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Mineral PhotographyNikon D7100 vs D610

26th Jul 2014 21:49 BSTWilliam W. Besse Expert

I have been considering getting a new camera and would like some input from Mindaters.

The ones I have been considering are the Nikon D7100 (DX format) and Nikon D610 (FX format). The only real boundaries I have are the it will be Nikon and DSLR. The D610 body is about twice as much as the D7100 but as far as I can tell the main reason is FX vs DX.

The camera will be used for macro and general photos.

What are you thoughts?


26th Jul 2014 22:32 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

What lenses do you have or are you considering getting?

Lens choice is just as important, if not more so, than the body.


27th Jul 2014 00:30 BSTWilliam W. Besse Expert

To start a Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens (probably as a bundle) and a later a Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro-Nikkor or possibly the 105mm, depending on how much I decide to put into it. I already Have a StereoZoom 7 microscope with Nikon adapters.

Used to have access to good camera gear but have been living on pot-shot cameras for several years now.


27th Jul 2014 01:03 BSTMark Heintzelman Expert

There is a significant cost difference between these two, but the DX and FX are essentially the same camera, with exception of their sensor sizes and the greater ability of the larger FX lenses to shoot in low light conditions. But with a nearly 3 to 1 cost difference ratio, a rather significant one, you have to ask yourself what do you really need these images for and under what conditions will you most often use this camera.

If you are primarily shooing under studio or set-up lighting, you won't need the greater lux capacity of the larger FX lenses (which are also significantly more expensive than their comparable size/mm DX format lenses). If you are not going to go to offset printing with these images, full page spreads in trade magazines/journals, calendars or coffee-table books, nor having large format prints made for gallery presentation, you probably also won't need the kind of resolution that the huge 35mm sensor in the FX can provide (the sensor size is pretty much entirely where the significant cost difference between the two bodies lies).

While it does seem common for people to buy more camera than they will ever need, remember that you aren't even buying MORE camera in this case, just a greater capacity that you can easily decide for yourself whether you do or don't actually need.


27th Jul 2014 01:31 BSTWilliam W. Besse Expert


Why do you think I am here? ;-) Been trying to figure out if I really need it, even though I want it.

As to cost it is not 3 to 1. The body is about 80% more, but the lenses are only about 25-40% more for about equivalent, but "equivalent" can be trying as they do not always match. This brings up another point. On the Nikon USA website there are 67 FX lenses vs. only 19 DX lenses.

Please keep the comments coming.


27th Jul 2014 01:55 BSTGeoff Van Horn Expert

I recently upgraded to a Nikon D5300 and the most significant thing I noticed was the lack of antialiasing filter. That alone is a huge difference in usable resolution or whatever. Basically the image doesn't get all blurry and ugly at 1:1 magnification. I would show a side by side comparison from my D3100 to the D5300 but I left my D3100 body in Prudhoe Bay. What I can show you is a 6:1 vs 1:1 from the same picture.

This is Radian Barite shot on the D5300 with a 40mm f2.8 Nikon micro lens. 1 second at f25.

Both of these are from the same image. You can see how the 1:1 image is nearly as crisp as the 6:1 image. Normally I wouldn't use such a narrow aperture, but I wanted to show off the camera without running a bunch of pictures through stacking software.

27th Jul 2014 20:17 BSTRonald J. Pellar Expert

The FX format has larger area detectors in the sensor. This gives a better Signal/Noise ratio than the DX format. This is significant in low light level photography. It can be a factor in high bit depth, i.e.,12 or 14 bit, and wanting to pull out detail in shadow areas or for High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, where improved S/N is the shadow areas can be important.

The difference in lenses between FX and DX is the angular FOV over which aberrations are corrected DX lenses are cheaper since they do not need the additional design constraints that lead to more elements and lower tolerance corrections than the FX format lenses do. The S/N ration is a function of the f/ no. and not whether the format is FX or DX.

One other difference is the apparent FOV for the so called "normal" lens. Anyone used to the old 35mm format film camera has a good feel for the 50mm normal lens' capabilities. The equivalent normal lens for the DX format would be about a 35mm focal length.

27th Jul 2014 22:25 BSTDoug Daniels

Another thing is, what are the image file sizes? One will be bigger than the other; do you really need that much more information? Each photo takes up space, both on the drive chip (or whatever they're called) and your hard drive. Then you might want to process the files....bigger files take longer, and again you need more space. Always arguments like these on the photography sites, it's not limited to Mindat. Gets back to, what do want to do with the images (I can't get the old Twisted Sister video of "I Wanna Rock" out of my mind....."whattaya wanna do with your life????....)?

