Insect photography with Nikon 1

As a follow up to my recent article Using Nikon 1 for Flower Photography, I thought it would be fun to use my Nikon 1 V2 and Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR and Vello Auto-Focus Extension Tubes to capture some images of bees and insects in my garden.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110 f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-160, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-160, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

In order to make this article as relevant as I could for owners of Nikon 1 gear I captured all of the images in this article hand-held and composed them using the rear screen of my Nikon 1 V2. So, whether you own an S-series, J-series or V-series Nikon 1 camera these images are representative of the types of images that can be captured with your camera.

flowers with Nikon 1 image 1

At the outset I actually had an article concept to shoot some macro images with my Nikon 1 V2, FT-1 adapter and my Nikkor FX 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR lens. It didn’t take long before I dropped that idea.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110 f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-720, centre weighted metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-720, centre weighted metering, Vello extension tubes

The autofocus on my Nikkor 105mm hunted like crazy and I found the set-up heavy and uncomfortable to use hand-held. I was also trying to shoot with the lens wide open and I found I was getting quite a bit of purple fringing. Since my percentage of keepers wasn’t very high, I decided to shift my approach and use extension tubes instead.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5/6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-160, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5/6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-160, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

I found the auto-focus performance with the Nikon 1 30-110mm using the extension tubes was quick and accurate. This allowed me to easily capture images of various bees and insects as they flitted from plant to plant.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

I used AF-S with single point AF, auto white balance and auto-ISO. I shot in Manual mode using an aperture of f/5.6 and shutter speeds between 1/1000 and 1/1600. This was to compensate for the breezy conditions and also movement of the subject insects.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-560, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

In some cases I only had enough time to grab a couple of quick shots before the subject insect moved on. This was certainly the case with the bees. I’ve included a selection of bee images in this article to reinforce the point that with a bit of practice the keeper rate using the Nikon 1 V2/30-110mm/Vello extension tube set-up can be quite high.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-320, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-320, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

I was shooting under mainly bright, sunny conditions and I’ve included metering information in the EXIF data for you. From time to time I did shoot subjects in dark shade.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-220, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-220, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

In terms of shooting macro-type photographs with my Nikon 1 V2 and choosing between using the Nikon 1 30-110mm with Vello extension tubes or my FX Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR with FT-1 adapter, the 30-110mm would win hands-down. Sometimes the best solution isn’t always the most expensive one.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-800, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-800, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

For those of you who have been following my Nikon 1 articles and the use of Vello Extension Tubes, you’ll know that I’ve been experiencing some quality issues with these tubes.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-800, centre weighted metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-800, centre weighted metering, Vello extension tubes

As a result I’ve been having some ongoing communications with the folks at the Gradus Group about the Vello extension tubes.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikkon 1 CX 39-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikkon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

I was recently advised that they will be acting on my recommendation to redesign these tubes with metal mounts in order to improve quality and durability.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-4500, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-4500, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

Once this has been done I will be receiving some of the newly designed tubes for a follow-up review.

Nijkon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-450, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

I think this is great news as owners of Nikon 1 gear can have a ball capturing some very interesting images with extension tubes.

Technical Note: All images in this article were produced using RAW files processed through DxO OpticsPro 10 including PRIME noise reduction. A DNG file was then exported into CS6 and Nik Suite for additional adjustments as required.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-5600, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-5600, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

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Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1600, spot metering, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1600, spot metering, Vello extension tubes

Article and images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

14 thoughts on “Insect photography with Nikon 1”

  1. Great tips! I will pick up an extension tube based on your shots where e distance is a concern. By the way what are your thoughts on the Nikon N1-CL1 close up lens? I recently picked one up and started using it on the 30-110 for ‘macro’ shots. I love it so far. Here is a link to a bee i captured the first time I used it.

    https://flic.kr/p/vJL4PB

    keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Ken,
      Thanks for sharing the image – very nice capture! I have no experience at all with the Nikon N1-CL1 close up lens. I went on the Nikon USA web site and found the 40.5mm listed there…but it is not listed on the Nikon Canada website so I’m not sure if it is available here.
      Tom

      1. Thank you. As fate has it I live in Japan. One of the side benefits is the ability to get anything made for the 1 system here fairly easily. I ordered mine from the Japanese Nikon Direct store. I am not sure if they deliver internationally. The lens is a steal in my opinion, as it only costs roughly 30.00 U.S. Its earned a permanant spot in my bag. Now Im thinking of picking up the corresponding model for the 32mm next.

  2. Thanks for showing us what can be done with your set-up. I especially enjoyed the finely focused wings of the bees! Amazing. Not an easy task giving how fast they move. Do you ever print your pictures? I am curious how large a print you can get without losing details of the photo.

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the images and thank you for the kind words!

      I have printed many of my Nikon images in the past, typically no larger than about 12″ x 18″ (30.5 x 45.7 cm) and I’ve been quite pleased with the quality.

      The details of the wings etc. is a testament of the quick and accurate AF of my Nikon 1 V2, the good sharpness of the 30-110mm lens, and a fast shutter speed. Using OpticsPro 10 with its lens softness function is also very helpful as the sharpening in that program is lens/camera body specific.

      Tom

  3. Tom,

    Great close ups!

    I really appreciate your using the kit lenses along with the Vello extension tubes for those of us with limited yet obviously capable equipment.

    I look forward to your upcoming findings with the improved Vello tubes. Nice to see a manufacturer who listens to users of their equipment.

    I too have the exact equipment you used here and look forward to doing more closeup photos with my V2.

    Regards,
    Bob West

    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks very much for the positive comment – glad you enjoyed the images!

      I was quite pleased with the response I got from the folks at the Gradus Group…it is very refreshing to see a company care about the quality of their products and being willing to address issues.

      I think its important to use ‘everyday’ equipment so folks can see that we don’t have to mortgage our homes to own gear that is capable of good image quality.

      Tom

  4. Questions:
    1) With this approach, how close to your subjects (approx.) were you?
    2) What is the advantage of the extension tubes instead of using the CX 70-300 lens? (Besides price of the CX 70-300).
    3) Are the pics as presented “full-sized” or cropped?
    Great pics, as always.
    WEJ

    1. Hi William,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the images!

      1) With this set-up it is possible to get about 10 inches (25cm) away from the subject with the CX 30-110mm lens.

      2) The CX 70-300 works very well with extension tubes. I used the 30-110mm as it is much lighter and also is a lens that many Nikon 1 owners would have as part of their gear. Also, at the present time given the issues that I’ve been having with the Vello plastic flanges cracking and breaking I didn’t want to put extra stress on them by using a heavier lens like the CX 70-300. When I get the re-designed Vello tubes with metal mounts I will make sure to test them with both the 30-110mm and the CX 70-300mm for my review.

      3) Most of the images were modestly cropped (i.e. about 10-15% of width and/or height) with the most aggressive crop taking no more than about 30% of width and/or height. The 11th insect image (bee on purple flower) is a full frame capture.

      Tom

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