I recently checked the shot count on my three Nikon 1 V2 bodies. Then I added up the number of photographs I’ve taken with Nikon 1 bodies like the V3 and J5 that I borrowed from Nikon Canada in order to write some reviews. I discovered that I’ve taken over 100,000 images with Nikon 1 gear since the late summer of 2013 when I bought my first V2. Hmmm…no wonder my shutter finger is sore from time to time.
Finding a camera system that works for us individually can be an interesting journey for many folks, with some twists and turns along the way. Mine included owning both DX and FX bodies and lenses, and even a very short 10-day stint with M4/3.
Over the past couple of years it always seemed to come back to the Nikon 1 system for me. So much so that I ended up selling my D800 and my collection of eight FX lenses this past summer. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the D800 from a technical or image quality standpoint.
If anything it was pretty much idiot-proof, which is often an important factor for me. I knew that I could point it at virtually anything and I’d get good results for my clients.
I don’t know if cameras have a soul or not – but I just never connected with my DSLRs, at least not like I have with my Nikon 1 gear. I know that logically this makes no sense at all.
On the surface choosing to shoot exclusively with the Nikon 1 system for both my client video work and my personal interest, which I now do, probably appears like a bizarre decision to many people. After all it has a small 1” CX sensor with limited dynamic range and colour depth.
Low light performance is absolutely dwarfed by full frame cameras. Shallow depth-of-field and bokeh are challenging.
Shooting options and controls are far more limited than with a DSLR. Nikon 1 lens selection, while growing, is still not nearly as robust as other formats. And, pixel peepers would surely see all kinds of imperfections.
None of that matters to me. All that matters is how I feel when I pick up one of my Nikon 1 V2 bodies and go out to create some images.
It is more of an emotional bond… dare I say something almost spiritual. A seamless connection between what I see in my mind and the world around me.
For whatever reason, I allowed myself to become lazy and uninspired when using my D800. I almost never went out to create images purely for fun and pleasure with it. The camera stayed in its rolling case along with all of my FX glass until the next client assignment. All it ever was to me was an excellent piece of equipment that helped to generate some income.
For me the Nikon 1 system was a godsend. It rekindled a love of photography that had been in a semi-dormant state in me for far too long. Frankly if I didn’t buy my first Nikon 1 V2 in the late summer of 2013 I would never have had the opportunity to be part of the team here at Photography Life.
Why? Quite simply Nasim would have had no reason to ask me to join the team. Heck, at the time that he phoned me he had tens of thousands of full frame and cropped sensor DSLR photographers reading his web site every single day. Many of who are much better photographers than I’ll ever be, especially when using DSLR gear.
Instead, he called someone from Canada who loves one of the most maligned and poorly rated camera systems created in recent memory. I guess when you’re in love with the ugly duckling there’s not nearly as much competition.
Risk mitigation is a good practice for any of us with a business. There have been periodic rumors that Nikon may pull the plug on the Nikon 1 product line. As a safeguard I’ve been buying additional Nikon 1 bodies at attractive prices over the past year or so. I’m now in a position that even if the Nikon 1 system was cancelled tomorrow I could still service my industrial clients for probably 3 more years with the gear that I currently own. After that point I may stop doing client business anyway and a full review of my camera gear would be in order.
About six months ago I made myself a promise to completely stop reading camera and lens reviews (sorry Nasim!) so I wouldn’t risk tempting myself and get on the self-rationalizing, gear acquisition train again.
Instead, I promised to invest the time I would have spent reading gear reviews actually going out and using my Nikon 1 equipment and experimenting with it. I figured the better I understood how to use my gear, the better off my clients would be, the more money I’d make, and the more fun I’d have. It has proven to be a sound decision.
Some folks reading this article may perceive that I am somehow suggesting that people get rid of their full frame gear and do what I did and go with a smaller-sized system. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no idea what is best for you and I would be a fool to suggest otherwise. The only bigger fools than me would be anyone who would follow such inappropriate advice.
