Nikon FX vs DX: Understanding the Differences

What Defines the Nikon FX and DX Formats?

The FX and DX formats in Nikon cameras describe the size of the image sensor. While the DX-format sensor is more compact, the full-frame FX-format sensor is larger, roughly equivalent to 35mm film. Nikon uses these terms to categorize the distinct sensor sizes.

How Do the Sensor Sizes of FX and DX Compare?

Nikon produces two types of sensors, the DX-format and the FX-format. Nikon’s DX-format sensor, at 24x16mm, is notably smaller than the full frame FX-format sensor, which is 36x24mm, mirroring the size of 35mm film. This variation in sensor size is matched by a range of NIKKOR lenses designed for each type. The FX sensor is typically found in full-frame cameras, and the DX sensor is usually found in more compact and lighter cameras.

What Are the Key Features of Nikon FX Cameras?

Nikon FX refers to the format of Nikon’s digital SLR cameras that use a full-frame image sensor, which is approximately the same size as 35mm film. The FX format is known for providing higher image quality, especially in low light conditions due to its larger sensor size. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Nikon DX Format?

The Nikon DX format comes with its own set of pros and cons. Advantages include the generally lower cost of both the camera body and lenses, along with a favorable pixel density per cost ratio. DX cameras are also smaller and lighter than FX cameras, enhancing their portability. However, there are drawbacks. In low-light conditions, DX format cameras may exhibit increased noise, and they typically have a narrower dynamic range than FX format cameras. Additionally, on DX cameras, wide-angle lenses will not appear as wide, and lenses specifically designed for DX won’t adequately cover the entire FX sensor.

Comparing FX and DX in Camera Performance

How Do Dynamic Range Differ Between FX and DX?

The dynamic range differs between FX and DX cameras, with FX cameras typically having a greater dynamic range than DX cameras. This is due to the larger sensor size in FX cameras, which allows for the capture of more light particles, resulting in a broader dynamic range. Conversely, DX cameras, with their smaller sensor size, tend to have a less dynamic range and can be more prone to noise. Additionally, the field of view with wide-angle lenses is not as wide on a DX body due to differences in sensor size.

Which Format Offers Better Low-Light Performance?

The Nikon FX format offers better low-light performance compared to the DX format. This is primarily due to the FX camera’s larger sensor size, which provides a greater light gathering area, resulting in higher sensitivity and generally lower noise. The FX format also delivers superior image quality and color accuracy in low-light conditions. However, it’s worth noting that while the FX format excels in low-light performance, the DX format is generally lighter, more compact, and more affordable.

How Does the Crop Factor in DX Cameras Impact Photography?

The crop factor in DX cameras significantly impacts photography by altering the field of view and effective focal length of the lens. A DX sensor, smaller than a 35mm film frame, introduces a 1.5x crop factor because it covers a smaller portion of the image projected by the lens. This means that the image appears magnified, making the focal length seem longer and narrowing the field of view compared to a full-frame camera. For instance, a 24mm lens on a DX camera would provide the field of view equivalent to a 36mm lens on a full-frame camera (24mm multiplied by the 1.5x crop factor). This crop factor can be advantageous in situations where a narrower field of view is desired, such as when the subject is far away. However, it also means that ultra-wide lens designs become merely wide, and wide-angle lenses become ‘normal’.

Lens Compatibility and Performance

What Types of Lenses Are Compatible with Nikon DX Cameras?

Nikon DX cameras are compatible with a variety of lenses, including the Nikkor AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, Tokina atx-i 11-20mm f/2.8 CF Plus, Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G, Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 85mm f/3.5G ED VR, Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD, Sigma Art 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM, Nikkor AF-S 24mm f/1.8G ED, and Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED. Additionally, Nikon DX-format DSLRs can use both DX and FX lenses interchangeably. However, it’s important to note that some older lenses may not be compatible with newer Nikon cameras.

Can FX Lenses Be Used on DX Camera Bodies Effectively?

FX lenses can indeed be used effectively on DX camera bodies. While FX lenses are designed for full-frame sensors, they can be used interchangeably with DX lenses, which are designed for smaller sensors. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Because DX and FX cameras have differing sensor sizes, using a lens on a different body type can modify its effective focal length. Additionally, FX lenses are often larger, heavier, and more expensive than their DX counterparts. Despite these factors, using an FX lens on a DX body can potentially improve the quality of your photos.

What Distinguishes DX Lenses from FX Lenses?

DX and FX lenses are designed by Nikon to accommodate different camera sensor sizes. The DX-format sensor has a more compact size, compared to the larger FX-format sensor, which is roughly equivalent in size to 35mm film. DX lenses tend to be more compact and lightweight compared to FX lenses, as they need less glass and have smaller lens barrels. FX lenses, on the other hand, tend to be of higher quality and more expensive. When a DX lens is used on an FX camera, due to the crop, you get the same 1.5x magnification that you would with a DX lens on a DX camera.

How Does Lens Choice Affect Image Quality in DX and FX Formats?

