I’ve been doing some experimentation the last little while photographing birds in motion at 60fps with my Nikon 1 V2. I thought Photography Life readers may enjoy seeing a few sample images captured at this fast frame rate. All images in this article are consecutive hand-held captures of individual birds.
Unlike shooting at 15fps which provides AF-C capability with my Nikon 1 V2, using the 60fps frame rate (or 30fps) does not allow for AF-C. At faster frame rates a Nikon 1 camera will use the focus of the first frame to lock the focus on all subsequent frames in the same image run.
In the past I have only used the fast frame rate capability of my Nikon 1 V2’s on a sporadic basis, usually reserving it for occasions when birds were landing at a nest. My fear, of course, was that since AF-C was not available that subsequent images in a run shot at 60fps would be out of focus.
I recently thought about this a little more and came to the conclusion that I may have been missing some big opportunities by not using the 60fps frame rate more often. At 60fps the 40 image buffer on my Nikon 1 V2 fills up in 2/3 of a second. The question became, “How far can a bird actually travel in 2/3 of a second and how much would that travel distance affect focus?”
What I discovered was that my focusing fears were mostly unfounded. Birds landing, taking off, hovering, or flying at a 90 degree angle to my position could all be captured at 60fps with very little concern about subsequent frames going out of focus. Not only do Nikon 1 cameras capture images at 30fps and 60fps, they do so at full image resolution.
This gives photographers a lot more opportunities to capture unique wing positions in their images. As you can see from the various photographs posted in this article using a frame rate of 60fps captures subtle differences in motion from frame to frame.
In the past I hadn’t really thought about how the rhythmic motion of a bird’s wings when flying or hovering would interact with the frame rate at which images are captured. After some experimentation I discovered that the selection of different wing positions was actually somewhat limited when shooting at 15fps due to the interaction of the rhythmic motion and frame rate.
For example, when shooting terns hovering over a target fish I would end up with recurring wing positions every 5th frame. I could shoot long 15fps AF-C runs and fill my 40 image buffer as many times as I wanted, but I’d only end up with 4 unique wing positions in each run. This will vary by bird species and the frame rate used.
Photographing that same tern behaviour but switching to a 60fps frame rate resulted in recurring wing positions every 15th frame, giving me far more variety in my image captures.
Depending on subject matter and my image objectives I won’t have any hesitation to use 60fps when shooting birds in flight with my Nikon 1 V2 in the future.
Article and all images are Copyright 2016 Thomas Stirr. No use, adaption or reproduction of any kind is allowed without express, written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.
Great pics Thomas. What comes to mind is that at 60fps you are getting 10 shots for every one that a D810/D750/D610/D7200 etc would get so you certainly can choose the best wing position, which really does help. I have to say I didn’t think you could have such fast shutter speeds with the high FPSs on these cameras, so that’s very interesting.
I suppose the other feature you are showing is that with a CX body shooting at F5.6, you’re getting a DoF equivalent to F16 or so on FF, so that could easily be about 20 metres in acceptable focus depending on subject distance, which is shown with the surrounding water also basically being sharp. So you would probably not get such a nice separation if you had more complex background, but with a clean background it seems to work fine.
My question will be what is the viewfinder/screen experience like tracking birds? For me the classic SLR viewfinder is hard to beat in that respect trying to keep up with BiF.
Thanks for the positive comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the images! As far as the depth-of-field goes it isn’t as deep as you may think. For these types of images of birds taking off from the water the depth-of-field would typically be between a meter and 3 meters or so. As you point out subject difference does play a big role in that. I was shooting down on the birds from a higher elevation for the gull and cormorant images in this article which tends to make the depth-of-field look deeper than it actually is as well. Photographing a perched bird closer up, say from 10 meters or so would produce depth-of-field of maybe 1/5 of a meter.
As far as the EVF on my Nikon 1 V2’s, it does take some getting used to as it is not nearly as bright as looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR. I guess it’s just one of those things that a person gets used to and as a result it soon becomes a non-issue. Since I sold my D800 and all of my FX glass almost a year ago I don’t have anything with which to compare so now it is my ‘new normal’.
thanks for posting.
the frame rate difference in photos was interesting
Glad you found it interesting JC1
Very nice photos Thomas,
I have the J5 and used it today with the nikkor 300PF lens with great succes…also thanks to the electronic shutter.