27th Jul 2014 22:50 BSTRonald J. Pellar Expert


Both cameras are 24 MP so file size is the same for both.

28th Jul 2014 02:20 BSTDoug Daniels

Big files..... You can tell I'm not following cameras much these days. Even so, does one really need a picture file that large, if you aren't a pro? Just my 2 cents (drop in the bucket compared to the camera costs....).

28th Jul 2014 11:07 BSTOwen Melfyn Lewis

IMO, most photomicrographers/macrographers do not need 24 MP image files. For most, 12 MP seems quite enough and, for web viewing at modest size, even 1.3 MP can give satisfactory results.

There are two work areas only for which the highest available (24MP) pixel count matters. These are:

1. Making very large prints, for wall-mounted exhibition work or similar (e.g. images projected onto a wall..

2. For photographers who wish to severely crop their image files, so that less than (say) 16% of the available pixel areas is used to make a final image. The severity of cropping that a photographer can use in post-camera composition of a desired image varies in direct proportion to the number of pixels of which the whole sensor plate is comprised. The less the sensor plate pixel count, the less a photographer may crop his images before there is noticable degradation of image quality.

Like most here, I expect, I don't make prints at all (any more). Also,if I need to crop closer that the 18MP sensor plate in my Canon 600D will allow, then I should stop being lazy and look for an optical augmentation to the desired disclosure of detail. As said, working with a 1.3MP sensor is quite practicat - and has the benefit of teaching one to look for improved optical solutions first and foremost, as relatively little image cropping can be used. 12MP should be perfectly adequate for almost all photomicrographic requirements.
I agree with Owen's synopsis of the importance, or not, of MP count for our photographic purposes. To further support his contention, here is a comparison of images of a specimen taken with 1.3MP and 18MP sensors. Unfortunately, composition is slightly different and the 1.3MP image was taken prior to a judicious cleaning of the specimen, but it still serves as a comparison. Does the 18MP image justify the ten time increase in cost of equipment? The answer is not easy nor the same for each user, being subjective and of course dependent upon the goals of the photographer.



30th Jul 2014 08:15 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

A modern 24 megapixel sensor should always give better results than a 5 year old 12 megapixel sensor simply because of improvements in noise reduction. The noise will be finer (as the pixels are smaller), so when resampled down to usable resolutions for the web the noise will be less obvious than on a 12 megapixel image.

And don't forget, when we say "usable for the web" don't forget screen sizes and pixel densities are increasing all the time. A few years ago 1280x1024 pixel screens (1.2 megapixel) were considered high resolution. Now, my 2560 x 1440 screen is 3.6 megapixel, and the new generation of 4K screens are over 8 megapixels.

If you are ONLY talking about mineral photography it's easier to define what you need, but as the original poster also wanted a camera for general photography too, and listed their choice of two lenses that work well on full-frame cameras I would strongly suggest the full-frame sensor camera would be a better long-term purchase.


30th Jul 2014 11:39 BSTOwen Melfyn Lewis

Jolyon & Katya Ralph Wrote:


> A modern 24 megapixel sensor should always give

> better results than a 5 year old 12 megapixel

> sensor simply because of improvements in noise

> reduction. The noise will be finer (as the pixels

> are smaller), so when resampled down to usable

> resolutions for the web the noise will be less

> obvious than on a 12 megapixel image.

Bait and switch, Jolyon :)-D Pixel count and quality of noise reduction are different considerations, not necessarily even related. You also overlook the possible image degradation that can result from image over-pixelation. Why do you suppose that virtually all digital cameras purpose-made for photomicrography (and at very fancy prices indeed) have sensor plates of <8MP?

As for general photographic requirements:

1. Pareto's Principle applies. 80% if the ultimate quality can be obtained for 20% of the ultimate cost. One should need a better reason then ostentation to cross that ubiquitoius guideline.

2. The limit on what c. 90% of photographers achieve is set by their own talent, experience and opportunity and not by their camera. This remains as true today as it was in the days of Fox Talbot. Buying a more expensive camera never made anyone a good photographer. It's technique that does that.

30th Jul 2014 21:19 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

>Pixel count and quality of noise reduction are different considerations, not necessarily even related.

Pixel noise is related to two things in general.

1 - the size of the pixel on the sensor. With smaller pixels they are - in general - more likely to be 'noisy'. In this case, a 24megapixel full frame sensor is going to be better than a 24megapixel cropped-sensor. However - with everything else being equal an 8 megapixel sensor even at cropped size would potentially have less noise than the 24 megapixel sensor (hence your point at the end).

