We are hear to help you get the gear you need so you can make the photos that you want to make!

While I am sure the Tamron is a good lens, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is one of my all-time favorite lenses. You cannot go wrong with the AF, AF-D, or AF-G versions of that lens. In fact, the manual focus and manual focus E versions of that lens had the same optics as the AF and AF-D lenses.

As you noticed, the D60 does not have the autofocus screw-drive motor, so only the G version will autofocus on your camera. If you are cool with manual focus, I might be tempted to look for the non AF versions of the lens for the retro cool factor. Or, if you think you will upgrade your camera body in the future with a screw-drive body you could get the AF or AF-D version.

Last thought: if this lens is going to primarily be for astrophotography, don't sweat the autofocus and go with a prime lens over a zoom.

Standing by for follow-ups!

Best,

Todd

I have happily been using a Nikon D200 since around the time it first came out. If I wanted to buy a new DX camera today, which models would have the same build quality and convenient features?

Hey 1qwe2 2,

That is an easy question to answer: Nikon D500.

The D500 replaced the D300 which replaced your D200. The amazing thing about the D500 is that it is truly a pro camera...its basically a D5 with an APS-C sensor and without the vertical grip. The guts and build of the camera are all D5, so it is actually quite a step forward from the D100, D200, and D300 which were more "prosumer" cameras.

The D500 came out a few years ago, and I do not know anything about when it is scheduled to be replaced (if it will be replaced)...or what the replacement will be—Nikon already used the name D600 and D700 and D800—but it is still an excellent camera.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-review/birding-dream-team-nikon-d500-and-nikon-300mm-f4

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1214161-REG/nikon_1559_d500_dslr_camera_body.html

Best,

Todd

Thank you. I think Nikon did an exceptionally fine job with the D500 design.

Cheers,

Tom

Hello Todd, 

I'm currently agonizing over the upgrade path from my D3100 to what's next. I'm willing to invest but don't have unlimited funds to spend. My main focus right now is shooting my son's indoor basketball, which we all know is a challenge. I recently grabbed the 50mm 1.8 FX prime lens and that seemed to help significantly with the lighting issues and freezing motion, but I'm now limited by the slow performance of the D3100. Having to reduce image size and quality to capture the paltry 3FPS that camera is capable of and am missing a ton of good shots or some of them are blurry. 

So my question to you is, based on this, would I be better of with the performance of the D7500 or something along the lines of the D610 or even Z50? Or any other suggestions you may have concerning high performance DX vs entry level FX or mirrorless. I'm not heavily invested in glass so this is not a consideration. 

Thanks in advance, 

David

Hi David,

Sorry for the delay. I actually do not work at B&H anymore, but was bored (not really) and thought I would "check the mail." :)

To answer your question, a move to full frame will give you some low-light advantages, but it will not be a silver bullet as physics still applies. Having said that, even a newer APS-C camera will give you an advantage as the D3100 is geriatric in the digital world.

It is smart to be using the 50mm f/1.8. Another lens you could try is the DX 35mm f/1.8. Obviously you will lose some "distance" but you also gain a bit by shooting wider.

And, thinking about it, a powerhouse like the D500 coupled with that 50mm lens might be a nice solution of speed and a more modern sensor.

Best,

Todd

A d500 is overkill, especially if if you are new or you are not that serious into photography. I would look at a d7500

Another good recommendation, Jeep. Thanks!

Hi Todd

I presently own a Nikon D5300 camera and want to upgrade.  I have been considering both the Nikon D750 and the Nikon D500.  There seems to be advantages to both cameras,  which would you suggest?

Hi Jay,

Great debate there. They are both awesome cameras, so the real decision hinges on what lenses you have (or want to get). If you have a battery of DX lenses that are working well for you, I would stick with the DX D500. If you have non-DX lenses, you could move over to full-frame fairly painlessly.

