Nikon 105 for butterfly collection

Started Apr 2, 2014 | Questions thread
labalaba Contributing Member • Posts: 679
Re: Nikon 105 for butterfly collection

Here are some amateur shots of set butterflies for comparison.

These were shot with a 50mm lens and Kodachrome, using a ringflash (Sunpak). Times have moved on, obviously, but you may learn something about shadow management from these shots.

I do not recall the aperture used now, but I suspect it was f8 or f11. I don't see why you should need to stop down to f22 at the magnifications you will be using.

When using the 105VR on full frame (D700) in the field, I have been happy with f16 but I am not convinced of the image quality at smaller apertures. I have a 55/2.8 Ais that I think is OK at f22 but not beyond. The 200mm AF-D F4 works well stopped down but this focal length is not be suitable for your needs. If you can get a 70-180 micronikkor, I would imagine that would be incredibly useful for this job. If you have a subset of specimens that are not flat then I might be tempted to stack 2-3 f8 shots in preference.

Lighting will have an important effect on the outcome. May I suggest that you involve an end user in your assessment of output since you may not be sensitive to which information needs to be preserved? If you have access to a good library, try comparing The Butterflies of West Africa by Torben Larsen (ISBN-13: 978-8788757439) with Les Papillons du Gabon by Gael Vande Weghe (ISBN-13: 9780982026342). The former is a fantastic book, with only average figures. Vande Weghe's images are much better. Try comparing images of the same butterfly species from the two books.

May I also suggest you contact someone with more experience specifically in this area since I have not seen many relevant responses here. You could contact Gael Vande Weghe, he is easy to find online. The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (Belgium) has digitized its type specimen collection (, perhaps you can seek advice there, and also contact any major museum where you may have access. The NSG Group on flickr ( has a lot of images posted, clearly photographed with different methodologies and success, try there.

Take a little time at the beginning to be sure you and everyone else is happy with the output. Might save time in the long run.

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