What Are Nikon DX Lenses?

Nikon makes over 200 different types of optical glass for its extensive line of lenses. Nikon uses this glass to manufacture its DX and non-DX camera lenses. Nikon designed its DX lens line to meet the needs of consumers using the company's smaller format line of cameras. DX lenses offer you Nikon quality at a price comparable to third-party lens manufacturers.

  1. DX vs. FX

    • Nikon makes two digital SLR camera sensor sizes -- DX and FX. FX sensors represent a sensor size equivalent to a frame of 35 mm film, or 36 mm by 24 mm in size. The DX sensor measures only 24 mm by 16 mm in size. This smaller sensor utilizes only a portion of the field of view of a lens designed to fit on an FX sensor camera body. Nikon has designed a family of lenses to specifically fit the smaller frame, DX camera bodies. These lenses have a "DX" designation on the lens body and also in the naming convention of the lens, such as the AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8G.

    Why DX Lenses?

    • Because Nikon has designed the DX lens line to work specifically with the company's DX camera bodies, the lenses are lighter weight and less expensive than lenses made for full-frame FX bodies. Lenses designed for Nikon full-frame bodies typically cost a premium over DX lenses because of the additional manufacturing cost associated with their production. Additionally, DX body cameras like the Nikon D90, D3100 and D5000 can also accommodate full-frame non-DX lenses. Although some functionality may get lost during use -- auto-focus and some metering modes -- the ability to use non-DX lenses opens up the available lens options for DX camera owners.

    The Crop Factor

    • Because DX camera bodies have smaller sensors than a standard frame of 35 mm film, any lens used on a DX body must have a crop factor applied to its focal length. In essence, any lens used on a DX camera, including DX and non-DX lenses, must have the focal length multiplied by a factor of 1.5X. The crop factor approximates the focal length of the lens as if it were used on a 35 mm full-frame FX body camera. For instance, a 100 mm lens on an FX body has a field of view that reflects its focal length of 100 mms. Put the same lens on a DX body and the field of view no longer resembles a 100 mm lens but a 150 mm lens. That's because on the DX body the focal length, 100 mm, is multiplied by a factor of 1.5, making the 100 mm lens view like a 150 mm lens.


    • DX lenses certainly have a few factors in their favor -- less cost and less weight being the two biggest. However, DX lenses don't come in as many different varieties and specialties as non-DX lenses. For example, an architectural photographer typically requires lenses that have tilt/shift or perspective control movements. These movements aren't available in DX lenses. Also, as of early 2011 Nikon doesn't make any super-telephoto lenses in the DX format.

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