Discover which Nikon lenses work with which sensor formats in our DX format vs FX format comparison.
Nikon makes DSLRs with two different sensor sizes: FX and DX. FX sensors are the same size as 35mm film, but they are more expensive to make. This is why most enthusiasts use the smaller DX-format models.
The DX format sensor is about the same size as the old APS-C film format – in fact, these sensors are sometimes referred to as ‘APS-C’ format.
To go with these sensor sizes, Nikon makes both FX and DX lenses. FX lenses fit on both types of camera, but are often large, heavy and expensive.
DX format lenses are solely for cameras with DX-format sensors. They project a smaller image circle to cover the smaller sensor, but they’re lighter and cheaper.
If you have a DX-format Nikon, DX lenses are the most cost-effective buy, but if you plan to move up to the FX format, you’ll need to swap over to FX lenses.
Nikon DX format vs FX format: learn your lenses
DX format vs FX format: 01 Focal factors
DX sensors capture a smaller field of view, so it makes it appear as if you’re shooting with a longer focal length lens. This is called the ‘crop factor’, and you need to multiply a lens’s actual focal length by 1.5 to get its effective focal length on a DX camera.
DX format vs FX format: 02 DX lenses
This DX-format D5200 comes with an 18-55mm kit lens, but the 1.5x crop factor means the lens is effectively a 27-82.5mm one, which is a typical ‘standard’ zoom range for a D-SLR. This is a DX lens which only covers the DX sensor area, so it’s not suitable for an FX camera.
DX format vs FX format: 03 FX lenses
This FX-format D610 comes with a 24-85mm kit lens. 24-85mm is the lens’s effective focal length because it’s on a full-frame camera (the crop factor is 1.0). You can use it on a DX Nikon, but it will be too ‘long’ to be a useful standard zoom, with an effective range of 36-127.5mm.
Using the DX format crop mode
You can use DX lenses on FX bodies in DX ‘crop’ mode. This uses only the central part of the sensor and sacrifices much of the camera’s resolution.
Consider buying FX lenses for a DX-format body, in case you swap formats in future.
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