Jun 022014
 

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Nikon V3 and AW1 and Floating Lanterns

By Joe Marquez - www.thesmokingcamera.com 

I took a Nikon V3 and 32mm f1.2 lens and Nikon AW1 to the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. This event has become a Memorial Day fixture in Hawaii and is attended by nearly 50,000 people.

The ceremony is quite beautiful and culminates at sunset with the placing of approximately 6,000 candlelit floating lanterns in the calm water along the beach. Each lantern contains a handwritten personal message to deceased loved ones from family and friends. This is a very emotional event – and a beautiful one to photograph.

Photographically, the ceremony presents several challenges. First of all, some of the best photo ops are in the water so one has to be quite careful with expensive camera equipment. Secondly, the wind direction determines whether lanterns congregate near shore or float away toward the ocean – so some years longer reach is quite useful. One year I used a Nikon 200mm f2 lens as the wind whisked the lanterns away. Finally, over the years more and more serious photographers attend the event – and along with the improved low light capability of all cameras and even cell phones, many more casual photographers and attendees are in the water jostling for position to get the very best angles. For this last reason I stopped attending years ago.

However, this year at the very last moment I decided to photograph the event. Unfortunately, the forecast was 50% chance of rain and I didn’t want to risk a DLSR (D4, Df, D800), so I thought this might be an opportunity to test my newly acquired Nikon AW1 and 11-27.5mm lens. Unfortunately, the waterproof 11-27.5 (30-74mm equivalent full frame FOV) is only f3.5 wide open so I wanted something faster and longer. I decided to take my V3 and 32 f1.2 (85mm equivalent full frame FOV) as well.

In my Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 bag – which is absolutely superb – I carried the V3/32 combo and extra batteries in waterproof pouches and the AW1. Fortunately the V3 and AW1 use the same battery. How did that happen Nikon? My plan was if it rained I would only shoot with the AW1, if it didn’t rain I would carry the V3 around my neck and the AW1 with a wrist strap.

I arrived quite late, just as it began raining so out came the AW1. The menu is quirky and the ergonomics are poor, but it was wet and this is why I bought the camera. I struggled with the menu but eventually found the right settings. Took a few photos then the rain stopped. Turns out no more rain the rest of the evening. I took out the V3/32 combo and snapped away. This combo is blazing fast and at the beginning of the ceremony there was plenty of light.

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I worked my way through the crowd, into the main staging area where people were writing words, drawing pictures and decorating their lanterns and eventually arrived at the shore. Conditions changed quickly as bright sun turned to dark cloud cover.

As quickly as light conditions changed so did the mood of the crowd. When I arrived, most people were enjoying Memorial Day cooking, eating, swimming, playing sports, listening to music and talking story. However, as the sun went down and the ceremony began, the mood changed to quiet somber reflection and lots of flowing tears.

At sunset, the lanterns are placed in the water in one of two ways: by individuals at the shore or by volunteers on a fleet of outrigger canoes which each carry hundreds of lanterns. Each lantern has a personal hand written message – all of which are quite heartfelt. My wife cried when she read some of the messages in my photos. Very powerful, very emotional.

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Throughout the fast-moving ceremony I continued taking photographs at the shore, pretty much using the AW1 for wide and the V3/32 for reach. With my Nikon DSLRs I would shoot manual knowing I had lots of leeway in post processing if my settings were off. However, I know the V3 and AW1 do not have anywhere near the same leeway as a full frame DSLR so I was hoping the camera would properly expose as I was shooting in all directions under rapidly changing light. I set both cameras to aperture priority and auto iso. This turned out be a mistake because quite often the camera would drop shutter speed too low instead of increasing iso. Furthermore I had max iso at 800 instead of 3200 for much too long. Consequently, I ended up with lots of blurry images. My bad.

The lanterns floated out to sea fairly quickly so there was only a brief opportunity to get some angles I wanted. I was forced to wade out belly-button deep in order to get the shots. I tightened the camera bag close to my neck, held the V3 high in my left hand secured by a neck strap and the AW1 in my right hand secured by a wrist strap. I alternated between the EVF and tilting LCD of the V3 and dipped the AW1 in the ocean as needed. I don’t think I would be so audacious with my D4.

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Other than my auto iso mistake how did the cameras do? Well, I’ve included images for you to examine and here are some thoughts.

The AW1 was surprisingly effective. I was able to shoot in the rain at the beginning and dip the camera into the ocean to get some unique low angle shots. If it had rained at the event I may have been one of the few photographers (other than those with GoPros) capable of taking decent photos. The menu and ergonomics are quirky and frustrating but ultimately the AW1 was able to get the job done. Overall it kind of reminds me of the V1 in that you set up the camera and trust it to get the shot.

I’m a big fan of Nikon’s 32 lens and love shooting wide open at 1.2. The lens is small, fast, sharp and renders well. It will never replace my Nikon 85 f1.4 but it can certainly produce gorgeous images with surprisingly shallow DOF on Nikon’s tiny CX sensors. It did not let me down at the ceremony.

Obviously this is not a V3 review. However, I’ve been using the V3 for over a month and for me it is a worthy upgrade to the V1 (never owned the V2). More pixels, tiltable rear LCD, assignable function buttons are improvements I wanted and got. There are things I don’t like such as the switch to microSD and the limitation of 40 shots when shooting at high fps. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the V3 because of its speed, accuracy and reach in a small, lightweight, silent package (can’t wait for surf season on the northshore). The V3, just like the V1 (and V2, I presume) is simply the best mirrorless camera I’ve ever used to capture a fleeting moment. This may be true in good light, but what about bad light?

This ceremony turned out to be an opportunity to test the V3/32 combo and AW1 in poor light. As darkness fell, both were able to focus well enough, however the V3 produced images much noisier than I expected and noisier than the AW1. Could it be the denser pixel count of the V3 18MP sensor or the result of Lightroom 5’s current lack of support for the V3? As of today LR5 uses a beta profile for the V3. I really don’t have an answer. I know these cameras with their tiny sensors are weakest in poor light, but sometimes out of necessity capabilities are pushed to and beyond the limit.

In summary, the image quality of the V3/32 combo and AW1 will never match that of a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a larger sensor – particularly in poor light. But how important is image quality and what is good enough? I tried to capture the mood and feel of the ceremony along with a few special moments. I certainly did not have the ideal setup and I made some mistakes. I leave it to viewers of my images to decide if I succeeded or not.

Beyond the technical aspects of the shoot what I remember most was the ceremony concluding and the sky having that last glimmer of light. As I stood waist deep in water, I looked out at thousands of beautiful lanterns in the ocean, took in a deep breath – and simply savored the moment.

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Jan 202014
 

Rendering Comparison: Olympus E-P5 vs Sony A7

by Michael Van den Bergh

First of all I’d like to thank Steve for his great website. I absolutely love his reviews, and his photos are an inspiration.

In this user report I will post comparison shots of the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the Sony A7 at the classical focal lengths: 35, 50 and 85mm.

The Sony A7

Inspired by Steve’s blog, I believe that a great camera is a camera that gets out of your way: convenient to carry, quick to access the right settings, and easy to get the shot you want.

My Nikon D7000 DSLR ticked none of those boxes. That’s how I tumbled into the world of micro four thirds. I currently use a PEN E-P5 as my main camera, and I cannot stress enough how great this camera is.

However, as a micro four thirds shooter there is always that itchy feeling that a full frame camera might produce superior images. With the new Sony cameras the itch got stronger, and on top of that I stumbled upon a crazy deal that I couldn’t refuse: $1,400 for the A7.

This pushed me into selling my Nikon gear and becoming the owner of an E-P5 and A7 side by side. I’m happy I made this jump. Rather than indefinitely debating which system is better for what, I’d rather just get it over with and own BOTH.

Right off the bat, the Sony A7 is fantastic. The controls feel right, everything is easy to access, and that EVF! I actually think the Sony EVF is better than the Olympus VF-4. They are very similar when you compare them side by side: about the same size and resolution, but the deeper blacks of the Sony make me forget that it’s an EVF. For me, that’s a milestone achievement right there: when you stop realizing that it is electronic and it all feels natural. Manual focus is easy through the viewfinder. There is no need for magnification or focus peaking.

The following comparisons are shown as a quick and dirty test, and are in no way scientific. My intention is to show what one might gain by moving from micro four thirds to full frame. This test compares 35, 50 and 85mm equivalent lenses, plus some outliers that might be used in similar situations (the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8).

35mm Lens Comparison

I find it really interesting to see how the A7 compares to the PEN with the 20mm f/1.7 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses. It is hard to compare focal lengths because of the different aspect ratios, but both of these lenses can be considered as 35-ish.

I don’t have the FE 35mm f/2.8, so I used my Nikon 17-55m f/2.8 for this test. When set to 35mm this actually works and covers the full frame. The Nikon is not a bad lens and should give us an idea of the type of images you can expect from a 35mm f/2.8 lens on full frame.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 17-55mm set to 35mm f/2.8 – ISO 200

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PEN E-P5 – Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 – ISO 200

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As expected, there are no huge differences between these images. The full frame image has a tiny bit more background blur. I’m sure the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 resolves an incredible amount of detail, but these Olympus and Panasonic lenses are already plenty sharp.

The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is often discarded as inferior. I’ve never had any issues with sharpness, and I love the way it renders…

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

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The Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 is my favorite lens on micro four thirds. It has been my go to lens for the past year or so. On the other hand I’m happy I never sold my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G (which I never liked on my D7000), because this lens works beautifully on the A7.

PEN E-P5 – Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 100

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In this comparison there is an obvious difference in background blur. If bokeh is your thing, full frame really wins here.

I can show some real-world samples as well. I really like the colors from the A7, like the following example. It is with this type of shot that full frame really shines: a comfortable 50mm field of view and great subject separation.

 Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 200

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The Panasonic Leica is no slouch either though, and the following photo really highlights its lovely rendering.

PEN E-P5 – Pansonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200

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85mm Lens Comparison

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G as my favorite lens on my DSLR. It performs really well on the A7 and I will probably keep it for a while. I am comparing it to the two typical portrait lenses one might use on micro four thirds: the equivalent 45mm f/1.8 and the longer 75mm f/1.8.

For this example the background is only 4 meters away. These are the typical portraits distances where it is more difficult to blow out the background because it is quite near.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 200

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PEN E-P5 – Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 400

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The Nikon 85mm has quite a bit more background blur than the Olympus 45mm. However, if you look closely the 45mm renders a cleaner bokeh while the Nikon suffers from cat eyes in the corners. Though a different field of view, the 75mm Olympus renders roughly the same amount of background blur as the 85mm Nikon on full frame.

Here’s one last example shot with the A7 and the 85mm. This setup makes it really easy to make spontaneous people shots. This would be much harder on micro four thirds.

Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 1250

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So is full frame really better? I think it really depends. For extremely shallow depth-of-field a full frame camera is unbeatable. The photos are creamy and sometimes the gradients seem less harsh, more natural. I assume this is a result of better dynamic range.

Either way, the differences are subtle, and micro four thirds offers an incredible selection of small lenses. It is the system you want to carry with you on your travels. Both cameras (E-P5 and A7) make photography such a pleasure.

I hope this comparison was helpful to everyone out there on the fence between these two systems, or thinking about upgrading!

Sep 202013
 

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Spooky Fun with 50mm. Summilux, Summarit and Nikkor 5cm

I was going through my bag today and wiping down my Leica M 240 as it was getting full of smudges, dust and skin oils. I looked down into my bag and stared at the three 50mm lenses that lay inside on this particular day.

  1. The 50 Summilux ASPH
  2. The 50 Summarit 1.5 (Vintage)
  3. The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 (Vintage 50mm)

The Nikkor 5cm, 50 Summilux ASPH and 50 Summarit

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First of all, there is not much I can say that has not been said of the legendary and amazing 50mm Summilux ASPH. I still say it is the best 50mm in the world for any camera system. While expensive at $3995, many times it is all one needs with a Leica M body. One camera, one lens. If there was ever any one lens to own with a Leica, this is it. I have written so much about this lens over the years and have shot it with an M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, MM and now the M.

It is a fantastic lens that everyone should at least try once in their life if they shoot with a Leica M or Zeiss Ikon or Epson RD-1 (when I 1st used the lens it was with an RD-1 years ago). Also, if those Sony rumors are true, and a high-end FF mirrorrless is on the way then a lens like the 50 Lux will be a hot commodity once again. I imagine it would do amazingly well on something such as a Sony FF, if indeed  that really happens.

If so, Leica Dealers Ken Hansen and the Pro Shop have plenty in stock right now. :)

So after looking at these lenses in my bag today and cleaning them up a bit I asked Debby to throw on a Halloween mask I picked up a few days ago for $10. It’s creepy as well as spooky and with Halloween coming up soon, I figured it could come in handy for a creepy lens test :)

So what I will show you first is a series of three images. One taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, one with the classic Leica Summarit 1.5 at 1.5 and one with the 50mm Nikkor 1.4 Vintage RF Lens. Then I will talk a little more about the Nikkor and Summarit and why at least one of these lenses is good to have in ones stable of lenses, even if you have a Summilux already.

The 1st image: Taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, wide open. Click it to see the detail. It’s clean, and it has the micro contrast the older lenses lack.

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The classic 50 Summitar at 1.5. This lens is a fave of mine though I only use it sparingly due to the special effect Bokeh. 

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The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 – A classic and sometimes hard to find lens in the rangefinder world. This one is LTM mount and needs an adapter that costs $10 to fit an M. It can focus to .4 meters but you must use live view to do so.

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Three images of the same subject with each lens wide open. Each lens renders in a totally different way when shot at the maximum aperture. The Summilux is contrasty, crisp and has a smoother Bokeh effect with higher micro contrast. The Summitar is wild, with a melting blob of blur behind the subject (which is actually pretty sharp considering the age of the lens) and finally, the Nikkor. The Nikkor is a Sonnar design so gives an even different rendering with that classic glow we expect from older vintage glass. Which one do you prefer? Do you have a vintage heart? Hmmmmmm.

Two more:

Converted to B&W with the DXO film pack, this one was with the Summarit. Many HATE the look of this lens, I LOVE it but only on certain occasions will I use it. These lenses can be had for as little at $350 and as high as $800 depending on condition. I have had 4 of them looking for the best one and all were fantastic and in fact, the one that was the most beat was the best performer.  The subject pops out of a blob of blur! Click it for a much better view!

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again with the Summilux ASPH, but this one at f/2. 

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Summarit 1.5

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So why would I own all of these 50mm lenses? To be honest I own two other 50′s because I am a 50mm junkie! But remember, these classic lenses are cheap when you think of “Leica” pricing so it is easy to own multiples when talking about classic vintage glass. For example, the 50 Summarit I settled with cost me $399. It has some slight cleaning marks, a couple of visible marks on the front element and the barrel looks old and worn. But, the focus is spot on and it was the sharpest of the ones I have owned and tried by a slight margin. So $399 vs $3995, big difference. But the Summarit is nothing like a Summilux ASPH. They are totally different beasts and are tricky to master :)

Two more from the 50 Summarit 1.5 wide open. They have a unique character that only this lens will give.

