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APS-C (D7100) vs Full frame (D610/D750)

So, I can get a pretty good deal on either the D610 (for USD 1,370) and the D7100 (for USD 780). I’m so tempted to go full frame, but the cost difference is huge. The D610 body itself costs 75% more than the D7100 and I’ve not even taken into consideration the new lenses that I’ll need.

I understand the advantages of full frame but I also feel like they’re really minor:

Wide angle lenses
I just don’t shoot that wide very often. 99% of my shots are taken at 35mm or 50mm. If I do need to go wide, I find that the wide end of my 17-50mm f/2.8 to be sufficient (just needs to some distortion correction in post processing).

Shallower depth of field
Using my f/2.8 zoom and my f/1.8 prime lenses, I’ve never had an issue with DOF not being shallow enough. If anything, I often want wider depth of field.

About 1-stop better ISO performance
I’ve been very happy with the ISO performance of my D5100. ISO 6400 gives me noise-free 4x6 prints and I consciously try to never breach ISO 3200. Considering that not many years ago ISO only went as high as 800, I think better technique will more than make up for this point.

Better dynamic range and color depth
If I’m being honest, I can’t tell the difference.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the D7100 has some significant advantages over the D610:

Higher resolution screen
Better AF system with more AF points and better coverage
Smaller & lighter
Max shutter speed of 1/8000 compared to 1/4000 for the D610
Costs about 40% less

So I don’t know. I’ve always felt that I would eventually upgrade to full frame, but cameras like the D7100 are making me think that there’s not really a good reason to bear the cost of a full frame system unless I do photography for a living.

Anyone here who went from a APS-C body to a full frame have any thoughts on this? I feel like I’m missing something in my analysis. There HAS to be a reason for that huge price difference, right? Or is it really just the cost of manufacturing?
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Comments

  • edited December 2014
    I totally get what you mean by wanting a faster tele than the 70-300mm, but perhaps try it out first when you make the jump to FX. You may be surprised that you can push the ISO into the boosted range and still get acceptable shots. So your lens might suddenly be fast enough.
  • edited December 2014
    Thanks bruto. The D3200 was a great launching pad for me into the DSLR world, so I figure selling a nice package would do the same for someone else. My only criticism of this camera is that is a bit basic, but hey, it is an entry level DSLR after all.
  • edited January 2015
    From the purely visual standpoint, slow lenses turn out to be fast enough for most purposes when one switches to digital. If there's one advantage to digital, other than free mistakes, I think the ability to switch to ridiculously high ISO is it. It's a great luxury for an old slide shooter used to quality compromises above ISO 100 to be able to shoot a decent picture at 1600 or more. Slow lenses are still compromised in AF performance in low light. Though I agree that it's worth trying the slow lens for sports, I would not be surprised if Paul finds it less than ideal for catching action even if it's enough to get a good picture.
  • edited December 2014
    It’s been over a month since I had my hands on the D750 and put it through its paces. I’ve shot it in a variety of lighting conditions (wedding banquets, daylight, classroom, church, etc). I’ve also shot some video (which I don’t do very often). Here’s some observations about the camera now that the initial euphoria has worn off.

    The battery drain I experienced with the use of my Eye-Fi card appears to be an isolated incident. Perhaps it was the camera battery’s first charge so it hasn’t had the chance to condition itself optimally yet. Anyway, the battery no longer drains as much when using the Eye-Fi to transmit images via WIFI. I’m still conscious that transfers takes a very long time due to the large file sizes.
    I wished there was a way to utilize the cloud features of Eye-Fi without actually having the images transfer off the card via WIFI. I mean, I wished I was able to just plug the Eye-Fi card to a card reader, copy the files off of it via USB (which takes less than a second per image) and then have them uploaded to Eye-Fi by my PC. Over time, I’ve found that I don’t really value how Eye-Fi transfers pictures off the card. Rather, I value how they’re uploaded automatically to Eye-Fi server for further distribution.

    I’ve found the WIFI feature useful only for using the smartphone as a wireless EVF and remote shutter release. Its photo transfer capability is still maddening to use. To exacerbate the situation, the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app doesn’t work on Android 5.0. So now, not only does the WIFI feature not work well, it doesn’t work at all!

    I can’t believe the 24-120mm f/4 is the “kit” lens. The high-ISO performance of the camera means f/4 is just fine even for indoor lighting. The focal range is massive, making it suitable for a variety of situations. In fact, it’s eating into the utility of my 70-200mm f/2.8 considering the 50mm overlap of focal range.

    The 50mm f/1.8G is quickly becoming my favorite lens for obvious reasons (size, weight, price, image quality, f/1.8, etc).

    I’m still working on getting used to the AF system, particularly the AF modes. Not sure of exactly the utility of the Group Area AF. From what I understand, it activates 5 of the AF points and then choses the AF point where the subject is closest to the camera. This sounds good in theory, but if photographing a person and you land your center active AF point on the eye, the AF point above that one will be activated instead since it’s on the forehead which is closer to the camera. This may seem minor but when shot wide open at close to minimal focus distance, the missed focus is very apparent. Seems Dynamic Area-9 and 3D are going to be my preferred modes.
    I may be just paranoid, but I’ve yet to use the other Dynamic Area modes that activate more than 9 AF points because I just don’t trust the camera to be able to track focus that way. I’ve got to remind myself to experiment using those modes.

