I would like to preface this article by saying it is not intended as a “do this, don’t do that” sermon from the mount. To me, using a camera is akin to playing a guitar. It is simply an instrument that a person uses to achieve a particular outcome. And, like a guitar, there are many styles and approaches in how to “play it”. What works for me may not work or feel comfortable for you. So, if this article provides a few useful tidbits for some readers, it will have served its purpose.
There’s quite a bit of text in this article so I will be showing a range of images shot with my Nikon 1 V2 to provide some visual breaks, and also to help illustrate the capability of the Nikon 1 system.
NIKON 1 V2 + 10.0-30.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/160, f/5.6[/caption]
I must confess that I really like using the Nikon 1 system. I know, I know. You’ve read a lot of negative comments on the internet. And perhaps even read some reviews that were mixed at best. Unfortunately, a lot of what is out there posted in photography forums is written by folks who have never even held a Nikon 1 camera, let alone shot with one. They simply regurgitate the assumptions of others, or parrot reviewers.
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 50/10, f/5.6[/caption]
When I first bought my Nikon 1 V2 I had two very simple objectives in mind. The first was to use it as a second camera for my client video shoots. I chose the V2 because it is small and light and can be positioned in hard-to-reach places where my D800 can’t go. It also allows me to make aperture changes “on the fly” when shooting video, which is something that I couldn’t do with most Nikon DSLRs. Another big advantage was the increased depth-of-field of CX lens and sensor combination when compared to 35mm equipment at equivalent-fields-of-view. For industrial productions I do, more depth-of-field is almost always preferred over the artistic use of out of focus highlights.
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/60, f/5.6[/caption]
My second intended use was basically to use it as an image-capturing teleconverter, an inexpensive way to get more reach out of my existing FX glass. Initially, that was all the potential that I saw with the Nikon 1 system.
NIKON 1 V2 + 10.0-30.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 3200, 1/15, f/5.6[/caption]
Now, I typically reach for my Nikon 1 V2 first, and my D800 is usually only used for on-site client shoots. For example, all of the images taken for my recent Ruggard Legion 45 Messenger Bag review were taken with the V2. All of the images were shot hand-held at ISO 3200.
NIKON 1 V2 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/250, f/5.6[/caption]
Let’s look at a few ways you can get the most out of your Nikon 1 camera. The first 6 simple camera settings to consider are:
- Shoot in RAW
I appreciate that many Nikon 1 users currently shoot in JPEG only and that shooting in RAW may be intimidating. The dynamic range of the CX sensor in the Nikon 1 series of cameras is limited. If you make the move to RAW you will have more digital information with which to work and you’ll be able to get more highlight and shadow detail using RAW files. This will make for higher-quality finished images.
NIKON 1 V2 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ ISO 220, 1/250, f/5.6[/caption]
- Adjust JPEG Settings
If shooting in RAW is too big of a leap for you right now, at least adjust your Picture Control settings to suit the type of subject you are shooting. The Standard setting is good for general photography. Other settings like Landscape or Portrait are self-explanatory. I often use Vivid when shooting flowers and colourful birds to punch up the colours in JPEG images. When shooting video that I intend to colour grade in post-production, I will shoot in Neutral.
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/160, f/5.6[/caption]
- Set Image Quality
To give myself maximum flexibility I always shoot in ‘NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine’. For some web uses a straight-out-of-camera jpeg will often suffice, but I always want to have the RAW file just in case.
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/2, f/5.6[/caption]
- Adjust White Balance
There are times when shooting in “Auto” makes sense. For example, when indoors and shooting in mixed lighting. When outdoors, changing your white balance to suit lighting conditions can help improve your image quality. Direct Sunlight, Cloudy and Shade are the typical choices.
- Use Auto Distortion Control
Make sure it is turned on as this helps correct lens distortions automatically.
- Use Active D-Lighting
Make sure this is turned on. This will help bring out shadow details in your images.
NIKON 1 V2 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ ISO 400, 1/200, f/5.6[/caption]
Now, let’s look at a few other simple things you can do to get the most performance out of your Nikon 1 system.
- Avoid Shooting in Auto
One of the best things you can do to learn about your camera’s capabilities is to stop shooting in Auto mode and choose one of the other modes. M (manual) lets you choose both shutter speed and aperture. A (aperture priority) lets you choose aperture whilst the camera selects shutter speed for correct exposure. S (shutter priority) lets you choose shutter speed with the camera selecting correct aperture. P (program) lets you adjust both shutter speed and aperture selected by the camera for correct exposure – whichever setting you change, the other will also change correspondingly.