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The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM

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As for the Nikkor, I have been curious about this lens for a long while now after testing Ashwin Rao’s copy of it at his home in Seattle. I liked the fact that it was a Sonnar design AND had close focus ability, much closer than the usual .7 meters of the modern Leica glass. I believe the Nikkor focuses as close as 1.4 feet compared to 2.3 feet of the Lux ASPH. But to use this feature you need Live View because once you pass .7 meters it loses rangefinder coupling and can not be focused with the RF.

Still, it offers a Sonnar quality and close focusing in a small and tiny solid all metal package. I found an EX condition copy that is MINT+ with perfect focus, no damage and in chrome for $599. Not exactly cheap, but again, much less than buying new Leica glass that will run you anywhere from $2000-$11000. Plus, experimenting with classic lenses is fun and they are easily resold if you decide the lens is not for you.

After all of this time and finding the Nikkor 5cm 1.4 close focus lens I am not 100% I will keep it. It is gorgeous, it is haze free, fungus free and scratch free but at the same time, I am not sure I will ever use it when I have a Lux, Summarit and even a Nokton and Cron lying around! I am a 50mm madman!

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM on the M 240

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The M240 is a pretty amazing camera, and fun as well. With so many adapters available today you can mount SO many lenses on to the camera and use them due to the M now having Live View. Want to mount a Canon lens, Nikon Lens or even a Soviet Helios 40-2? Go for it. Using the Live View and EVF you can focus these lenses even though they are not RF coupled. Sure MANY mirrorless cameras can do this, but the Leica M 240 is the only one that is full frame, at least for now.

I expect that over the next couple of years I will try a slew of lenses out just for fun because some lenses render in such a unique way that they are worth owning just for those occasions when you want that look.

Old vintage rangefinder lenses can be found easily, some are very rare and some are readily available. Some are insanely cheap starting at $90 and some are pricey in the $1500+ range. I like having a modern 50 and a vintage 50. Which one I grab depends on my mood really :) My fave vintage 50mm lens is the Leica Summarit 1.5 in LTM mount. I also loved the Canon Dream Lens but at $3k, could not justify it as  keeper as it is a special effect lens. The Nikkor 5cm is also very nice and the close focus sets it apart along with the classic and vintage glow. There are so many 50′s out there but I warn you…if you start trying them out it can get addicting! SO be warned :)

To those reading who own or have shot with vintage 50mm lenses, which is YOUR favorite and why?

Aug 072013
 

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Going Super Wide: The Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens Review on the Nikon V1

You can order the Nikon 6.7-13 in Black or Silver at B&H Photo

The Nikon 1 system has been gaining acceptance and steam lately ever since Nikon cleared out the old Nikon V1 bodies at a crazy $249 price tag, WITH a prime wide-angle 28mm equivalent 2.8 lens! The result of that fire sale is that many people have this little beauty now and the good news is that Nikon has released quite a few cool new lenses lately that are higher up in the quality chain than the 1st installments.

Nikon V1, ISO 720, 6.7-13 at 6.7 and f/3.5

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Sure, the old 10mm 2.8 and 30-110 Kit Zoom are fantastic but the newer lenses like the 18.5 1.8 and 32 1.2 are excellent and finally allows Nikon 1 owners to achieve a shallow depth of field effect in our photos. What does this offer? Subject isolation! The Nikon 1 system lacked these types of lenses for a while and now that they are here, many shooters are loving them. The 32 1.2 has sold out of black and silver for the last two shipments, and that is a $900 lens that the Nikon 1 haters said would never sell. I predicted it would, and it is. Because it is a jewel of a lens for the 1 system.

The Nikon 6.7 -13mm lens for Nikon 1 is indeed a superb lens of image quality but keep in mind that due to the small 1″ sensor, this focal length equivalent will be like an 18-35 lens on full frame and coming in at just under $500, it is not cheap, but is it high quality? That is the question, because if a $500 wide-angle zoom is no good or just average, then no one is going to buy it!

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Luckily, this lens has been getting high scores among users who have bought it with some saying it is among the best wide-angle lenses  they have used!

The Nikon V1 and 6.7-13 Zoom at 6.7 (18mm). The lens is contrasty, has great color and is plenty sharp! Taken through my window wide open you can see the bug splat on my window but the colors look gorgeous. 

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Build and Feel and AF Speed

The build and feel of the Nikon 6.7-13 lens is very nice. It is not as high quality as the 32 1.2 lens for the same system, but it feels better than the 18.5 or the 10mm or the 10-30 zoom. It feels more precise. It is smooth to zoom and feels great on the camera though it is on the light side and appears that it may be easily damaged. The finish is much like the finish on the Sony E-Mount lenses..which is..fragile. It comes in at only 4.5 ounces.

The AF speed with this lens on my Nikon V1 is very fast, almost instantaneous. Never a focus problem with the Nikon 1 and usually with wide-angle lenses, due to the large DOF, everything is normally in focus anyway. But the bottom line is that this lens has zero focus issues on the Nikon V1 and I assume it would be the same for the V2 or the J1-J3.

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So build is good, but not pro-like build and the usability is fantastic. The hood is small and light and fits on the front easily. The AF is blazing fast as are most Nikon 1 lenses.

The wood and lines in this image are correct, the real building was ready to collapse and was warped beyond belief. The Nikon 6.7-13 rendered it with good color right out of the camera on the Nikon V1.

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No Need for (aperture) Speed!

The Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens is not a fast aperture lens but it doesn’t need to be. The range is from f/3.5 at the widest end of 6.7mm to f/5.6 at the longest end which is 13mm. The lens also has built-in VR (Vibration Reduction) to stop the shakes. Shooting wide, we rarely need the help of VR but if you are in low light this may come in handy.

The image below was shot at the widest setting of 6.7mm at f/3.5 at ISO 800 at 1/30th sec. Not much noise (for the V1), great color and as sharp as you can get for this sensor. The light was LOW here but you would never tell that from the photo. My eyes saw dark muddy dreary color, and very dim conditions. The camera recorded the scene nicely and very bright. Great colors as well. I processed the images you see in this review with Nikon Capture NX2 which I found gives me better color output than any Adobe product.

EXIF is embedded in each image if you want to see the settings. This was shot at 6.7 wide open in a dark area, ISO 800 and 1/30th of a second.

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Shooting this lens on the V1 threw me for a loop a bit. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the nice build and feel and as mentioned already, while not a solid pro build it is leagues better feeling and looking than the 1st zooms that Nikon offered for  the 1 system. It is smooth, silky, shiny and comes bundled with a hood and caps. For video, this lens rocks and almost provides a steady cam type of IS.

When shooting images it is sometimes tricky because when shooting at the widest setting it is very hard  to make an interesting photo, especially if you have little experience with super wides like I do :) One thing that is easy for me to do is take a self-portrait and doing so at arm’s length is a piece of cake with this lens :)

ISO 450, 1/30th second, f/3.5 at 6.7mm

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Putting it to the test – ROADTRIP!

My son and I recently hopped in my Mini Cooper Countryman and packed  two weeks worth of clothes and headed out from AZ to Illinois which is a long and tiring 1800 mile trip. We wanted to take some photos, visit with my Mom, and take a drive up into the mountains of Kentucky (which we will be doing this week and I will add more photos to this review within a couple of days) to visit more family.

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My son brought his Nikon V1 setup with his 10mm, 18.5 and 30-110 (and some of his 6.7-13 photos can be seen later on down in this review). I packed the V1, a Sony RX1R and RX100II, leaving the Leica M 240 behind. Why leave my Leica? Well, the last two times I did this trip I brought the Leica M9 and this time I wanted something different. So far, 3 days in, I have shot the Nikon V1 75% of the time. The lenses I have are the 6.7-13, the 10mm, the 18.5 and the 32 1.2. A complete setup and all I really need besides a long telephoto, which I rarely have a need for.

In a Mausoleum/Tomb with the 6.7-13 at the widest setting

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I found the 6.7-13 to be a fantastic lens to add to my bag and I actually enjoyed using it just as much as I do the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 on a Leica M. In fact, this lens gives nothing up in performance to that $600 Voigtlander prime and while this one does not give me a 15mm FOV, it does offer me 18-35 and that is good enough for my wide needs when using this camera system.

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So, is this lens worth a buy? That depends. If you shoot Nikon 1 and love your Nikon 1 system AND you want something that will offer you a wider view than the 10mm prime (18 vs 28) then YES, most certainly!

As for me, after a week of using it I was unsure. After two weeks I was almost sold and after a few more days I was sold 100%. It stays with me and in my Nikon 1 kit.

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A couple of full size files from RAW

Below are  two full size files from RAW. I believe the best test of a lens is by taking real world photos, which is what we all do when we buy a lens anyway! We do not shoot resolution charts or oddball things, we shoot life, things we see, things we come across. Family, friends and the world around us. If a camera does that well then it is good to go!

Click on the two images below to see them full size. The 1st one was B&W from Capture NX2.

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Is this a perfect wide-angle lens?

NO, the lens is not perfect (and not many lenses are) and if you shoot it and open RAW files you will see distortion in the lens, and in many cases it is quite severe if you are up super close shooting straight lines. Remember, this is in reality a 6.7mm lens at the wide end! There is barrel distortion up close but all is fixable with a click of the button in Nikon NX2. You can also fix the distortion in Lightroom very easily. Once corrected you will get crisp colorful high contrast files that are typical Nikon 1 in appearance and pretty sharp across the frame. Again, you will not see the soft corners normally associated with wide-angle zooms.

See how the cage bowls out? This is an uncorrected file and you can see that because I was up very close to the cage it made the distortion very obvious. But this is easily correctable with one click.

UNCORRECTED – Some distortion in the bars

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CORRECTED – One click

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As long as you do not expect Leica $4000 performance in a $495 lens you will be just fine. For the 1 system, this is a welcome addition for all of you who love shooting wide and soaking in as much as you can into the frame. Just be careful of getting super close with straight lines at the widest setting of 6.7.

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My son shoots a Nikon V1, and he loves the 6.7-13mm!

My son Brandon has been shooting a V1 for about a year or so and he loves it. He still owns an original Nikon D2h with a few lenses and he has now seen the light when it comes to size and weight. He owns the 10mm, the 18.5 and the 30-110 and he wants this lens too. Looks like he may be saving some cash soon.

Below are a few he shot with the lens on his V1 – no distortion correction on these, can yo tell? Probably not.

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The Pros and Cons of the Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens

PROS

  • It is small and light!
  • Covers the popular 18-35 focal length
  • It is very smooth in operation when zooming
  • It is sharp across the frame
  • Superb color and contrast compared to other Nikon 1 zooms
  • Comes with hood and caps
  • Comes in black or silver
  • Great for video on the 1 series cameras
  • Built in VR (vibration reduction)
  • Sharp at 6.7, sharp at 13mm. Wide open or stopped down.

CONS

  • It does have distortion so must be corrected in RAW processing
  • Build is on the light side
  • No case or bag included

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Bottom Line on the Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens 

This lens is a no brainer if you own and love the Nikon 1 system and you want a nice, small, well made and very good quality wide angle zoom. This will give you that 18mm to 35mm field of view which is a great little setup to have for tight spaces, up close shooting or when you want to cram a ton into the frame.

Wide angle lenses can be a challenge though because by shooting so wide it is very challenging to create an image that is interesting. I have seen many wide-angle pictures that blew me away so maybe one day I will master the art of shooting with a lens such as this.

In any case, it is a great lens and its only flaw is the distortion that is present at 6.7mm. But remember, this is a 6.7mm lens! So distortion will be there. It is easily fixed in software and 75% of the images in this review had the distortion fixed with one click. It really only shows up and is noticeable when shooting up close with straight lines in the image. For me, not an issue.

The lens comes in at just under $500, and when I originally heard that news I assumed it was priced too high. In fact, after using it I find that it is not priced high but probably just about right. Show me where you can get a quality wide-angle zoom covering 18-35 that is sharp across the frame, even at f/3.5 for under $500. Even the full frame equivalent from Nikon, the 18-35 (which I used to own back in the day) is $535, $40 more expensive and it is much larger, heavier and slower to focus. Nikon priced it just right for what it offers. Remember, you get what you pay for.

So one more thumbs up to Nikon for another great lens for the 1 system. This shows me that they are really committed to this system and I am excited to see what the V3 brings. I hear it should be coming soon, before the end of the year.

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Where To Buy?

This lens is compatible with any of the Nikon 1 series cameras from the Nikon V1 and V2 to the J1-J3 and the newer S1. You can buy this lens at the links below:

B&H Photo: Black or Silver

Amazon Prime: Black or Silver

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

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Aug 052013
 

nikon3212

Last week there were 12 of the Nikon 32 1.2 lenses in stock in Silver at Amazon and now there is only ONE. The Black versions sold out very fast. As of today, there is only one left at Amazon in Silver and B&H Photo are sold out of the black and silver 100%. This lens is selling very well despite the Nikon 1 hate patrol’s predictions :)

I bought this lens on 7/24 and am not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, my son and I left for a long road trip on Friday and all I brought was two Nikon V1′s, the 6.7-13, the 18.5 1.8 and the 32 1.2. I also snuck in a Sony RX1R and RX100II :) My son is shooting his V1 and 10, 18.5 and 30-110.

The V1 has been doing fantastic, and the 32 1.2 is my favorite lens. It really is the best lens for the 1 system, hands down. Size, build, feel, etc. All there and all gorgeous.

If anyone has been eyeballing it and thinking about it, there is one left. Act fast if you want it!

You can nab it HERE.

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Jul 272013
 

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Taking the Nikon 1 to Dream Land with a 25 1.4 C-Mount $29 lens!

The Nikon V1 is an interchangeable lens camera. We all know this fact, but what many do not know is that you can use many other lenses, old lenses, 3rd party lenses, and even Leica lenses on the V1 using certain adapters. IMO, it is a waste of money and glass to use expensive Leica lenses on the V1 or 1 system cameras due to the 2.7 crop that robs the beauty from the lens. For example,  a 35mm summicron would turn into a 90 and you would lose the magic of the lens which was designed for full frame. Many complain about the 1 system and the difficulties of achieving “Bokeh” or out of focus backgrounds (shallow depth of field) with the standard Nikon 1 lenses. There are two that will deliver this for you but one is expensive at $900 (the 32 1.2) and one is under $200 but will still lack a little in the Bokeh department unless you are shooting up close. That lens is the fantastic 18.5 1.8.

Still, those lenses may not deliver the blur that many “power bokeh junkies”  want. There is a reason many people pay $11k for a 50mm Noctilux and yes, 99% of all Noctilux users shoot that thing at f/0.95 as it was designed and optimized to do.  Luckily, there is a crazy way to get extreme Bokeh on the 1 system cameras with the use of a $29 lens that is sold on Amazon, by Amazon. It is in NO WAY anything like a Nocti, but hey, for $29 what do you expect?

UPDATE: Yesterday I posted the image below asking ALL of you to guess which camera and lens took the photo.

