Macro Image Comparison: Nikon D800 vs Nikon 1 V2

Since buying my first Nikon 1 V2 in August of last year I’ve been having some fun trying to push the limits of this little, mirrorless camera and its small CX sensor to see what it is capable of producing. On the surface doing a macro image comparison between a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 1 V2 may seem like a David and Goliath match-up.

Nikon D800 Nikon 1 V2

After all, one would expect the 36MP full frame sensor of the D800 to outperform the small 14MP CX sensor in the Nikon 1 V2, especially when stopped down to small apertures like f/22 and f/32 where diffraction can really punish image quality. Before I show you some images, let me introduce the subject of this image test: a pewter pig.

Pewter Pig in Palm of Hand

This article shows three exposures taken with each camera at f/5.6, f/11 and f/32. You can view the YouTube video to see the entire spread of aperture exposures:

All of the images that you’ll see in this article were taken with the cameras mounted on the same tripod and pistol grip, and using a 2-second (V2) or 3-second (D800) shutter delay. A Nikkor 105mm Micro f/2.8 VR lens was used for all of the images. I did exposures from f/5.6 all the way up to f/32 with both cameras. Focusing was done manually and concentrated on the left edge of the pig’s nose.

I moved the cameras in as close as I could to still achieve focus. After the initial manual focusing was done on the first image of each set, I only adjusted the aperture between shots (cameras were both set for aperture priority). None of the images in this article have been cropped at all. All images were shot at ISO-400. Here are the D800 images:

Nikon D800 f/5.6

Nikon D800 f/11

Nikon D800 f/32

RAW files from both cameras were processed through DxO OpticsPro 8 with standard default settings and two presets (sharpen fine details, HDR realistic). Viveza 2 was used to add +20 on Structure and 4 on Contrast for all images. CS6 was used to take the brightness on the V2 images to +20 so they matched the D800 files a bit better.

Since the Nikon 1 V2 has a 2.7X crop factor it produces a very narrow field of view and creates a more ‘magnified’ macro effect.

Nikon 1 V2 f/5.6 Small 1

Nikon 1 V2 f/11 Small 1

Nikon 1 V2 f/32 Small 1

To try and get some subject images somewhat similar in size to those captured by the D800, I did a third set of exposures and re-composed some V2 images by pulling the camera back away from the subject.

Nikon 1 V2 f/5.6 Small 2

Nikon 1 V2 f/11 Small 2

Nikon 1 V2 f/32 Small 2

Overall, I was quite surprised with how well both cameras held onto image detail as the Nikkor 105 f/2.8 lens was stopped down. I think this macro image comparison demonstrates that the Nikon 1 V2 is a pretty capable performer when paired with a good quality macro lens like the Nikkor 105 f/2.8, and its 2.7X crop factor adds another ‘fun’ dimension to macro photography.

Once I get my Nikon 1 V3 I’ll be doing another macro comparison to see what kind of impact its increased 18.4 MP resolution and lack of an optical low-pass filter has on macro image performance.

Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Gideon
    May 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    This test shows that the camera is not the most important thing..

    • 2
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 25, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Gideon,

      Absolutely agree with you….putting a high quality lens in front of whatever camera body is being used is a critical factor.

      Tom

  2. 3
    ) Greg
    May 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Anyone else see the evil skeleton face…. Or is it just me?

    • May 25, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      LOL, now that you’ve mentioned, I see it too!

      • 7
        ) Thomas Stirr
        May 25, 2014 at 6:50 pm

        What….no one likes my cute little piggy? :-)

        • May 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

          I don’t know about “cute” anymore, now that I see the evil :D

          Cute Evil? :)

      • 11
        ) Greg
        May 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm

        Looks like Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas. BTW good article, I have been looking at the Nikon 1 but have been concerned about the small sensor.

        • 12
          ) Thomas Stirr
          May 25, 2014 at 8:23 pm

          Hi Greg,

          Glad you enjoyed the article. Many people share your concerns about the small sensor in the Nikon 1 series of cameras. I guess it all comes down to the type of photography/videography that a person does and what expectations they have from the gear they buy.

          The more I’ve pushed my V2 the more I have learned about it…and the more that I have come to enjoy shooting with it. Obviously the image quality it produces will never match what I get from my D800…but I don’t have that expectation so I’m not disappointed.

