Monday, June 11, 2007
Digital insects from the Nikon D40
I expected to see a camera for a soccer moms and fishing trips. Instead I found a good digital SLR which has a most unexpected power, versatility and in camera image editing that is truely awesome. I used an 135mm 35mm Nikon manual lens and a homemade dioper to take most of these shots. The D40 is an incredible camera, it's quiet yet very high reaction speed shutter. Most of all it is very light waight and reminded me that I may not get as many good shots carrying a my best, most expencive, and heavy camera. Different cameras for different jobs is deffinately something to think about to some degree.
If you learn how easy it is, often will not need to edit your pictures on computer with this camera. It has all the functions and stuff you might not exepect on this class of camera. And on top of sensor options and controls typically found in every digital SLR you have the whole simple to use and very powerful built in image editing systems. Filters to cropping it's truely awesome. A feture I have wanted in a camera for a long time. And do not be so quick to understimate the power of it's 6mp sensor. 6mp is still higher then 35mm film ever was. The prints are awesome and it is extremely small and nimble. I've been using my large Canon which I really like, but once I got that camera and the lenses for it I forgot the freedom and ability of shooting extreme macro shots with a very small nimble simple digital SLR setup. I did not know what I was missing and am very impressed with the Nikon D40. I would recommend it to anyone who wants in-camera editing, or a small lightweight counterpart to a larger main camera for most applications. It comes with an excellent lens. But you won't be able to get shots like this until you upgrade your optics and learn how to stock insects like me.
Now to put this into perspective for you, this fly is about the size of the M letter on your computer keyboard. Just about 1/4 inch long or so! Somewhere between 5-7mm. Looking at the full resolution picture of this fly which is an extreme in-camera crop I did took away any doubts about shooting with a 6mp digital SLR. I can't stand all this talk about mega-pixels. To me it is ego and another expression of our wasteful society. Most people will never use much more then 4. Yet compact cameras are trying to boast 10mp. It's all a crazy overkill created by big business, your pictures often won't really look any better unless your making a very large jump in mega-pixcels. The true measure of a digital camera has allot more to do with then mega-pixels which in my opinion is a poor way to judge a camera. There are many other things you should look at which I may explain more later in my website. My large Canon is over 10mp. That is all I will say. So I have ways of judgeing here. I went back to less mega-pixels by getting the D40 and I see difference but I view it like the difference between medium format and 35mm. Not like the camera is outdated or something. And found that I had a hard time telling 6 from 8 in some cases. I also have an 8mp digital SLR.
I shot this moth myself with one hand on the camera. I was able to operate it with one hand it was nearly just the right size for me to operate it with one hand. This interesting moth was on my deck and had no problem crawling on my finger for a few shots.
Another shot showing more of the moth's camo-features.
And now we see where it's element is. By putting it on a dead plant it's easy to see what the camouflage is for.
The same moth from another angle. This moth was nearly as tame as a trained dog!
This is NOT a fruit fly as most people know them. But it is very very small. Just over 5mm this tiny fly shows the power this 6mp camera can do with cropping insect shots. And I cropped them all in the Nikon D40 before putting them in my computer. All I had to do for most of these shots was stamp my name.
THE SAME FLY--from the same image above now cropped down to about a 8mm span from one side of this frame to another. Yes, just a D40 and an old 135mm Nikon lens I got at a thrift store, a filter and a simple home made dioper setup produced all these extreme macros. It was great to be free of holding a large camera with large lenses for so long. My Canon is great for many pictures but can become very difficult for in-field macro shots like this. As would any big setup. The D40s built in flash could handle F22 just fine. The lens it came with goes as high above F30 and has advanced versatility settings for using old-school manual lenses. This is a very creative camera. At these serious closeup shots of flies most people hardly even see (about 1/3rd the size of a common blo-fly or housefly) you will want to go to the highest F-stop you can for depth of field. And don't have any coffee before for shooting! The D40s quiet and very quick with the flash. I am not talking about bursts (the D40 has about 2.5fps not allot to brag about but it's response time is amazing--and I am not talking about shutter speed or Fps I mean the mechanical speed timed with the flash but the speed of shutter and mirror action. In The camera can fire at a high shutter speed with the flash. That makes allot of differnce here. Many cameras go to or require you to shoot below a certain shutter speed to sync the flash so that it's not slower then the shutter. The D40 does a great job of this. Its bright built in flash to get the depth of Field needed for these kind of shots.
Many species of flies have something like 10,000 times faster reaction time then humans. With that kind of speed you need to be able to have your flash hit the insect at the right time and the shutter to be quick enough in sequence to catch the fly before the light from the flash makes it take off and fly away very fast. Often on my other cameras this takes several tries. With the D40 it's noticeably faster. I would recommend the D40 to anyone who wants a good, lightweight, solid and quiet Nikon system digital SLR that has the standard digital SLR stuff and my favorite, in camera editing and proofing it can do. Saving new files you create when you edit the original which does not get changed. That makes it easy for you to work on your pictures anywhere anytime making lots of variations to upload to your computer later. It is compatible with nearly all Nikon lens going back decades and up to the most current. I think it's faster if you press the button rather then hold it down for a burst. The one thing it's not very good at running at 2.5fps. If your used to a faster camera just turn that function off and think of it like it will take a shot every time you press the button. These flies react as soon as the flash fires. The shutter surprised me in getting these shots before the flies took off nearly every time.
Green flies resting and feeding on stuff. I don't know yet what these flies eat but they are nothing like the houseflies or garbage flies we see. They feed on some kind of plant materials.
You can see how I was stuck at f22 here because I was using that old Nikon 135 manual lens. It did not go higher. If I were using my Canon I'd go close to F30+ for this shot. But the difference made me far more creative.
I not only took the load off my main and most expensive camera, I find that this small nimble SLR is far easier to use in the field. This was taken out by a light fixture outside.
Able to crop as close as I want I was surprised by the resolution I can get out of the D40. It has all those complex settings any good digital SLR would have if you want them. The menus are very simple and quick to use for in-camera cropping and editing levels, colors, shadows and highlighting--all the usual RAW stuff. It also shoots up to iso3500. Now I'm not sure what I'd do with that, but down lower in the 800iso levels it has good noise reduction.
It would seem this fly is feeding. On what or why I don't know. This shot was taken outside near some lights that attract insects. One thing is, these shot would have been more painful and difficult with my far more expensive and advanced level camera. However, by going back in some ways I learned the advantages of having a small digital SLR for shots like this. Using several techniques I have perfected getting close enough to insects at less then 6 inches to use a camera without all the complex and heavy gear I should reserve for important shots that require that power. The D40 is a definitely a good choice and Nikon's newest contribution to the digital SLR world. I am in the process of looking up these flies and plan to identify them later.