My guess is that the D500, as a DX-version of the D5, is going to be a bit more robust physically and faster internally (focus and processor) than the D750...if speed and durability are important to you.

What lenses do you have and what kind of photography do you do, Jay?

Hi Todd

Thanks for the great article, this gave me some reassurance that i might not be that badly off with my dx camera.

I'm currently looking into buying a new Lense, and this  time i want a Pro lens and i'm willing to drop 1-2K for it. My Question to you is, should i spend the extra and buy a Fullframe lense, or should i buy a DX one? With the fullframe lense i'd have the option to  continue using the lense if i ever were to swtich to FX. And there are no real disadvantages of using a FX lens on a DX camera, right? I heard somewhere that the fx lenses are generally better because they let more light through (therefore also more expensive, bc more glass is needed for the bigger sensor) so wouldn't that just be a big advantage to buy a fx lens for my dx camera? (i couldn't care less about the additional weight).

Or should i just stick with DX lenses, and if so, why?

Hey Martin,

I really hope you aren't bad off with an APS-C camera because that is what I use!

Great question about your next lens. So, yes, if you buy a non-DX lens, you can use that in the future if you have a full-frame camera. If you get a DX lens, you likely won't want to use that on a full-frame camera as you will get severe vignetting.

If you don't care about size/weight and cost, then you could easily go with a non-DX lens. The advantage of the DX lenses is that they are (generally) lighter and smaller. I assume you are shooting Nikon because you use the DX/FX vernacular. The non-DX 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is a giant of a lens and very heavy whereas the DX 16-80 f/2.8-4 lens is light and portable and covers a wider zoom range at the expense of one stop of light at the telephoto end. [I reviewed that lens here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-review/nikon-af-s-dx-nikkor-16-80mm-f28-4e-ed-vr-lens?form=reply&pid=648301]

A non-DX lens will "futureproof" you, but I personally prefer smaller and lighter. The choice is yours. Please let me know if you have follow-up questions and thanks for stopping by!

I thought I'd mention another option.  The Nikon 17-55 f2.8 for dx. It's the dx version of the 24-70. It is a "pro" lens for dx; the only Nikon pro lens for dx I believe. Yes, it's heavy and yes, it's expensive but for many it's a wonderful lense. I absolutely love it.

You do trade VR for a constant f2.8. That's something to consider depending on your typical use. In terms of weight I actually prefer the heavier lense as I find that I have a steadier hand with it. Regarding the price: you can find excellent used copies on the market.  I picked mine up for under $500 with no signs of use and not even a speck of dust internally. 

Critics love to disregard this lense because they refuse to justify paying "pro" prices for a dx lense but if you look at user reviews you'll find a large, very happy, following. 

Do your own research. Maybe this is an option for you, maybe it isn't. 

Hi Travis,

Great tip! And, that lens can be found on the used market for good prices. I should know...I used one for years—it was my workhorse—and sold it for not a lot a few years back.

Having said that, I really really liked the 16-80. Yes, you do lose the constant f/2.8, but the size and weight and sharpness of the newer lens goes a long way for me!

Thanks for stopping by and helping a fellow B&H customer! Happy Holidays!

If you do get an fx lens it will give you an odd focal length. I would look at a sigma 70-200 2.8 sports with a 2x teleconverter and a sigma 18-35 1.8 dc hsm art

Hi Todd - Trying to decide the next set of lens to buy, beyond the kit lens.  Options include: a) f/1.8 35mm, 50mm and 85mm and b) Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 ART Lens and may be another that's a zoom lens that take me into the 85-150mm range.  Is there a recommendation on what to upgrade to beyond the kit lens from you?  Thank you..

Hey Eman,

Good question. Sorry for the delay in replying...I was on vacation.

I always recommend that DX 35mm f/1.8...that is likely the best lens for the money you can get for Nikon DX...and I am a big fan of the "Nifty 50" [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/the-one-lens-every-photographer-should-have-and-use-the-50mm].

