Like many photographers I enjoy taking images of flowers and foliage. In many ways flowers are ‘equal opportunity’ subjects. Images can be captured using the simplest of gear like cellphones and point-and-shoot cameras, all the way up to quite complex rigs that include macro lenses, tripods, flashes, reflectors, and shutter releases. This article shares some sample Nikon flower photography captured with FX and CX gear.
Note: Click on images to enlarge.
As you view the images please keep in mind that the various images were captured at different times, under different lighting conditions, using different camera gear. This article does not attempt to directly compare image quality between Nikon FX and CX gear.
Doing so strikes me as a rather pointless exercise since everyone knows image quality from a full frame FX sensor will surpass that of images taken with CX gear. All we need to do is examine DxOMark test data for a clear confirmation of FX and CX sensor performance differences.
- First let’s look at a Nikon D800. Dynamic range – 14.4 EVs. Colour depth – 25.3 bits. Low light – 2853 ISO.
- Let’s compare that with the test scores for a Nikon 1 J5. Dynamic range – 12 EVs. Colour depth – 22.1 bits. Low light – 479 ISO.
DxOMark suggests that a difference of 1-bit of colour depth is needed to be discernible by most people, and 0.5 EVs of dynamic range. They also consider 22-bits of colour depth to be at an ‘excellent’ level, as is 12-EVs of dynamic range.
Regardless of the gear used I always prefer to shoot hand-held as I tend to be very spontaneous with my captures. Another factor when shooting flower images is that I am most often out with my wife at venues where shooting with tripods is difficult at best, and forbidden at worst. We are also usually under some time constraints which makes shooting hand-held more practical.
I much prefer to create images of entire blossoms or macro-type images rather than groupings of flowers. When I owned Nikon FX gear I did have the Nikkor Micro 105 mm f/2.8 prime and occasionally used it with my D800. It was never one of my favourite lenses as it seemed to be best suited to be used with a tripod and focused manually.
I attempted to use the Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 on my Nikon 1 V2’s by way of the FT-1 adapter but I found it was an unusable combination for me. It was unbalanced ergonomically and the lens was prone to a distracting level of focus hunting.
Since there is no native 1 Nikon macro lens I most often use the 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 with stacked extension tubes when photographing flowers.
Since I am quite often shooting flower images in private gardens during ‘open garden’ events I am usually restricted to staying on established walkways. I prefer to use telephoto zoom lenses as they give me more image framing flexibility. In the past when shooting with FX gear I often used a 1.7X teleconverter, trading off some image sharpness for added reach.
Shooting with a full frame camera can make it easier to create bokeh in images given depth-of-field properties.
When using cameras with smaller sensors, like Nikon 1 gear, I am more careful selecting individual subject flowers and I pay a good deal of attention to the distance between them and the background in a potential image to help achieve the amount of image separation I want in the image.
Smaller sensor cameras create more noise in images than their full frame siblings and using some kind of noise reduction software is needed.
Since the dynamic range of smaller sensor cameras is also more limited I often shoot on overcast days, or find subject flowers in shaded areas. The 20.8 MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 J5 is a significant improvement over the Aptina sensors used in previous Nikon 1 models in terms of dynamic range, and provides more shooting flexibility as shooting subject flowers in stronger sunlight is possible.
Every photographer has their own style and approach, and doing flower photography is no exception. Many folks prefer to use tripods and dedicated macro lenses. Some add the use of flashes and reflectors to create the exact lighting they desire.
It really comes down to individual choice. I am attracted to natural light and all of my images are shot in available light without the use of any flash or reflectors. Since I usually shoot outdoors it is also important to consider wind strength when choosing an appropriate shutter speed.
I really enjoy using Nikon 1 gear for flower photography. I love the small size and light weight, especially when using the 1 Nikon 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom lens with extension tubes.
I typically shoot using single point auto-focus when using my Nikon 1 gear so I can position the AF point exactly where I want it, and avoid having to focus and recompose.
Post processing of Nikon 1 files is quite different than when I used to shoot with full frame gear. I am much more aggressive adjusting highlights and typically spend more time with levels, and with black and white sliders than I did with my Nikon D800 files. From time to time I may also make individual hue adjustments to create a bit more pop with a Nikon 1 image.
At the end of the day flower photography can be a very enjoyable pastime. Regardless of the camera you own I’d encourage you to just go out and capture some images… but be forewarned… once you do you may get hooked!
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