As an owner of a Nikon 1 V2 and a selection of Nikon 1 lenses I’m always looking for ways to extend the use of this compact-sized camera system. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and photograph a waterfall with the Nikon 1 system. When many of us first start out photographing waterfalls we are often disappointed with the images we capture as they have a ‘frozen’ appearance and lack the ‘smooth water’ effect that can add beauty and drama to our photographs. To achieve the ‘smooth water’ effect we need to slow our shutter speed down. This can be accomplished by using the lowest possible ISO setting, stopping our lens down, and by using a neutral density filter.
Photographing waterfalls with a Nikon 1 camera presents three interesting challenges:
- Given the small sensor size in Nikon 1 system cameras stopping down beyond f/5.6 can start to create softening due to diffraction. This becomes quite evident at f/11 and as a result limits the use of this technique for waterfall photography.
- The lowest ISO setting on many Nikon 1 cameras is ISO-160 which is also a bit of limiting factor.
- Since most of the lenses in the Nikon 1 system are quite small and use 40.5mm filters there is a somewhat limited selection of filters available, especially when it comes to variable neutral density filters.
Undaunted, I did a bit of research and ended up purchasing a Vello IR infrared remote control.
and a Vivitar 40.5mm NDX variable neutral density filter.
I headed off to Webster’s Falls (Hamilton Ontario Canada) to see what kind of images I could create.
It has been quite dry in my local area this summer and fortunately there was a reasonable volume of water flowing at Webster’s Falls, and I was able to capture this image at f/5, 0.8 seconds, ISO-160.
I found that the Vivitar NDX variable neutral density filter was just adequate for the job. It is advertised as providing 1-10 stops of light reduction. My experience is that you’ll get about half of that light reduction since the filter is very prone to ‘x pattern’ darkening. Never-the-less the filter did do its job and is very modestly priced making it ideal for hobbyists on a budget.
The Vello infrared remote control worked very well with my Nikon 1 V2 and I’d recommend it for anyone doing tripod work with a Nikon 1 camera. Be sure to check to make sure that it will operate with your specific camera model before purchasing it.
Most Nikon 1 lenses do not have focusing rings and manual focusing must be done on the rear screen using body controls. This is a bit cumbersome so after adjusting the Vivitar NDX filter to get my desired exposure, I used auto focus without any issues with my Nikon 1 V2.
Here is another image of Webster’s Falls, taken from a different vantage point at f/5.6, 1 second, ISO-160. It was quite breezy during the day I was shooting, and I had to take a number of exposures before I captured one where the foliage was not blurred to a distracting level.
By adding a neutral density filter to their kit, owners of Nikon 1 system cameras can create very pleasing ‘smooth water’ effects in their waterfall images. Given some of the limitations of the Nikon 1 system, for best results you should choose waterfalls with a good level of water volume.
Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
If you already have a good variable ND filter just buy some step up rings so you can use it with your Nikon 1 lenses….it should work just fine. I bought some small size polarizing and variable ND filters (40.5mm and 52mm) just from a convenience standpoint.
Nope….still nothing from Nikon….*shrugs*
Thanks Tom. I had though that step up rings (approx 40 to 80 mm) would be too much. I’ll investigate further.
Fingers crossed that one day your V3/70-300 arrive!
Hi again Tom,
Whilst searching for vari ND filters I came accross the Nikon N1-CL1 MC Close up filter in 40.5 mm . Claims to produce a Macro like effect and shortens considerably the viewing distance. I wondered if you had tried this one yet Tom? I have ordered one to play with! Might be very useful if it works as described, especially on the excellent 30-100 lens.
I haven’t had the opportunity to try a close-up filter with any Nikon 1 gear. I had a similar type of filter for a Panasonic super zoom camera that I used to own a number of years ago. It did an OK job although I found I didn’t use it that much.
Just a quick note to let you know that I am planning on doing a review of some extension tubes for Nikon 1 cameras.
If you don’t have a set of these extension tubes…check them out! I had a blast shooting with them.
Once again thanks Thomas for supporting this really useful N1 system. It is amazing just how many posts you still get from photographers who cannot see beyond the 1 inch sensor and compare it to FX ! Let me just say that I went on holiday recently and carried with me three primes plus the trilogy of 6-13, 10-100 and 70-300 in my shoulder bag along with all my other personal possesions. That is about 16-800 mm in FX terms …. and I do not need rehabilitation for muscle strain :-). And, Ok the quality may not be ‘FX’ but the lenses were with me all day every day for two weeks away from home.
I have a Variable ND filter at home from my DX days (which cost an arm and two legs!) but, of course, it is about twice this filter size. Your article has tempted me to consider buying this smaller version and give it a go.
No sign of your V3/70-300 yet? Nikon are missing yet another opportunity by not even lending you one for testing.
Oh and if Nasim is watching this thread … the new style is great!
Well, I finally bit the bullet and bought a 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2. I’m looking forward to seeing what this lens can do!
Thankyou for letting me know Tom. I’m sure you will love it! It is a beautifully lens – probably the best on optical quality so far in the Nikon 1 system. I look forward to reading your review and comments!
Incidentally, I went to a ‘Tall Ships’ regatta on the Thames this weekend and was able to take acceptable quality shots accross the river at a distance of over 0.5km using the 70-300 hand held! 800 mm EFL of reach on a camera that fits in one corner of my shoulder bag (even with the 70-300 attached) sums it up for the Nikon 1 system.
