When shopping for Nikon lenses, you probably come across the letters “DX” and “FX” and find them confusing. These characters refer to the image sensor format that these lenses are compatible with.
DX lenses are designed for crop-sensor cameras, giving you a smaller field of view and resolution. Meanwhile, FX lenses fit full-frame cameras, resulting in no crop factor and larger resolution.
DX and FX lenses differ in several things, which we will cover below. This article will also answer your other questions about these two Nikon lenses, such as how to tell them apart and which one to buy.
What Is DX vs. FX Lens?
DX and FX lenses refer to the type of sensors they are designed to work with. Popular manufacturer Nikon produces DX and FX-format cameras. These are also known as APS-C (crop-sensor) and full-frame systems, respectively.
To understand them clearly, we will teach you the definitions and benefits of these Nikon lenses.
What Is A DX Lens?
A DX lens is specifically designed for a DX-format Nikon camera. The DX cameras are also called crop-sensor or APS-C cameras because of their small image sensors. These sensors have dimensions of 24mm by 16mm, or around 2/3rd the size of a full-frame sensor.
Why Should You Use A DX Lens?
DX lenses offer several benefits.
First, the reduction in image sensor size means DX lenses are smaller than their FX counterparts. The compact and lightweight design of Nikon DX lenses is suitable for travel and everyday photography.
Since DX lenses are smaller, they use fewer glass elements. That means reduced production costs. The DX lenses’ affordability makes them an excellent choice for beginners and hobbyists.
Another reason to use the DX lens is its crop factor. It increases the effective focal length of the lens, giving you more reach and a narrow perspective. This Nikon lens is ideal for action, sports, and wildlife photography.
What Is An FX Lens?
An FX lens caters specifically to FX-format cameras. These Nikon cameras have a full-frame sensor that is around 36mm x 24mm in size.
FX lenses cover the large sensor size of full-frame cameras, regardless if they are DSLR or mirrorless systems.
Why Should You Use An FX Lens?
FX lenses provide a lot of advantages in photography and videography.
Since they cover the entire sensor area, FX lenses capture a wider angle of view than DX lenses. They offer an ultra-wide-angle perspective that suits architecture, interior, and landscape photography.
Additionally, the FX lens has a larger surface area to allow more light into the sensor. It delivers better image quality and reduced noise in low-light conditions. It is ideal for shooting the night sky, stars, events, and other scenes with challenging lighting.
FX lenses mounted on full-frame cameras also offer better image quality than DX lenses. That is because they use more glass elements to optimize optical performance.
Finally, these Nikon camera lenses are versatile. They are compatible with both DX and FX-format cameras, thanks to their wider image circle.
What Are The Differences Between DX vs FX Lens?
DX and FX lenses differ in several ways. Below, we will take a look at the key distinctions between the two Nikon lens systems.
As previously mentioned, DX lenses are designed to be compatible with APS-C or crop-sensor cameras. They have a smaller image circle, which results in a crop factor.
The crop factor is the ratio of the image sensor size to a standard 35mm film frame.
DX lenses used on APS-C cameras have a crop factor of 1.5x. They can change the effective focal length of lenses. For example, a 50mm DX lens on a DX-format camera becomes a 75mm lens. To determine the lens’ equivalent focal length, multiply the lens’ actual focal length by 1.5.
In contrast, FX lenses mounted on full-frame cameras do not have a crop factor. Their stated focal length is the same because full-frame cameras are close to the 35mm sensor size. So if you use a 35mm FX lens on an FX-format camera, you get the same focal length.
Field of View
A DX lens is designed for smaller sensor size. When paired with the 1.5x crop factor, it offers a narrow angle of view or zoomed-in perspective. It is suitable for action, sports, and wildlife photography.
Meanwhile, an FX lens comes with a larger image circle. It captures a wider angle of view, allowing you to include a lot of elements within the frame. It is ideal for architecture, landscape, and street photography.
DX lenses have fewer pixels than FX lenses mounted on a full-frame camera. They are unable to capture the finer details of a subject. However, a lower resolution means smaller file sizes, which are easy to share and upload online.
On the other hand, FX lenses attached to full-frame DSLRs have higher image resolution. They can record high-quality details. They also allow more flexibility in cropping and printing. The only downside is that they tend to have larger files, which take up a lot of memory space.
DX lenses mounted on crop-sensor cameras can capture a lesser amount of light compared to FX lenses. While the difference is mostly negligible, the smaller image circle can be a disadvantage in low-light situations.
Meanwhile, FX lenses connected to FX-format cameras can gather more light. They have slightly better performance in dim lighting conditions. They also offer better noise performance when using high ISO settings.
However, the sensor size is just one of the several factors affecting the light-gathering capability of the camera. You must also consider the maximum aperture of the lens and noise performance.
DX and FX lenses are compatible with different camera systems due to their unique design.
As mentioned, Nikon specifically designed the DX lens for use in DX-format cameras, including DSLRs and mirrorless systems.