MANY of you said Leica M 240 and various lenses from vintage glass like the Summarit to the $11,000 Noctilux to the 50 1.5 Nokton. I mean, a ton of you said Leica M, which is a full frame camera! This tells me that many associate crazy massive Bokeh with Leica and/or full frame. Crazy what we will see when we do not know what took the image :)

Others said the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2, but even that lens would not render anywhere close to this way. What you see below if you look closely is crazy melted bokeh and soft corners. The Leica modern lenses would be crisp and sharp in the corners and the Nikon 32 1.2 would be as well. Some vintage glass renders in this way on the Leica M 240 and yes, the colors below do look comparable to the Leica M 240 but this came from the V1 and the $29 25 1.4 C-Mount lens with the $10 adapter :)

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Yep, the 25 1.4 C-Mount generic lens from Amazon sold by Rainbow Imaging. It is not a sharp lens, it is not made very well, it is tiny and yes, it is a C-mount lens that costs $29 and is a 25 1.4 lens that delivers softness, dreaminess and crazy Bokeh that some will find interesting and others will find not so interesting. To check out the lens at Amazon, click HERE. It comes with an adapter for Micro 4/3 so you will need the $10 Nikon 1 Adapter. So for $39 total you can add a 25 1.4 lens to your stable, though like I said, it is cheaply made, very soft and on the Nikon 1, can only be  used in full manual mode which means manual focus, manual aperture and manual shutter speed. It’s not a lens for those that want speed and convenience, it is for those who like to take an artsy shot every now and again.

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C-Mount lenses are made for TV cameras and are known to be TINY but FAST in aperture. In fact, you can buy new high quality C-Mount lenses at B&H Photo. They even sell a 25 0.95 but it goes for $1500. Using a C-Mount to Nikon 1 adapter that you can BUY HERE at Amazon for $10 you can mount a C-Mount lens to your Nikon 1 camera. Not all C-Mount lenses will work well but when looking you need to find one that is made for 16mm. This will then cover the Nikon 1 imaging sensor. Many Nikon 1 users are expirimenting with such lenses as are Micro 4/3 owners. These lenses work very well on these smaller sensor cameras. When I say “very well” I mean, they work..but the results will be crazy in many situations, and some will be beautiful. All depends on the eye of the beholder.

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So for those Nikon 1 shooters who do not want to spend $900 on the 32 1.2, which will give you sharpness, light gathering, 85mm equivalent and a fast aperture with plenty of Bokeh, for $40 you can have a tiny setup that will give you plenty of (crazy) bokeh BUT NOT SO MUCH Sharpness, not so good of build and a lens that will not focus to infinity :)  Still, when I saw this I had to try it so I could pass along the results here. For a $40 investment, the results are not bad at all! In fact, they do indeed look like some of the results I get from the full frame Leica M with really old 50mm glass.

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Wrap up: The lens is available at Amazon HERE, and is prime eligible for $29 and it comes with a Micro 4/3 adapter so you can use it on your Micro 4/3 camera. Amazon prime members even get free 2 day ship! The Nikon 1 adapter needed for use on a Nikon 1 camera is also Prime eligible and is HERE. If anyone buys this set for use on the Nikon 1, you must put the camera into manual mode for it to work, otherwise you will get the warning message on the screen that a lens needs to be attached. So manual aperture, shutter speed and focus. Once you have your meter set, it is as easy as pie to use. I’ll add more images to the Nikon 1 gallery as I get them.

Have fun!

Steve

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Jul 222013
 

 The Nikon 32 1.2 Lens Review

The Nikon 1 System Nikkor 32 1.2 Lens Review

One of my favorite cameras now has the capability to mount a superfast 85mm equivalent lens that has been much needed since the launch of the camera system. The Nikon 32 1.2 lens for the Nikon 1 System is here and when taking it out to mount it to my V1, it appears to be a masterpiece of design and build quality. After taking a few snaps, it is obvious that this lens is serious about optical performance as well.

Nikon’s own blurb:

“A legendary lens in the making.

One of the most celebrated lenses in NIKKOR’s 80-year heritage is the 85mm f/1.4, often praised as the ultimate portrait lens. Now that same medium telephoto angle of view and outstanding performance is available for your Nikon 1 system—with an even faster f/1.2 maximum aperture. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 (86mm equivalent on Nikon 1′s CX format) combines exceptional optics with lens technologies usually reserved for D-SLR lenses, like Nano Crystal Coat for preventing lens flare (even in direct light) and the innovative Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for ultra-fast, ultra-quiet autofocusing. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 even includes a manual focus ring—another first for a 1 NIKKOR lens. Whether you’re shooting portraits, travel, landscapes or HD videos, the 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 brings exciting new capabilities to your Nikon 1 system.”

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A 32 1.2 Lens for $896? Deal or Rip Off?

Coming in at $896 for a 1 system 32 1.2 CX lens sounds expensive on one end of the spectrum because many will be mounting this lens to a Nikon V1 that they paid $300 for or a V2 that they paid $700 for. Most other Nikon 1 lenses are on the lower end of the cost scale coming in between $190 to $500. The highly regarded 18.5 1.8 is less than $200 but weighs as much as a feather (not really, but it is LIGHT). The 10mm 2.8 can be had for $200 and the 30-110 zoom is $250 or so. So seeing a lens for this system come in at $896 is sort of nuts when you look at it in this light. Why is this one so expensive while the others are on the lower end of the price scale?

This was snapped out of my windshield as I was driving into Sedona, AZ with the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2 lens. Click it for larger!

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I can answer that question for you. This is a 32mm lens, but let us just say it is 35mm for the sake of discussion. A 35mm lens is more expensive to make than an 85mm lens or a 45mm lens. Especially when premium glass is used with Nano coatings. Being a 35mm lens with premium build, nano coating, silent wave motor and a manual focus ring means that it will of course be more expensive than the other Nikon 1 lens offerings, not just because of these pro features but because those other lenses are not in the same league where build, feel, and even IQ are concerned. I have not even mentioned that yes, this is indeed a 1.2 aperture lens any ay you look at it.

You will indeed get the light gathering of a 1.2 aperture lens, and speed costs money in the camera lens world. For Nikon 1 users this is a huge bonus as we want a lens that will give us low light ability and some shallow DOF as well. We may not get the same DOF as we would on a full frame camera but it will be about the same as the Olympus 45 1.8 on a micro 4/3 camera. While the Olympus 45 1.8 is $399, less than half the cost of the Nikon, you can not use it on a Nikon 1, the build is not the same as the Nikon, it is not a 32/35mm , it is a 45mm.  It is also a f/1.8 aperture lens and  not an f/1.2 aperture lens.

A storm was a brewin…

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So when you look at it in this light, $889 for a 32 1.2 lens sounds about right when you compare it to other lenses in this category, especially since there are no other lenses for the 1 system like this, at all. It is basically an ultra fast 35mm lens but seeing that it is mounted on the 2.7 crop Nikon 1 body, it gives us an 86mm equivalent, so it acts as a super high quality portrait prime, the best lens yet for the Nikon 1. It even has a manual focus ring that when turned, automatically brings up magnification in the viewfinder or on the LCD. The manual focus action is smooth as silk. So for $889, a superfast prime for Nikon 1 shooters is really not a bad deal at all.

Once you shoot with one you will see I speak the truth. Still, many will shun it due to the price and the fact that it is a Nikon 1 system lens, which is a shame. I learned long ago to never judge a book by its cover. Even with me, a guy who used it extensively along with almost every other mirrorless lens out there telling you all this I am sure many will comment that it is overpriced. The ones who say that are the ones who will never touch it, use it or own it.

For the 1st time with the 1 System, you can get shallow DOF without having to be super close to your subject :) 

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The Nikon 32 1.2 is well worth it to Nikon 1 shooters who want the best quality lens they can get for this system. It offers build, speed, precision AF, beautiful manual focus ability and yes, even some shallow DOF for us 1 shooters. You could skip this lens and buy a Voigtlander 35 1.2 II and mount it with a Leica M to Nikon 1 adapter but you will lose some sharpness, have to shoot in manual only and lose the blazing fast AF. It will also be much larger and heavier. You will get the same field of view and depth of field and pay $500 more while losing sharpness. So again, looking at it like this makes the Nikon 32 1.2 appear to be a deal.

The 32 1.2 wide open at 1.2 will deliver sharp results and finally, some shallow depth of field for us Nikon 1 lovers. I added grain during a B&W conversion on this one. 

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But what if I do not own a Nikon 1 camera? Is it worth buying into?

Many will say that you should not buy into Nikon 1, but I say hogwash. If your requirements are small size, fast and accurate AF, great video, nice build, built in EVF, and nice prime lenses than you have three options. Sony, Olympus or Nikon 1.

Sony: The excellent NEX-7 is still around for $1200 but really good lenses will cost you. The Zeiss 24 1.8 is still one of the best for the system at $1100. The 6 is also great. But it will be slower than a Nikon 1 camera in AF, color out of the camera will not be as good, and you will have larger lenses and more bulk. You will gain the power of a larger APS-C sensor which means better low light and richer files. There is no 85mm 1.2 equivalent made by Sony or Zeiss for E-Mount but there is the 50mm f/1.8 which will give you a 75mm equivalent.

Olympus OM-DThe OM-D has it all. Built in EVF, fast AF, jam packed with features, 5-Axis, etc. So buying an OM-D E-M5 and 45 1.8 will get you the equivilant of a Nikon V1 and 32 1.2. So why go for one over the other? Well, I have both and the new E-P5 here. I have shot with all of these quite a bit. All I can say is that you can still buy a V1 with 10mm prime for $269 with free fed ex express shipping. Add in the 32 1.2 for $900 and you have a $1169 investment. Buy a V2 instead at $700 and you are up to $1600. The Olympus E-M5 will set you back $900 plus $400 for the lens, or  $1300. You will have a more modern feature packed body but you while you gain all of the fancy stuff you will lose on a couple of things over a V1 or V2:

Nikon 1 will win for AF speed, sharpness, and color out of camera. Nikon 1 will be more simple and to the point and Nikon 1 has better video without the jello effect of the Olympus. A Nikon 1 with 10, 18 and 32 will take up much less space in your bag than an E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45.

Nikon V1 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost = $1370 – This gives you a 28 2.8, 50 1.8 and 85 1/2 equivalent prime lens set. 

Nikon V2 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost $1800 - 

OM-D E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45 – Total cost = $2700 – This gives you a 24 f/2, 50 1.4 and 90 1.8 equivalent prime lens set.

The V1 has a 1/16,000 of a second shutter, so no ND filter required to shoot at 1.2 in full sun.

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When you start to add in other lenses the cost rises for the Oly system and the 1 system is less expensive, smaller, faster and with what I feel is better color. BUT, the OM-D E-M5 has a larger sensor, more features, and better high ISO performance. Still, the difference is not that huge and like I said, the Nikon will be sharper if that is your thing. The Olympus will be a little “richer” in its files which can give you a more “pro” or polished look but again, not a huge difference. Just see my Olympus 45 1.8 Lens review HERE and take a look at the images there, and then again at these in this review. Do those strike you as being any better in quality? Hmmm.

So if you are on the fence do know that the Nikon 1 will also give you more noise in the images, even at base ISO, but they will be more film like in their look at the same time. The OM-D will be richer and the Sony NEX series richer still. To those that say the 1 System sucks, you are so wrong! It is a great little system as long as you are not hung up on sensor size. With this 32 1.2 lens added, it made my love grow even more for the 1. You can read my Nikon V1 Review HERE, and my V2 review HERE.

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Nikon 1, it’s quite good

So many have dismissed the Nikon 1 system and have called it everything from a “toy” to “junk” to “worthless” and even “bad for photography” but I have been a fan since day one of the Nikon V1 release. I found that even though it had a few issues, the V1 was HIGHLY capable and gave a unique look that no other camera was giving but the speed and AF accuracy is also top notch. I said from the get go that the V1 put out files more film like than other digital cameras, mainly due to the “hard” files that came out of it. These images have grain, grit and superb color right out of the box. Even base ISO has grain, but it is nice. Those who crave large and smooth buttery files will NOT like the Nikon 1 bodies because this is not what they will give in most situations. What it will give you is sharp detailed 10-14MP files with amazing exposure and color. It will give you fast AF in a fun to use format and body. Did I say beautiful color right out of the box?

Right from RAW, this color is SPOT on. Something my Leica M could not do or get close to. The 32 1.2 when wide open delivers super sharpness and nice contrast as well. This is not your old 1950′s tech, this guy is as sharp or sharper than any full frame or APS-C 85mm lens, and yes, you can qoute me on that. I have owned the Nikon 85 1.4, the Canon 85 1.2 and 1.8, the Olympus 45 1.8 and others. 

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But enough of the V1 as I went over all of its virtues in the V1 review from long ago, and then the V2 review not too  long ago. Needless to say, I am a fan of the 1 system for what it brings to me: Size, speed, rock solid exposure with an almost film like rendering and gorgeous color with sharp as can be performance. It lacks in the high ISO department, shallow depth of field department and resolution department seeing that the V1 is 10MP and the V2 is 14 MP. But what happens when you attach a nice lens? We finally get “WOW” performance from this little powerhouse system with a nice control over depth of field. We now have TWO amazing lenses for the 1 system, the 18.5 1.8 and this 32 1.2 that is above that one.

Yes my friends, this Nikon 32 1.2 lens is awesome.  What a beauty of a lens it is in just about every way. After using this lens for a while I came to appreciate what it is, what it does and how it transforms my V1 into something else than it has ever been before. I can go for some shallow DOF or some crisp sharp rendering with good dynamic range and splendid color. Nikon 1 gives me better OOC color than my $7000 Leica M 240.

The sensor in the 1 cameras may be small but it is capable of nice results as long as you do not need huge megapixels. The 32 1.2 lens is sharp, crisp and pumps out rich color. The Nano coatings show. Click them for larger!

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The 32 1.2 is the best quality lens for the Nikon 1 system. Period.

Those of us who are familiar with the Nikon 1 system know the main weaknesses and high ISO is at the top of the list. Compared to the competition in the APS-C world, the V1 and V2 can not compete at ISO 400, 800, 1600, 3200 or 6400. The noise starts to get worse and creep in at ISO 400 even. But guess what? Film has a way of doing the same thing. I look at the V1 as a mini digital film camera, and know what it will give me in return when I crank it up to ISO 1600 or 3200. Before the 32 1.2 all we had was the 18.5 1.8, which is a GREAT lens but 1.2 is faster than 1.8 so we can now get that extra bit of light to the sensor and lower our ISO or gain faster shutter speeds to eliminate shake.

Wide open at 1.2, shot at a distance. I am so used to shooting 35 and 50 that shooting at 85mm seems odd to me as I am so far from the subject. Still, you can not argue with results like this from a Nikon V1. This is from RAW.

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Clouds – 32 1.2 at f/5.6 – converted to HC B&W with Alien Skin

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The 32 1.2 also gives us that 85mm equivilant portrait length prime, with some nice shallow DOF. While the DOF can not compete with a full frame camera and 85mm lens, it does compete with the DOF from a 35mm lens, because that is basically what this lens is when rounded up. You can not get the DOF of an 85mm lens from a 32mm lens, period. Still, there is nothing else comparable for the 1 System and this lens delivers the goods in all areas.