The Sigma ART zoom is intriguing as well, but it might be on the bigger/heavier side for DX. A 50mm on DX makes for a nice portrait lens as does the 85mm (FX and DX). You cannot go wrong with any of your options, but if you were one of my photo students, I would tell you to to go with the primes and get closer to your subjects!

Standing by for follow-ups and, again, I apologize for the delay.

Very informative, if digressive, thread on DX vs. FX. Also slightly off-topic, but:  How can I tell if out-of-focus images are the result of camera damage vs. user error? I dropped my D7200, sent it back for repair of the autofocus system. After repair, some images with 70-300 kit lens are in focus, others not.  (I shoot lots of birds, wildlife, etc., so always dealing with leaves in the foreground, etc.) I can't tell if it's because the autofocus is working only sporadically, or the whether I need to practice more on the various autofocus modes, number of focus points, etc.  Any suggestions about how to track down where the problem lies?

Hey Lance,

Thanks for the kind words on the article and thread!

Good question here.

If the camera was repaired correctly, you should be good to go, but that is always an "if," unfortunately.

As you stated, there are two possibilities: camera error or user error.

To test for both, you could "bench test" your D7200 and 70-300 lens on a static target while mounted on a tripod. If the focus is accurate there, you are close to eliminating the camera error part of the equation, but not totally. The next test would be in a more controlled environment on a moving target. Try to set to the most basic autofocus mode and keep the focus point in the center. If the camera passes that test, you are probably down to user error, unfortunately.

Just like I mentioned to Joy in the next thread, today's AF systems are really complex and have a lot of options. We haven't tried to write an article about it because the systems vary from camera to camera, even from the same manufacturer. Therefore, I would recommend scouring the web for a D7200-specific AF tutorial to see if that helps.

I hope this gets you started down the right track. Let me know if you have more questions and how the testing goes, if you do test.

Thanks for stopping by!

Hello Todd,

Thanks for this article! I have a Nikon D5500 but sometimes feel it's limitations with low light capabilities, depth of field, and clarity. I have some upcoming travels, and was wondering if I should invest in an older (D610) FX body, (but then budget wise, I won't have money for prime lenses for awhile), or if I should get a good prime lens (I have the 50mm 1.8 but want more!) like the Nikon 24-70 2.8 and just use it on my DX body until I can afford the FX body. Or, another option is, I have found a good deal on a used Nikon 24-70 2.8, or alternatively I could get the Sony A7iii with the 24-70 3.5-5.6 kit lens. I feel torn by the options and would appreciate your expertise! I am looking at photographing my young (sometimes fast moving) kids/family and the scenery. Thank you in advance for any help! 

Hi Joy,

Thanks for the questions! I see you are feeling the gravitational pull of full-frame!

If you haven't been using it heavily, the D5500 and your 50mm f/1.8 is a potent combination and you will find a clarity and shallow DOF that kit lenses only dream about. That is an immediate solution to your limitations and one that doesn't require a new purchase.

The D610 is a great camera, and a used FX camera is a fairly economical way to get your feet wet in full frame. The 24-70 f/2.8 is a great lens, but super heavy and large..especially on the D5500. But, it will certainly be an upgrade to any kit lenses you might be using. Having said that, the old joke is: instead of a 24-70mm f/2.8, just get a 50mm and take a few steps forward or backwards...zoom with. your feet!

Switching to mirrorless is certainly an option, but you will be basically starting from scratch. If you can afford it, by all means, go for it! Based on what I am reading, you will want to move past the kit lens there as well...another expense to consider.

The future-proof choice might be to get that 24-70 and shoot that and your 50 on the D5500 and see if you like that. Then, when/if you switch to FX, you will have two core lenses already.