I like the new sensor in the J5 and i can cope with the lacking EVF.
I use a loop and stick it on the screen if necessary.
Nikon has made the J5 incompatiible with the pro telelenses for good reason i guess..
I’m glad that you enjoyed the images – and also your Nikon 1 J5. I actually broke down today and ordered one for my business. Sooner or later the new sensor tends to get ya!
Tom another very informative article . I have never tried this with my Nikon V-1 but I will now .Thanks for sharing the great information . Yes the V-1 won’t replace my D-610 but it has a place in my bag
I’m glad the article was helpful!
everytime i look at your photos i ask myself why i carry arround a ff dlsr. Great job!
Thanks for the positive comment! If you shoot in lower light conditions your ff DSLR will always be a better choice than a Nikon 1 camera.
thank you for this realy amazing BIF Pictures. I struggle to get such sharp BIF pictures with my D810 and Sigma 150-600 Sports,
or Nikon 80-400, both Lenses are not the high-price equpiment. Im shooting Birds using a tripod and sometimes not.
I try everything i know by adjusting on the cam and the Lens but the Picture are kinda blurry so my suspision is the distance or the
less quality ot the Lenses. What is the distance in your pictures from cam to birds?
Using the LR 6 PlugIn “Show Focus Pont” i learned the distance is 100m – 125m to the Birds and i guess is way too far for getting
sharp Pictures, am i right and what is the reaon behind that behavior? I can send you some examples.
thank you in advance
Thank you for your positive comment about the images – much appreciated! Distance and shutter could both be factors. What shutter speed are you using? How severely are you cropping your images? My guess is that I would be shooting at less than 1/2 of the distance that you have been doing. I don’t use LR so I can’t check using that program. The D810 coupled with the Sigma Sport 150-600 should be a good combination.
thank you for the quick answer.
3200 is the Shutterspeed at the BIF Pictures i used. i crop the picture 1:1 in LR
You are certainly the master of the Nikon 1. I bought the V2 during the B&H fire sale. It has remarkable performance as long as you don’t push the ISO, and I’ve been tempted by that 800 mm equivalent lens. However, I don’t like the controls, which means I don’t use it much, which means I don’t learn the controls, which means I continue not to like the controls…Perhaps hypnosis could help?
Thank you for your positive comment! In terms of using the Nikon 1 V2 at higher ISO’s, I’ve found that the PRIME noise reduction function in DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite does a good job. I’d estimate it delivers about 2 stops. The controls on a V2 are fairly simple once you get the hang of them. The simplicity of the camera is one of the things that I love about it as it never ‘gets in the way’ of creating images.
Indeed, I have used PRIME based on your recommendation and it does a fine job – although it eats processor cycles.
I know you think the Nikon 1 will live on, but if it doesn’t, please be sure to post notice of any fire sales. That might be the time to pick up the zoom.
I will also be looking for good deals on additional Nikon 1 gear if that eventuality happens.
Thanks for this article. I found it easier to get the same thing by photographing groups of birds in flight, such as migrating geese and ducks and swifts sitting in a tree. I have a feeding station that attracts common field birds like redwinged blackbirds, common grackles and brownheaded cowbirds and am able to get some good shots with my D300 on continuous frame, but looking through the lens limits whether or not I can actually follow them.
I find in doing this that it is sometimes just as pleasing to not get perfectly crisp, perfectly frozen flight shots because the slight blur of moving wings on a bird in midflight adds a little life to the image.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and adding to the discussion Sara! Everyone has their own approach and different people find different image characteristics pleasing. If you are getting the images you want then stick with it!
Thank you for making me more confused with this article and actually I’m just joking!! I find your pictures and shooting experiment quite interesting! I have a Nikon D300 and two D3300 and I use a Nikon 70-300mm ED VR lens for wildlife and was considering in going with a V2 (because of weight) over using a Tamron or Sigma 150-600 contemporary. Also the fast FPS was intriguing. Some people and camera rental places said I was crazy for considering the V2 cause I’d never would get good pictures of birds in flight. Your pictures says different. Excellent job in capturing the birds! (Even though now I’m confused if I should or shouldn’t get a V2 if I can find it :)
Thanks for your comment – and I apologize for creating confusion! :-) …well…perhaps not so much confusion as presenting another potential option to consider. Shooting birds-in-flight with a Nikon 1 camera does take some adjustment in terms of technique (pre-focusing of the lens being the most important) but the system can yield some quite pleasing images. Due to the size of the CX sensor the image quality will fall short of DX and FX bodies but many people are willing to trade that off for a small, light system with some interesting auto-focusing options.