Close focus – You can focus as close as 17 inches or 0.4 meters or 16 inches. That’s pretty close for an 85mm equivalent lens.

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From RAW showing the Bokeh of the 32 1.2 wide open.

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Out of camera color and contrast is superb!

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The 32 1.2 also gives us real manual focus control and it feels GREAT and works great on the Nikon V1 and V2 (have not tested on the J series). Yep, the front of the lens has a nice feeling metal manual focus ring that rotates smoothly. As soon as you start to rotate the camera automatically goes into magnify assist mode making it a breeze to get critical manual focus. You also get a meter that pops up in the display to show you where you are at in the focus range. Shooting MF with this lens is a good experience. The AF performance is top notch but sometimes you will want precise control and this lens gives it to us with the 1 series camera.

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Do not be afraid of the smaller sensors!

As Craig Litten explained in his excellent V1 article, there is no need to be afraid of small sensor cameras. The Nikon 1 series is a fantastic take anywhere system that while not offering full frame or APS-C performance in DOF and creaminess will give you some things that are better than what a DSLR or larger sensor can give you. For example, with a full frame camera it is very hard to get large Depth of Field (everything in focus) and we usually need to stop down to f/11  to do so. With the 1 series you can stop down a lens like the 32 1.2 to f/5.6 and have a large DOF. At 1.2 you will get shallow DOF. It is the best of both worlds but do not expect full frame f/1.2 shallow DOF performance. Still, the small sensor in the V1 and V2 and even Sony RX100 are splendid for what they are and what they can do and they are highly capable regardless of what the naysayers THINK. Yes, I say think as those who bash this system are those who are just hung up on sensor size.

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With the new 32 1.2 lens by Nikon, they have given the 1 series owners what they have been begging for since day one. Now that it is here many are complaining about the price yet I see people every day spend $4000, $6000, and even $11000 on Leica lenses. I see people plunk down $2500 for a Nikon DSLR lens and others pay $1300 for a Micro 4.3 2.8 Zoom. At $896, Nikon delivers a very well made, very well feeling quality fast 32 1.2 lens for the 1 system so us owners can have a fast portrait type of prime. This lens is built to a level much higher than the 18.5 1.8 and even though it is larger, it is still VERY small when compared to other lenses that are 1.2 in aperture, or even 1.4 aperture. It is about the same size as the Panasonic 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3 but feels better made, looks nicer, focuses faster, is silent and will give similar performance. (and looking at my review for that Panasonic 25 1.4, I prefer my images here with this lens by far)

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My Final Word on the Nikon 32 1.2 and more on the 1 system.

If you own a 1 system camera and have been craving a fast lens, this is it. If you go for it, you will LOVE it. 

The AF is fast, the lens and camera will even focus in near dark conditions and thanks to the Silent Wave Motor it is QUIET. You can shoot at 1.2 and suck in more light and keep your ISO lower and it is damn good looking on the camera. I say BRAVO to Nikon for this one, it is a  fantastic lens that just made the Nikon 1 system that much better. I just wish they had a 13 f/1.2, 19 1.2 and a 75 1.4 in this quality build. That would be awesome but I am also aware that most 1 series owners are those who are just happy shooting the kit zooms, so I am surprised Nikon released this one at all. I am not sure how many more fast primes they will release, if any, but this one is the real deal.

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I enjoyed shooting this lens so much I went ahead and ordered one for my V1 camera. I review and evaluate tons of gear, much more than I even write about on this website. It is not very often that I buy what I review. In the past 6 weeks I have tested the Leica X Vario, Ricoh GR, Zeiss Touit lenses with a Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-P5, Samsung NX300 and this lens. The only one I plunked my money down for at the end of the day is this lens. So there ya go.

Truth be told, I enjoy shooting my Nikon 1 more than I did the Leica X Vario or Fuji X-E1 or Olympus E-P5. I can own any of these cameras as a walk around every day kit but I chose the Nikon 1. So did my son and so did his stepbrother. Pretty crazy but it seems that those who shoot the little NIkon V1 and actually gives it a real go ends up really liking it, and at $269 for the V1 and 10mm 2.8 (while they last) it is the biggest no brainer of the century.

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As for this lens, at $890 it is NOT cheap but fast QUALITY glass never comes cheap and if it does it is sadly not to the quality of this lens. Sure the Olympus 45 1.8 is $400 but it is not a 32 1.2. Sure the Sony 50 1.8 is cheaper but it is also not a 32 1.2 lens. The only other lens that comes close to this focal length is the Voigtlander 35 1.2 and that is a $1400 full frame Leica M mount lens and I would bet $100 that it would be less sharp from 1.2 to f/2 on the Nikon V1 or V2! It is also much larger and heavier and while it kicks major bootie as a 35mm lens on a full frame $7000 Leica, it would be no better than this lens on the Nikon 1 as an 85mm.

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True you will never get the full frame look of a 35 1.2 on any Nikon 1 camera but that is not what this system is all about. It is about fun, usability, reliability, speed, and yes, color and image quality. It is a take anywhere compact system that gets trashed all over the internet by those who never touched one. No, not everyone will like the look of the files that come from the smaller sensor but this lens makes it much harder to dismiss the Nikon 1 unless you are just a Nikon one trash talker just for the sake of being one.

Yes my friends, the lens is a winner but only you can decide if the cost is worth it to you. If you own a Nikon 1 you owe it to yourself to check it out if you can and you may just fall for it as I did. It’s a beauty and yes, worth the premium price if quality is what you seek.

You can see more images from the Nikon 1 cameras HERE

You can buy this lens at Amazon or B&H Photo at the direct links below:

Buy this lens in Black at Amazon or B&H Photo

Buy this lens in Silver at Amazon or B&H Photo

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PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Jun 232013
 

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Day one of the Palouse Road Trip! AMAZING Scenics!

It’s 12:22 AM as I type this, I am dead tired and beat. We shot ALL day around Palouse, WA after a 5 hour drive (including a one hour freeway standstill) to get here. We started our day at 4:30AM and it is just winding down now past midnight with another full day tomorrow starting at 8:45 AM.

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This road trip/workshop, so far, has been EPIC! The light, the scenery, the people, the amazing photos coming from this event and our amazing Guide, Ryan McGinty. In fact, it is going so well Ashwin and I have been thinking that we should do this event every year, each year making it a bit different. There is so much to see and photograph here, it is simply overwhelming.


I am tired so must go to bed but wanted to give everyone an update with some of my photos from today. I shot the M 240, the X Vario, and the Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss Touit lenses. The lenses I used on the M 240 were simple. The 15mm Voigtlander, the 50 Voigtlander Nokton and the old Nikkor 85 f/2. Nothing exotic, nothing fancy.

Here are just a FEW of the keepers from today..and excuse if some are off  - 90% of them are OOC JPEGS from the M.

1st one is of Bo Lorentzen with the 50 Nokton 1.5, wide open. 

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The image below was shot with an old Canon 85 1.8 that Ashwin let me use for a while. Click it for the full size out of camera file. AMAZING and an old $600 classic in LTM mount.

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..and Ashwin being his normal hilarious self! This one with the Nikkor 85 f/2

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The two shots below was taken with the 85 f/2 – An old Nikkor classic

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Below, the 50 Nokton 1.5 shoots some intense color..

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and again, Todd Hatakeyama with the Nikkor 85 f/2 as well as a nice Nikkor landscape

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The image below had colors manipulated by me but the moon and rays were there, only the colors have been messed with – I call this “The Land of Oz”

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More from the 50 Nokton 1.5 (My review is HERE)

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…and a few from the Voigtlander 15mm  - M mount. Had to convert to B&W due to the color shifts with this lens

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and, the Fuji X-E1 with Zeiss Touit 12mm

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..and how about one from the old Canon 135 f/3.5 lens in Leica Screw Mount? A lens that cost $71 and belongs to Ryan, our guide.

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..and a few few from the Leica X Vario…JPEGS

This 1st one is of Bob Towery, taken by Ashwin Rao with the X Vario

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I have much more but just threw up a few for now! I will post more tomorrow or Monday as I can!

..and this is us, as we waited on the freeway for 90 minutes. We decided to take a group shot with the X Vario

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Steve

May 292013
 

USER REPORT: The Nikkor 6.7-13 VR lens review by Steven Norquist

Hi Steve,

I read your review of the V1 about a month ago just before my birthday and your review was so interesting that I decided “what the hell” and I bought a V1 on Amazon with the 10-30mm lens before they were all gone. My little gift to myself. (as if I don’t have enough cameras already!) I started shooting with it and just fell in love with this little camera. It fits the hand so well and is like a baby Leica in feel.

Putting the camera into electronic shutter mode makes it totally silent and vibration free and allows for a top shutter speed of 1/16000 of a second! Amazing.

As I started to process the raw files I was getting some very interesting results. A very open file with lots of dynamic range and sharpness across the whole frame, side to side and front to back. This must be due to the huge depth of field the cx sensor is capable of.

I was so impressed with the little V1 that when I heard the release announcement of the new Nikkor 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Lens and saw the crazy MTF chart at the Nikon website I knew I had to have one.

So I ordered it (at $500 it cost twice what I paid for the V1!).

It is a beautifully made lens. Heavy and made of metal and comes with a nice lens hood which actually does work! The zoom is firm, tight and smooth, no play in there.

The 6.7 looks great mounted on the V1.

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I took the 6.7 out on its first shoot at Cabrillo Monument in San Diego. I shot everything in raw using Daylight white balance with a +2 amber boost. Metering was Matrix. All raw images were converted using Adobe Raw and any adjustments were made in both Adobe Raw and Photoshop.

My normal process is simply to bring out of the raw what is already there, to enhance contrast and color in a natural way to achieve a “slide film” style look. The V1 with its lower pixel count 10mp sensor excels in creating that “film like” look in my opinion.

Shot at 6.7mm at F4. Note the foreground foliage is sharp even though I focused on the distant land.

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BELOW: 100% crop of the lower left region showing forground and infinity distant objects. All share the same detail level.

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This lens has very high contrast and very high resolution. Truly amazing detail across the whole frame side to side and front to back. When shot at 6.7mm at f3.5 the lens will vignette very heavily and it is best to stop down to f4 where the corners lighten up by 50% or so. The lens is most sharp at f3.5 and f4. F4 is optimal as the corners will sharpen up a bit and the vignetting will be less.

Color rendition is excellent, spot on with intense saturation. Blues are deep and rich and avoid the cyan shift that can cause that yucky digital blue we all hate.

13mm @ f5.6. I really love the blues this lens produces and the rich yellows and oranges. Reminds me of Velvia film.

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Below: and a 100% crop

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At 6.7mm the lens has barrel distortion but it is actually not that bad when you consider that this is a 6.7mm lens! It should have a crazy fish eye distortion but the barrel distortion is not really bad at all and can be corrected in Adobe Photoshop using the Lens correction tool by simply punching in +5 when shooting at 6.7mm. Use lesser correction values as you zoom in with the lens.

By 13mm the lens is straight as an arrow with no distortion or vignetting of interest.

6.7mm @ F4. Distortion corrected in Photoshop by using +5.

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Over all I am very amazed by this lens. Nikon really pulled out the stops on this one, it could become a classic. And as the Nikon 1 series cameras mature and their sensors improve over time this lens will be there all the way to squeeze the last notch of resolution out of them. I don’t regret this lens purchase or the V1.

Thanks again Steve for your inspiring reviews and for turning me onto this camera. There ain’t nuthin wrong with 10mp!

Let me leave you with a few last samples.

6.7mm @ F4, no distortion correction.

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6.7mm @ F4. Distortion corrected in Photoshop by using +5.

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10.9mm @ F5. Love the natural deep greens this lens can produce. Look how pure the white is on those tombstones, no color bleeding.

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May 152013
 

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The Classic Nikkor 8.5cm f/2 LTM lens review

click on any image in this review for a larger size image

Ahhh yes. Classic solid brass and chrome lenses from the 1950′s certainly have a charm about them. When you find one, hold one and use one you will indeed say to yourself “they do not make them like this anymore”. While Leica still makes damn finely built lenses today, the prices are so high that I see many shooters priced out of the market. I have friends who save for an entire year just so they can buy one 50 Summilux ASPH. Well, I am here to tell you that if you shoot a Leica M, digital or film, there are some special lenses out there that you can buy for much less than a modern Leica lens and in some cases you may even prefer the output.

While many of these old lenses have poor performance and tons of “glow” (which is another word for “flaws”), many of us love those old flaws and imperfections. Those of us  who use and get to know these old jewel like lenses realize that once you master them they can be quite beautiful, even by 2013 standards. Some of these old lenses are gems..diamonds in the rough so to speak. Many were used by press shooters in the 50′s and many of those swore by this exact lens, the Nikkor 8.5cm f/2. I was lucky enough to find one in LTM mount in quite amazing shape for a screaming deal, chump change for most Leica lens buyers, and I am glad I did.

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I found one!

The Nikkor 8.5 f/2 Lens is considered a legend by many shooters in the know and I have been keeping an eye out for a Leica screw mount version for a few weeks without any luck. Suddenly I happened to stumble upon a rare version of this lens at a local Scottsdale, AZ shop called collectiblecameras.com . They had received a “MIOJ” Tokyo version of this lens which is not the oldest version but it is one of those that is harder to find, even more so with a hood, front cap and original rear metal cap. This one had it all, even the matching case for the lens. Score!

When I saw it on their website I bought it and chose to pick up in person and pay in cash. I then picked it up a week and a half later as it was out getting a cleaning and adjust.

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When I held the lens I was struck by the beauty of it. The heft. The smoothness of the focus barrel and the great condition it was in for being a 1950′s rangefinder lens. I was put off by the fact that it is a clickless aperture lens and that the aperture dial moves with the focus ring but even so, after firing off a few test shots and seeing how sharp it was wide open as well as the buttery bokeh, I knew had to have it. Whipped out my debit card and made the purchase final. Those are some great guys at collectible and they have loads of old classic gear. You can see their website HERE. You never know, you may find something you like. They also buy and trade old gear.

Shooting the lens at f/2 will give you sharp details at your focus point with a beautiful buttery fall off into melty goo goo land  :)

 

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Indoor at high ISO works as well..

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This lens is an all out steal at the prices you can get them for, and the shop where I bought this one even made a goof on the price on this specific lens as they did not realize it was the more rare collectible version. If I did not know any better I would think it was 10 years old, not 60. It is in that nice of condition. The lens competes with lenses like the 75 Lux 1.4 at 1/20th the price. While not as “perfect” as a Leica 75 Lux which is not known for its unique Noctilux type of rendering, the Nikkor has loads of charm and in case I have not said it enough, lovely Bokeh in 90% of situations. This could be called Nikon’s original “Cream Machine”. This is a Sonnar design and it has a great smooth signature with biting sharpness if you indeed nail focus. Best of both worlds in one lens.

Wide open at ISO 6400 on the Leica MM

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A portrait classic, 85mm. But the M does not have 85mm framelines!

