Advice on mid-range zoom and body choice FX/DX with D800/D7100

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by daniel_bliss, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. I have a system including D7000s and a D800, and may be replacing the two D7000s with either a D7100, D300 replacement (if one emerges this year) or a second FX body. Bear in mind that the way I use the D800 is multiformat, so I do use DX lenses on it from time to time and use the 1.2x mode in addition to FX quite a bit for action.
    The question is what way to go on a mid-range zoom. Basically, given the very promising tests of the new Sigma 18-35 1.8, indicating performance on at least Canon's higher-end APS bodies that competes directly with typical full-frame zooms on FX (no Nikon tests yet because no Nikon lenses in the sales channel yet), I'm trying to decide between a full-frame approach centered on a Tamron 24-70 VC 2.8 or Nikkor 24-70 2.8, a mixed approach centered on either the Tamron or Sigma, or a crop-sensor-centered approach on the Sigma.
    So the question goes (given there probably aren't any Nikon-compatible Sigma 1.8 zooms in the wild yet), what's everyone's experience with the big 24-70 zooms on both FX and DX, and does the color-depth, acuity, resolution etc., of the D7100 body compete well with high-res FX bodies when used with the best glass, or is it more comparable to lower-resolution, lower-dynamic range bodies? In an ideal world I'd have both but budgetarily I cannot do that.
  2. The D7100 uses an Exmor sensor with similar properties as the D800. You can expect similar dynamic range properties and color rendering ability, taking into account the different form factor and higher pixel density. Most of the newer lens offerings are designed to perform well at high resolution. I still think the FX bodies have an edge, but the difference is not dramatic. Qualitatively, the newer Nikon bodies are similar to one another. (The D4 does not use an Exmor sensor, but offers expanded full-well capacity at base ISO, giving it wide dynamic range and a look similar to the D3x.) Canon is a different story. They have not yet worked out an architecture for expanded dynamic range at the lowest gain (ISO) settings, and are limited by an inherently noisy gain structure.
  3. I'd look at two other things to make up my mind, actually:
    • How important are long lenses to you? Is the crop factor of a DX camera a big added value to your photography, to the extend that setting the D800 to DX mode is too crappy a solution for those shots?
    • Is the smaller zoomrange of the Sigma going to be limiting in anyway? It's 28-50mm, basically, and in my own experience, that would really just be a bit short - the 70mm end on the FX lenses just pushes them a bit easier into 'portrait' work. Plus, since I'm no ultra-wide angle junk, 24mm usually is enough for me - 28mm however is quite a bit less wide. How would that difference work out for you? Or would the Sigma have exactly the right range?
    To me, these make real world practical considerations on how well a solution is going to work out; the dynamic range of modern sensors (really ample for all of them), colour depth (no problem on any of them) and so on are going to make such miniscule real-world difference in your photos up to enormous prints. So, get the gear that works best for whatever kind of photography you do in terms of having access to the right lenses, ergonomics and featuresets.
  4. The question regarding color depth can be answered by looking at DxOmark results:|0/%28brand%29/Nikon/%28appareil2%29/792|0/%28brand2%29/Nikon/%28appareil3%29/814|0/%28brand3%29/Nikon

    As expected, the FX D800 beats the D7100 here - but read Wouter's remarks above.

    Resolution - mathematically, the D7100 seem to have the edge here (equivalent of 54MP on FX) - but the pixels aren't the same size. Lots of arguments could be made on this subject - I very much prefer to take a few shots and see for myself.