If you have time to visit my blog you’ll find dozens of articles about birds-in-flight with hundreds of sample images.
The Nikon 1 V2 is my favourite Nikon 1 body – I use three of them for my video business. I’m in the minority but I still believe that Nikon will launch a V4/V5 model within the next 6 months or so.
When you say the image quality is not as good as a DX or FX is it noticeable to a person’s eye or is it noticeable when magnified? Using your V2 do you have to use more post editing on the picture?
As long as I can capture a bird large in the frame I haven’t had any issues with doing 12″x18″ prints or a bit larger.
The dynamic range of my V2 is only 10.8EV compared to 12.8EV with your D3300 (12EV with your D300) so under high contrast light the V2 will suffer from blown-out highlights sooner than your D3300. This tends to be more of an issue with landscape images than with birds in flight but it still can be an issue with lighter coloured birds. The colour depth of my V2 is only 20.2 bits compared to 22-1 bits with your D300 and 24.3 bits with your D3300 so the transitions between colour shading will not be as smooth. Again…this tends to be more of an issue with landscape photography than with birds-in-flight. Using graduated neutral density filters does help landscape images quite a bit.
Once a person gets used to working with Nikon 1 files in post I don’t think it takes any longer – it is more an issue of the files needing different things. If you buy a Nikon 1 camera I would suggest buying DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite as this software does a very nice job as a RAW processor for Nikon 1 files. I put my files through OpticsPro…then into CS6…and tweak them with Nik. All in all a typical Nikon 1 image takes about 2 minutes in post (not counting DxO PRIME processing time). Since the dynamic range of Nikon 1 files is less than with DX or FX sensors I tend to be a lot more aggressive with CS6 adjustments, especially when working with highlights.
From your response about post processing you talk about your editing software editing your raw file.
Would there be an issue if you shot the images in JPEG at the largest file size and highest resolution?
Before the readers slap their foreheads in shock – yes I shoot mostly in JPEG. I’m very aware of the many benefits of raw over JPEG.
I use JPEG for several reasons:
I don’t want to keep be sitting in front of a computer editing pictures extensively (I want to be out taking pictures) these pictures are my hobby and I’m not selling pictures.
I don’t print even 1% of my pictures (I have taken thousands over 35 years)
I have had Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX2, Nikon View NX, and Photoshop Elements over the years and not using them for lengths of time I had to relearn the short cuts and how to perform certain editing steps.
I had to spend money on new versions.
Nikon discontinued the NX2 for a newer version which I didn’t care to learn.
Then calibrating the monitor I didn’t care much for.
So I’m basically editing my JPEG images by sharpening if needed and making contrast improvements if needed.
Whether someone chooses to shoot in jpeg or RAW really depends on their image needs. I always shoot in RAW + jpeg fine as I find that in some circumstances the jpeg file is quite acceptable for particular uses in my client video work.
Many Nikon 1 owners shoot in jpeg and are happy with their images. Since you understand the advantages of shooting in RAW and find that jpegs meet your needs then it really isn’t my place to counsel you otherwise.
Other than some initial jpeg images I shot with a Nikon 1 J5 for a review that I wrote on that camera, all of the images that I’ve used in my Nikon 1 articles over the past few years have been processed from RAW files. So, I would not be the best person to ask about the comparative image quality of Nikon 1 jpegs with other formats. I know that some Nikon 1 owners do quite a bit of customization with the jpeg settings of their cameras to get the look they desire. Again, I’ve never done this so I’m not the best person to comment on taking this approach.