2 - older designed sensors are more noisy than modern ones as companies improve their technology. So a 24 megapixel sensor now might have less noise than a 12 megapixel sensor from a few years ago even with smaller pixels.

As for why 8 megapixels on these specialist sensors - it's mostly because they are not designed for mass market so a single design has to be robust using proven components and able to pay back development costs over several years of sale.

But the original poster didn't want a specialist camera. And my suggestions were based on this.

30th Jul 2014 22:42 BSTOwen Melfyn Lewis

24 MB - Nul points :-)

As you point out, 8MB is quite satisfactory. for any photography, subject only to the constraints set out toward the beginning of this thread. Only huge images/severely cropped images require a higher pixel count. The main source of noise is unrelated to pixel count.

P.S. I have always supported the general theory that 'a good big 'un beats a good little 'un every time'.But who uses a whole plate camera these days? This is not a new argument; it's as old as the granulation of silver nitrate in emulsion.

30th Jul 2014 22:52 BSTRonald J. Pellar Expert


You are off topic, the two cameras that were asked to be compared are both highly rugged for long term use of equal construction. The features are very comparable between the two. The only major difference is the sensor size, FX or DX. As both I and Jolyon have stated the major advantage to a FX size sensor, S/N is better for the FX sensor.

You most certainly can get cheaper cameras that will serve the same purpose of both general use and macro-photography. But for macro-photography of minerals with high quality, you will need a stacking capability which requires a very rugged camera for many years of use (stacking can require as much as 30 or more images per single output photo). An excellent well made camera designed for professional use will pay for itself in several years by not needing to be repaired or replaced more often.

As for file size, both of the cameras being considered allow settings for smaller RAW output if storage is a problem. The price of storage today is cheap enough that it no longer need be a consideration. A single 64 GB SD card can store more images at 24 MP than a whole camera bag full of film could in the "olden" days.

31st Jul 2014 01:22 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder


8Mpixel is only satisfactory if

a) you never need to crop your images


b) you never intend to print your images or put them on the web at high resolution.

Yes, you can get good pictures on an 8Mpixel sensor camera. But they don't even make 8Mpixel DSLRs any more. The reason why is because of the two points above.

31st Jul 2014 07:32 BSTStephan Wolfsried Expert

I always read more or less philosophic discussions about (mostly marginal) differences between cameras.

While trying to create good macrophotography I had so far a Nikon Coolpix 5000, dito 8400, dito P6000, a Canon G9, a Pana GH2, a Canon D5Mk1,

a Sony Nex7 and a Sony A7R. My favorite so far is the Nex 7. It has a APS Sensor with 24 Mp. The A7R doesn#t fit so far because the shutter vibrations are to extreme. Maybe a firmware update will help some time.

If You have not the adequate objective equipment, the Pixel Number may not be so relevant. But if You have a 24 Mp Sensor (or even higher) is really one of the success factors. But as I said only one. The rest of the necessary equipment (bellows, objectives, a stiff rail, automatted linear actor) You can read at my home page.

So the discussion about some extra money for the one or the other camera body does not meet the real criteria in being able to make good micro photos.

Cheers Stephan

18th Aug 2014 01:40 BSTFrank Craig

Hi Owen:

I read some of the comments here, and agree with most, but wanted to share my philosophy - "The camera is just a light tight box, the lens makes the image". Which, if you're on a tight budget, translates to spend the money on the lens. Nikon has some excellent macro lenses (I use the nikkor 105mm). But, I would recommend looking at FX lenses as opposed to DX - an FX will work on a DX sensor, a DX will not work on an FX sensor (well it will, but.....) - even if you buy a DX camera. You may want to upgrade in the future.

As far as megapixels are concerned, the 7100 will suffice - of course it depends on the end use of the image. If you plan on making 20 foot by 30 foot print, then 24 MP will not cut it. But for 20 x30 inch, 24 MP is more than enough.

Well, hope that helps


18th Aug 2014 12:04 BSTOwen Melfyn Lewis

Hi Frank,

The days of the camera body being 'just a light tight box' are long gone, I think. With digital photography not only the quality of the photosensitive hardware became a critical factor but also the genius of the firmware that turns a few million low voltage electrical pulses into exquisite optical imagery are of equal importance to the quality of the lens.

I do agree entirely that there is absolutely no point in placing a lens of second rate optical performance on a first rate DSLR body.

But that is not the end of the story. The top DSLR camera manufacturers have, for decades now, made their top of the line equipment in two grades that I think have come to be known as 'professional' amd 'prosumer'. Optically, these are highly similar in quality of output. The difference between them is largely in:

- The materials of which they are constructed, this governing a camera's ability to withstand rough treatment..

