I’ve been using the Nikon 32mm F1.2 prime lens for many months now and I have owned and used the Olympus 45mm F1.8 lens for much, much longer. I think it’s safe to say that I know both lenses inside and out. Looking at their properties – like focal length, suitability for beautiful bokeh, and so on – one inevitably arrives at the conclusion that these two lenses serve the same purpose inside their respective ecosystems and that therefore they are very much comparable. In my opinion both of them are great lenses in their own right. There are huge differences in the image quality department, however, which I’m going to discuss in this article.
I usually test my own gear and I normally need quite a lot of time to form my opinion about a specific piece of kit. It’s different this time around. I’m testing out a sample of the mighty Nikon 1 Nikkor 32mm f1.2 lent to me by my friend Jan H. Maaso.
The 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 needs no introduction. Being an f/1.2 lens and one of the most expensive ones the Nikon 1 system has to offer, it’s the most prominent lens in the system. Many people who know next to nothing about the Nikon 1 system are aware of its existence. Due to it being out of my reach financially, I wouldn’t have been able to try it out if it weren’t for Jan agreeing to part with it for a couple of months.
The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is the shorter and more affordable of the two telephoto zoom lenses available for the Nikon 1 system. It has a complex optical design consisting of 18 elements (with two ED glass elements) in 12 groups and features a collapsible barrel, mechanically coupled zoom ring, image stabilization (Vibration Reduction in Nikon speak) and an aperture with seven rounded blades. In full frame terms it offers a focal length range of 80-300mm. This is a versatile range, which is useful for portraiture, close-ups (and even serious macro with extension tubes or achromatic close-up lenses) and less active or skittish animals. Due to its compact size and low weight the 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is even useful for travel photography and the occasional landscape. It is, however, too short for serious bird and wildlife photography. Its bigger and more expensive cousin, the 1 Nikkor VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, is far better suited for these kinds of subjects.
Yesterday night I recorded a short video of a slug – I believe it’s a Limax flavus – eating grass. The video was recorded handheld with a Nikon 1 V1, a Nikon 1 Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 and Raynox DCR-250 achromatic close up lens. I held the camera with my right hand, while illuminating the slug with my phone’s built in LED with my left. You can even hear a rooster crowing in the background. 🙂
Two weekends ago Sani and I were visiting Sani’s cousin in Veliko Gradiste, a small town on the banks of Danube in eastern Serbia. We were attending the birthday of her twin daughters. Before the other guests arrived and the party started on Saturday, I snuck out and went on a stroll along the Danube. For me this was the perfect opportunity to shoot pictures of waterbirds that can’t be found along the small river Mlava in my hometown of Petrovac na Mlavi. Admittedly the Nikon 1 Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 – being too short – is not the best suited lens for these kinds of subjects. It was a fun exercise nonetheless.
I’ve been shooting a lot of macro photos since my last post on this topic. Most of the time – almost exclusively, actually – I’ve used my Nikon 1 V1 and 1 Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, with or without achromatic close-up lenses. You don’t really need a close-up lens or a real macro lens for larger insects like damselflies or dragonflies. The following photos were captured without a close-up lens and show how close you can get to your macro subject with just the 30-110mm.
Note: Click on any of the following photos to view it large.
Nikon 1 V1 and 1 Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 — 110mm, f/5.6, 1/200s and ISO100
Yesterday I recorded another damselfly video with me trying to pick one up with my finger from an aquatic plant and failing a couple of times, but succeeding in the end. This video was recorded with a Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 Nikkor 10-30mmm f/3.5-5.6 and is therefore far better quality wise than the last one, which was filmed with a Ricoh GR Digital III in standard resolution (640*480 pixels).
Damselflies are many a macro photographer’s favorite subject. They are colorful, slim and elegant. When you look at their face, they often appear to be smiling. Described in one word, they are beautiful. They are also very active and wary, which makes them challenging to photograph for novice photographers. But if you are familiar with their behavior, there are ways to trick them into posing for the camera very patiently or even into sitting on your finger. And you don’t even have to get up at 5am, when all insects are slow due to lower temperatures.
Three weeks ago I bought a used Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 lens for my Nikon 1 V1. It wasn’t exactly in pristine condition, but the price was too tempting to let the opportunity pass. As the luck would have it, my EN-EL15 battery died just several days before. The 30-110mm arrived sooner than my replacement battery from ChiliPower. Since going by its cosmetic condition I wasn’t sure that it would even work, I was biting my nails, waiting to test the lens out. And as you probably know, if you’ve bought enough used gear online, there are many conman out there. Luckily the 30-110mm turned out to be an excellent workhorse in disguise of an ugly duckling. 🙂
Achromatic close-up lenses are one of the most popular options among photographers who want to get a taste of macro photography without breaking the bank. They are a special kind of close-up lenses with multiple lens elements instead of just one. This minimizes chromatic aberration and ensures better image quality at the borders of the frame.
Two highly regarded achromatic lenses are the Marumi DHG200 +5 and Raynox DCR-250. They cost almost the same, around 50-55 bucks. I own both of them and I’m more than satisfied with their build and image quality. That being said, there are some differences that will make you prefer one over the other, unless you want to own both. 😉 So let’s get to it!