There are many kinds of photography. I tend towards landscapes, birds & wildlife, and sometimes macro. When I was using a Nikon D90 and a D700, it was pretty easy to decide which camera to use for what. They had roughly the same number of pixels and well known ISO performance. I would use the D90 as my primary bird and wildlife photography body (especially in good light), and the D700 for almost everything else.
Now that I’ve swapped the D90 for a D7000, these questions have become a little harder to answer. The D7000 has better ISO performance than the D90, and more pixels than the D90 or the D700. Clearly, the D7000 is still a very good first choice for bird & wildlife (unless they’re especially cooperative and close), even more so than the D90 because of its improved autofocus and resolution. And in dim light, the D7000’s ISO performance should make it even more useful than the D90, although not as good as the D700. Using the camera now for a couple of weeks has confirmed all this.
But what about landscape photography and macros? This isn’t as easy a question. They’re most often done with a tripod and therefore ISO performance isn’t a factor, so you can use the camera’s base / optimum ISO (D7000 @ ISO 100, D700 @ ISO 200). Which body to use probably comes down to magnification and depth of field vs. diffraction. I hadn’t had a chance to explore using the D7000 for macros, so I decided to do a little experiment today.
My subject is a rosebud from our front garden (by the way, if you know what kind of bugs those are on our rose bush, let me know). The setup was fairly simple: Tripod mounted camera, using the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a Neewer LED ring light with the rose against a black background. I used matrix metering, with an exposure bias of -3EV to avoid blowing out the red channel (every digital camera I’ve owned – including the D7000, has overexposed red roses). I tried to keep the positions / setup as close as possible but unfortunately, I had to go back and re-take the D700 photo and it isn’t exactly positioned the same. I used an aperture of f/11 with the D7000 and f/16 with the D700, since those values should give the most depth of field without any degradation due to diffraction. I also used the cameras’ base ISO settings. I then ran the two photos through Capture NX2 with the exact same adjustments ( daylight White Balance, vivid Color Control, Noise Reduction off, and Unsharp Mask set to 30/5/2) and created a .jpg of each.
Rosebud: D7000, ISO 100, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/20 sec @ f/11
Rosebud: D700, ISO 200, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/13 sec @ f/16
So what conclusions did I draw from this? With a sharp lens, using base ISO, the D7000 makes full use of all of it’s pixels and therefore has very good resolution when compared to the D700. For macro photography, the extra magnification, pixels, and increased apparent depth of field will almost always be an advantage. So my first choice for macro photography now will be the D7000.
What about landscapes? That adds a couple more things to consider (e.g. dynamic range, field of view), so it needs some additional thought and experimentation. I’ll let you know what I find out.
Note: A click on the photos above, will take you to Flickr where you can select Actions / View all sizes to see full resolution JPGs.
©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.