          Tom

          • 22
            ) nestor
            June 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm

            Hi Thomas, nice comparison. I have an old V1 and I am very satisfied with the results I got.
            As you said, it is not full frame, it is smaller. By the way I have FF and DX, but for CX 10MP IQ was better than I expected. (I am not saying it is the same, only better than my expectations).
            I like it for macro, it is very handy with huge DOF at f8 (diff limited at f8), and a very capable exposure meter. I liked the V2 but I didn’t justify getting one just for an integrated flash and small differences.
            I waited for the V3, but although I like the camera, it was a big dissaponting for me due to the external EVF, it seems fragile, at least Nikon advices not to left it in the camera if it is not used in order to avoid breakage. In other words Nikon V1 and V2 are better than most people think, and you show this, but I see V3 like a step back, it is a pitty the lack of consistency with the EVF in this kind of product.

            • 24
              ) Thomas Stirr
              June 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm

              Hi Nestor,

              I sold my V2 earlier this year so I could reinvest the proceeds towards a V3. Then Nikon Canada kept on pushing out the delivery on my V3 to the point that I had to repurchase a V2 in order to handle some client video assignments (I shoot with a combination of FX/CX gear and love it).

              Now that I have the V2 again I decided to cancel the V3 that I had on order as I was tired waiting for it….and my V2 is quite a capable, little camera to augment my D800 for video work. I also recently added the 10-100 PD zoom which also brings some added production value to my video work.

              While I think there are some great video enhancements with the V3 and I originally was prepared to spend the money to add one to my kit….I have now decided to wait for the V4…and hope that Nikon fixes some of the poor decisions it made with the V3 (micro SD and no built in EVF).

              Tom

  3. 4
    ) Ernesto Quintero
    May 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for adding to my GAS(gear acquisition syndrome). ; – )

    You have given me lots to think about. I do appreciate this comparison, I would rather buy a mirror less camera that can use my rather expensive Nikon glass and the N cameras are the only game in town. Nikon currently adds the F-mount adapter free with the new V3 is really got my attention. Considering the whole kit: dedicated V3 grip, useful 10-30mm VR lens, very useful F-mount adapter, high resolution EVF and Nikon 1 V3 w/new CX sensor at less then $1,200US. All I can say is, I’m having a hard time not hitting the add to basket button.

    But my priority is a D800 for portraiture studio work, D800e price difference and practical “extra” resolution is not worth it IMHO. I read D800() upgrade is due to be announced soon, hopefully the D800 drops down another hundred or two in price, I bought the D700 at it’s final price.

    • 6
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Hello Ernesto,

      The D800 is a fantastic camera that would serve you very well. I use mine for all of my still photography work for clients as well as my primary video camera. I use V-series Nikon 1 cameras as additional cameras for client video work as the quality is actually quite good.

      We all suffer GAS pains from time to time!

      Tom

  4. 9
    ) John Miguez
    May 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Thomas, I hope delivery is better in Canada on the V3 than it is here in the US. I ordered a V3 a month ago. It is still on back order from Adorama.

    I have never considered the V3 as a macro camera. The added DOF here can be an advantage. I have used the V1 as a wildlife camera. If the lighting is good, the camera is capable of excellent images. For grins, I once attached it to my Sigma 300-800 f/5.6. Oh my gosh! I was taking pictures of the insects crawling in the bird’s feathers. ;)

    John

    • 10
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      Hi John,

      Delivery on my V3 has been pushed out twice….the last notification I had was that it is supposed to be in at the end of May. I was at Henry’s Camera Exposure event today….they only had a pre-production sample of the new 1 Nikon 70-300…so I’m not sure if that lens will also get pushed out in terms of delivery.

      I think the Nikon 1 cameras can function quite well for macro images. I was pleasantly surprised how well the images held detail even at f/32.

      Tom

  5. 13
    ) Renier
    May 26, 2014 at 6:57 am

    This little pggy went to macro….

    • 14
      ) John Miguez
      May 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

      This little piggy also stayed home…

  6. 15
    ) Tomas manrique
    May 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    For me it makes non sense to take an image at f/32. Going beyond f/16 or even f/11…diffraction starts to appear.
    I would take 5 or 6 images at f/8, focusing at different areas and stitch them together in PS.
    Just saying.

    • 16
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Hello Tomas,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that focus stacking is always an option for photographers to consider.