    It would be nice if the locks on the mode and release dials could be toggled off. I get that they’re there so we don’t accidentally turn the dials, but it would be nice if we had the choice to leave them unlocked. Guess it’s the same on cameras like the D7100 or D610.

    The Quiet release mode is useless. On the D5100, Quiet mode really works. On the shutter button press, the mirror gets raised slower for less noise. In fact, it’s so slow that there’s a significant lag between the moment you press the button and the moment the shot is taken. On the D750, there’s not much lag which seems to indicate to me that the mirror is still being raised quite fast which means it’s almost just as noisy as normal. This means the Quiet Continuous release is just as useless.

    In terms of video, a nice feature that really should be standard for all cameras is the ability to change the aperture while shooting. This was impossible on the D5100; you had to exit and re-enter LiveView to set the aperture. AFAIK, this is also the case for the D610 and D7100. Another nice feature is if you use Auto-ISO and the lighting changes as you’re shooting. The ISO adjusts in such a way that it transitions smoothly enough to not be a distraction. That is, the exposure doesn’t suddenly darken and then step up bit by bit.

    Every review mentions that the AF is great. I actually think it may be sentient. Here’s why I say this. Most of the time, I use AF-A and set the release to Continuous-Low at 4FPS. A habit I have when photographing people is to hold the shutter button for 3 shots at a time since not everyone smiles at the same time and sometimes people blink. This increases my chance of keepers.
    A few days ago, I was at a wedding banquet. The lighting was horrible. I wanted to take a photo of my friend and his wife, so I composed, locked focus on one of their eyes, and held the shutter for my usual burst of 3 shots. They didn’t move and I didn’t move. So presumably, the camera should have selected to use AF-S and just used the same focus for the 3 shots.
    I quickly reviewed the shots and groaned as I looked at the first one. The focus missed. I scrolled to the next shot in the sequence; it was the same thing. I prepared to tell my friend and his wife to pose again. Then I scrolled to the third shot in my sequence. Their faces were in sharp focus!
    What happened?! It’s like the camera shook its head at me and said, “My bad, bro. It was dark and I missed. I know you locked focus, but let me adjust and fix it for you anyway.”

    Anyway, let me go back to the initial issue when I started this thread: APS-C vs Full-frame.
    The larger sensor has a significantly huge impact on low-light/high-ISO performance.
    Under good lighting and low to med ISO, it would be very difficult if not impossible to tell the difference between the formats.
    The shallower depth of field of the larger sensor means nailing the focus is critical. Any misses show up unforgivingly especially if shot wide-open.

    So, is Full-frame worth it over APS-C?
    I don’t know, maybe.
    I feel it’s kind of like Lexus vs Toyota or Acura vs Honda. Differences are there, but if you go with the less expensive option, you’re still able to get things done. So if you can afford it, sure, go for it. If you can’t, don’t lose any sleep over it.
  • edited January 2015
    I'm interested in your auto focus experience. My wife has a D7100 and finds, though not having experimented hugely, that this also works best at 9 point dynamic, and blows my D3200 away when chasing birds in flight.

  • edited January 2015
    Indeed, I find D-9 to be my preferred mode I’m in most of the time. If the subject moves, the surrounding points provides a buffer for me as I pan with the subject. If the subject doesn’t move, then it acts the same as Single-Point AF since the center active AF point gets priority.

    This makes me wonder about cameras with just 11 AF points like my old D5100 or your D3200. In Dynamic Area AF on those cameras, does it also use the actual surrounding AF points for tracking? I’ve always thought that they somehow use the immediate area around the active AF point. If it actually uses the surrounding AF points themselves, doesn’t it make it not very practical since they’re spaced so far apart?
  • edited January 2015
    According to the instruction manual, dynamic area on the D3200 uses the surrounding focus points. I suspect that the spacing of these is part of the reason why it loses focus rather easily when tracking smaller subjects like birds in flight, and focus is lost if they spend too much time between points. I don't think there are any AF sensors outside the points. I don't know for sure, but I suspect there is a timing element here. If a subject does not appear in an adjacent point within a certain time, the camera drops it, and sticks with the original focus point.

    I have not experimented with this, though. Mostly what I've been practicing is panning.
  • edited February 2016
    Hey guys, great thread. I am facing the same dilemma right now. I have a D3100 and am considering an upgrade. Currently it is D7100 vs D750. I do not shoot a lot on telephoto end but want to have a great range for landscapes and good enough mid range for general purposes, group photographs and portraits. My current system:
    D3100 + Kit lens + 35mm 1.8 + 55-300 mm DX.

    My upgrade options are (considering same budget):

    D7100 + Sigma 8-16 or Tokina 11-16 (for landscapes) + Sigma 18-35 F1.8 Art series

    Or

    D750 + 24-120 mm + 50 mm f1.8D

    Of course i would have to get 16-35 for landscapes later for FX. Still thinking.. Thread does help but I am still making up my mind :)
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