Is Full Frame Worth the Price and Weight?

I recently moved from a Nikon D300 (1.5 crop using a APS size sensor) to a Nikon D800 full frame and wanted to do a comparison.  Realizing that the differences would be hard to see with full size images on this website, I used a small crop area, as shown in the above photo.

The difficulty in doing this comparison is the vastly different pixel count between the D800 and D300. If you are making a large print the image of the D300 needs to be enlarged by 1.71 times more than the D800. So I used a smaller crop for the D300 images, then resized to get 740 pixels across.

Since this is not a scientific experiment but just one to satisfy my own curiosity, I decided to do a comparison using only the lens I have for each format size.  Therefore the differences can be partly due to the lenses.  The size of the crop for the D800 images was 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image, producing a  740×740 pixel crop due to the D800’s amazing 36 megapixel sensor (7,360 x 4,912 pixels).  The Nikon  D300 has a 12 megapixel sensor.   Click each image to see enlarged since this blog might resize to fit.

D800 with both Nikon 16-35 f4 and Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Tokina 11-16 f2.8

Starting with the widest I can go on both cameras (16 mm equivalent full frame) the full frame D800 is clearly sharper.



Going a bit less wide, 24 mm equivalent full frame, I used both new full frame lens set to 24 mm and the Tokina set to 16 mm, or 24 mm equivalent for full frame.   The first two images from the D800 look similar, as I expected based on my other comparison post between these two lenses.  The 3rd image with the Tokina on the D300 is clearly less sharp.





 D800 with Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Nikon 18-200 f3.5-5.6

First at a moderate wide angle (35 mm full frame equivalent).  Here  the D800 full frame is much better.

NIKON D800 24.0-120.0 mm f-4.0 Lens at 35 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_


Next is a short telephoto (70 mm full frame equivalent).  Again a rather noticeable difference It is a combination of the full frame D800, 36 megapixels and a better lens.



Moving out to the longest I can shoot with the D800 (120 mm), the difference is similar.


NIKON D300 18.0-200.0 mm f-3.5-5.6 Lens at 135 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_

In summary, if you want to make large prints, then the full frame setup clearly has some advantages, but for sharing photos on the web, the APS size sensor will give you just about the same advantages for less money and less weight.

Lightroom Plugin Analyzes Metadata

I discovered a very cool plugin for Lightroom from Lightroom Analytics that takes your metadata and gives you all types of cool graphs.  It involves installing a plugin into Lightroom to export the meta data for the selected images.  You then open up a HMTL page and drag the exported data into the finder, and you are all done with a lot of graphs.

I recently acquired a full frame Nikon D800 and was wondering what lens I should buy.   To see what I have been using, in Lightroom I used the filter to see all of the thousands of images taken with the D300 and exported the metadata using this plugin.  Then I dragged the produced file into their webpage and it produced all types of graphs, including the above one.

I then looked at one of the other graphs it produced to see what focal lengths I actually used and I saw this graph, that reported them in actual focal length and also equivalent full frame.  Click the images to see enlarged.


From these charts I see that I like to shoot very wide, from the widest I had (18 mm for 35 mm equivalent) up to about 100 mm.  There were several items in the telephoto range, mostly at 300 mm, but not as many as very wide.  From this I decided to get a mid range zoom and an ultra wide zoom .

Next I looked at what apertures I was using and what shutter speeds.  The program produced these charts.


Most of the time I was stopped down to 5.6 or smaller so spending the extra money and weight penalty to get the f2.8 pro lenses maybe was not needed.  I opted for the level between the pro and consumer and purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 and the Nikon 24-120 mm f4.

By using the metadata from my past photography I can better understand what type of equipment will best serve me when switching to the full frame format camera.

To cover the longer reach, I brought of our retirement my 200 mm f4 prime lens and will give that a try.  With 36 megapixels on the Nikon D800, you can easily crop if you need to get more reach.

There are many other graphs such as which camera body you are using the most (including smartphones), focal lengths, exposures, exposure bias, as well as details for each of the lenses.  Check it out.

Do You Need an Ultra Wide Lens?

I already purchased a Nikon 24-120 mm f4 lens for using a the full frame format Nikon D800. When I was shooting a D300, I had a ultra wide that I really liked, so I decided to also buy an new Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens.  I could have bought a fixed prime ultra wide but I am not interested in constantly swapping lens.  My setup gives me an overlap in the range of 24-35 mm, where I do a lot of shooting.  I was curious in that range is there any reason to switch the the other lens, or should I just use whatever is on the camera.  I toke the same image with each lens from the same point and did small crop of the whole picture, using the crop area shown in the image above,  which across is 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image. Camera was set at 200 ISO, f5.6.  All shots were hand held and auto focus.

