Nikon DX vs. FX Format – All You Need to Know

Some of the most frequently asked questions from our readers are related to sensors in DX format and FX format. What are DX and FX and how do they differ? Which one is better and why? 

Do you have similar questions and want a clear overview of these formats and their differences? Then this article is for you. We clarify all of these questions and give you examples for both formats.

Jump To:

From a Nikon photographer’s point of view, I want to answer the question what is the difference between DX or FX? – because Nikon is the only brand where lenses from 1959 can still be used on popular digital camera models today.

The Nikon D200 is a DX camera with AI or AIS lenses that can be read. These lens types were offered from 1977 and with the AIS series they provide a large selection of outstanding lenses for Nikon D3200 and other cameras.

The prerequisite for this, however, is that you have to focus manually – to be able to work with aperture and automatic aperture control as in the times of the F models. Fortunately for Nikon photographers, the use of the “old AI and AIS lenses” is not linked to DX or FX.

Nikon DX vs. FX

I would like to take a very pragmatic approach here. If I want to take photos and want to have good, high-quality equipment to choose from, then a Nikon D200 or D300 is a good choice for cost reasons.

DX vs FX Format

The user practice

User practice then leads to the following aspect. The advantages of a DX camera lie on the one hand in the so-called crop factor. All lenses that are produced in DX mode also correspond to the focal length specifications of the lens. The smaller image section of the DX sensor but then leads to a calculated focal length extension, to put it simply.

Have Nikon D3100? Check: Best Lenses for Nikon D3100

This effectively turns an 11mm DX lens into a 16.5mm cutout – but you can still be in the extreme wide-angle range without any problems. DX lenses are much cheaper than FX lenses in terms of the purchase price. 

If I use a high-quality FX lens on a DX camera, the focal length increases by 1.5 times. The advantage here is the use of the AI / AIS lenses. Outstanding Nikkor lenses have been produced since 1977, some of which are still made in the AIS or an AF version and are reference lenses.

The financial aspect

The second advantage of a DX camera is the normal and telephoto focal lengths in the financial area. I can get the visually outstanding manual 50mm 1.4 AIS in very good condition for about 200$ – almost like new. The autofocus variant of the D-series for 150$.

I have an excellent extremely fast 75mm 1.4 lens – the comparable 85mm 1.4 in FX mode would cost around $1300 in the G version. It only becomes problematic in the extreme wide-angle range because the crop factor, for example, makes an expensive 20mm Nikkor 30mm. Here you should then fall back on the new DX lens.

Nikon DX shot

Outstanding Nikon lenses of the AI/AIS series are available.

The use of a Nikon D200 or D300 DX camera enables the use of outstanding Nikkor lenses from the 70s and 80s. The mechanical quality of the Nikon 105mm Micro Nikkor 2.8 is the best that Nikon has ever produced.

Also Check: Best Wide Angle Lenses For Nikon FX 

The optical quality is also outstanding – the lens is one of the 10 best lenses of all brands. On the D200 this would result in a 153mm macro lens with a speed of 2.8 – available for around $350 in almost new condition.

In addition, an unbeatable price-performance ratio. In addition, you don’t need autofocus in macro photography – here is a photo example with this lens from your hand.

Nikon FX shot

Another example with the same outcome: the Nikon 135m m 2.8 AIS becomes a 203mm lens with a fabulous aperture of 2.8! If you take the Series E variant, you also have a lightweight for around 250$ – the AIS variant costs a good 100$ more.

As a third outstanding example, I would like to mention the Nikon 180mm ED lens – here in the AF variant. The outstanding image quality – see sample photo shot with the manual version – has meant that this lens has been built almost unchanged since 1986 until today.

Also Check: Best Wide Angle Lenses For Nikon DX

A lens in very good condition can be purchased for around $400. You then take photos with a 270mm 2.8 lens of the highest optical and manual production.

Nikon D5600 Image

In addition – the D200 is available with around 10,000 exposures for 250 to 300$, a D300 with a 100 percent viewfinder image for 150$ more.

Take digital photos with manual lenses.

I mentioned above that macro photography actually works very well without autofocus. My many years of experience as an ambitious amateur photographer allow me to add other areas of photography.

Landscape and architecture photos in particular require time and a selection of the subject. Portrait photography in its original context also leaves enough time to focus.

But there is a little problem with focusing: you have to practice. Even as a photographer who took pictures manually with Nikon from the F2AS, I had to practice focusing with digital cameras again.

There is no marker available. Instead, two arrows show me in which direction I have to turn and a green point when the sharpness is right.

If you have got used to it, the focusing is wonderful. I also found the D-17M magnifying eyepiece to be very helpful – it enlarges the viewfinder image by a factor of 1.2 – this corresponds to the viewfinder image of the analog Nikon F3HP.

Therefore, when practiced, it is a lot of fun – for example, taking photos with a combination of D200 and manual AI/AIS lenses. The photos – as seen above – prove the outstanding image quality of the manual, old lenses.

In addition, a not unimportant side effect – now the main argument for me – is the space savings. I take pictures almost exclusively with prime lenses. A 20mm AIS lens fits in every jacket pocket. My little photo bag is enough for a camera and 2 manual lenses – but think carefully beforehand about what should be photographed.

Also Check: Best Lenses for Sony A7III

In addition: Not a lot of hauling, but still the highest quality equipment. DX or FX? I think the variant presented above – DX camera with AI / AIS lens – is a good, high-quality way to take photos. If you’ve got a taste for it, why not put together your own personal camera set.