True! The Leica M cameras do not have 85mm framelines, but it is not so hard to guess when using the 75mm framelines. Once you snap a few shots you will get the hang of what is happening. By using an adapter like THIS ONE you can screw it on the bottom of the lens, snap it to your Leica M and have the 75 lines show up. I took the portrait below and while not framed perfectly, it came out OK for a test shot. It was taken at f/2 wide open. Here you can see the Bokeh in the background is a little “busy”. With foliage it can do that but this is a challenge for any lens.

As for the adapter I have tried quite a few from the $10 cheapies to the $25 mid range to the $50 Voigtlander models. If I were buying from scratch I would go with the Voigtlander adapter. It is the best of the lot. I tried the Kippon adapters and they just do not fit right and are made sort of rough. The $10 cheapies are OK and work but also not up to the quality of the Voigtlander adapters. I have 7-8 adapters here and for this lens I have the Voigtlander attached without any issues.

So yes, you can use this lens effectively on a Leica M camera. It may not have the perfection of the modern lenses, and if shooting professionally I would use modern glass but for those times when you want a little bit of a classic injection, these lenses simply rock.

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Think about it, for the cost of one modern Leica lens, say a 35 Lux ASPH FLE you could buy 8-10 classic lenses in all focal lengths and give them a spin, and then sell what you do not want or need without losing anything. You can even do so by using my own buy/sell forum here on this site.

When shooting these old lenses in black & white they can be phenomenal as they were made in the B&W era..it is what they were made for. Usually single coated you will get less contrast and a bit of glow/coma/flare as well. These things can indeed add to the charm of your photos. After all, back in the 50′s there were some astonishing photos made and what lenses were used? Lenses like this one right here.

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I Found a 2nd One!

During the 3 days of compiling and writing this review I acquired a 2nd Nikkor 8.5cm Lens from a trade deal I made and it is a later version. A teeny bit smaller, the aperture dial has clicks and goes to f/32 instead of f/16. Optics seem the same in my tests. Since I have acquired a 2nd copy, although without caps, hood or case I am selling the rarer and nicer “MIOJ” version which was responsible for every image in this review. I will keep the 2nd copy as my user. (UPDATE – the “MIOJ” has sold already, minutes after the ad was posted in the buy/sell.)

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Fun with the Classics

It is pretty fun to mess around with these old classic lenses. They look great, feel fabulous, are easier on the pocketbook than modern glass and would be easy to resell without losing money after you try them out. After trying several classic lenses I have found 3 that I am thrilled with. One of them is this 85 f/2 Nikkor. While I am not an 85mm or 90 guy, it will get used a few times per year and by spending a few hundred compared to a few thousand it is much easier to justify. :) Dont forget to check out Ashwin Rao’s article where he shared some images from this lens as well.

If you want some of that classic fun with your rangefinder check out lenses like this 85 f/2 or the 35 1.8 or the Canon 50 1.8, Leica 50 Summitar or the Leica 50 Summarit 1.5 (review soon). All fantastic but that is just the tip of the iceberg and each one has their own unique flavor or fingerprint that you just may fall in love with. There are TONS of these beauties out there to unearth :)

But these old classics are not for everyone. For those who want perfection I’d suggest grabbing some of the best Leica M glass made today. The 35 Lux ASPH, the 50 Lux ASPH and the 90 Cron APO just to name a few. Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash and Pro Shop has all of those in stock now :)

if you want more info on this lens, check out this wealth of information on it.

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May 022013
 

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The Canon 50 1.8 LTM & W-Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM Lens on the Monochrom – Character galore!

Ahhh, old classic lenses. Sometimes you just gotta love them, sometimes you just gotta hate them, and other times you just want to use them for their unique classic character to inject something cool and different into your photos. True, some of these lenses are gorgeous and some are not so gorgeous but the fact remains. You can get a classic unique rendering and many times on the cheap, especially when compared to big money Leica modern glass.

Since shooting the Leica Monochrom I have discovered, thanks to Ashwin Rao, that sometimes old classics will perform better on this camera than the newest ASPH versions. When I say “perform better” I do not mean “technically” because in that area, the newest lenses from Leica are tough to beat, by anyone. When you want perfection, sharpness and amazing micro contrast it is tough to beat modern Leica glass. Lenses like the 50 Lux ASPH and 35 Lux ASPH FLE are just plain perfection but I remember Ashwin telling me months ago that the modern Leica glass can (at times)  look harsh on the Monochrom and that old glass is where it was at for this camera.

My 1st thoughts were..Hmmm, what about the Leica 50 APO masterpiece? I know that lens rocks on the MM but the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued simply because old classic lenses are MUCH cheaper (usually) than the modern counterparts. A few months ago I was using the beautiful Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE on the MM exclusively and did think that some of my results were harsh, mostly the ones in high contrast situations, which makes sense. High contrast lenses like those Leica ASPH lenses can be a bit too much contrast in bright conditions.

When the MM arrived in my hands once again a few weeks ago I was off to KEH, looking for some good cheap glass that I could use on the MM. The hard part is finding it though as many shooters out there buy these lenses up as soon as they appear on the site, but if you check every day you may just find something. I managed to find a Canon 50 1.8 LTM lens for $250. Yep, a teeny tiny fast 50 for $250. Much smaller than my Summilux but I just knew there was no way in hell this lens would even come close to the Lux. I imagined soft wide open, hazy and nasty Bokeh. The lens is a LTM” (Leica Thread mount) so it is not compatible with a Leica M camera as is but a $10-$20 adapter will solve this easily. In the video above I show the adapter and take it on and off. You can see how tiny it is.

The adapter I bought for my Canon 50 is the Voigtlander HERE. More pricey but I like Voigtlander :) You can also buy them cheaply on Amazon HERE. Many prefer the Voigtlander to avoid any focus issues.

So..how did the 50 18 work out for me? I will let you know in a bit but also wanted to talk about another little gem of a lens..a rare gem indeed. A Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens, which is rare and damn expensive for being so old.

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The W-Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM

I was not aware of this little lens until an e-mail came in from Ashwin where he mentioned that once again, KEH had it. Curiosity got the best of me and there it was..a classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens but man, it was $1599! It was recently reduced (I was told) from $1799 so this is considered a “deal”. Why so high for an old and aging 35 1.8 lens? Well, this one was rated as “EX” and I guess it is a legendary lens with only 1600 copies ever made worldwide. Before purchasing I made sure I knew the return policy because spending $1700 on a classic old lens is not something I take lightly. If the lens arrived in “BGN” condition or had issues with focus I wanted to make sure it could be refunded. Luckily, KEH has an excellent return policy so my worries were gone. KEH also has a great rep so I was not worried anyway, but still, $1599 for an old lens is nothing to scoff at.

I took it out and tested it out with an ND filter to tame the AZ sun. I wanted to see what this lens would do wide open in regards to Bokeh and character. If usable at 1.8, I would most likely keep it. Below are some samples, click them for larger. The Bokeh is interesting to say the least. VERY classic. When shot in B&W it gives off a nostalgic feel and vibe and on the Monochrom it can indeed take you back. Check out the images below and look at the tones in the image. The contrast with this lens is about perfect.

As always, click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions

One side of the immigration reform fence…

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I did some research and could not find too much but did see some on e-bay listed at over $2000 so I guess the pricing was on par, if not better at KEH.

So what did I have to lose? Nothing. What did I have to gain? Maybe a kick ass vintage lens that could indeed  be quite special. I took the risk. Besides, my taxes are paid. My new iMac is installed and all paid for, and I just made the last payment for my Son’s Japan trip. I had a little left over to play with so why not? I placed the order and waited. When it arrived I was shocked at how tiny it is..man, it is SMALL. Much like the old Summilux PRE-ASPH lens from Leica, a lens I have always wanted to own but never could muster up the courage to spend $2300 for a decent copy of. I love the old lenses that have some glow and flare..I call it “character”. The old pre-asph Lux has it in spades but does the Nikkor? Not so much “glow” but it does have a unique rendering that is plenty sharp for what I shoot.

Fast Fact: The Nikon W-Nikkor.C 1:1.8 35mm uses a 7 element 5 group design. The lens also uses rare earth Lanthanum glass to improve performance, which is supposed to help with sharpness and flatness. Pretty cool huh?

…and the other…

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In use the lens is very small and compact, much like the classic Leica Summilux Pre-Asph. It is chrome, solid and beautiful to look at. The image quality is indeed different from ANY modern Leica but that is what I like about it. It has some serious character and works very well on the Monochrom. One thing to note is that the aperture dial is in reverse from your normal Leica lenses so you will be twisting the aperture dial in the opposite direction to change the aperture. Doesn’t bother me at all though, especially when I mainly shoot wide open. That is where most of the character lies with this lens, between f/1.8 and f/2.8.

Damn, this lens got me…

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So is the lens staying with me? Most likely as I feel it renders in a beautiful and unique way, especially for B&W. It is gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to use and it gives me something totally different from something like a 35 Lux, 35 Cron or Zeiss 35. It gives me a classic look to the images that I quite enjoy. May not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, it is a winner. Ashwin Rao is also getting to play with one of these this week. I will be looking forward to his shots with this lens. If there is anything I can say about this lens that I am not a fan of..and could be a “make or break” thing for many is that it has a minimum focus distance of 1m like most older RF lenses. The newer 35′s from Leica, Voigtlander and Zeiss focus to .7 meters and allows you to get close. Something to keep in mind.

*If you find one for sale be aware they are sort of rare and do not show up often. Also be aware there are TWO versions. An “S” version for a Nikon Rangefinder and the LTM version. You can not use the S version with your Leica, so if you buy one for your M use be sure it is a LTM version.

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The Canon 50 1.8 LTM on the Monochrom

The Canon 50 1.8 LTM is a double whammy lens because is gorgeous AND cheap!  Teeny tiny, solid, metal build, and pretty fast at 1.8. No, it is not a 1.4 but Canon also makes a 1.4 LTM that is supposed to be superb-o. But I am not disappointed in the slightest with the 1.8, in fact, I am beyond thrilled. For $250 plus adapter cost I have a lens that renders beautifully on the MM. I also tried it on the M 240 and found it to be nice there as well, but the color was a little different from what came from the Lux. The contrast is softer but the lens is still sharp. Below are a few test snaps I shot, you can click them for larger views. I do know the last two were at 1.8 and the 1st one may have been at f/2 or 2.8. At $250 this lens is a no brainer if you want to test out some vintage glass.

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I find the Bokeh pleasant, the lens is plenty sharp enough wide open and it gives us a little of that classic MOJO many of us like from time to time. Even shooting at night at ISO 1600 you can get a very nice look and honestly, not far off from some much more expensive glass.  The 1st image below is an OOC JPEG from the MM at 1.8 using the Canon 50 1.8 LTM, the 2nd one is wide open at 1.8 from my “glasses” series using the same glasses on all who I meet or can talk into wearing them for a snapshot :)

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So as you may have guessed, I highly recommend this lens on the Monochrom. It has character (but not too much) and it has most of the things we look for in a Leica lens. Small size, quality build and feel, sharpness, contrast and pleasant bokeh. In fact, I find the bokeh to be gorgeous. Maybe I got a good copy but I hope they are all like this one. At $25o I find it the Deal of the Century in the world of classic Leica glass.

On the Leica M 240:

The lens on the M 240 will give you a low contrast look with decent sharpness and a more “vintage” type of color, which is usually more washed out. But I find the results pleasing and a break from the “Hyper Contrast and Color” norm:

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But do not take my word for it, hear what Ashwin Rao has to say as he has been shooting this lens much longer than me…

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Words on the Canon 50 1.8 LTM by Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone, I wanted to provide a second perspective of the diminutive but fantastic Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM lens. I have become a huge fan of Canon rangefinder lenses in my journeys with the Leica M Monochrom, and the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is no exception. This particular lens was designed by one of Canon’s legendary lens designers, Hiroshi Ito, who is credited with many designs that rivaled or even surpassed the performance of Leitz glass of the same era. The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM remained in the lens line up for many years, undergoing cosmetic changes while the optical formula remained the same. For those of you who care about such details, The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is a double-gaussian design, which is also today called a “Planar” design. While the glass used and exact placement of lens elements varies a bit from lens to lens, planar lenses retain a certain look and richness that’s a product of their formulation.

In considering my options for the M Monochrom, I wanted to build a stable of vintage lenses through which to see the world in black and white. Whenever I used more modern lenses, I found their character to be too clinical or too contrasty on the monochromatic sensor. While others have been able to make this combination of modern glass and monochrome sensor work, I have had a harder time, and so I turned to older lenses. What I have discovered has been a revelation to me. These older lenses often resolve quite well, in fact impressively well, while imparting a wonderful character that’s more classic and filled with character than their modern brethren. Sometimes, the character is harsh, and at other times, it’s surprisingly pleasant. Such is the case with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, one of the most pleasant rendering lenses on the MM. I have really enjoyed how the lens renders skin tones (almost looks like silver halide prints, where skin tones really shimmer). Out of focus elements (i.e. “bokeh” ) can be fantastic or jarring, depending on the context, but more often than not, everything is quite pleasing in a vintage sort of way. One of the biggest surprises that I experienced with this lens on the MM is how well it resolves. This is a lens that keeps up with the sensor, even when used wide open. It’s really incredible, and one of the mysteries that I have discovered with the Monochrom’s sensor. Some lenses that appear to perform poorly on the M9 really impress on the MM’s sensor, and I would put this lens in that category.

I find it to perform adequately on my M9, but it’s not a lens that I’d typically reach for on that camera. On the MM, it’s almost always one of the first lenses that I consider. The fact that it’s tiny, well-built, and images on part with such legends as the Leica and Leitz Summicron lenses makes it a worthy companion for the MM. I picked mine up from KEH for less that $250, and my copy is a later design with a black and chrome coloring (rather than all chrome). So for those of you who are looking for a bargain now that you may have invested heavily in the M Monochrom, this is most certainly a lens to consider adding. I have enjoyed it more than Canon’s more extensive faster offerings (50 mm f/1.2, 50, mm f/1.4, and 50 mm f/1.5), and it can be had for a very pleasing price. Pleasing images & pleasing price: what more could one ask for?!?

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Dec 052012
 

1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 lens for CX format Lens Review

By Craig Litten

See his website HERE

 

INTRO

I’ve been looking forward to getting this lens ever since it was announced. Primes are always welcome, and I hope the Nikon will keep them coming. If you’re a regular reader of Steve Huff Photo, then you probably know that I’m a big fan of the Nikon V1. To keep it in perspective though, the Nikon 1 system has its place. It is not necessarily to be used as your main camera, but rather for specific purposes or shoots. But if you’re a street photographer or you travel a lot, the Nikon V1 could very well be your main camera, it’s that good. As much as I wish there was a one-camera solution for every situation, there isn’t. The Leica M has its place, the Canon EOS-1D X has its place and the Sony X100 has its place. All vastly different cameras to fill different needs or desires. The world would be a very boring place if everyone drove the same car wouldn’t it? But we don’t park next to someone at the mall, get out of our cars and ridicule them for choosing to drive a Nissan Cube do we (I think the Cube is cool by the way)? So Nikon 1 naysayers can look elsewhere because you cannot, nor ever will, be convinced. Secondly, the images in this lens review are not a portfolio, but they are meant to show a variety of situations, angles, f-stops, etc. to give you, the one who is considering a purchase of this lens, an idea of what the lens can do. I see so many poor sample photos shot with new lenses on the Internet than I can hardly believe, which is one reason why I personally come back to Steve’s reviews. If he says it’s good and gives it a thumb’s up, then I don’t think twice about it.