The mode you choose is a personal choice and one setting is not necessarily better than the another. It really depends on how much and what sort of control you want. On a personal basis I always shoot in aperture priority regardless of the camera I’m using and the subject I’m shooting.
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 10/5000, f/5.6[/caption]
- Keep the Aperture at f/5.6 or Lower When Possible
One of the inherent image quality issues when shooting with any camera that has a small sensor is image softening due to diffraction. I always try to keep my aperture at f/5.6 or below with my Nikon 1 V2 to keep diffraction at bay. On rare occasions I may shoot a tad higher, but unless I’ve made a mistake it is never more than f/8 as even at this setting diffraction does become visible. At f/11 is it very apparent.
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 400, 1/1000, f/5.6[/caption]
- Use All of the Nikon 1 Shutter Capability
Many people do not realize that a camera like the Nikon 1 V2 can actually operate at faster shutter speeds for still photography than high end DSLR cameras like the Nikon D4s or D800 (which are limited to an already impressive 1/8000 of a second). It is true that the stated specifications of the Nikon 1 show a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 when the mechanical shutter is used. But if you switch to the electronic shutter, the maximum shutter speed increases to 1/16000. That’s two more stops of exposure control.
Please excuse the quality of the image below. It is an image I staged to force an overexposure situation by aiming my V2 camera into the sun while shooting behind some leaves.
NIKON 1 V2 + 32.0 mm f/1.2 @ ISO 160, 1/16000, f/1.2[/caption]
Look at the shooting specs. You’ll see that the image was shot with my V2 with a shutter speed of 1/16000. I accomplished this by switching to the 15fps electronic shutter shooting mode and lightly tapping the shutter to only get one frame rather than a burst. When shooting in very bright sunlight Nikon 1 cameras will warn of a possible overexposure with a camera setting flashing in your viewfinder or on the rear screen. Under this scenario I would normally have to stop the camera down from my desired aperture of f/5.6 to f/11 (2 stops) and thus have diffraction impact the sharpness of my image. By using the electronic shutter in a bit of a creative way I can often maintain my desired aperture and still get a good exposure in very bright conditions.
NIKON 1 V2 + 85.0 mm f/1.8 @ ISO 400, 1/100, f/1.8[/caption]
- Play With Metering
Given the limited dynamic range of the Nikon 1 cameras, it is quite easy to get blown-out highlights in landscape images, especially if you only shoot in JPEG. The metering on my Nikon 1 V2 is quite good and I usually use matrix metering for landscape images as it does a good job delivering nicely balanced exposures. In cases where I am facing very bright or high contrast conditions I will often switch to center-weighted or spot metering to see if that will help me get a better overall exposure. I will also often switch to single point auto focus so that I can really set the exposure according to an important area of the scene. It may seem counter-intuitive to use single point auto focus when shooting landscapes, but I find this very helpful at times.
It is important to remember that once highlights are gone, you can’t get them back. It is better to underexpose the image with a Nikon 1 and then work with the RAW file in post to bring out more shadow details.
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/60, f/5.6[/caption]
- Learn to Shoot and Compose Using Single Point Auto Focus
One of the advantages of the Nikon 1 cameras is the number of focus points on the sensor. On my V2 I have 135 focus points that cover virtually the entire height and width of the sensor. This gives me a tremendous amount of creative freedom to select a specific part of an image that I want in focus. Obviously, someone using a DSLR can do the same thing by using “focus and recompose” technique. With a Nikon 1 there is no need to “focus and recompose”, all that needs to be done is move the single point focus to exactly where you want it and shoot. Still, in some cases using the recompose technique is quicker, so there is certainly use in learning it.
NIKON 1 V2 + 32.0 mm f/1.2 @ ISO 160, 1/500, f/1.2[/caption]
- Develop a Good Hand-Holding Technique
One of the criticisms that people throw at 1 Nikon lenses, specifically the zoom lenses, is their slow apertures. What most people fail to realize is that it is far easier to get good hand-held shots at slow shutter speeds with a Nikon 1 set-up than it is with a full frame DSLR camera. This also holds true when using your regular Nikkor glass with the FT-1 adapter. Look at some of the shutter speeds in the following images. I’ve added equivalent field of view information:
NIKON 1 V2 + 70.0-200.0 mm f/4.0 @ ISO 1600, 1/50, f/4.0, 540mm equivalent field of view[/caption]
NIKON 1 V2 + 10.0-30.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 800, 1/4, f/5.0, 40mm equivalent field of view[/caption]
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 800, 1/8, f/7.1, 297mm equivalent field of view[/caption]
Developing a good hand-holding technique will enable you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and allow you to keep your ISO at lower levels, which helps improve image quality.