Full frame Nikon FX Vs. Nikon DX in Wedding Photography

There are SLR cameras with full-frame sensors and some with a crop factor. At Nikon cameras with full-format sensors are marked with FX, e.g. Nikon D650, D800, D810, D850, and those with crop factor are marked with DX, e.g. Nikon D7500, Nikon D500, D3000 series, D5000 series,

Difference Between the FX (full-frame) and DX (crop) Sensor?

As always, it’s a size that matters. Here is a little comparison:

FX – CMOS sensor, 35.9 x 24.0 mm
DX – CMOS sensor, 23.5 x 15.6 mm

even if the size difference is only in the millimeter range? does that matter. I don’t want to bore you here with too many technical details, there are other websites that deal with this in more detail.

The biggest difference is that an FX sensor allows you to take photos with higher ISO values and the noise behavior is better than DX cameras. The decisive factor here is the larger sensor.

Higher ISO values are welcome wherever there is poor light and long exposure times are not possible. A good example of this is weddings.

Everyone (or at least many) know the following situation. You have an entry-level SLR camera (DX format) that takes halfway passable photos and your friends will ask you whether you could please photograph the wedding.

When asked, the pulse rises slightly and you start to sweat, but you are assured that it fits safely and you shouldn’t worry because the photos are not that important anyway, etc. After a while here, you agree and the sleepless nights begin.

Below are 3 methods of how you can take photographs, for example, at a wedding, and what experiences we have made with DX and FX formats over the years.

Method 1: Flash and Low ISO

You can also work with low ISO values in combination with the flash in poor lighting conditions. Unfortunately, direct lightning has its negative side effects. Here are 2 examples for a better understanding. These photos are from the wedding of a couple who are friends.

This photo was taken with a Nikon D90 (DX format) plus Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6, * incl. Flash, Nikon SB-800 at ISO 200. What you can see very clearly here is the shadow in the background of the bride and groom. The bridal couple is also continuously illuminated by the flash and the natural lighting mood is suppressed.

Method 2: No Flash and High ISO

Here is a photo without an additional flash for comparison. It was taken with a Nikon D700 (FX-format) plus Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 * without flash at ISO 2500:

Unfortunately, it is not exactly the same recording as we did not have time to reproduce it 1:1 during the wedding, but at least it should help to show the differences.

By omitting the flash, the natural lighting mood can be used and there are no hard shadows in the background.

In the next picture, which was again taken with the Nikon D90 including flash, the hard shadows (with the pastor) are not so important, but the natural lighting mood has to be dispensed with again & the background becomes darker again.

The darker background can also be an advantage because then you emphasize the really important – the bride and groom – even more, but the following photo was taken with a Nikon D700 shows again what is possible with natural light:

The lighting mood is here again a lot warmer and more harmonious.

Of course, it always depends on which lenses you use. The only thing to say here is that you should – as far as possible – invest your money in high-speed lenses (with a continuous aperture of f1.4, f2.8, or f4). 

Of course, you can also take great photos with weaker lenses, but especially with these bright lenses you can achieve the best quality results in terms of sharpness and resolution of the background with a large aperture (= small f-number, e.g. f4).

We ourselves like to take pictures with aperture 4 on such occasions when we want to photograph individual people. Especially in combination with the Nikkor f2.8 – 70-200mm *, this results in a beautifully blurred background (bokeh) and puts the individual person in the center.

Method 3: Take a Photo with Fill-flash

Another possible variant for photographers is to use a clip-on flash a la Nikon SB-5000 * or YONGNUO YN560 IV * and only use it as a gentle brightener. Here you can avoid whole high ISO values by gently flashing.

In the implementation, it should then work like this (instructions from a photographer friend): “You choose an aperture-shutter combination with an acceptable ISO number, which integrates the ambient light very finely.

Since the main motif (in this case a bride and groom, for example) is usually in the dark, you then light it up moderately with the flash (you can use the TTTL capability of the flash) – this is called flash compensation.

Also Check: Best Budget Lenses For Sony A7III Under $499

Everything in M mode, of course…. You can then refine the whole thing in such a way that, for example, you can use a styrofoam sheet or the blanket to bounce. ” We don’t actually use this variant very often ourselves, because the church usually has high rooms, and bouncing is difficult.

Setting up a styrofoam plate in the church is also rather difficult. In the registry office it can look completely different again (at least as far as bouncing is concerned).

In recent years, the crop sensors have caught up and are on the level of a Nikon D800 & Co. For this, the FX cameras have taken another step in development. Some photographers we know have switched from full format back to crop cameras a la Fujifilm X-T2 and are happy that they have to carry 1/3 less weight in their camera bag.

Conclusion Nikon DX Vs. Nikon FX Cameras in Wedding Photography

Of course, you can take good wedding photos with full-frame and crop cameras. If you have poor lighting conditions and still want to work with the available light, then you can certainly take very good pictures with the latest crop cameras such as the Nikon D7500 *.

With a full-frame (FX) camera you are still a little ahead of the curve and for those who do not care about the cost and weight, you will certainly be very satisfied with a Nikon D750 * or something similar.

Rule of thumb: If you often take photos in situations with poor lighting conditions, where you cannot use a tripod and want to use natural light, then you will get the best quality with a new full-frame camera.

Of course, there are a lot of other differences between FX and DX formats such as quality, depth of field, wide-angle, 1.5 x focal length… but more on these topics in another article.

If you have already had experience with both formats, I look forward to your comment.

Wedding Photography Equipment Tips

When the wedding takes longer again. This way we avoid neck pain and can also briefly pass the camera down. – Folding reflector, e.g. Neewer 60 x 90 cm * – to brighten up the bride and groom in the couple photos

Our favorite Nikon lenses for weddings
– Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 *
– Nikkor 24-120mm f4 *
– Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 *
– Tamron 90mm Macro lens * (for the ring photos)


Scroll to Top