So whether this lens is for you or not, you’ll have to decide. But like the wildly popular Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, it checks all the right boxes. It’s cheap, light, fast, sharp and a great bargain. When it was announced I immediately pre-ordered it at B&H Photo, but I probably didn’t need to since I don’t think it will be a hot seller like the Sony 24mm f/1.8 E-Mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens or other lenses like it, so it should always be in stock. This lens is not exotic, but more of a utility lens that can be used in almost every situation, everyday and especially in low light. As of writing this, B&H has all three colors, black, silver and white, in stock HERE. So, to summarize the above paragraph: if you are a Nikon 1 hater, please be kind or stop reading now. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and that’s exactly what Nikon has here in the Nikon 1 System. It’s a camera that caused a big stir, but then was soon forgotten. But at its current price, $299 HERE at B&H, it’s an absolute steal. Yes STEAL! You can revisit my review HERE or other reviews by Colin Steel HERE on this very website. Maybe now that the price is reasonable to the masses, you may reconsider. Plus you can pick up this fantastic, tiny wonder-of-a lens for under $200. (The V1 Ultimate Kit is now half off as well at B&H)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Immediately after taking the lens out of the box and handling it, I noticed how light it is, it’s a featherweight. It feels almost hallow like the lens consists only of the outer lens barrel, the mount and the front and rear elements but is empty inside. But unlike its DX counterpart, it has a metal mount–a must for any lens I own period. So even though it’s light, it seems to be well built. Not Voightlander well built, but this new-day-of-digital-cheap-lenses well built. I also examined it to see if the lens barrel was metal or plastic. Yesterday I concluded it was plastic, but today I think it may be metal, but I’m not 100% sure and Nikon doesn’t say. I did compare it to my 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 lens, which has a metal barrel and seems heavier and much denser. After having the lens sit on my desk overnight, the barrel is slightly cold to the touch, like the 10mm, which makes me wonder if it is metal after all. I also own the Panasonic Lumix Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 for the Four Thirds system, and it has a metal lens barrel, which seems very cold to the touch. Plastic never feels cold to the touch though. Even though all the 1 Nikkor prototypes were in shiny metal, I have a feeling that this lens is plastic. If anyone can verify this, I’d love to know. No matter, it’s still well put together and you can read about the usual specs at Nikon USA.

There’s not much else to say. It comes with the usual 5-year Nikon USA warranty, which is great. It’s solid, light and doesn’t rattle or move when you shake it. It takes the usual 40.5mm filters, which are slightly hard to find, and the plastic Nikon HB-N101 lens hood fits snugly (I can’t say that about all lens hoods for other systems), looks cool and works perfectly.

WHAT IS IT?

First off, those reading this review that are not familiar with the Nikon 1 system may not know exactly what this lens is. The 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 lens is for Nikon 1 CX format cameras only. The Nikon 1 camera has a small one-inch sensor that you must multiply a given lens focal length by 2.7x to figure out the exact focal length. So this 18.5mm lens is a 50mm equivalent standard f/1.8 lens.

 

USING THE LENS

The lens is slightly smaller and lighter than the standard 10-30mm kit zoom, and balances perfectly on the V1. It has just enough size, protruding out from the camera body, to hold comfortably. And it’s light enough not to be noticed.

1. Focus

Focus is instant and silent just like the 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens. It locks on instantly and rarely racked. The focus did rack (back and forth once not multiple times—in other words, it did not hunt) only a few times, and I shot hundreds of photos, but it always locked on immediately afterwards. But mostly because I was putting the lens through it’s paces shooting every type of situation I could think of. The Nikon 1 system is known for it’s incredible fast and accurate focus, and the 18.5mm f/1.8 was in line with the already existing lenses. I did notice that the 18.5mm racked a bit more than the 10mm pancake though, and it could be because the elements have to travel further, I’m not sure. But it is nothing to worry about or even give a second thought. I was a Canon shooter for 11 years and the Canon lenses rack like crazy (sorry Canon shooters, but it’s true), so even top pro systems and L glass rack focus.

Focus is also very accurate. Only on one or two shots did focus not lock into place, and I didn’t notice until I got back to the computer to edit. I don’t look at every photo I shoot while out in the field. I haven’t used the 10-30mm kit lens a lot, but I feel that the focusing on the 18.5mm lens is better that that of the 30-110mm telephoto 1 Nikkor zoom lens. It was able to focus, in complete darkness over a completely black body of water on a string of lights running across the center of the frame. The string of lights was so small in the frame that they almost couldn’t be seen. The auto focus auto point selector picked it out and instantly focused on it. Amazing. One of the shots included in the article was shot on a pier at night under incredibly low light. The focus didn’t hesitate at all and locked in on the subject immediately. So, in conclusion, the focus is both fast and accurate and in line with the Nikon 1 system and the other 1 Nikkor lenses.

2. Handling

The lens handles perfectly. Again, it’s small and super light, so you hardly notice it, which is one of the pluses of the Nikon 1 system. The lens never gets in the way of itself.

3. Sharpness

I’ll let the test images speak for themselves. I have included several full size copies for you to download and examine. NO sharpening has been applied during processing or in camera. All photos were shot RAW+JPEG, but the samples where from the RAW processed though Lightroom 4. There are many samples shot at f/1.8, an f-stop most of us want to know about to see if this lens is worth the asking price. These are sharp, very sharp. Plus there are also samples at f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8. I’m a photographer who makes 100% of my living at photography, not a lab technician of a test chart shooter. But I’m personally impressed with the output of this lens. Both wide open and stopped down. I really didn’t notice much difference, but also didn’t spend hours pixel-peeping the files. To me, they look good. This lens, even wide open at f/1.8, is good enough for paying gigs. Enough said.

4. Distortion

In practical use, shooting people and most subjects, you will not notice much if any distortion. But when shooting a horizon such as at the beach, you will notice a slight bend downwards. Also when shooting near a wall. In the photo with the white egret on the black fishing nets you will notice the slight curvature in the barn siding to the bottom left of the frame. You can also see slight rounding on the top and bottom of the night photo of the wooden fish sign shot through a window. Notice the “Bridge Tender Inn” sign at the top and the “fresh fish” sign at the bottom, both have a slight curvature. On the other hand, Vignetting is very slight but I really didn’t “notice” it during practical use. Finally, purple and green fringing reared its ugly head in one photo, the wind chime in front of a screen, shot wide open at f/1.8 and with extreme backlighting. I didn’t notice it any other time though, and don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

CONCLUSION

If you’re a Nikon 1 owner (whether the J1, J2, or V1, V2) this lens is a no-brainer, just buy it. For $186.95 it’s well worth it. It finally gives Nikon 1 owners a fast option for low light. Although I think files out of the V1 are very pleasing up to and including ISO 800, and sometimes even ISO 1600 if exposed correctly, this will give users an option to shoot at much lower ISOs in a given lighting situation, and as you can easily see from the sample photos, some fairly nice bokeh. If you are not currently a Nikon 1 owner, maybe this lens and the currently ridiculously low price of the wonderful V1 will push you over to the dark side. Since I am a photojournalist by profession, I shoot almost exclusively with zoom lenses or I wouldn’t be able to compete. There simply is not enough time to change lenses in this fast-paced profession. So I found it a real pleasure to shoot with a 50mm equivalent prime lens. It is a great focal length and always seemed to be ‘just right.’

ACCESSORIES

As I’ve already mentioned, the Nikon HB-N101 lens hood, designed for the 1 Nikkor 10-30mm kit lens, works perfectly on the 18.5mm lens. But the Nikon HN-N101 metal lens hood, designed for the 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens, works well too with no vignetting in the corners. The metal hood is very low profile and will most likely not give you the coverage that the plastic bayonet hood will. I use the metal hood exclusively on my 10mm pancake, and have never had any flair issues. This entire review was shot with the metal hood on my 18.5mm lens that I borrowed from my 10mm pancake. I just ordered a second one that will live on the 18.5mm lens. I love it because it can also be fitted with a screw-on metal lens cap (which I also own), the HC-N10, to make it a tiny, low profile package but still offering the protection of a lens shade. Nikon also makes a very nice, inexpensive lens pouch, CL-N101, that will easily hold the 18.5mm, the 10mm pancake, the 10-30mm kit zoom and even the new 11-27.5 pancake zoom with hoods attached. It features a stiff, padded bottom, a drawstring interior, and a Velcro flap. It’s also very soft, flexible, easy to store and comes in red, black and white. But for some reason the red and white versions are more expensive.

Craig’s Website is HERE

Craig’s Street Shooting Workshops can be found HERE

Jul 162012
 

Camera Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop worrying About the Sensor and Love the Camera – by Craig Litten

A user report on the Nikon V1

Lightening the Load

I’ve always loved small cameras. Back in the early 1990’s while attending my second photo school I wanted a Leica M6 with a 35mm Summicron (f/2.0) lens, but unfortunately it was way out of reach for me. Many years later, while a staff photographer at my second daily newspaper, I purchased the amazing Contax G2 with the Zeiss Biogon 28mm f/2.8 lens. But unfortunately by this time digital photography had already begun to take over—all of my newspaper gear was already completely digital (the lovely tank-of-a-camera 2.2 megapixel, $11,000 Canon D2000). Back then we never even imagined that digital would be as good as it is now, and that film would all but disappear within 10 years.

I took a photo trip to Alaska back in the early 2000s and agonized for weeks over what gear to bring along. I finally settled on the Contax G2 with the 28mm lens and nothing else, not even a back-up body. My friend took all of his pro Canon gear (film) complete with a 500mm f/4.5L (big white) lens. He struggling the entire trip carrying all his gear, and I never regretted my decision. My love affair with small cameras was solidified.

 

Who am I Anyway?

Hello, my name is Craig Litten and I’m a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was 15-years-old, and have been shooting professionally since 1991. I have been a staff photographer for four different daily newspapers, have won state, regional and national photography awards, taught workshops and lectured to college photography students, been published in several hard cover books including America 24/7 and Florida 24/7 by Rick Smolan, have shot for major U.S. and international clients, have photographed U.S. presidents and movie stars, and have covered more than 7,000 photo having over 10,000 of my photos published in newspapers and magazines (not including the Web).

 

Prelude to the Nikon V1

My first compact digital camera was the Canon G2. Many of you are familiar with the Canon G series; now up to the G12. When the newspaper I was working for bought it, I quickly latched on to it. I though I had myself a Leica (tongue in cheek). Early on I took the G2 with me to a football game on the road at Clemson University, and I decided to cover the pre-game with it. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but digital was still very new at the time and not many people owned digital cameras yet, let alone a smart phone with a digital camera in it. What I discovered as I shot all around the stadium, was that I was almost completely ignored. Who takes tiny cameras seriously anyway? Almost nobody. But tiny cameras are now capable of serious pictures. The G2 was small, light, fun and the image quality was “good enough.” I was hooked! Unfortunately though, I had to wait about 10 years for technology to catch up to my vision.

 

Along Comes the Nikon V1

Like Steve, who called his original Nikon V1 review: The Camera I Expected to Hate, I originally dismissed the Nikon V1. But I kept reading about it and was intrigued. Before purchasing the V1 though, I purchased and owned three different mirrorless camera systems, and have since sold them all. Each one had its positive points, but there was always something that I couldn’t live with. If you are looking for the perfect camera, it doesn’t exist and never will. Even the mighty Leica M9 has negative points (from what I’ve read even on this site). Is the Nikon V1 for everyone? Of course not! But it’s tiny, powerhouse-of-a-camera that is worth a second, or in this case, third look.

 

Nikon V1: The Noisy Cricket of Cameras (see: Men in Black)

I love the V1! It’s dynamite in a small package. It’s fast, responsive, has almost clairvoyant auto focus (really) and has a powerful processor. But most of all, it’s incredibly fun to shoot with! Fun, isn’t that why we all take photos? Since purchasing mine in March 2012, I’ve taken more than 13,000 photos with it. It hasn’t blinked, flinched, misfired or failed me once. It has served me well so far and I love it. I can honestly say it’s my favorite digital camera to date bar none, and I’ve owned and used many, many different digital cameras since 2000 when I want completely digital for work.

Not everyone’s needs are the same, but for me, I needed a digital camera that had good enough image quality to be published. Many of the current mirrorless cameras do. I also needed a camera that could perform and handle the stress that I would put it through. This is where a lot of other mirrorless cameras fall short

 

The features I needed most in a mirrorless camera are listed below in order of importance.

•Completely Silent Shutter – The V1 has a mechanical shutter, that has a pleasant sound and is fairly well dampened (not too loud), but it also has a an electronic shutter. Not many photography forums talk about this feature, but it is completely silent. The shutter makes no noise at all when you take a picture. For the type of photography I do, and for all of you who do street, documentary or photojournalism, this is a huge, huge plus. It allows you to shoot a scene up close and personal, and not be noticed (at least by your shutter giving you away). A silent shutter also lets you shoot more photos of any given moment without worrying that your subject will think you are totally nuts for shooting so many pictures of him.

 

•Incredibly Fast & Accurate Auto Focus

Steve, and many others, have already written about this, so there is no need to elaborate. The auto focus is so fast, that I thought I’d test it out on a high school football game. High school football is very challenging to photograph, especially as the light is dropping. Shooting Pro football is a total breeze next to shooting high school football (I covered NFL for 8 plus years). The V1’s auto focus kept up (not my best work but you get the point). See them here.

 

•Responsiveness

The V1 is super fast–pro camera fast. Enough said. It will keep up with what you shoot. It never lags behind when viewing images, writing to buffer, etc., even when shooting RAW. It’s always alert and ready.

•Small Size Including Lenses

Because of the smaller sensor size, the Nikon 1 series lenses are very compact, lightweight, but very well built.

 

•Huge Battery

I can get about 800 shots, maybe more, per battery charge. This is important to me. Also, the V1 takes the same battery as the Nikon D7000 and D800 (and most likely the upcoming D600 and the rumored D400). This is very cool and very unusual. Same battery, same charger as my other gear, nice! Most of the time there is no need for a second battery.

 

•EVF

Several cameras now have EVFs (electronic viewfinder). The V1’s is excellent, as is its LCD screen. I also like that it’s very low profile with a nice, built-in cushiony rubber eyepiece. I don’t use it exclusively, but when I need it, it’s there. I live in Florida, a state that has bright sun year round, which necessitates an EVF. An add-on EVF is too bulky and can easily get broken off. When figuring the cost of the V1, remember that add-on viewfinders usually cost about $200 and up.

 

•BONUS

It’s expandable and takes my pro Nikkor lenses (if I want it too) via the FT1 Mount adapter. Cool, shoot the moon!

 

The I.Q.