The choice of lens can significantly impact image quality in DX and FX formats. Using an FX lens on a DX camera often results in less distortion as FX lenses are designed to cover a larger sensor area, projecting a larger image circle than DX lenses. However, a downside is that DX cameras have a smaller sensor size, meaning the image will be cropped when using an FX lens, potentially resulting in a loss of wide-angle coverage and a narrower field of view. Despite this, both DX and FX lenses can be used interchangeably in either format.

Nikon Camera Models: DX and FX Series

What Are Some Popular Models in Nikon’s DX Series?

Some popular models in Nikon’s DX series include the Z30 (released in June 2022), Z fc (June 2021), Z50 (October 2019), D7500 (April 2017), D5600 (November 2016), D3400 (August 2016), D500 (January 2016), and D7200 (March 2015). These cameras are part of Nikon’s DX-format APS-C sensors, which are used in their flagship DSLRs. The D500, for example, is a notable model in the D5(XX) series. These models are well-regarded for their image quality and are suitable for a range of photography needs, from beginner to professional.

What Are the Flagship Models in Nikon’s FX Series?

The flagship models in Nikon’s FX series include the Nikon Z9 and the Nikon D6. The Nikon Z9 is a mirrorless camera with a built-in grip and impressive features, including a 45.7-MP stacked sensor and EXPEED 7, allowing it to deliver high-quality images and videos. The Nikon D6, on the other hand, is a professional DSLR camera highly regarded in the industry. Both these models utilize Nikon’s full-frame sensors, offering high sensitivity and low noise, making them ideal for professional photography.

How Do DX and FX Models Differ in Resolution and Image Quality?

DX and FX camera models differ primarily in terms of sensor size, which impacts their resolution and image quality. FX sensors are larger and can therefore accommodate more pixels, leading to higher resolution. For instance, the Nikon Z9, an FX-format camera, features a high resolution of 45.7 megapixels, exceeding that of DX sensors. This allows for added flexibility in photography, such as extended cropping choices and the capability for larger prints. In terms of image quality, FX models generally surpass DX models, as the larger sensor size can contribute to sharper images and better low-light performance.

Which Nikon Camera Models Are Ideal for Travel Photography?

The ideal Nikon camera models for travel photography include the Nikon Z f, Nikon Z 50, Nikon Z 5, Nikon COOLPIX B600, Nikon D5600, Nikon D7200, Nikon D3400, Nikon D850, Nikon D3500, and Nikon D500. These models have been praised for their design, image quality, and functionality, making them suitable for capturing high-quality photos during travels. The Nikon Z fc is also recommended for its modern features, despite its retro appearance.

Choosing Between FX and DX: Factors to Consider

How Do DX and FX Formats Compare in Terms of Cost and Size?

DX cameras are generally smaller, lighter, and less expensive than FX cameras. The DX-format has a smaller sensor size, making these cameras more compact and easier to transport. On the other hand, FX cameras have a larger full-frame sensor, making them heavier and more cumbersome to carry. In terms of cost, FX cameras are significantly more expensive, with the cheapest models costing over $2500 just for the camera body, while DX cameras are usually marketed at entry-level photographers and are therefore more affordable.

What Should Photographers Consider When Choosing Between DX and FX Lenses?

When choosing between DX and FX lenses, photographers should consider several factors. FX lenses are known for their wider field of view and greater dynamic range, making them a superior choice for landscape photography. However, DX lenses and cameras are typically more affordable and lighter, making them a practical option for those on a budget or those who prioritize portability. FX lenses also tend to provide higher image quality and better low-light performance. However, DX lenses can only be used in DX mode, which offers less resolution. Lastly, while FX lenses can be used on DX cameras, the image will be cropped due to the smaller sensor size of DX cameras, resulting in a narrower field of view.

How Does the Field of View Differ Between DX and FX Sensors?

The field of view differs between DX and FX sensors due to the size of the sensors and the crop factor. The DX-format sensor has a compact size of 24x16mm, in contrast to the full-frame FX-format sensor, which is larger at 36x24mm, roughly mirroring the dimensions of 35mm film. This difference in size results in a change in the field of view, known as the crop factor. The crop factor means that a lens of a given focal length will have a narrower field of view in DX format. For example, using an FX-format lens on a DX-format camera results in an angle of view equivalent to using a lens with 1.5 times the focal length on a full-frame camera. Therefore, a 35mm lens on a DX camera will have a field of view close to what a 52mm lens would on an FX camera.

Why Might a Professional Photographer Prefer FX Over DX, or Vice Versa?

A professional photographer might prefer FX over DX due to the larger sensor size of the FX format, which offers higher sensitivity and generally lower noise due to its greater light gathering area. This can result in improved image quality, particularly in low light conditions. On the other hand, a DX format camera, with its smaller sensor, might be preferred when a more compact and lightweight setup is desired, as it can still deliver high-quality images. Additionally, using an FX lens on a DX camera can extend the reach of the lens, which can be advantageous for certain types of photography, such as wildlife or sports. However, it’s important to note that using an FX lens on a DX body results in a crop factor, which can limit wide-angle coverage.


I’m a professional photographer with 17 years of experience in a wide range of photography, and over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to use a variety of photographic equipment now I would like to share my knowledge with you through this website. I hope becomes the go-to destination when selecting the best gears for any project. Here you can access unbiased reviews and make an informed decision when choosing gears.

Sittha Sathutham Photographer and Writer