Moving Up to Full Frame

When I purchased my Nikon D500 in 2016, I spent some time wondering if I’d be better off moving up to a full-frame body such as the D750 or D810. At the time I only had a couple of FX capable lenses and the expense of buying a raft of new lenses along with an expensive full-frame camera body was too much for me to be able to justify so I stuck with a crop sensor camera.

Over the four years since purchasing the D500, I’ve been steadily upgrading my lenses and replacing my DX (crop sensor) lenses with FX (full-frame) equivalents or as close to equivalent as you can get. Around January this year (2020), the last essential FX lens was purchased, a Sigma 24-70 f2.8. I could now seriously consider upgrading my camera body to a full-frame sensor.

When my interest in photography went beyond taking simple snapshots and I purchased my first DSLR (a Nikon D40) from eBay in 2009, the camera I lusted after was the D3X. It was the flagship Nikon full-frame body and what all the professional wildlife photographers used and I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. Back then, a D3X was just a pipe dream, although ironically you can pick them up for about the same price that I paid for my D40.

nikon d40 front image
Nikon D40, my first DSLR

Over the next few years, I set about learning more about the craft of photography. Learning about light, composition as well as the technical aspects of my camera. I learned new techniques, experimented with flash and different genres of photography. I also started to find the limitations of my equipment.

I added several lenses to my kit over this period and due to budget limitations, I always stuck to DX format lenses, be they Nikkor or third party equivalents. FX format lenses are considerably more expensive and as this was only my hobby, I couldn’t justify the extra cost.

I also upgraded my camera body several times as I reached the limitations of my existing body or there were significant quality improvements. From my D40 I moved through Nikon’s DX lineup first to a D7000 and then to my most recent DX body, the D500. The D500 is a fantastic camera for wildlife and any fast-moving action but there is a certain look to images taken with a full-frame camera that you just don’t get with a crop sensor. I’m not saying it is impossible to get something close to that look and to your average viewer, the difference will be imperceptible but to me at this point, I can see it. It isn’t always about the camera body either, oft times the lens has more to do with it, but if you have a full-frame lens, why wouldn’t you have a full-frame body.

Ever since the first reviews of the D850 appeared online, I knew that was the camera I wanted to upgrade to. I shoot a few different genres of photography from nature and wildlife, sports and events, macro, all the way through to landscapes. The D850 is designed to be an all-round workhorse of a camera. While the 7fps may seem pedestrian compared to the D500’s 10fps, you have to consider that these are 45.7 megapixel images, and the speed can be boosted to 9fps if you add the grip although this isn’t a cheap upgrade.

I’d made my decision about upgrading to the D850 long before I was actually in a position to do. During that time, Nikon threw me a curveball with the release of the Z6 and Z7. I now had to make a decision between the D850 DSLR or the Z7. For those that don’t know, the Z7 is basically a D850 without the mirror and is one of Nikon’s first steps into the mirrorless arena to try and stem the flow of people to the Sony system. The Z7 has a different lens mount, the Z mount, to the D850 which uses the original Nikon F mount but is available with an adaptor to convert F mount lenses to the newer Z mount. It’s appropriately called the FTZ adapter.

Nikon z6 image
Nikon Z7, the future?

The cost of a D850 body and the Z7 with the FTZ adapter are roughly the same at around £2500 at the time of writing, so that wasn’t a major factor. Both cameras have their pros and cons. Single card slot vs dual card slot, weight etcetera. I won’t go through them all here as it’s been done ad infinitum online already. Speaking to the salesperson at the camera store, I was told that they have seen the majority of their customers moving to the D850, although those that had chosen the Z7 were very happy with it.

My decision was based on two things, firstly the fact that the Z7 is fairly new technology and a first-generation Nikon mirrorless camera and secondly, that I am familiar with Nikon’s DSLR cameras and the move from a D500 to a D850 isn’t that much of a change.

Having had the D850 for around three months now, I can say that I don’t regret my decision one bit. I haven’t been out in the field much as of yet due to the current lockdown conditions, so I can’t say if the additional weight will bother me or not after a long day carrying my gear. For now, I’m very happy with the functionality and the image quality from the D850.

Thanks for stopping by, have a good one.

andy's signature