As you may have noticed, I never mentioned image quality. IQ is important to me but it’s not the most important thing. I’ll put it this way: the Nikon V1 is light years ahead of the $11,000 Canon D2000 camera that I used for three years a one of the newspapers I worked for. While initially testing the V1, I went back through a lot of film scans that I shot over the years to compare quality. I can honestly say, although film has a different “feel” to it, the V1 many times surpasses the film scans. What more are we looking for? Do I wish it had the IQ of a Canon 5D? Of course. But I have no problems with its IQ at all. In fact, I actually like the very tight grain that the files get at higher ISOs, it’s pretty and ‘more’ film-like to my eyes. I almost never sharpen them either, but had too on both my 5D and 5D MkII. Bottom line: The V1 image quality is very good. I shoot exclusively in RAW and the images are amazingly sharp. Also, the V1 RAW files will take just about any post processing that you can throw at them. I use Lightroom 4.

Currently I am working on a documentary photo project shot entirely with the Nikon V1 and the 1 Nikkor 10mm (27mm equivalent) f/2.8 pancake lens. I’m photographing daily life on a 100-year-old fishing pier along Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I’m hoping to get the project published into a hardcover book when finished. I’ve shot at the pier 23 times so far since June 1st. I believe that the Nikon V1 image quality is good enough for a hard cover photo book. I’ve also used the V1 for certain daily newspaper assignments. Here is a sample. Pro golf shoot with the V1 here.

I did a V1 enlargement test on the mighty Epson 4890 Pro Photo printer. I made a 16”x20” print and the file held up beautifully. Rarely in my entire career did I ever enlarge a print larger than this. Personally I think that a 12”x18” print is the perfect size to frame and hang on the wall. So again I ask the question? “Just how large of sensor do we need?” I dare say that most of us do not print a lot of photos these days anyway, but view and share our photos on a screen. Technology is changing rapidly and it’s exciting. See: Nokia Pureview 808 smartphone or the new Sony RX100 reviews and be prepared to be wowed by small sensor cameras. Probably the one major disadvantage for the Nikon 1 for some photographers is the large depth-of-field the small sensor produces. It’s much harder to achieve nice, shallow bokeh with the one inch sensor. For the type of shooting I do I don’t mind. New, fast lenses will help in the future.

 

Daily Use

Believe it or not, the Nikon V1 allows me to get photos that no other camera of any kind has allowed me to get. Since I first started using auto focus back in 1986 (Minolta 9000), I have exclusively used only Center Point auto focus (the first AF cameras only had center point by the way). Even with all the pro Nikon and Canon cameras that I’ve used and owned, with their 51 AF points, etc., I only used and trusted the center point. When you make a living with photography and have to get the shot each and every time, you tend not to take many chances because it could mean losing your job. The Nikon V1 changes this. I have my V1 set to Multi-Point AF all the time with face recognition turned on. Again, it’s absolutely clairvoyant, or nearly so. Steve talked about the V1 being the only camera that he has ever tested which nailed the focus every time. This is a true statement. Can it miss? Yes, but very, very rarely.

Another thing I’ve been doing with the V1 that I have never done before is occasionally shoot without looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD. Yikes, did I just say that?! It’s true. I’ve gotten pretty good at framing without seeing. The amazing auto focus and responsiveness of the camera including the large buffer helps with this a lot. You are probably wondering why I’m Hail Marying with my V1. It’s mostly related to the fishing pier project I’m working on. The pier is not very big and has water on all sides so sometimes it’s impossible to get into position and raise the camera up to frame without being noticed. Also, if you’ve ever asked someone if you can take his or her picture, you already know that whatever moment or expression you saw seconds before has vanished. You got to be quick and again, this is where the V1 shines!

Why Shoot One Frame When You Can Shoot Five or More?

I do believe in the decisive “moment” and have made my living capturing just that. But now technology allows me to capture decisive moment(s) with my Nikon V1 (and without the distracting clanking—to the subject–sound of the shutter). When shooting in low light with my DSLRs, many times I will shoot multiple frames of the same moment to ensure that I have at least one good, sharp image. The speed of the V1 allows me to do this too. Experience has shown me that the slight movement of a hand, the mouth, eyes, body, etc. can turn a good photo a great photo. So again, the V1 shines for it’s speed and high frames per second rate to capture not only a sharp image in low light, but the decisive (peak) moment.

 

I love my Nikon V1 and feel that its simplicity is one of its greatest strengths. It doesn’t have some of the custom control or bells and whistles of other mirrorless cameras, but it has one of the best and easiest to navigate menu systems of any digital camera in my opinion. I purposely didn’t focus on the V1’s weaknesses though. It has a few things that a firmware update could change and make better, but none these bother me during daily use, and none of them are deal breakers. Steve’s two reviews of the V1 cover all of them pretty completely. Or you can easily find them somewhere online. I rarely bump the mode dial, nor toggle the aperture, but it does occasionally happen. My original Canon 5D wonder camera would get turned off all the time when I was carrying it, and I paid over $3,000 for it. My Canon EOS 1D MkIIn would rack focus sometimes at very crucial moments and I’d miss a touchdown play or something important like that. The RAW write times in an Olympus I once owned were excruciatingly slow. The buffer of my $11,000 dollar Canon D2000 would fill up right in the middle of a huge crash at the Daytona 500 and I would miss the peak action. My old $5,000 Nikon D2H looked horrid at anything above ISO 800. And my old top-of-the-line Nikon D4s would only take one film speed setting at a time. So when I had a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 in the camera and walked into somewhere with low light, I had to rewind the film mid-roll and put in some fast (then) ISO 800 FujiPress. Get the picture?

Full Size Samples:

1. Dusty plant shot at ISO 640. It’s an ugly pic but it shows the fine detail and sharpness at higher ISOs.

2. Greeting card shot at ISO 1600, 1/5th of a second with image stabilizer of the 10-30 lens. This is a great example of the beautiful, tight film-like grain which reminds me of Ralph Gibson’s work shot on film of course – http://www.ralphgibson.com/

ISO 640 – click it for full size

ISO 1600 – click it for full size

 

Chase Jarvis said “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” This is true. A former photo professor of mine, Gary Monroe, said, “You take better pictures when you’re photographing than when you’re not photographing.” Also true. I say, “There is no perfect camera” but the Nikon V1 comes pretty close (for my current needs anyway). A camera is a tool to capture the world, not an idol to be worshipped. Give it a try; great photos are waiting. Did I mention that it’s fun to use?

PS: Don’t be a hater, keep the comments positive ;-)

From Steve: Thanks Craig for this GREAT article on the V1! For all of the readers, do not forget to head over to youtube and enter my Nikon V1 set giveaway! 

Nov 142011
 

More Nikon V1 Samples from Today with the 10mm, 30-100mm and 10-100mm lenses..and a rant!

My full V1 review is HERE

Went out today with my son and friend, just to hang out and brought along the V1 and trio of lenses I have on hand. The 10mm 2.8, the 30-110 and the 10-100, which I am finding is a real gem not only for video but for photos as well. The 30-110 also seems VERY good and doesn’t seem to give up much to the 10-100 except in build, which is better (but MUCH larger) in feel and design. In any case, I was happy with the results, the color, the feel of the photos. I added a few of these into my review as well. I think if and when Nikon comes out with some really nice lenses for this system, as in FAST primes, then we will REALLY be getting somewhere.

The Negativity Of the Nikon 1 System  - Why the bitterness?

It’s funny that since posting the review for the V1 I have been getting attacked by the haters of the “1″ system on forums, through e-mail and even on reddit, again, by people who never even shot with one! Do the haters really have nothing better to do than to freak out when a positive review is written on this camera? Should I have stayed “safe” and said it is not worth the money just to be politically correct? I would never do that, and never will. If it was a piece of junk I would have said so. It is quite the opposite. It kills cameras like the Canon G12, S95, etc. It beats out all Micro 4/3′s I have tried in regards to speed, accuracy and metering. It has amazing battery life, great image quality for the sensor size and yet there are still people out there bashing this camera and telling me I am wrong…AGAIN, when they never shot with one.

All of this ridiculous banter doesn’t change the facts one bit! This is a good camera system and excels in SPEED, AF, EASE OF USE, SHARP IMAGES, GREAT COLOR, SUPERB METERING and it does it all with a solidly made body and EVF that works well. I pointed out that the weak link IS the sensor and those looking for DSLR shallow depth of field or even DSLR smooth and clean files will not be happy with the V1. It is not meant to be a DSLR replacement!

I find it borderline funny that when I say something like “I did not care for the Panasonic G3″ I get attacked and when I say that I liked this V1, I get attacked as well. Even a threat via e-mail telling me I better retract my review! Really?

I say it like it is, and write about MY experience with each camera I use. I provide pics to back up what I say as well. Good and Bad. I really like the Nikon V1 (did not care so much for the J1 personally, but I love built in VF’s and a solid feel) and if you can deal with slow zooms and one slow-ish pancake then it’s a great camera to look into. Oh, and to the guy who e-mailed me and said I lied about this being a camera you can hand to your wife or kids and they would be able to get great shots with, my son took some great shots today with the V1 and he never saw it until the moment I handed it to him. :) Nothing wrong with the V1 if you need a camera for family, vacation, candids, and even portraits. It is not perfect but none of the mirror-less cameras are. Period. OK, now for the images! I posted these to show you guys a variety of shots with all lenses so  you can get some idea as to how the camera and lenses render. Hope they help!

BTW, 90% of these images do not have post processing. They were converted to RAW with simple adjustments to contrast or exposure. The B&W images were converted to B&W. One or two of the images (the pigeons) did have some slight PP such as level adjust, etc.

 CLICK EACH IMAGE FOR A LARGER VERSION!

This one was shot with the 30-110 – If you click the image to see the large version you can also see the exif data as it is embedded – THIS IS A STRAIGHT RAW CONVERSION – NO PP!

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The 10mm at 2.8 and up close – NO PP!

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Again the 10mm, but this time in B&W – f/2.8 – You can see the Bokeh Quality here as well, what there is of it :) – B&W CONVERSION

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The 30-110 at f/5.6 at 110 – NO PP

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The 10mm at 2.8 – NO PP

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The 10-100 at 16mm – B&W CONVERSION and some Level Adjust

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The 30-110 at 30mm – B&W CONVERSION

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The 10mm at 2.8

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The 10-100 at 70mm and f/5.6 – RIGHT FROM CAMERA, JUST CONVERTED TO B&W

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The 10mm at 2.8

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The 10mm at 2.8 – NO PP

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The 10-100 at 100mm, f/5.6 – NO PP!

Oct 262010
 

October 26th 2010 - A few days ago I recieved a Nikon D3100 and the Nikon 28-300 lens and have been messing with it and shooting with it for a few days. This review will  will include my 1st impressions, video of the camera, video taken with the camera, plenty of images, 100% crops, comparisons with the D3000 and Panasonic G2 and my overall feelings on the camera. As always,  this will be a “real world review” which will allow me to write what I feel about the camera as well as show real world results in the images. TheNikon D3100 is the new replacement for the Nikon D3000 and just after a day with it I can already tell it’s an improvement. Not a huge one, but it’s there. From the slightly better feel to the more pleasing sounding shutter the D3100 manages to give us all a bit more for our cash. It’s Nikons least expensive DSLR and a camera for beginners, students, or those wanting to get into DSLR shooting.

ABOVE: Nikon D3100 with the 18-55 Kit Zoom – VIBRANT color mode – JPEG – Click for larger

Nikon D3100 with 28-300 at f22 and ISO 1600 (accident, but liked the result)

The original Nikon D3000 was a camera that I bought for my son over a year ago and it has been a camera that he has shot with on many occasions. It is small, it is light, and the results, while not as good as the ones you get from a camera like the D300s or D90 were pretty good for the cost of the camera. It was and is a capable little DSLR but it is a “starter” DSLR without the bells and whistles of the more expensive big boys. Lots of shooters hated the D3000 as it was the most dumbed down camera in the Nikon line up of DSLR’s. But some loved it for this as it made it easy to pick up and shoot and get great results. ME? I was a bit let down by the D3000 (why I never reviewed it) but still, it made for a great camera for my son who still loves it today.

Nikon has now replaced their entry level D3000 with the new predictably named D3100. So how has the D3100 improved over the D3000 if at all? I wanted to test it out as I am very familiar with the 3000 and I wanted to see if Nikon improved the image quality, high ISO, and overall shooting experience. I also wanted to test the HD 1080P video which was missing on the D3000. B&H Photo was kind enough to send me a D3100 to see what I thought about it. They also sent along the very nice Nikon 28-300 lens which I tested on this camera and I know this lens is a very “in demand” lens so I was excited to try it out, even if I was using this “FX” full frame lens on a “DX” crop sensor body.

Side by Side – The Nikon D3000 and D3100

The Lowdown on the D3100

14.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS Image Sensor

Delivers beautiful photographs and prints well larger than 20 x 30″

3x 18-55mm /3.5-5.6G Zoom-NIKKOR VR Lens

With legendary NIKKOR optical quality and fast, accurate autofocus for vivid color, striking contrast and crisp detail and VR image stabilization to ensure the sharpest hand-held pictures and movies.

D-Movie – Breathtaking full HD 1080p movies with Sound and Full-time Autofocus

Discover the difference a digital SLR makes when shooting movies. A wide selection of NIKKOR lenses gives you freedom to explore different angles and obtain lovely defocused backgrounds while D3100′s advanced imaging system assures outstanding quality. And for action sequences, new Subject-tracking AF keeps subjects properly focused. After the shoot, view movies on the large 3″ LCD monitor and perform simple editing tasks like trimming scenes before or after a designated point and extracting still images. Via the HDMI mini-pin connector, connect D3100 to an HDTV with playback managed by the TV’s remote control.

Compact and Lightweight Design

Beautifully styled-Ready to go wherever life takes you.

Help Function – One-touch Access to In-camera Assistance

When viewing menu items and you don’t understand a function, just press the help button. A description of the currently selected item will be displayed while the button is pressed. Release the button and the previous screen appears. A truly handy function that makes it easy for even first-time D-SLR users to operate D3100.

Easy-To-Use Guide Mode

An enchanting portrait against a softly defocused background, or a radiant couple surrounded by sparkling lights. Taking photos like these is easy with D3100′s Guide Mode – in-camera guidance that shows you step-by-step how to change camera settings. Just select a Guide Mode setting that matches the scene then let Guide Mode assist. Not only will you obtain the desired results, you’ll understand how you achieved them. Guide Mode even displays sample photos so you’ll know what to expect from each setting.

18 Guide Mode Shooting Options

Easy Operation: Auto, Close-ups, Landscapes, No flash, Sleeping faces, Portraits, Distant subjects, Moving subjects, Night portrait

Advanced operation: Soften backgrounds, Freeze motion (people), Show water flowing, Bring more into focus, Freeze motion (vehicles)

Use a timer/ quiet shutter: Single frame, Continuous, 10-second self-timer, Quiet shutter release

Split-second Shutter Response

Eliminates the frustration of shutter delay, capturing moments that other cameras miss.

