Full frame or DX, that is the question

For about a year now I’ve thought that the perfect setup for shooting events would be two D300’s with three low-light lenses (14-24mm , 24-70, and 70-200  [all f/2.8]).  This means I could hit any focal length from 14-200 with an aperture of 2.8.  However, after viewing some images recently from a full frame sensor I have gained a true appreciation for them, most notably their wide angle aspect.

After crunching some numbers I discovered that I can get nearly the same broad focal range using two cameras and only two lenses, and it’s even a couple hundred dollars cheaper than my previous “ideal setup.”

The diagram below shows what I’m trying to explain, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the small, digital (DX) sensor magnifies the focal range by a factor of 1.5.  Basically, I use a wide to medium range lens on a D700 and a telephoto lens on my D300.  The full frame sensor gives me the true wide angle, and the DX sensor gives me more power on the telephoto end.


The only disadvantage is that you lose the range between 70 and 105.  Technically, you can pick up 3mm on the wide end with the third lens (14-24), but those three millimeters are not worth the $1,600 price tag of the lens.  In rare cases when I need that extreme wide angle, I can always rent the lens.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to try the new setup.  I rented a D700 for a wedding on Saturday and then headshots on Sunday.  Not once did I feel as if I was limited by my equipment.  I was able to execute every idea I had, and everything worked flawlessly.

This won’t be the perfect setup for every job, but for the event photographer it can’t be beat.

4 thoughts on “Full frame or DX, that is the question

  1. Hey Stephen,

    I never even scratched a lens so far, but I am not doing weddings …

    Anyway, I thought you wanted two bodies, because you wanted backup, but wrt your answer I gather you need two bodies, because you don’t want to change lenses.

    Btw. I have both lenses and love the ultra sharp 24-70, but the 70-200 is kind of soft and slow. So as rumor has it, that there will be an update soon (?!), maybe it’s a good idea to wait or do you have it already.

  2. Thanks for your insight! I do indeed prefer to shoot with two cameras so that I don’t have to switch lenses, it’s so much faster and less risky than swapping out lenses all the time.

    I have not yet heard about the rumored new 70-200, but that will be the last thing I get anyway.

    Thanks again! Your comments are always welcome here.

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