- The attention to the sealing of moving elements (especially in lens units) to prevent the ingress of moisture and dust in harsh climatic conditions and to inhibit the inaccessible growth of moulds.

It is a false economy for a photographer, earning his living from high priced studio shoots and expensive travelling, to equip with other that 'professional' grade equipment - and to ensure a redundancy of all key components, Conversely, for 'bench-top' photography, in a clean room and climatically controlled conditions, it is very uneconomical to pay for a build quality (performance) that is not required, or for an equipment redundancy that is never (almost never?) essential to them.

But men are quirky creatures. They love to weave dreams, The car I drive has a top speed of over 150 mph and it accelerates like a bat out of hell. In all the years I have owned it, I have driven it at such a speed for one short period only. However it remains a pleasure to me to think of what happens if I'm heavy with my right food, even when tootling to the supermarket at a gentle 20-50 mph.

Discussions like this one are perennial, to be found wherever and whenever men - for it almost always is men - gather. The boys love their toys and often have views of near-religious fervour about them. :-)

29th Jan 2015 02:32 GMTJim Robison

Time to throw my question into the mix.

I am looking for a computer controllable FX camera with a mid-length micro (? macro) capability for mineral photography on a bench set-up. Will also use the camera for general use, and if I need more than my quite capable Coolpix S4, I will consider adding a full range zoom-able Nikon lens Plan on using Nikon Camera Control Pro 2, which I know has mixed ratings, but looks like it will do what I need for monitor focus control etc.

The camera lens combo is a Nikon D610 with an AF-S VR MIcro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. If I need to do real close-up shots, would probably add an auxiliary close focus lens.

Question is, am I getting a good capable setup with this. I don't understand about the meaning of the APS rating on some camera chips. The D610 does not, I believe, have this. What does it add to the mix.

29th Jan 2015 13:38 GMTRoger Lang Manager


hope that i understood your question wrt APS right - the D610 is a full frame (FX) sensor (like my Canon 6D) - APS originally stood for advanced photo system - see

Today the terms APS-C and APS-H are used for digital SLR imaging sensors that are (very) roughly equivalent to the respective film dimensions of the APS definition.

My other camera - the Canon 650D - has an APS-C sensor with roughly 22,5 mm × 15,0 - crop factor ~ 1.6. APS-C is very similar in sensor size to Nikons DX sensor format.

Not to be confused with APS as acronym for Active Pixel Sensor - a CMOS sensor with an active amplifier for each sensor pixel.

To the general discussion:

The difference in S/N ratio from full frame to APS-C is IMO lightyears, as i experienced in direct comparison of the two cameras with the same lenses (Tamron 90 mm 2.8 macro, Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS L and others including a recently acquired Canon MP-E 65 mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro, the latter just being tested on a rail setup). With full frame i can still get useful pictures with 6400 ISO without really noticeable colour and pixel noise compared to max 1600 ISO for approx the same noise level of APS-C. So for minerals at usually lower light setups in the macro range i only use the full frame 6D now. My 650D is now more the "outdoor landscape etc" camera, as i have a Tamron super zoom 16-300mm lens which has been constructed for APS-C and has the advantage of covering a large zoom range without the need to carry extra lenses. Both are in the same MP ballpark (6D 20 Mpix, 650D 18Mpix).



29th Jan 2015 22:13 GMTJim Robison


Your answers were spot on, and exactly what I was hoping for. I think the best I can hope for on the 105 mm is about 1:1, need to check that. I looked at the Canon lens, and it looks to be a killer, but not what I need for general specimen photography. Thanks for your detailed and very clear explanations.


20th May 2015 04:40 BSTKurt Story

I'm coming late to the discussion here, and the OP has probably made a decision. But, just in case anyone's reading...I'll add my insights from using Nikons. Reading on both cameras, I see the D7100 and D610 have similar megapixel counts, although the D610 is full-frame. Buying an FX body might be an issue if you already own lenses designed for a DX body. Testing has shown the D610 produces less noise, which could be useful if you plan on doing very close macro work--the D610 will produce more useful photos at 100% crop. Both cameras shoot in RAW (.nef) format, which is the best for capturing maximum detail. Then again, downsampling a 24mpx image can remove a lot of noise artifacts. The dynamic range of the D7100 is comparable to the D610. What you're getting by spending $800 more on the D610 are FX format, a few more features, and more rugged construction.

Btw--I am using the 60mm macro non-AFS lens for my D810. It's a relatively cheap lens ($275 nice/used from KEH), but it gives noticeably sharper results than my 105mm AF-S micro.
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