      And, diffraction is certainly an issue of which photographers need to be conscious. When you look at the middle set of images and compare the left hand side of the pig’s nose, how much impact of diffraction do you actually see in the images? I agree that there is some…but to my eyes it is quite minimal, and much less than I was expecting before I did the test.

      Tom

      • 17
        ) Tomas manrique
        May 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        ok…but i’m previewing them at 800×600? I don’t know if they will look the same at full resolution or when printing them.

        If a greater DOF is desirable and it is possible to do a focus stacking, great….if not….well…f/32 might be the solution :P

        • 18
          ) Thomas Stirr
          May 26, 2014 at 8:37 pm

          Hi Tomas,

          If you click on the images you will see them at 1024 width so you can compare them a bit better.

          The main purpose of the article was to show the impact of the Nikon 1 V2 2.7X crop factor when using a macro lens like the Nikkor 105 Micro f/2.8….and the relative image quality between the D800 and V2 when doing this kind of work.

          Before I did the test I was expecting to see some very noticeable diffraction to show up in the images of both the D800 after f/11 and after f/5.6 with the V2. Trying to see when the effects of diffraction kicked in was one of the reasons I took the range of exposures to that level with my test. After I reviewed the images I was very pleasantly surprised with how well both cameras actually held the details with the Nikkor 105 Micro f/2.8.

          I put the f/32 images in the article because I thought readers would be interested in seeing the performance of the camera/lens combinations at this aperture. I think the fact that the diffraction at f/32 is quite minimal in these comparison shots is a testament to the quality of the optics in the Nikkor 105 Micro f/2.8.

          Based on this small test, I would not have any hesitation in using the Nikon 1 V2 for macro work, especially given its 2.7 crop factor. And, I’m looking forward to testing the Nikon 1 V3 to see if it performs at a higher level than the V2 given the fact that the sensor in the V3 has almost 30% more pixels and there is no low pass filter. It may be quite a good camera for macro work.

          Tom

          • 25
            ) _sem_
            July 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

            “the diffraction at f/32 is quite minimal in these comparison shots is a testament to the quality of the optics in the Nikkor 105 Micro f/2.8″

            The diffraction effect is lens-related physics, and gets amplified by the sensor crop factor. The optical problems get amplified by the hardware crop too (lenses for small-sensor systems need to provide better resolution if they want to compete with larger-sensor ones).

            Many macro shooters fear diffraction more than necessary, then lose more to thin DoF than they would to that bit of diffraction softening. While thin DoF does work great on some occasions, it is often abused. Same problem in portraits sometimes, when photographers want to show off with their expensive ultrafast lenses wide-open.
            Diffraction blur responds relatively well to deconvolution sharpening, if other kinds of blur are not involved.

  7. 19
    ) Ertan
    May 27, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Thomas, how do yo balance 105mm with V2 and the F-T1? The 105mm’s mass is more than Nikon’s recommended limit on F-T1.

  8. 20
    ) Thomas Stirr
    May 27, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Hi Ertan,

    There really is only one option….rather than put my Manfrotto quick release clip on the bottom of the Nikon 1 V2 camera body and risk damaging the lens mount on the body, I put the plate on the bottom of the FT-1 instead. This allows the FT-1 to take the weight of the lens on one side, and the weight of the Nikon 1 V2 on the other. The FT-1 needs to be on a Nikon 1 camera before you mount a quick release plate on the FT-1.

    When using longer telephoto lenses with a Nikon 1 with the FT-1 adapter always use the tripod collar on the lens…this includes the 70-200 f/4.

    There are two, native 1 Nikon lenses that are heavier than the recommended weight limit of the 1 Nikon camera body lens mount (i.e. the 10-100 PD zoom and the new 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR super zoom). When using either of these lenses I would recommend always holding the set-up by the lens and never allowing the camera/lens to dangle from the camera strap.

    Tom

  9. 21
    ) Wael Fakhouri
    May 28, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for taking the time to do this very informative test ! Do you find that the Nikon 1 SB flashes illuminate the subject well when using a tripod is not an option ?

    • 23
      ) Thomas Stirr
      June 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Weal,

      I really can’t comment on the Nikon 1 SB flash since I do not own one and have never used one. The vast majority of my macro work is with a tripod….the odd time I do shoot held-held when trying to capture bees or butterflies.

      Tom

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