At 35 mm, this is how the tight crops compare.  Click and each image to view enlarged to a 1:1 crop.



I then shot both at 24 mm



The differences are not visible to me, even for this small crop.  I could do a crop in the corners, but being a practical photographer and not overly concerned about detailed charts this simple experiment is sufficient for me to conclude that there is no reason to switch to either lens so if I need something in the range of 24-35 mm, use whichever is on the camera.

For some they may question the need to buy an ultra wide zoom when I already could go to 24 mm, but there are times when I want something wider and I like the unique perspective that the ultra wide lens offers.   This is such an example.

D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10
D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10

For those who are into taking expansive landscapes, check out one of the ultra wide zoom lenses.  You can always crop an image to get in closer but sometimes you can not go wide enough to get the right perspective.  The Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens gives you that extra wide angle and still goes to a moderate wide angle of 35 mm, making it a great walk around lens for some situations.



Nikon 24-120 f4 Lens

I just received a new lens, this one is a Nikon 24-120 f4 lens designed for the FX (full sensor size) camera.  I was looking for a mid range zoom and would have liked to get the 70-24 f2.8, but it was a very pricey and of limited zoom range, so I opted for the 24-120 even though it has somewhat mixed reviews.  I did some quick testing using my Nikon D800.  There are plenty of tests out there that use charts and you can get details, but I only want to use with the types of photography I might use it in but at the end I do give some links to real tests.

The first shot was at the widest range and using a rather wide aperture since the lens is it’s weakest there, 24 mm at 5.6.


I then turned on the Vibration control, zoomed to 120 mm, opened the aperture all the way to f4.0 and hand held this shot at 1/40 of a second to test the vibration control and to see the other end of the zoom range.


From the last image, I cropped only a small area to show the oranges near the center of the image.

120 mm f4.0, 1/40 second hand held - crop

Not bad, for a hand held shot at such a low shutter speed.  The vibration control seems to work well.   If I use another image taken at 70 mm, and do a crop to get a similar area it is not as sharp.  This  shows me that if I settled for a 24-70 mm zoom and needed to crop the image, I would have to overcome quite a disadvantage compared with this lens with a longer reach.  Of course in an ideal world one would have the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 and the Nikon 70-200 f2.8, but those two lens together would cost close to 5 times what I spent on this lens.

70 mm, f4.0, 1/50 second, hand held

This was just a quickly test, to make sure the lens was working correct.  My initial sense is that this lens is not as sharp as the Nikon 16-35 f4 that I recently purchased nor is it as sharp as the Nikon 24-70 f4 that I had a chance to use last month.  However it does provide a nice range and seems sharp enough for my needs.  It sits between the very expensive 24-70 mm f2.8 with a limited range and the 28-300 f3.5-5.6, which has even a very wide zoom range and a cheaper price..  I considered the 28-300 mm but I have been a Nikon lens with a similar wide range on my Nikon D300 and was always wanting something sharper and there are usually tradeoffs when you have something with over a 10x zoom range .   For those interested in detailed numbers test, you can see the DxoMark scores for these three lens mounted on a D800.  Click the link below to get to the details for each lens, here I just give the overall score, which let me to think my choice was kind of in the middle ground and a good match for the ultra wide Nikon 16-35 f4 lens I also own (reviewed here).

Nikon 24-70 f2.8: Score = 28
Nikon 24-120 f4.0: Score = 22
Nikon 28-300 f3.5-5.6: Score = 17

Nikon 16-35 mm f4 Lens

This morning I purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens and immediately headed down to Carmel area to test it out.  It was rather large, as I expected but the weight was not so bad.   I find myself shooting a lot of landscapes and the Nikon 24-120 I have on order will not always be as wide as I want.  You can always crop but you can’t match the unique perspective of the very wide lenses.

I love some of the photos I was able to get with this lens when paired with a Nikon D800. The one above was taken at 17 mm, ISO 200, f10 and 1/400 second shutter speed.  It was post processed in Lightroom 5.

A super wide lens is not something you would normally take portraits, but this one turned out nicely.  Check out the small crop area of the camera strap to see how sharp this lens is.  It is the sharpest Nikon zoom lens I have ever owned.