The critical thing for each of us is to find gear that resonates with us and allows us to tap into our creativity and find inspiration. It makes absolutely no difference what format, brand, or model you choose. If it feels right – just go with it. And, once you’ve made your choice don’t pay any attention to the naysayers. It won’t matter what you buy there will be someone out there telling you that you could have done better.
The New Year often brings with it resolutions and hopeful thoughts for the future. I’m not sure what kind of approach you bring to a New Year. Mine in large degree will be a repeat of 2015, using the same guiding principles:
- Wake up each morning with the understanding that if we’re on this side of the grass it’s a great day and the only one we have – tomorrow is just a promissory note. We have an obligation to ourselves to make the best possible of each new day.
- There is no such thing as competition with/from others. All we need to do is focus on competing with our own best self each day.
- Mastery is not built by chasing the newest fad or technology. It is achieved by developing one’s own talents and fully utilizing the existing tools at hand, whatever they may be.
- Self-worth comes from within and is never dependent on what others think of us or how they evaluate us. We can only truly begin to reach our potential when we pay no heed to the opinions others may have of us.
- Making a mistake is only a problem if we do not learn from it.
- BAGs (big audacious goals) are the energy source that feeds our inspiration and creativity. It takes no more time or effort to dare to dream big dreams rather than small ones. Should we fall short of our dreams it is far better to hit the side of a mountain halfway up than to trip on a twig at its base.
- Show appreciation for the kindness of others.
To all of the wonderful readers here at Photography Life I wish you all the best for a safe, prosperous and creative New Year!
Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.
Great article, beautiful photos but I expected no less when I clicked to view this post.
You have a gift, no doubt, I believe that given a pinhole camera you’d still produce great photos.
Please keep that shutter finger pressing.
Thank you very much for the supportive comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the article!
Hello Thomas, thank you for your informative articles on the nikon1 system.
I just bought a Nikon 1 J5 after my former V1. I must say i really like the 1system; Now with the J5 sensor the photographs are much better in colour and 1600 asa is also useable. Also i can use my normal Nikkor lenses that still can do 20 Mp in the central area.( it means the central area of the lens that can do a FF150MP! ) I really like the 1.8 18mm lens with a quality that covers the 20MP @ F1.8- amazing.
I see you have two favorite lenses; the 30-110 for macro i believe and the expensive 70-300 for tele.
Your macro photos look so good i was thinking buying a new lens for macro when i am in the mountains.
Would you recommend the 30-110 or some other?
I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my Nikon 1 articles! Thank you very much for your supportive comment! I’m not surprised at all that you are enjoying the J5. The new 20.8MP BSI sensor is a significant improvement over the Aptina sensors used in previous Nikon 1 cameras. Much better dynamic range and colour depth, and maybe 1/3 of a stop better in low light in my experience. If you haven’t tried OpticsPro 10 Elite with your Nikon 1 files it is worth a trial version. The PRIME noise reduction function is terrific.
Nikon has filed a patent for a 1 Nikon macro lens but it has yet to be produced so there are some ‘work arounds’ you can consider. The first would be to use your FT-1 adapter and see if you like the performance of any of the DX or FX Nikkor macro lenses like the DX 85mm or the FX 105mm f/2.8. I tried using the FX 105mm f/2.8 and I really didn’t like it. My V2 bodies would hunt for focus like crazy and I also found that the lens was too big and heavy to feel comfortable hand-held. It also wasn’t practical to expect the V2 lens mount to support the weight of the 105mm f/2.8 micro when trying to use a tripod. Anyway…using a Nikkor macro with the FT-1 adapter is certainly worth investigating.
I’ve been using extension tubes with the 1 Nikon 30-110mm and I REALLY like this combination. It is really nice and light, and so easy to use hand-held which is my preferred shooting style. Currently I use a set of three MOVO extension tubes and I quite like them. You can also use extension tubes with the 1 Nikon 10-100 f/4-5.6 and CX 70-300. I’ve found that the 30-110 is simply a killer lens to use with extension tubes and is by far my favourite.