Let me know if you have follow-up questions! Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you so much for your quick response. I really appreciate your advice. Can I ask another question? I love the 50 1.8, but when I go to edit my pictures I notice that half are clear, and the other half out of focus or the camera has focused on the background instead of the subject. Is this due to something I am doing, or could there be a problem with my camera or lens? 

Hi Joy,

No worries!

So...I hate to say this out loud, but missed focus is usually "user error" and not the camera or lens. Modern autofocus systems are overly complex—you used to just put the center of the frame over what you wanted in focus and presto! Done!

Today, "intelligent" AF systems try to evaluate the scene and figure out what you want them to focus on. Sometimes they work and sometimes they fail miserably.

We would have written an autofocus tutorial on Explora long ago, but the systems change from camera to camera and manufacturer to manufacturer. Its a moving target that we aren't trying to hit. That being said, search the web for Nikon D5500 autofocus tutorials and you'll likely find a good video or two on the system.

Let me know if you find something helpful and if you have specific questions!

lol, I had the impression that might just be the issue. Thanks for your honesty. I will do that. Thanks again for your expertise. You have been so helpful. I hope you don't mind if I bug you again some time. Many thanks again!

Hi Joy,

No worries at all! And, please don't hesitate to reach out! I am here to help!

Standing by to be bugged!

Sorry, I am back sooner than I thought. I took my camera into a shop to test out some lenses to discover that it back focuses. The lenses can't be calibrated because it's a D5500 and is not an option on my camera body. Can I ask your opinion- time to get a new camera body, or try and get it fixed? If I do go for a new camera, do you suggest mirrorless? Thanks!!

Hey Joy,

Sorry for the delay in replying! I didn't check the "mail" yesterday. :(

I guess I have to eat some crow for suggesting it might be user error! Sorry!

So...the fix might be expensive, but you might want to call Nikon to see if you can figure out what they charge for that. If the fix is pricey, it is going to be time for a new camera.

As far as a new camera, I am a fan of mirrorless. I love the ability to see the exposure and white balance before I take the shot. It is cheating...pure and simple! I also like the smaller sizes of mirrorless cameras—especially APS-C mirrorless. The days of a heavy camera bag are gone for me!

If you want to stick with Nikon, the Z6 and Z7 are popular and getting great reviews.

Standing by for a reply...sorry, again for the delay and misdiagnosing your (camera's) issue!

lol, not at all. My first thought was also that I was doing something wrong! I had been having trouble with a lens and when I took it in they were able to tell me that the camera was back focusing. Can I ask what mirrorless camera you suggest? Nikon/Sony/Canon? Thanks!

Hey Joy,

Good morning!

Before I answer your brand question, I would ask you to tell me what lenses you have for your Nikon system currently. That will help me give a better answer.

Cheers!

I have a few DX lenses- the 55-300 4.5-6.5 (that is having focusing problems, and I'm sending it in to Nikon since it is still on warranty), the 10-24 3.5-4.5, and the 50mm 1.8. 

Hey Joy,

Thanks for the info. If you switched to Nikon full-frame mirrorless, the only lens that comes with you is your 50mm f/1.8. The others will be retired. Getting almost all new lenses is a non-negotiable financial consideration.

Brands, for the most part, are on equal footing these days. The disadvantage of switching is that you need to get used to new controls, menus, and quirks in addition to getting all new lenses and accessories. Here is another consideration: size and weight. While the full-frame mirrorless cameras are lighter and smaller than their full-frame DSLR counterparts, the lenses are not smaller and lighter (or less expensive). Neither you, nor your back, will forget the first day you carried a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens around all day!

Fantastic full-frame image quality comes at a cost financially and in size/weight.

If you are happy with the photos you have been getting with your DX/APS-C sensor, I would suggest that you invest in more-better lenses like the DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 [My review here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-review/nikon-af-s-dx-nikkor-16-80mm-f28-4e-ed-vr-lens].