Over time I ended up shooting with the Nikon 1 system exclusively for some pretty simple reasons:
1) the small size/weight is extremely helpful for me when shooting industrial client videos as I can get my cameras in very tight, unusual spots where a traditional DSLR is too large and heavy,
2) the 2.7X crop factor is also ideal for the client video work I do as it allows me to use wider angle lenses with different depth-of-field properties and still achieve the desired field of view (e.g. 10mm CX versus 28mm FX) so I can shoot at more open apertures and reduce the need for external lighting, saving onsite time,
3) I love the simplicity of the system…it has brought fun back to photography for me.
Thanks for your comment
I’m old and maybe wiseer now that I won’t say; ‘I will never shoot raw again’ because something might change and I will find myself doing raw.
If youre shooting raw +jpeg fine you must be using a big memory card?
I use fast cards but not too large in terms of capacity, i.e. 16GB and 32GB. Since the sensor in the V2 is only 14MP the files aren’t huge.
I did look at your blog on other pictures of wildlife photography and they were very very nice shots.
But I also noticed quite a few shots that you took you was using the Series 1 lens 70-300 and you have also used an F mount 70-300mm lens.
Obviously since I am leaning in getting a V2 I’m planning on using my F mount 70-300 VR lens with the FT-1 adapter.
I would be interested if there would be a advantage in using the Series 1 70-300mm over an F mount 70-300 mm?
The reason I ask if there’s a big difference between the lenses is the adapter is approximately 25% of what the Series 1 lens cost but if the Series 1 lens has a big advantage I might as well go with the Series 1 in the first place.
I sold the FX 70-300mm I used to own a number of years ago as I found it a bit soft on the long end of the zoom. Some folks shoot with that lens with an FT-1 adapter but I have never done that. All of my shots taken with a 70-300 were with the 1 Nikon CX version. I find the performance of the CX 70-300 to be better than the FX. The lens is sharper throughout its focal range and yields better colour rendition. I also much prefer having all Nikon 1 auto focusing options available to me with the CX 70-300. When using an FX lens on a Nikon 1 camera you will be limited to one focusing point in the centre of the frame that cannot be moved. I no longer own any FX glass and have my FT-1 adapter for sale as a result.
The 1 Nikkor 70-300mm is a native lens that allows the use of all focus points in the camera. It is smaller and balances better on a Nikon 1 camera.
I don’t even have jpeg option enable and shoot only in a max size raw, but i shoot mostly night events and studio, so…. For wildlife i would look into new d500…
The Nikon D500 (if you can find one) appears to be a great camera. However it’s not so much of needing a camera for wildlife (because I have a D300 and 2 D3300) but I’m wanting to reduce weight and to have a longer focal length than my Nikon 70-300 ED VR lens. That could be accomplished using the same lens with a V2 or V3 with the FT-1 adapter because then I’d have a 810mm lens. I have considered the Tamron150-600 or Sigma contemporary which would give me the focal length I want but then I have additional weight which I don’t want. Shooting raw works for some people and jpeg works best for others. Jpeg works best for me because of my other kind of Photography I do.
I noticed the specs of the V2 says 5 fps for stills and up to 60 fps for video which obviously means you’re shooting in video on your pictures. My question is how hard or what steps do you have to do to make still images from the video? Thanks!
Nikon 1 cameras can shoot still images at full resolution at 30fps and 60fps…this is not converting video footage into stills. The V2 can shoot stills at 5fps and 15fps with AF-C, as well as stills at 30fps and 60fps with the first frame locking focus for the balance of the image run. For more details you can read the article on my photography blog about Rhythmic Motion and Frame Rate.
After much research on the internet, seeing actual pictures, reading various articles for and against the Series 1 V series cameras I decided to find one to try myself.
I found a used V2 with the 10-30 and 30-110 lenses that was in very good shape and for $300 figured it was worth trying.
My question is what version of firmware would be the newest? The firmware in this V2 is 1.0.
Latest firmware versions can be found on Nikon’s web site.
Sounds like you found a very good kit at a modest price. As Merlin mentioned, the Nikon website will show the most current firmware versions with instructions on how to update for Nikon 1 bodies, lenses and the FT-1 adapter.
I don’t want to have a different conversation thread in this thread so if it’s not too much trouble if you could email me an email address where I could send a some questions on the V2.
You could send it to:
I will pop you a quick email this evening.
Wow! Very nice.
Thanks Merlin – glad you enjoyed the images!