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 3200, 1/500, f/5.6[/caption]
- Use a Polarizing Filter
This is something we all know can help improve image quality. I have polarizing filters permanently mounted on my 1 Nikon 10-30 non-PD zoom and my 6.7-13 zoom.
NIKON 1 V2 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/400, f/5.6[/caption]
- Integrate Software Into your Nikon 1 System Consideration
Using software, especially when shooting in RAW, can dramatically improve the overall impact of your Nikon 1 images. Try different ‘trial versions’ of software until you find one that you really like, and one that does a good job with your Nikon 1 files. Pay special attention to the noise reduction and lens softness functions in the software you choose. Have a look at the images below. All were shot at high ISO’s. According to the hoard of internet posters this is not supposed to be possible.
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 3200, 1/200, f/8.0[/caption]
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 3200, 1/100, f/8.0[/caption]
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 3200, 1/160, f/5.6[/caption]
- Set Your ISO
As you become more familiar with your entire Nikon 1 system, you will have a better idea on where the limits are in terms of the ISO settings you should use. Since noise can be an issue with Nikon 1 cameras, selecting a specific ISO rather than choosing an ISO range (Auto ISO) can be helpful. It is also important to remember than dynamic range decreases as ISO is increased (this goes for all cameras), so shooting at the lowest possible ISO under any given situation is always a good thing to do.
- Ignore the Naysayers
The internet is full of people who like to trash small sensor cameras in general just because they have small sensors. The Nikon 1 system has received a lot of hate in particular. Pay them no heed. Instead just have fun with your Nikon 1 if that is what you need and want.
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/125, f/5.6[/caption]
- Experiment, Then Experiment Some More!
One of the best ways to get the most out of your camera gear, regardless of what you own, is to experiment with it and try and push it as far as you can to see what you can create with it. After all, isn’t creating images where the joy of photography resides?
Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
I’m glad the article was helpful for you!
Well done article, In going to try some of your tips on my J5.
I still have my Nikon 1 J1. Still works great when I need to shed weight.
The pictures are great. The old saying… you take the pictures, not the camera.
Hi Debasis…thanks for adding your perspective to the discussion!
Hi Mr.Stirr..Thank you for sharing sir.i am from India and wonder if you have tried and recommend the j5 over the V1 and v2..for basic travel n street photography.since I am financially restrained- your advice will help me decide which to go in for.. Thank you..kenn.
My wife and I have just completed two extensive holiday/photography field work tours that totaled almost 16,000 km’s over 54 days…and every landscape image that I took during that period was shot with a Nikon 1 J5. We had two V2’s with us but my copy was reserved for use with the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 for birds and nature. So…yes I would heartily recommend the Nikon 1 J5 for landscape and street photography. The caveat, of course, is whether you will like using a camera that does not have a viewfinder.
Based on your advice -> going to raw and after processing, i start to get better results with my nikon1 system. however lot of times i see that the colours on the original picture is somehow nicer rendered as on the output. Despite the output has significant less noise and more details, thanks for DXO.
Currently I am testing my 10-30 lens, and to be honest i am not satisfied with that. even the same level 30-110 zoom is way better then that in terms of sharpness. Now I started to test 10-30 pd zoom if it is better, but as it has no filter it is very limited, as i use polar and raynox macro lens pretty often.
So I was starting to check the 10-100 zooms. Everyone seems to like it, even in your articles told it is really nice piece of glass. however all them are about the PD zoom. If it is possible I would like to avoid it as it is bigger then then 10-30 and 30-110 all together, and filter is so huge that a normal uv/polar costs a lot for that. Do You have experience with the non pd zoom 10-100? (in size it would be a better substitution for the 2 other lens)
In my experience the 1 Nikon 10-30mm lens is the least sharp of all of the Nikon 1 system lenses so I’m not surprised with your comment. The 10-30mm PD zoom is a bit better, but as you point out it does not accept filters which limits its functionality. I agree with your opinion that the 30-110mm is much sharper than the 10-30mm. The 30-110mm is my favourite lens to use with extension tubes.
The 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 is quite a nice lens. I did a review on this lens: tomstirrphotography.com/1-nik…-on-review. After doing the review of the 10-100mm f/4-5.6 I decided to buy one for my business even though I already own a copy of the 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD zoom. You will find that the non-PD 10-100mm is smaller and lighter than its PD sibling. I now use the 10-100mm non-PD extensively for a wide variety of still photography.
