Very hot posts in the web talk about switching from cropped into full-sensor cameras. When I got a Nikon D810 I kept my D7100 system and this actually saved me money! Let me explain why.
Ever since I got started in digital photography I loved the DX format. In spite of all the talk about not having true wide angles available there were enough DX lens choices like the Nikon AFS 12-24mm f/4 (which I still use), the AFS 10-24mm, and the AF 10.5mm fisheye. Sigma eventually produced an DC (DX) version of its amazing 12-24 rectilinear FX lens: the 8-16mm DC HSM. The very recent crop of f/1.8 primes and the 18-35mm f/1.8 Sigma are there to satisfy photographers wanting fast glass. There have been DX midrange zooms in all flavors, and the telephoto lenses became all that more useful thanks to that money-and-weight saving 1.5-crop factor. The cameras progressed both in features and in image quality until reaching the current high-density 24 MP models like the Nikon D7100. So, why change to FX format?
If you want to follow a good discussion about the big “upgrade” check out Richard Butler’s recent post in DPReview which addresses exactly this point: http://www.dpreview.com/articles/5678273556/opinion-the-myth-of-the-upgrade-path
When the Nikon D810 was released I saw a great camera with well-thought features and impressive image quality. Now, after using it for several months, I can see its strengths and weaknesses. What I thought was an increased acutance was mostly the product of the new default clarity adjustment. Also, the dynamic range is not too different from the one in the D7100. The in-camera jpegs of the D810 are far better than those from previous Nikon cameras due to the new EXPEED 4 engine, and the noise reduction is much improved but these are not so relevant if you shoot raw. In addition, things like the shutter’s electronic first curtain and its lower noise are improvements I wanted to have.
With FX I now have a wider choice of wide-angle lenses and this could be an advantage to the FX format (but, how many lenses can you carry around?). Also, I can get more subject separation from the background in the mid-telephoto range which is something I always wanted. It is in the telephoto range that I still think DX is and will always be a winner for wildlife photography: there is no way I am going to lug around 400 f/2.8 or 600 f/4 lenses through steep, muddy, and thick jungle trails. My 300 f/2.8 is in the limits of portability for that purpose. If I need more power, then teleconverters and Nikon 1 series cameras are perfect choices.
Of course, if you routinely make 40 x 60 inch prints, a 36 MP file can make a difference, but this applies mostly to landscape and architectural photography. Getting birds and small mammals to look large in the frame is hard enough even with the 1.5 crop factor of DX cameras. Besides, the D7100’s 24 MP will print better than the 15 MP of the D810 DX area. In the telephoto range is where you really save money!
So, will I be FX or DX? No need to choose actually: A lot of people carry more than one camera body, and I can just reserve my D7100 for the telephoto and macro lenses while I leave free the D810 for wide- and mid-range optics. The DX camera is about the size of a large lens and works as a 1.5 teleconverter. Best of both worlds!
Here is a great equipment setup: one FX camera body (your choice) with 18-35mm FX zoom (about $ 750,) and one DX camera body with 70-300 FX zoom (105-450 equivalent focal length, you probably own these two already). If you need mid-range coverage then switch lenses and you get 27-52 mm and 70-300 mm): Nearly the complete focal length range from 18 to 450 mm and you don’t have to change lenses as often!
To sum up the lesson I learned: do not “upgrade” but supplement your DX with an FX camera body and a wide angle zoom lens according to your needs and budget. I am aware of how expensive modern camera equipment is but I also believe in waiting and saving… I believe this will make you happier in the long run.
What are your equipment choices in this changing world? I will like to know of your own experiences.