My favourite 1 Nikon lenses are all zooms: 6.7-13mm (fantastic landscape lens), 10-100mm f/4-5.6 (great walkaround lens), 30-110mm (as noted above, killer lens with extension tubes), and the CX 70-300 which is stellar. I have all three 1 Nikon primes but usually only use them for client video work. They are all very nice lenses but they simply don’t fit my shooting style for still photography.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better performing, cost effective set-up for macro-type images than the 30-110mm with extension tubes.
Thank you for sharing these wonderful images, your personal experience, and most of all, your wisdom. I greatly enjoy everything your write .. you are clearly a lover of people as well as photography. I took up bird and nature photography 15 years ago upon retirement. I started out with a Canon Rebel and relatively cheap telezoom. A very portable little rig that I took with me everywhere and I enjoyed working with. My well-meaning and experienced friends encouraged me to improve my gear. The image quality definitely improved and so did the experience. But, only to a point! In the last 15 years I have used the whole spectrum on Canon DSLR bodies and L lenses. Wonderful technology ..great tools. But I have become a binge shooter, and my expensive gear sits on the shelf most of the time. Upon close examination I realized that what really drew me back into photography was the enjoyment of being out there in Nature, and capturing the wonders all around me. I’m missing that. A couple of years ago we purchased a little Rebel SL1 for my son and his wife for christmas. When I picked it up I found I couldn’t put it down. It is small, compact, light and yet very capable. I began to realize that what has changed for me in my accumulation of ‘superior’ equipment was that it is no longer really portable and fun to use. So I have just transitioned to mirrorless and am already excited. I now have the equivalent capability in a small shoulder bag! I’m excited about the journey again. Yes, Thomas .. the bond between the camera and shooter ARE important, and the best camera is the one you have with you! Thank you for reminding me of that. Glen
Thank you for sharing your experience with various camera gear! One of the strengths of sites like Photography Life is the willingness of readers to share their experiences. It is really great to read that your passion for photography has found you again – I know what a great feeling that is when we reconnect!
PS: thanks for taking the time to identify the sharp-shinned hawk in a recent article of mine and following up with a mini-lesson on visual differences between falcons and hawks – much appreciated!
I have been a big fan of the Nikon 1 series as well – for me portability is key so I have a J1 and a J2. Together, they have banned the D7000 and a set of lenses to cupboard. Never felt the urge to spend money on any J3-4-5 upgrades, as these are ‘good enough’. My guilty pleasure is to take pictures around folk with ‘professional’ DSLRs, and blow them away with the results I get from my little cameras. I admit it is mostly hard work and it often involves quite some time in LightRoom – but it makes a more rewarding photography experience than just clicking the shutter.
Thank you for these inspiring pictures – somehow I think you engage in the same guilty pleasure… Intentionally or unintentionally, you show what it means to be a good photographer – without spending tons of money on the latest (and supposedly greatest) gear. These pictures are fabulous.
Thanks for sharing your experience with, and love for, the Nikon 1 system! For me, shooting with the Nikon 1 system exclusively was an evolutionary thing. I bought my first V2 as an additional camera for my client video business. I liked its ability to adjust aperture ‘on the fly’ as this was not the case with most Nikon DSLRs at the time. As I shot more and more with the V2’s I began to better understand the capabilities of the Nikon 1 system. All of my client video work is indoors, usually in industrial settings where I often have to work in tight quarters. The small size of the Nikon 1 system ended up being ideal for what I do. Eventually I wasn’t using my full frame gear much so I ended up selling it back in July 2015.
No question that the IQ is better with a full frame DSLR but I just love the small size and portability of my Nikon 1 gear. I don’t typically spend much time in post with my files…usually 2-3 minutes…after that I get bored and move on.
I think the most important thing for each of us is simply to find a format and a camera that works for our needs…then just have fun using it.
Nice article and pix as always. Great to see you still have a little time for us! HNY!
Glad you enjoyed the article and pix Keith! My plan to have a new article here at Photography Life at least once a month in 2016.
As always great and very inspiring images. Looking forward to visiting your site in 2016.