Fast 11-point Autofocus System

D3100′s precision high-speed autofocus responds immediately to changes in scene or composition, maintaining tack-sharp focus to capture fleeting expressions and fast-moving sports. The all-important central focus point features a cross-type sensor while the new superimposed display achieves a clear, uncluttered viewfinder. Various autofocus modes cover nearly any situation, including auto-area AF that automatically selects the subject on which to focus, and 3D-tracking (11 points) that maintains focus on a subject regardless of changes in composition as long as the shutter-release button is pressed halfway.

Advanced White Balance Control

The Improved Scene Recognition system offers outstanding auto white balance performance that nearly rivals the precision of the D3s, Nikon’s flagship camera. White is reproduced more faithfully while maintaining stable color balance regardless of light source.

ISO Sensitivity 100-3200, Expandable to ISO 12800

Equivalent delivers exceptional results, even in the most challenging low-light situations.

Large 3″ Monitor: Live View with AF Modes

Live View gives you an intuitive, familiar way to photograph playful pets or children on the move. Just flip a switch and you’re ready to go. When Live View is activated and new full-time-servo AF (AF-F) is selected, the camera keeps subjects in focus without having to press the shutter-release button – convenient for photos and movies. There is also new face-priority AF that locks focus on faces, even on people not directly facing the camera. Live View makes D3100 as easy to use as a compact camera.

Easy-to-view Finder – New Superimposed Indicators for a Better View

During autofocus, D3100′s superimposed indicators and BriteView Clear Matte Mark Ⅶ screen provide a cleaner, less cluttered view from corner to corner.

Rangefinder – Quick and Easy Focusing

When focusing manually, the electronic rangefinder helps you quickly achieve proper focus. It is especially useful when shooting in dimly lit settings.

AF Mode for Live View and Movie Shooting

Full-time-servo AF (AF-F): Autofocus automatically begins after Live View is activated, tracking the subject continuously without having to press the shutter-release button.

Single-servo AF (AF-S): Great for stationary subjects. Focus locks when the shutter-release button is pressed halfway.

Manual focus (MF): Focus manually.

AF-area Modes for Live View and Movies

Normal-area AF: Offers pinpoint precision when focusing on a small area – ideal when using a tripod.

Wide-area AF: A good all-round choice for a variety of subjects, both moving and stationary. It is especially well-suited for handheld shooting.

Face-priority AF: The camera can recognize up to 35 faces at a time then focus on the face that is determined to be nearest. Even if people in the frame move, the camera continues tracking and focusing.

Subject-tracking AF: D3100 ‘memorizes’ a subject then automatically tracks it even if it moves. Should the subject momentarily leave the frame, the camera starts tracking again once it re-enters. By using this with AF-F (full-time-servo AF) you can also maintain focus on the subject while tracking. This is a great way to photograph active children and pets.

Info Display Format – Choose the View That’s Right for You

D3100 gives you a choice of two formats – classic and graphic – for the info display. Graphic format includes both a numerical and descriptive illustration of shutter speed and aperture settings, making these concepts easier to grasp. Both formats display the current Scene Mode using easy-to-understand icons that change as the mode dial is rotated, letting you concentrate on the composition. Three background color variations are available for each format. In addition, the orientation of the info display automatically changes horizontally or vertically to match that of the camera.

Scene Auto Selector

Lets the D3100 decide the best mode to match the shooting situation when using Live View.

EXPEED 2

Nikon’s new image processing engine assures breathtakingly rich image quality, managing color, contrast, exposure, noise and speed.

Scene Recognition System

Nikon’s Scene Recognition System utilizes a 420-pixel RGB sensor to analyze a composition immediately before you take the shot. It then automatically optimizes exposure, autofocus, and white balance, allowing you to obtain beautiful photos without the hassle of making complicated camera adjustments yourself. Face detection also benefits from Scene Recognition System, exhibiting improved recognition accuracy and definition as well as enabling instant zoom-to-face in playback mode.

6 Automatic Exposure Scene Modes

Just set the Mode dial to Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait for stunning results in otherwise challenging conditions.

Scene Auto Selector

D3100 automatically selects the Scene Mode that matches the shooting situation and subject. During Live View shooting with the Mode dial on Auto or Auto (flash off), Scene Auto Selector automatically activates Portrait, Landscape, Close up or Night portrait modes depending on the scene. For added convenience, an icon appears in the top-left corner of the LCD monitor that shows the selected mode.

Active D-Lighting

Restores picture-enhancing detail in shadows and highlights.

Picture Control

Lets you choose from Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, or Landscape to apply a personal look and feel to your pictures.

Automatic Image Sensor Cleaning

D3100 is equipped with Nikon’s Integrated Dust Reduction System. This solution includes a special Airflow Control System that redirects dust away from the low-pass filter located in front of the image sensor. Additionally, when powering the camera on or off, the filter automatically vibrates at precise frequencies to release image-degrading dust that may adhere to it.

Built-in Pop-up Flash

When the light gets low or you find yourself shooting in tricky backlit lighting, use the built-in pop-up flash to brighten the scene. It activates automatically when needed depending on exposure mode, or can be enabled manually. In addition, support for i-TTL flash control increases exposure accuracy.

Continuous 3fps Shooting

D3100 can shoot approximately 3 frames per second – great for capturing dynamic motion and elusive facial expressions that are a challenge for any photographer. Simply rotate the release-mode selector and shoot away.

Eye-Fi Support – Transfer Photos and Movies Wirelessly

Support for optional Eye-Fi SD cards lets you transfer photos and movies from the camera to a PC via wireless LAN. This eliminates the need for removing the memory card or USB connections to transfer data. The camera can be used to turn Eye-Fi cards on and off, but may not support other Eye-Fi functions. As of June 2010, the following cards can be used: 2GB SD Eye-Fi cards in the Share, Home, and Explore product categories, 4GB SDHC Eye-Fi cards in the Anniversary, Share Video, Explore Video, and Connect x2 product categories, and 8GB SDHC cards in the Pro x2 and Explore x2 product categories. Eye-Fi cards are for use only in the country of purchase. Be sure the Eye-Fi card firmware has been updated to the latest version.

Date Imprint – Stamp Photos with Shooting Date

Know the exact date you took a photo. The position of the date changes automatically depending on camera orientation.

In-camera Image Editing

Allows creative freedom, without the need for a computer, offering easy editing functions. Including:

Miniature effect: Makes pictures appear as if they are photos of miniature scale models; especially effective when shooting landscapes from above.

Color outline: Converts a photo into an outline image, which can be printed then hand-colored.

Perspective control: Corrects the perspective of shapes (like buildings) for a more natural look.

Color balance: Adjust color balance over the entire image with the multi selector.

Monochrome (Sepia): Create monochrome photos with a classic feel.

Fisheye: Create surreal photos that look as if shot with a fisheye lens.

Filter effects (Cross screen): Add starburst effects to light sources.

Soft filter: Produces images similar to ones shot with a soft filter.

NEF (RAW) Processing: Now, convert images saved as RAW data to JPEG images in-camera. Change image quality, image size, exposure compensation and other settings while retaining the original RAW data

Long-lasting Lithium-ion Battery – Plenty of Stamina for Plenty of Photos

The Rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL14 delivers up to approximately 550 frames on a single charge. Now you can focus on getting the shot rather than worrying about battery power.

Nikon D3100 and 18-55 Kit Zoom Lens – click image for larger version – ISO 800

My Initial Thoughts On The Nikon D3100

After opening the box and handling the camera, my very 1st thought was “It FEELS the same as the D3000″. The D3100 keeps the same small form factor and it seems to have a better grip feel but overall it is the same in build and size. The dial on the top of the camera is now angled down for easier turning and there is also a switch that allows you to change from single shot to self timer to multiple shots, etc. This is a nice addition as the D3000 did not have this and you had to dig in to the menus to change these settings. There is also a nifty little switch on the back that turns the live view on very easily and quickly. Then the movie record button is right in the middle of this lever. Works out good for shooting video.

When I added the 28-300 lens on to the camera it looked like a MONSTER! The small size immediately turned into a huge and cumbersome AND slightly front heavy combo. The 28-300 is a pretty large lens (as you can see in the photo below of it attached to the camera) but it also seems like a pretty amazingly versatile lens. A 28-300 that focuses FAST and gives good (decent) sharpness and detail. I know many photographers who have bought this lens and use it as their one and only, and they love it. Me? I like it but found it a little soft, and its bokeh average at best. It is an FX or DX lens, made for full frame or a crop sensor. Overall the lens performed good with fast AF, and even at 200-300mm it gave some great results but again, I am not crazy about it like another web site guy I know. At over $1000 it makes for a very well built, very versatile lens for ANY Nikon camera so I guess that right there says something. PLUS, it is much nicer than the old 18-200 that was so popular a few years ago. So for the money, you get a pro built lens that gives you 28-300mm. Very cool.

ABOVE: D3100 with 28-300 zoomed out to 200mm. Click image for larger view.

ABOVE: At 300mm the 28-300 has some irritating Bokeh. Not the most pleasant I have seen but then again, I shoot lots of Leica :)

ABOVE: The D3100 with the Nikon 28-300 Lens Attached – The Ultimate in Vesatility

So far the D3100 seemed very much like the D3000 but there are some changes that make the D3100 a bit better. First of all, the new sensor coming in at 14.2 Megapixels vs the old D3000 10 megapixels. High ISO noise has also been improved simply due to the fact that you can go up to 12,800. Also, from what I have seen and ISO 3200 in low light doesn’t seem bad at all, though many will stop at 1600. This is something that has been improving slowly but surely over the past 2-3 years. The new D3100 is pretty good at high ISO but it is NOT better than the new Sony A55 which I am also testing. The new Sony A55 seems to be a SUPERB bang for the buck DSLR. More on that one soon.

The D3100 also gives us a massive improvement in the fact that it shoots HD video in 1080P at 24 fps. You can also shoot 720P at 24, 25 or 30 fps or a low res 640X424 at 24 fps. Nikon bodies have not been known for their video implementation so I was curious to see how the D3100 handled shooting video in comparison to the Panasonic G2, which I found excellent. So first impressions were that this was indeed a better camera than the D3000 in image quality, resolution. high ISO and with the addition of video.
BUT, Nikon has always seemed to struggle with video. I am thrilled that they included it on the D3100 but to me it just still seems “sloppy”. The Panasonic G2 implements its video MUCH better and EASIER than the D3100. (Just my opinion here folks).
ABOVE: Nikon D3100 with 28-300 at 28mm (which equals 42mm in full frame 35mm)

Real World High ISO Shooting

One area where we all want our camera to be able to give good results is in the higher ISO range. Honestly, I have been spoiled by the Leica M9 with fast glass and that combo gives me superb low light capabilities. I can shoot in almost any light with an M9 and 35 Summilux and get awesome results. With the D3000 these results get a little fuzzy and with the D3100, it seemed better but not really by a huge margin.
Here are a few shots taken indoors at an awful restaurant called “The Heart Attack Grille”.  I have been here before when my Nephew wanted to try and eat an 8000 Calorie Quadruple bypass burger (and he did). We were back there this week when my friend Ed wanted to give it a shot and he ate it down in 7 minutes. When you eat the Quad you get a wheelchair ride back to your car by one of the “nurses” :) Ed looked like he enjoyed his ride. The camera did decent. A little grainy for being lower ISO and IMO the images look a bit “flat”. These were with the kit lens.



HIGH ISO CROPS


I know many of you like to see the crops at ALL ISO’s so here you go. First up is a strip from the D3100 at every available ISO.



and now it gets interesting… a comparison between the D3000, the D3100 and the Panasonic G2 at ISO 1600. Notice the D3000 and D3100…In this test, the older D3000 looks better IMO. The same lens, the same settings. The G2 has more noise but is sharper. These are straight from camera results and 100% crops. NR was turned OFF in all cameras.

So the high ISO performance is not bad but there are other cameras that beat it. Nikons higher up cameras like the D7000, D300s and D700 beat this. The smaller sensor Panasonic G2 looks pretty sharp here in comparison, but noisier. Overall, not bad. I had to keep telling myself that this was the entry level Nikon, and when you look at it like that then it looks damn good.

BELOW: Click the image below for a D3100 LOW ISO image with 100% crop – This is an Out of camera JPEG.

The HD Video

The Nikon D3100 now has 1080P HD video capabilities, something that was lacking in the D3000. I feel that in todays world, HD video is a must for almost any DSLR as they all seem to have it and the average hobbyist or beginner, who this camera is aimed for, would see this as a huge plus. Nikon cameras have never had the best video but they are getting there, slowly but surely. The D3100? It was “OK” video wise. It did not excite me but I was happy to see it included this time around. Below is a brief sample though there is some XXX rated material so be warned! Ha ha…


Pros & Cons
PROS
  • It’s small! Nikons smallest DSLR!
  • You get what you pay for. This is the cheapest Nikon DSLR!
  • It’s a Nikon, and Nikon knows cameras.
  • Decent high ISO (though not beating the new Sony A33 and A55)
  • Improved controls over the D3000 as well as improved ISO capabilities
  • Fast AF, better VF display over D3000
  • Nikon added 1080P video with a dedicated button, but implementation is a bit clunky.
  • Good battery life

CONS

  • There are better cameras in this class that will give you better image quality.
  • The color seems a bit wonky to me (off)
  • Body feels plasticky, and hollow.
  • Still seems like it has a lack of control with many settings in the menu.
  • Images lose some color quality at higher ISO
  • ISO does not really beat the older D3000 from what I have seen but you can go up to 12,800

Final Thoughts on the Nikon D3100

The good, the bad and the ugly.
The good:
The Nikon is a nice little DLR that is small in size and can give you very good image quality. It has 1080P HD video capabilities, as well as a high resolution sensor that can give you enough power for big prints. It’s an improvement over the D3000 without question and it has the Nikon look, feel and spirit. If you have some Nikon glass and want a starter DSLR or a backup, the D3100 will fill those needs perfectly.
The bad:
Even with the good, the Nikon D3100 is in a weird place. It’s a starter DSLR and in the starter DSLR lineup there are MANY great contenders from the likes of Canon, Pentax, and Sony. If I were in the market for a starter DSLR I would probably go with something like a Sony A33 which will give you a great sensor, very good high ISO, a fantastic EVF and blazing AF speed with photo or video. The Nikon D3100 still leaves me a bit cold and if I were in the market for a Nikon body, I would have to jump up to the D90 (WHILE YOU STILL CAN) or better yet, the new D7000 (which is fantastic). THE D3100 is a beginner DSLR and you know this when shooting with it.
The ugly:
I experienced no negative issues with the D3100 while I had it. It powered up every time and was speedy :) While I was not blown away by the camera, I did appreciate the improvements over the D3000 and feel this is the camera the D3000 should have been in the first place BUT…its files at times seemed flat or “dirty”. Not in the same league as the more expensive D300s, D7000, D700 or of course the D3 series. BUT that is to be expected. At $649 other cameras may be a better bet if you are not invested in Nikon glass. Then again, I am sure if I attached the new 85 1.4 to this little guy it would give me better IQ. It’s not bad with the 28-300, but it just did not blow me away. I prefer the Sony A33 and A55.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

ABOVE: Nikon D3100 and Kit Zoom

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