For those interested in detailed test reports, this lens received a DxOMark overall score of 23 when mounted on a D800.  Not bad for a super wide angle zoom.  By comparison the much more expensive Nikon 16-24 f2.8 had a overall score of 28 but this lens can not accommodate filters and has a more narrow range.

Sunset Pacific Ocean

Many times I have gone down to the coast hoping for a beautiful sunset only to be disappointed as the cloud cover seems to quickly take over as the sun just is setting. We were taking some landscapes at Point Lobos and decided to wait for the sunset. The only problem is that I only had a ultra wide angle lens with me. Fortunately my Nikon D800 has a lot of pixels so I was able to do quite a crop using Lightroom 5, fixing the horizontal horizon at the same time.  I was able to get the result shown above.


Photo Details
Point Lobos California State Reserve
Nikon D800
Nikon 16-35 mm f4
Focal Length
35 mm
f8.0 with ISO 200, at 1/160 sec
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Point Lobos – California State Reserve

Just south of Carmel, California is a State Reserve called Point Lobos that has some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo Details
Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, CA
Nikon D800
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Focal Length
16g mm
1/240 sec at f5.6 with ISO 100
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop LightroomNik HDR Efex Pro 2 using 5 images of varying exposure

Point Lobos – California

Having just purchased a new lens we headed down to the coast. It was suppose to be an overcast but when we got there, the sun had come out.

Photo Details
Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, California
Nikon D800
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Focal Length
17 mm
1/400 sec at f 10 with ISO 200
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Using DX Lens on Nikon D800 FX Body

The only full frame lenses I currently have are from the days of film, all manual focus.  After aquiring a Nikon D800, I ordered the Nikon 24-120 F4, which is designed for full frame.  When using my Nikon D300, I really liked my super wide Tokina 11-16 mm f2.8 zoom but buying yet another lens right now was stretching the bank.  So I did experimenting with my Tokina DX lens.  For those not familiar with Nikon terminology, FX is full sensor size, using the same area of 35 mm film.  DX is their name for their smaller sensor with a 1.5x crop, used on many of their DSLR cameras, such as the D300.  When I attached this DX lens to my D800, I could see that at the 16 mm focal length, I was not getting any noticeable vignetting, even when I was using the full image sensor.  Of course if I tried to zoom at to 11 mm, the vignetting occurred significantly, down to just outside the grid lines for the DX sensor area.  So what if I used this Tokina lens on my D800 and should I use the DX sensor area (which gives me 15.5 megapixels) and zoom as I wish from 11 to 16 mm, or should I use the full sensor area (which gives me 36 megapixels) and use only the 16 mm focal length?  These two images show those two extremes.  I left the filter on the lens for all these tests, but did discover that the filter is causing some of the vignetting so there is the option to remove the filter to go even wider.

11mm-DX Drop

11mm-DX Drop

I guess I am not surprised that the the perspective is almost the same for the ftwo photos.  This does open up the possibility of using this lens with the full FX sensor area, but limiting it to 16 mm focal length, which is indeed a very wide perspective.   This will give you the same perspective as using the lens at 11 mm and DX crop (1.5 crop).  By using the full sensor area you will end up with potentially a sharper overall image and for this lens I did such a test and can see that.

With the Nikon D800, there is another optional sensor crop besides DX and that is the 1.2 crop, which still uses 25 megapixels of sensor area.  This photo was taken using the Tokina DX lens with the 1.2 crop, zooming to 14 mm.  On the left is the image as taken where you can see some slight lens vignetting in the corers.  On the right the same image after applying lens correction and vignetting adjustment in Lightroom 5.

14mm-1.2 Crop

14mm-1.2 Crop Corrected

So how sharp is this DX lens. Here is a highly cropped portion of the above photo. Looks pretty sharp to me.

14mm-1.2Crop-Small Crop

In summary, if you are moving from a APS-C sensor camera like the Nikon D300  to a full frame camera like the Nikon D800, you don’t need to immediately sell off your lenses and you don’t necessarily need to use the FX crop sensor.  There is no doubt a lens designed for full frame works better, but you can see that you can often use those old lenses until you get the means to replace them.