    Mid-range zoom:you don't mention why you want a mixed DX/FX system. I know why I do, but my reasons are likely different from yours. Now, I just made the fairly expensive discovery that a high-end (i.e. f/2.8) zoom is not something I need very often - and hence sold my 17-55/2.8 at quite a loss. The 24-70 would be the last lens I would purchase as it offers even less range on FX than the 17-55 did on DX (and my major complaint was that the lens often didn't provide enough reach). My current solution is to use a 16-35/4 VR on FX (D700), and combine it with either a 35/1.8G, 16-85/3.5-5.6 VR or 70-200/2.8 VR on DX (D300); the focal length gap in the latter case hasn't caused me any trouble so far. I also have a Sigma 35/1.4, 50/1.8G and 85/1.8G to cover the mid-range on FX - they are faster than the 24-70 and at least as good optically.
    The reviews on the Sigma 18-35/1.8 look promising - but after losing money on two DX lens sales (12-24/4 and 17-55/2.8) I am done buying DX lenses. In particular because it is quite unclear whether Nikon will come up with a high-end DX body (aka D400). Also, 18-35 is quite a limited range on DX.
  5. I am enjoying a fast fixed 28 prime (in my case the 28/2AI, but the 1.8G should be good) on my FX while my 28-70/2.8 and the like gather dust. Not too much distortion and sharp, so the lens basically covers 28-50 with a little cropping, or wider with a little footwork. Nice compact package on the D800 or especially the D600, and I don't miss having a bag of other stuff.
    When I get a little more serious, I just grab another body with the 85/1.8G on it.
    If I were shooting an event for pay, the 24-70/2.8 choices would probably be OK, or I like the 24-120/4VR, but I would probably go out with something like an XW-35(VR) on one body and 70-200VR on another.
    I have found that 70mm on FX is not really very long.
  6. Really, it's going to come down to WHAT you shoot and HOW. Can you give us a clue? The whole idea is to match the gear to the use. Are you a full time wedding photographer? Do you mostly shoot wildlife? Do are you heavy into macro? Do you shoot a lot of sports? Do you mostly only do landscapes? If so, do you hike long distances or at higher altitudes? Do you photo racing cars? Portraits of horses & riders? Rodeos? Bands at night clubs? Daytime? Night time? Match the gear to what you are doing.
    Kent in SD
  7. All helpful responses, thanks. First off, there will be some video shooting, hence the interest in VR/VC. Second, my basic landscape and reportage rig in film 15 years ago was a 24mm lens and an 80-200, and I'm looking for a similar kind of set-up now, but with an important addition — a mid-range zoom. I've had the 17-55 now for six years and really enjoyed it, got a great deal of value out of it, and never felt limited by the range other than occasionally I would have liked it to go slightly wider. I think I'm probably a natural fit for a 24-70 in FX and would only occasionally feel restricted by the Sigma f1.8; were I to end up staying focused on DX, holding on to the 17-55 as my primary "normal" lens is a serious possibility.
    I also have a 70-300 VR that I use, mostly with my D7000, for nature shots, and a TC14E for the 70-200 zoom. I eventually intend to get a longer lens, but whether the 300/4, a hypothetical 300/4 VR, or the new 80-400 is an open question, and in any case this won't be for a while yet. I am looking to get back into gallery sales of reportage and landscapes, and back when I was doing that almost all my photographs were 24, 28 or 80-200. The big change since then is the way the 17-55 finally sold me on mid-range zooms, which I'd disliked up to that point.
    One other question, now that I think about it, is workflow involving the mid-range zoom. The 17-55 is extremely efficient in this regard; very consistent optical quality (edge-to-edge sharpness at mid-range and distance, a bit dodgy in the outer field and corners close up but that's rarely a problem in practice, a moderate amount of correctible CA, and not much difference from one aperture to the next) including no complex distortion to correct, just a simple linear adjustment. I get the impression that several of the FX zooms including the Tamron have complex distortion, and would like to know what folks recommend, through means such as plugins and choices of raw software, for dealing with it. The early reviews of the Sigma 1.8 at least on Canon suggest to me that it would be on the easier end of this equation.
    I see a couple of suggestions for using the 16-35/4 in order to provide a cross platform DX/FX solution. While I like the basic idea, I suspect I'd need to keep the 17-55 or else switch it for either the Sigma or Tamron for the sake of having some more options with depth of field isolation. This effectively puts a significant crimp on the budget and I doubt whether it would work for me. Another factor is that I don't really see an ultrawide solution in DX that I like and that's part of what's steering me in a more FX direction; I feel the DX ultrawide products either involve playing the sample lottery or settling for more modest performance.
  8. The Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 is excellent, and a proven performer. There's also the even more radical Sigma 8-16mm available. Considering the D800 in crop mode is working for you, a case could be made that the expense of FX isn't needed. My suggestion would be: Sigma 18-35mm f2.8, add Sigma 50mm f1.4, sell D800 and 70-300mm & maybe 17-55mm to fund Nikon 80-400mm VR-G. Add a Nikon 10.5mm or Tokina 11-16mm later. This will give you a balanced, versatile system. This route would redistribute your money in a way that's a better fit for you. It looks like you mostly do daytime, outdoor photography.
    Kent in SD
  9. I don't see how the Sigma lens on a D7100 would have an advantage over a good 24-70 lens on a D800. You do the f-stop equivalence thing and the Sigma on a DX camera is equivalent to a 27-53mm f/2.7 zoom on an FX camera. What it's really doing is helping the DX camera catch up to what you can already get in fast aperture zooms on FX, only with less zoom range. The Sigma lens does cost less than good 24-70 zooms, is very good by all reports, and the D7100 is really quite good, so if you specifically want a good DX kit go for it, but don't buy it because you think that having an f/1.8 zoom on DX is better than an f/2.8 zoom on FX.
    I'd consider going all-FX. It sounds like with the amount of lenses you're talking about using, it might be helpful to just consolidate everything onto one format and only need one set of lenses.
  10. Luke: The D7100 likely uses a Toshiba sensor, not a Sony EXMOR sensor. The D5200 has been confirmed to use a Toshiba unit and the D7100 sensor is listed at the same resolution and dimensions.
  11. Thank you Alex. I stand corrected. It seems to have similar noise properties as the Sony, but for all I know the resemblance ends there.
  12. @Andy L — I see your point; also I strongly agree that the Sigma lens is largely about enabling DX to play catch-up with FX, getting DX's standard to wide-angle weak spot to a point where it is "good enough". I'm beginning to think I either need to go back to basics — which for me means the 24 or 18-35, a prime 35 or 50, and my 70-200 with a single FX body as my primary shooting rig — or double down on my DX pattern of the last few years (17-55 or similar and 70-200). The dilemma I'm having is that DX seems to be seriously short of wider-angle options that I like, while FX is short in the standard zoom department. One way out — and getting clearly down to two lenses in FX rather than the 24/50/telezoom combo I used with film — might be FX with the Tamron VC lens handling the 24-50 range that I'd actually use, and the telephoto zoom covering the rest. But pooling everyone's comments and my own research, I don't see a comparable strategy for DX because of being cut off at the knees after 28mm equivalent; my experience of DX ultrawide has not been a good one as I tried and failed a number of years ago with what I can only hope were bad samples. The key thing is hitting that 24mm FX/15-16mm DX point with a lens I like. Would anyone care to comment on ultrawide with the D7100, let's say the Tokina 11-16 and Nikkor 10-24/12-24, and how the results compare with lenses of equivalent angles of view on FX?
  13. i use the nikon 24-70 with a D3s and a d300s. it doesnt make a whole lot of sense to get a DX zoom and use it on an FX body. using a 24-70 on a DX body works when you need reach more than wide end. where you get stuck with a hybrid system is on the wide end, since you have to have both an FX w/a and a DX w/a.

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