Happy New Year
The best of the New Year to you as well Anders! I’m glad you liked the images!
If they are all as good as the ones that you’ve published here, then I think that you should post all 100,000.
Happy new year!
Happy New Year to you too Don – and thanks for the positive comment! I wish they were all that good, but I get a lot of duds when experimenting!
Thomas, every time you post new pictures I’m amazed at what you can do with the Nikon 1 system. I’m not able to get such good and also consistent results with a much more “serious” camera (which shows how much I have still to learn), but your work motivates me a lot!
The mention of DxO makes me think I should revisit some of the pictures I took with an AW1 (before I sold it) and see what it can bring from the RAWs.
Thanks and all the best in 2016!
All the best for 2016 to you as well – and thanks for the positive comment! I would certainly give OpticsPro 10 Elite a try with your AW1 files. The PRIME noise reduction function as well as ClearView could make a noticeable difference to your end results. Using a trial version of the software would be a good way to test it out.
I know a lot of people scratch their heads with my choice of the Nikon 1 system over larger sensor cameras and I certainly understand that. My client business is almost entirely video work (which is mainly focused on safety videos) and the Nikon 1 system is simply the best gear for my particular needs. I’m not suggesting that it would be the best solution of other folks of course. Since I shifted all of my video production away from using a D800 with FX glass to my Nikon 1 gear I’m at least 30% more efficient in terms of on-site shooting time.
I already bought OpticsPro Elite this holiday season as the offer was quite good, so I’m all set on that. I’m suprised at what it can do with the noise from the D810 on some pictures (at high ISO) – I can get somewhat close with Lightroom, but PRIME is still way ahead. On the other hand, I find OpticsPro color rendering a bit too strong, here I prefer Lightroom.
As to your choice of system, I’m not surprised you went that way – I’m surprised at what you can get out of it, that’s all
I personally was quiet dissapointed with the AW1 sensor performance – it was worse sensor than the Coolpix A, and with a zoom lens it’s also much bigger than the A, which has become my “take almost everywhere” camera. I’m looking forward though to a V4, if it comes, since the lens choices are quite good (having read your Nikon 1 trinity article).
All the best,
I also had very good results using OpticsPro 10 Elite with my D800. I agree that colour rendering is more touchy with OpticsPro 10. Typically I use it as my RAW processor and I don’t make too many other adjustments with it. I export a DNG file into CS6 which is where I do most of my adjustments…then I use Nik Suite if needed for some final tweaks. For example, I quite like the polarizing and dynamic contrast functions in Colour Efex Pro.
I’ve had to treat my Nikon 1 files quite a bit differently than those from my D800, especially in CS6 where I tend to be very aggressive with adjustments. For example it is pretty common for me to take highlights to -100 and shadows to +50 as part of my processing with a Nikon 1 file.
I just got a couple of great deals on a Nikon 1 J4 with the 10-30 PD zoom and the Nikon 1 WP-N3 waterproof housing. I’ll let you know how this works out for underwater shooting.
Tom: I have had the pleasure of shooting thousands of images standing right next to you many times during 2015. Many of my shots were of the same target you were interested in and it amazes me just how fantastic your images turned out. I can testify that you are one great photographer. I hope we can arrange for another group photo day in 2016 so other Photography Life readers can get to know you and appreciate your expertise and always kind and gentle advice. The best of 2016 to you and your family.
All the best to you and those you love for 2016! I really enjoyed our various photo journeys and even though I’ve lived in the Niagara peninsula for a few decades you helped me discover a treasure trove of interesting spots to photograph! I’d love to get some readers together in 2016 – perhaps something at Mountsberg Conservation in the spring and the Air Show at the CNE during Labour Day weekend…?
In my memory serves I think at least 4 images in this article were created during some of our photo shoots.
Once again, you have written a wonderful article. I so appreciate the time and effort that you give to all of us with these articles. I often put other articles on hold for later but never yours. Exception this year because of the flu bug. Thank you and please keep writing and all the best for 2016
All the best for 2016 to you as well Marjorie – and thank you for your most generous comment!