Thank You very much for the quick response. I need to rationalize my gear, to let nikon 1 gear what it meant to be -> lightweight, small but still good. As I purchased my gear i got 2 normal 10-30, and 1 10-30 pd zoom. Probably i will only keep 1 of them. And maybe if i find a cheap 10-100 i can even spare the 30-110, but it depends how the macros succeeded over the weekend :)
You may find that the 1 Nikon 10-30mm kit lenses are not worth much on the used market. Like you, I have multiple copies of that focal length zoom lens…three non-PD and one PD version. I have a variable neutral density filter on one of my non-PDs and a polarizing filter on a second one. This allows me to quickly switch lenses with pre-mounted filters to address specific shooting situations. I use my PD version mounted on a J4 with the Nikon 1 WP-N3 underwater housing.
You’ll find that another benefit of the 10-100mm f/4-5.6 is its comparatively short minimum focusing distance. I don’t particularly like using this lens with extension tubes as I find the 30-110mm is much better for macro-type images.
Hi again Tom,
Reading your article again (it takes a while for all of the info to sink in) I have a couple of questions:
a) You mention shooting in RAW and keeping Active D-lighting switched on.
I understood that Active D-lighting only works on RAW files if you develop them with Nikon’s own software. As you know I use Lightroom and DxO Prime (thanks to your recommendation!). Am I correct?
b) You touched on mechanical and electronic shutter choices. Electronic enables higher shutter speeds as you mentioned. Are there any drawbacks of leaving the camera in this mode permanently? i.e. what advantages does the mechanical option offer?
Thanks in advance if you have time to answers these.
I always shoot in RAW + jpeg fine and keep the Active-D lighting on for the jpegs as sometimes a jpeg will suffice for the application for which I’m shooting. I’ve never used Nikon’s software so I have no idea about its capabilities so can’t comment at all on that…sorry.
I usually only use the electronic shutter in the way I described in the article if I’m in really bright sunlight and want to shoot at f/1.2, f/1.8 or something like that from a creative standpoint and I’d get an overexposed image if I didn’t use the electronic shutter. Otherwise I wouldn’t typically shoot with the electronic shutter unless shooting stills in continuous at 15fps or higher.
I was wondering if anyone could help me with this, I have a V1 and want to get a SanDisk extreme pro card 16GB for it but want to make sure it is compatible. The specs say UHS-I is needed but will UHS-II work also some picures have a 3 in the U and some a 1 again will this matter. It’s all very confusing as the cards look identical except for these variants but don’t want to purchase and then find it won’t work.
If you want to be sure the easiest thing to do is contact Nikon technical support and ask your question. I’m not sure where you are located geographically but most of the Nikon sites have a ‘Service & Support’ tab. If you click on that tab it will take you to an “Ask a Question” area on the Nikon site. I’ve found that I usually get fairly quick replies when I’ve had questions.
First, let me tell you that I really appreciate your posts, they are always very informative, detailed and with a different approach, continue the good work!
I have a question on the Nikon 1 system: I am using a V2 with a FT1 adaptor and the 50mm 1.8G, I love the set up, the CX censor enables a fast tele 135mm equivalent prime which is light and v ery comfortable to use and photos turn out great and with character.
But when I compare the portraits of the V2 with the photos of the D600, I find that the background bokeh with the V2 is not silky smooth like with the full frame camera, and has a “nervous” noise to it. I am using DXO Prime noise reduction but still get this effect. I do get bokeh , but it has not the same quality of the D600.
Is it something linked to a setup I use? I tried also with low ISO and got same effect.
Or is it a limitation of the small censor?
Thanks in advance,
Thank you for the positive comment, it is much appreciated!
In my experience, the small sensor in the Nikon 1 V2 has a more difficult time achieving smooth bokeh and I doubt that you would be able to get the same effects as with your full frame camera, regardless of the lens used. I’ve found that I have to plan these types of shots much more, and I typically try to have my background further away than I would with my D800. This does help achieve a smoother background look.
Depending what you are doing with some of the settings in OpticsPro you may be inadvertently adding to the ‘nervous’ look of the bokeh and/or the overall ‘grain’ in the image. For example, too much micro contrast and/or overall contrast can make the bokeh look a bit too pronounced and defined, and also tends to add some grain to the overall appearance.