But unlike other lenses made for crop-sensor cameras, a DX lens is also compatible with an FX full-frame camera. However, it results in a cropped image. The camera automatically uses the central portion of the sensor because of the crop factor.
On the other hand, FX lenses can fit in both DX and FX-format cameras because of their large image circle. When mounted on a full-frame camera, FX lenses do not have any cropping factor. But when connected to an APS-C camera, these lenses give you a reduced field of view because of the smaller sensor. The effective focal length of the FX lenses will also have a 1.5x crop factor. In other words, it is like using a DX lens on the camera.
In terms of price, DX lenses are more affordable than their FX counterparts. There are several reasons for this price difference.
First, Nikon DX lenses are designed for smaller and lighter cameras. As such, they tend to use fewer glass elements, which lower production costs.
In terms of design, the Nikon DX lens has a smaller image circle. This allows lens manufacturers to use less expensive optical formulas.
Finally, Nikon produced the Nikon DX lens to cater to entry-level and mid-range photographers. That is why the price is low compared to an FX lens to make the DX lens more accessible to consumers.
In contrast, FX lenses are meant for larger full-frame cameras. They have more complex optical designs and advanced features, resulting in higher price tags.
Frequently Asked Questions
How To Tell If A Nikon Lens Is DX Or FX?
To identify whether you have a DX or FX lens, you can check the lens itself. Most Nikon lenses have distinct markings on the barrel to indicate if they are compatible with DX-format cameras. If the Nikon lens lacks a DX designation, you can safely assume it is an FX lens. It is the standard lens for a full-frame camera, so it does not have any labels.
You can also check the user manual or the website of the manufacturer to learn if the lens is for DX or FX cameras.
What Type Of Lens Will Fit My Nikon DSLR Camera?
To determine what type of lens is compatible with your DSLR camera, you must identify its sensor format. Nikon has two main types of imaging sensors: DX and FX.
- DX-format cameras: They are compatible with DX and FX lenses. However, when using FX lenses on crop-sensor cameras, you get a 1.5x crop factor. That leads to a smaller resolution and a narrower field of view.
- FX-format cameras: They primarily work with FX lenses that cover the entire full-frame sensor. They can also accept DX lenses, but they have a cropped resolution because of the small imaging circle of the said lenses.
Note that Nikon DSLRs only fit the F mount. Avoid buying a lens with a Nikon Z mount because it is specifically designed for mirrorless cameras.
Should I Buy An FX or DX Lens For My Nikon Camera?
Choosing between FX and DX lenses depends on several factors. See some great options for Nikon D7200 lenses to get a better idea of the difference.
First, consider the type of camera you have. While both FX and DX lenses work on crop-sensor and full-frame cameras, they have pros and cons. If you own a DX-format camera and have no plan on upgrading soon, stick with a DX lens. But if you plan on doing professional work in the future, get an FX lens for its versatility.
You must also think about your budget. As we covered above, DX lenses are less expensive than FX lenses. Those working on a small budget can buy the said lenses. But if you do not mind the high price tag, you will likely find the FX lens worth it.
Finally, consider your photography or videography needs. Prefer a light and compact lens for traveling? Go for DX lenses. Do you often shoot in low-light situations? Get FX lenses. Want a wide field of view? FX lenses are also a great choice. Those who need to get closer to the subject will prefer DX lenses for their cropping capabilities.
How To Know If Tamron Or Sigma Is Made For DX Or FX-Format Camera?
If you want to buy third-party lenses, you might wonder if they have DX and FX-format lenses as well. Let us take a look at the lens formats of brands like Tamron and Sigma.
Tamron has Di and Di-II lenses. Di stands for digitally-integrated lenses, which are designed for FX (full-frame) Nikon cameras. Meanwhile, Tamron Di-II lenses are optimized for APS-C cameras.
As for Sigma, they use DG and DC designations. Sigma DG lenses are compatible with full-frame format cameras, whereas DC lenses suit APS-C sensors.
Which Lens Is Better: Nikon DX vs FX?
In terms of image quality and technology, a Nikon FX lens is superior to a DX lens. An FX lens has a larger image circle that allows more light inside the camera. It also has more advanced features to complement the capabilities of a full-frame camera. As such, it provides better image quality and performance in low-light conditions.
That said, the Nikon DX is still worth considering. It might be the better lens if you mainly use APS-C sensor cameras. That is because this lens is optimized for use in crop-sensor systems. It is also lightweight, portable, and budget-friendly, making it a top choice among various users.
The DX vs. FX lens topic is one of the most popular debates among Nikon users. Both letters refer to the camera format that these lenses work with.
A DX lens is engineered for Nikon crop-sensor DSLRs and mirrorless systems. It has a smaller, lighter, and cheaper design than an FX lens. It also offers a 1.5x crop factor that results in a more zoomed-in perspective, which is a double-edged sword. Meanwhile, the FX lens is compatible with full-frame cameras. It delivers better image quality and low-light performance. The only downside is its high price.
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