Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Do I Need Full Frame?" - Short Answer: NO

(For an update on the January 2014 situation, scroll down)

I take a quick break from reviews, to address another issue. Full Frame. A friend of mine asked me the other day, "Should I get a used D700 or a new D7000?". I was staring at him for a few moments, then I realized: He was being serious!

In the question: "Do I Need Full Frame?", I have only one answer: NO

  • If you need to ask, you don't need FX
  • If you are not making money with your photographs (in a regular, consistent basis), you don't need FX

That was easy, wasn't it?

Full Frame is clearly superior in low light. But does that mean everyone needs it?

People read on blogs and sites how much better FX is - the usual arguments are that the FX sensors are much better in terms of noise, and that the FX viewfinder is much better. Both of these are true, but consider what you give away:

  • $2000-$5000 (D700 and D3s respectively; used)
  • Lens realignment need
  • Getting used to "new" focal lengths
  • Losing on the tele end

Arguably #4 and #3 are somewhat acceptable. Sure, you sooner or later get used to think differently (depending also a bit how much time you've spent with DX). And OK, your 200mm lens is no longer 300mm, like in DX. I suppose you can deal with that, as well.

But consider #2 and #1:

$2000 is a lot of money; $5000 is CRAZY lot of money. I don't care how much money you make. $5000 on a camera (which will become obsolete is just a few years) is an utterly mad choice. Period. $2000 for a camera which does pretty much the exact same job as an $800 D300 is an equally lunatic option.

Which brings us to lens realignment. Chances are, most lenses you have right now are DX. You'll have to get rid of them and replace them with FX. Newsflash: FX lenses are much more expensive. Either you'll have to start buying old/cheap/crappy 3rd party lenses (good luck using a 28-200 Tamron) or you won't be able to afford but perhaps 1-2 lenses.

Let's take a hypothetical lineup (which may very well be close to reality for many DX users):
  • Sigma 10mm-20mm
  • Nikkor AF-S 18mm-55mm
  • Nikkor AF-S 55mm-200mm
  • Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8

Total value used: aprox $600-$700

Now, let's see how it translates into FX (and I'm choosing for price now, not quality):
Sigma 15-30mm
Nikkor AF-S VR 24mm-120mm (the older, quite crappy version)
Nikkor AF-S VR 70mm-300mm
Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8

Total value used: aprox $1200-$1300

So, you pay double the money, and the quality overall is worse (thanks to the 24-120, although the 15-30 isn't great either); the 70-300 and the 50 f/1.8 are good but not as good as in DX

Bottom line: FORGET the FX. If you lust for better noise handling, consider this: From your last 100 photos, how many were taken at ISO 1600 or 3200? If more than 30, then you're doing it wrong. Seriously, getting FX for better noise handling is insane. Do yourself a favor and keep the money. Right now, the D300/D7000 are the very best any amateur needs. (Personally I also like the D2x up to 400 ISO).

January 2014 Update:
The situation hasn't changed much. The issues raised above are still valid, as the new "entry level" (sort of) Full Frame Nikon, the D610, is still an expensive camera. You can find a used D700 at a lower price - and frankly, it lacks nothing compared to the D600. Nothing a photographer needs, that is.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! I was on the FX-train (D700/D600) for 4 years before I came to my senses; Now my images are BETTER from my D3200 because most og my lenses (FX-primes) are now shot through the middle of the glass, and thus bad corners and vignetting are a thing of the past :-)