Please keep up the good work of supporting us ‘Nikon 1’ers’ at Mansurov’s Tom.
I enjoyed your article, thank you. Is there any advantage in the Vello IR Remote over the Nikon ML-L3 IR Remote?
I’ve never used the Nikon ML-L3 so I can’t comment from a performance standpoint. The Vello remote worked very well for me and is less than 1/2 the cost of the Nikon remote.
Hi Rajesh…and thanks for the positive comment!
I have to admit, I prefer the first photo in the article. I think the smooth water effect has been done to death. It was an interesting gimmick the first few times I saw it, and that was about it. In fact, I think it was about a year ago when I started skipping over all such photos. Water just doesn’t look like that in real life!
Not saying it’s wrong to do it, but I think photographers need to realize that a faux effect like that may get tiresome after a while and make photos seem outdated. (Like what’s being done with HDR right now, too.)
Thanks for sharing your perspectives. The fact that we all like different things is a part of what makes us human and makes us different from one another.
I came to a similar conclusion using filters when I was playing around with my Nikon 1 cameras. However to be an old stick in the mud I just leave the 1 Series camera at home when near waterfalls here in the Southern Appalachians. There always seems to be a lot of shade around any of our prolific waterfalls. The Nikon 1 sensor dynamic range will just not support this kind of photography at any light level with any filter. You either blow out the highlights or obscure all the details in the shadows with noise. Bracketing is not an option because it is not automatic and it is such a pain in the butt to manually bracket. I have relegated my 1 series cameras to a niche where they are marvelous. Street photography and parties…..great tool. For anything approaching landscape or nature I choose a different tool. The one exception is large birds in a rookery where mated to my 70-200 f/2.8 glass the 1V1 is a great little camera.
Thanks for your comment…always appreciate your perspectives.
No question that the limited dynamic range of the Nikon 1 sensors are an issue when it comes to landscape photography. I’ve found that using a polarizing filter does help images to ‘pop’ more and achieve better overall balance. I’ve also used HDR techniques, usually with three exposures at +3, -3 and 0. Yeah….it is a bit of a pain to do it manually…but it does work.
I totally agree that its important to use the right tool for the job and my preferred landscape/waterfall camera is my D800. I love its dynamic range and the overall quality of the files it produces.
Unlike professional shooters a lot of folks don’t have the luxury of owning multiple camera bodies and they need to get as much performance from what they do own. I like to play around with my Nikon 1 kit and experiment with it to see how far I can push it…and share some ideas with Photography Life readers.
Yes, Thomas I am sure a lot of people like the help you are giving them…..Oh, btw I absolutely love the D610 which replaced a D600 in my bag. I saw reference to the new shutter in the D810, which I suspect is like the D610 shutter. It is so much smoother and quieter than the D600. The overall experience of using the camera is improved. I am surprised how much difference this makes. Interesting to me is that there has not been much written about this improved shutter except in reference to the D810. Always good to see your articles. I am liking Photography Life as much as any other site I regularly visit.
I had a D600 and loved the camera….other than the oil/dust issue I had with three different copies. I had read that the shutter was improved in the D610 but I did not realize that it was smoother and more quiet than the D600. Has the smoother shutter helped to improve image quality as well?
Other than the shutter improvements have you noticed any other advantages of the D610 over the D600?
Don’t know about the picture quality as I suspect it would take 1 on 1 comparison. I have seen reference to picture quality improvement in the D810 over D800 in the press, I think in Nasim’s review. The increased speed and overall smoothness are quite noticeable however. I do a lot of focus stacking where I use an AI lens and move the focus point with the camera shooting Ch mode. I have perfected this technique over the years for when I am without a tripod and I want to control the dof for mainly close-up shots. With the D610 shooting RAW I regularly run up against the buffer limits, which I seldom did with the D600.
Thanks for the additional insights re: D610 vs D600.
Very nice review! Thanks for sharing it with us.
The Vello IR remote noted in this article is compatible with the V1 according to the information on the B&H website.
Wau, that is great, I did not know that. Many thanks again!
Thanks Thomas for some inspiration, I have been shooting with Nikon 1 camaras recently quite a bit and I do enjoy it (here is a small review krasnesvetlo.cz/blog/…a-recenze/ – in Czech only, sorry)…The only thing I did not try really is to us ND filters. I am also afraid that my V1 is not compatible with any remote.
I don’t know much about these cameras, Tom, but you took some great images! Just proves again that the skill is with the photographer irrespective of his/her gear. :)
Thanks for your kind words…much appreciated.
I don’t have a Nikon 1 or any mirrorless camera but, out of curiosity, if you needed to adjust your variable ND filter to the point your autofocus system wouldn’t work, would you be able to pre-focus and put the filter on without adjusting focus? Especially in those cases where you can’t focus with the lens itself. Can you take the picture without the camera attempting to autofocus?
Great, as always, to hear from you.
To answer your question….yes the Nikon 1 cameras can be focused manually. This is done by going into the menu and setting focusing for MF…then the ‘ok’ button on the back of the camera needs to be depressed to engage the manual focus. When manual focusing is engaged the image on the rear screen is enlarged to assist with manual adjustment. The control wheel on the back of the camera is rotated either clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the manual focusing. At this point you could take a sample shot to get out of the enlarged view….leave the camera’s manual focusing set as is…then attach your variable ND and dial in your desired exposure….and take your time exposure shot.
Just read one of the latest news articles on Photography Life and thought you would like to know that Betty has attacked another contributor’s article. Betty had an accomplice, too. :-(