I recently bought a 1 Nikon 32mm and I’ve been finding that the background noise is a bit more pronounced when shooting wide open with that lens, even at lower ISO’s. I have no idea why that occurs. I find I do have to back off on some of my typical OpticsPro settings like micro contrast, contrast, and the lens softness settings to tone down the grain of the noise. There is a bokeh setting in the lens softness tool in OpticsPro 9 or 10 that does help in this regard.
Unfortunately I don’t think that FX lenses used with the FT-1 adapter on a Nikon 1 body will be covered by the lens softness tool that is in OpticsPro 9 and 10.
I’d suggest backing off some of your settings, especially with micro contrast and contrast to see if that helps. Let us know if that works a bit better for you.
I played more with DXO Optics Pro and it definitely helped – still like you say, not the level of the FF.
Your comment about the 32 1.2 is interesting and I have to say surprising, I was expecting the opposite… also looking at the photos Nikon published. What I get from this is that I will have similar quality of photos with my FT1 + 50 1.8G than with the quite expensive 32 1.2, the advantage of the 32mm would be the smaller size, the ability to focus on all points of the image and the ability to focus with less light (but 1.8 is already quite good) – is this correct?
By the way, will you make a review of that lens?
Regarding bokeh, did you see the same effect with DX cameras? If I let’s say use a 3300 with my 50 1.8G will I also get some grain / noise?
After using the V1 and the V2, and also using a Ricoh GR, I find that size and weight makes a huge difference. I can have a camera all the time with me, and these cameras are easier to use either with more extreme angles or also with people as they are not threatening. The Ricoh provides a great solution for wide to ~45mm, I was looking for tele options. The V2 is an excellent one, but there is a difference in the quality of photos between the Ricoh and the V2. The Ricoh is in the D600 league.
I’m glad that you were able to get improved image quality by doing some further adjustments with OpticsPro. It is not realistic for any of us to expect full frame image quality from a small CX sensor – physics do matter!
I’m still doing some initial shooting with the 32mm f/1.2 but so far I think it produces better images with my Nikon 1 V2 than does the FX 50mm f/1.8 lens. It is really nice and sharp and the colour rendition is excellent. Whether I can find the time to do a review on the 32mm f/1.2 remains to be seen – my schedule right now is simply crazy!
Since a DX body has a larger sensor than in the Nikon 1 I would assume the noise level would be better than the Nikon 1, but would fall short of a full frame camera. As is often said there are trade-offs with everything and there’s no such thing as a perfect lens or camera.
Just an update, yesterday night I went down to walk the dog and a neighbor asked me to take photos of her daughter, I used the V2 + FT1 + 50mm and worked out with your recommendations in mind, both to isolate her daughter from the background and in the PP process, and I managed to issue stunning results.
Thinking of it, the D600 would have surely produced better photos, but… I did not have it with me, this is the thing, the V2 is so small, I can put it in a small fanny bag and take it with me all the time.
When we speak about IQ, the main contributor is composition, expression and body language for portraits, light, etc… pixels come second.
Anyhow, thanks again for your advice and taking the time to answer all comments, this is appreciated – and thanks also for the feed-back about the 32mm 1.2.
Great to hear that the minor adjustments to your composition considerations worked out well! Thanks for following up.
Wow quite impressed by the 1 V2,planning to get one for birding work soon,can I use MF lenses on it like 300 F4,and get good results? And some great shots there :)
Thanks for the positive comment…glad you enjoyed the article!
There shouldn’t be any issues using it with manual focus – some Nikon 1 users have reported that they have had good luck with the AF with this lens as well, even with teleconverters. I have not shot with this lens so I cannot comment specifically on it.
Hi its a Pentax DA*300 I plan to use if possible,I’ve read the VR 1 70-300 is the best–but a bit $$. Is there focus peaking on the V2? Thanks Shanti
I have no experience at all with the Pentax DA300…sorry. I have a Tamron 150-600 VC and none of my three V2’s will recognize it. Likely best to see if you can take it to a local camera store to test it out….or perhaps a local camera club.
There is no focus peaking on the V2 or V3. One of the few cameras of which I am aware that has focus peaking is the Panasonic GH4.
i’m very impressed. near perfect depth of field.is that because of the small chip?also what about the v3 or do u have something in the works or done and i missed it.thank you for your extensive and very in depth reporting.
You did not miss anything on the Nikon 1 V3…I have been unable to obtain a review sample and since I’ve added a second V2 to my Nikon 1 kit I won’t be buying one for the business. Other members of the Photography Life team are still trying to obtain a review sample of the V3, so a review still may be forthcoming.
The depth of field is a function of combination of the CX chip and the lens used.