The other option is to switch to a brand that specializes in APS-C mirrorless—Fujifilm. With Fujifilm, you get the advantage of small/light mirrorless cameras with smaller APS-C specific lenses. Check out my review of the X-T30 here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-on-review/what-aps-c-mirrorless-should-be-the-fujifilm-x-t30

That is a lot to digest, so standing by for follow-ups!

Hello Todd! I stumbled upon this very helpful article due to my personal battle between upgrading to a D500 or D800-850. I currently use a D5xxx series (so DX) with a 150-600mm tamron g2 and a few other lenses, but I am mainly concerned about the camera in use with the 150-600mm.

I do wildlife photography, which the camera would primarily be used for... but I cannot for the life of me decide which would be the best at this focal length. I understand that DX virtually magnifies the focal length through cropping it, but would cropping the image of an FX lens to get the same virtual zoom as the DX lens sacrifice too much quality? One of the largest challenges I face is being within a good distance of wildlife to get a good shot, so the extra 300mm of focal length at 600mm on a DX (~900mm total) sounds appealing... but many of the specs of the D850 plus the interest of wandering into the FX world also sound dandy. Any insight you may provide would help dramatically, thank you!

Hi Creston,

If I was primarily a wildlife shooter, I would probably stay in the DX world and, let me throw you this curve ball, look at the D500. The D500 is basically a D5 without the FX sensor or vertical grip.

In my head, shooting FX and doing a DX crop is just more work. Would you still get the maybe-kindof-can't-really-tell-without-pixel-peeping FX benefits inside that crop? I don't know.

And, as an APS-C shooter, I really don't feel much of the pull of FX...

That is my $0.02. Please let me know if you have more questions!

I really appreciate your insight and the help the article provided. I have decided to get the D500 since your recommendation and in only the past few hours of playing with it, I love it! Thank you again!

Hi Creston,

Great news! I am glad you are enjoying your D500! How did you get it so quickly?

Hi, Todd: I have a Nikon D3400 which came with two kit lenses: AF-P 70-300mm and AF-P 18-55 (and two Vivitar attachments for the smaller lens, a 2.2X telephoto converter and .43x wide angle converter w/macro). I got the camera over a year ago and have since got a fixed lens AF-S 50mm and AF-S 18-140mm (and the corresponding telephoto and wide angle attachments. Question 1: Since I have the 18-140mm, do I need the 18-55mm or does it serve a specific purpose? Question 2: Crop sensor lenses don’t work well with full sensor cameras, right? Question 3: Is there a compelling reason to switch to mirrorless? I love the Nikon Z7 but have a hard time justifying the nearly $4K cost and I love my current camera.

Hello Peralte,

I apologize for the delay as I was in Japan for business last week.

Thanks for your note! Good questions… 1. You could probably ditch the 18-55 since you have the 18-140 unless you like the size/weight of the 18-55 for some outings. Another consideration: I have seen amazing macro work with the 18-55 and extension tubes. I don’t know if the 18-140 performs the same. 2. You can use the lenses on FX cameras, but the cameras will shoot in crop mode. 3. Mirrorless is the way of the future, but there is no rush to switch. I bet Nikon’s 2nd generation of mirrorless will be even better than the Z6/Z7, but they made a couple of great cameras to start into their FX mirrorless journey. If you love your D3400, there is no need to switch!

Hi Todd,

I am debating which to buy:

What's a good lense for portraits for the D850?

Would this work well? Nikon 50mm AF-S f/1.8G Nikkor Lens?

Thanks!

Hi Charles,

The 50mm f/1.8 is a fantastic lens and I recommend that everyone carry one. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/the-one-lens-every-photographer-should-have-and-use-the-50mm

It will work well for portraits on the D850, but photographers usually prefer lenses around the 85mm or 105mm focal length for portraits with full-frame cameras in order to get a little more working distance between the camera and subject as well as soften the background a bit.

Thanks for your question and thanks for shopping at B&H! Let me know if you have any follow-ups.

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