Capturing 35 mm Film Slides and Negatives

About 15 years ago, I purchased a HP film scanner.  It was not the best scanner, but it was affordable and did a reasonably good job, although it took many minutes for each slide.  Because it was such an effort I only scanned some of the slides thinking that in the future something better would come my way.  After the HP Film scanner gave up the ghost, I purchased an Epson flat bed scanner, with a light source in the lid so yo you can scan film of any size.  I have used that scanner, along with Silver Fast software I also purchased, to scan some medium format negatives. Using the flar bed scanner is cumbersome, not only does it take a long time for each scan, but finding the frames of the photo often takes manual intervention.

25 years ago I purchased a Nikon bellows and a 55 mm Nikon Macro lens.  I was able to duplicate slides back in the days of film, but until recently I could never use that to digitize my 35 mm slides.  Having just acquired a Nikon D800, full frame camera, I thought maybe this would word.  This camera, at 36 mega pixel would finally be something that goes even beyond the resolution of Kodachrome film.  It is amazing that my 35 year old equipment works find with the latest Nikon digital camera.

Subsequently I purchased the Plustek 8200i film scanner.  Although the copying with the Nikon D800 with a macro lens and bellows works well, it will not work with my negative films.  Below is how all these different methods compared.  For the Plustek film scanner, I used two different scanning software each set for auto color correction, multiple exposure, dust and scratch removal and JPEG file output.

Scanned 15 years ago with my HP Film Scanner


The same slide using the Nikon bellows and Micro Lens, capturing on the D800.

The red circles show all the spots from dust, even though I used air to clean the slide.


Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 3600 dpi


Plustek Film Scanner and VueScan at 3600 dpi


On a web page it is hard to see that there is much difference, except for the benefits of the infared scan to remove the dust spots.

If I do small crop, you can see the difference in resolution.  I also include a crop from a scan of the same slide using my Epson flat bed scanner.   I have arranged these with the sharpest images first.

Very Good
Nikon D800
Plustek Film Scanner and ViewScan at 7200 dpi
Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 7200 dpi
Plustek Film Scanner and ViewScan at 3600 dpi
Epson Flatbed Scanner at Maximum Resolution
Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 3600 dpi
HP Film Scanner image.

The difference is now quite apparent.  The resolution from old HP film scanner is lacking and the scan from the Epson flatbed scanner, even at the maximum resolution is soft.  The image from the Nikon D800 and the image from the Plustek Film Scanner at full resolution are quite similar.  When using the PlusTek scanner at 3600 dpi, the VueScan software is also almost as good as SilverFast software at 7200 dpi while Silverfast at 3600 is quite lacking.

The Pluxtek scanner has an infared chanel for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time.  When using the Nikon D800 there is nothing automatic about removing dusk spots so I am left with manually removing using Photoshop or if you have Lightroom 5, as shown here.

Resolution and File Sizes of Scans

Nikon D800 (7360×4912) RAW and 12 bit: 36 MB
Plustek at 7200 dpi (9547×6358), JPEG format: 31 MB
Plustex at 3600 dpi (4608×3156), PSD format: 9.4 MB

You can save using a TIFF file with the Plustek but the file size becomes rather large and considering I am scanning old film, I don’t think it is worth it.

Scan Times
  • The fastest method is the D800 with Bellows and Macro Lens, where I could probably do several slides per minute.
  • Using a film scanner is much more time consuming.  Loading the slide takes about the same amount of time as using the bellows, but you need to then do a preview scan so you can adjust the boarder.  These are times with the Plusteck scanner AFTER the preview has already been completed and adjustments selected.  Each involves 3 scans, one for the image, one for the Infared chanel and a third for the multiple exposure, then processing and saving the image.  SilverFast in particular takes a long time for “processing” after the 3 scans are finished while this is done quickly with VueScan.  Of course all of this is all done in a second on the D800 camera.
    • SilverFast at 7200 dpi: 12:37
    • SilverFast at 3600 dpi: 5:30
    • VueScan at 7200 dpi: 5:23
    • VueScan at 3600 dpi: 2:30
  • The Plustek 8200i film scanner is much better than my old HP Film Scanner and my current Epson flat bed scanner.
  • When using the PlusTek 8200i film scanner, it is well worth buying VueScan software rather than using the SilverFast software that comes bundled.
    • VueScan scan times are only half as long as when using SilverFast
    • VueScan at 3600 dpi has much better image when highly cropped
    • VueScan is much easier to use.  Although SilverFast has a lot of features they are cumbersome to use.
  • Using the Nikon D800 with macro lens and bellows is the fastest method and produces the best overall image.  The issue is it won’t work with negatives and dust and spot removal is a manual process.