Aug 272013
 

titlejoeballetv1

The Nikon V1 Shoots Ballet. Bravo!

by Joe Marquez – His website is HERE.

Can the Nikon V1 focus fast enough to capture world-class ballet dancers at the decisive moment? What about in low light? What about image quality? Earlier this month, I had a brief opportunity to test the V1 at a couple of ballet warm-ups and rehearsals in Honolulu. Could the inexpensive and diminutive Nikon V1 compete with my workhorse Nikon DSLRs?

ACT 1

I am the official photographer for Ballet Hawaii in Honolulu. During major ballet productions at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, I photograph world-class dancers from around the world. In early August I photographed Cinderella by the acclaimed artistic director of The Washington Ballet – Septime Webre. His Cinderella production in Hawaii was a major collaboration and included professional dancers from The Washington Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the Eugene Ballet Company, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and students from Ballet Hawaii.

I typically photograph ballet with two Nikon DSLRs – the D3s and D800. I generally use the D3s to capture individuals or small groups of dancers and the D800 for wider and full stage captures. However, I ‘m always looking at other smaller, quieter camera options that can get the shots I need – and ballet rehearsals are an ideal venue for testing. In the past I tested a Fuji X100, Fuji X-Pro 1 and Sony Rx1 – each with limited success. These excellent cameras produce superb images, however the problem is their inability to track fast-moving dancers. Frequently, I’d have to revert to zone focusing to get the shot.

ACT 2

Enter the Nikon V1. I dismissed this camera when it was first announced almost two years ago. I read through the litany of complaints: sensor too small, not enough pixels, poor low-light performance, no subject isolation, etc. The one universal attribute was the surprisingly fast-focusing speed of the V1. Steve Huff’s review and the dramatic price drop a few months ago caught my attention but it wasn’t until the 32mm f/1.2 lens was released that I became seriously intrigued. Fast 1.2 glass on a small fast-focusing camera is worth consideration. But is it fast enough for ballet?

So about two months ago I purchased a Nikon V1 and the three primes – the 10mm f/2.8, 18.5mm f/1.8 and the 32. I tested the system in the streets of Honolulu, at small events and performances and patiently waited for the next major ballet performance in Hawaii – Cinderella.

For all major productions I try to capture a few special images during warm-ups and rehearsals. These images are used to document the production and generate a little publicity. Rehearsals also give me an opportunity to learn the dance sequences and get my timing down before the main performances. As usual, I used my workhouse DSLRs to make certain I got the necessary Cinderella shots. Only then did I bring out the Nikon V1 to give it a go.

ACT 3

So how did the Nikon V1 perform? Incredibly well and I’ve included a dozen images for your review. All images were shot RAW and the few here on display were converted to b&w with Silver Efex Pro. I prefer performance photos in color (under proper stage lighting) and rehearsal photos in b&w. As an added bonus, the V1 produces images with a pleasant film-like grain, which I rather enjoy.

V1 with 10mm 2.8

Joe Marquez 10mm Lens v1 Ballet

The key to ballet photography is timing. The dancer(s), the photographer and the camera have to be in sync to get that decisive moment – usually the peak or maximum height of a pose or jump. The V1 was able to capture these moments time and time again. In fact some of my favorite rehearsal images were taken with the V1.

I simply used continuous focus, auto-area mode with face detection on. I set the camera to manual exposure and occasionally used auto-iso. I’d track the dancer through the EVF and press the shutter as needed. I didn’t notice any delay or lag. For the most part I was able to get the shot I wanted – precisely when I wanted it. I’ve never been able to do this with any camera other than my DSLRs. And what is most impressive is the ability of the V1 to track fast-moving dancers jumping directly at me – and capturing them at the peak of their jump – all in low light. This is no easy feat for any camera including the venerable D3s.

V1 with 18.5 1.8

Joe Marquez Ballet v1 18.5mm Lens

Here are a few details. In total I took less than 300 rehearsal shots with the V1. Were there many misses? You bet – but most were my fault due to bad timing or poor framing. Without doing a statistical analysis I would say the percentage of in-focus quality shots using the V1 was comparable to the DSLRs.

More details. During daytime warm-ups, the studio was sufficiently lit with diffused sunlight from several large windows. Here I used the 18.5mm and 10mm lenses. This allowed me to take wider shots (in tight quarters) and capture more than one dancer. I used the 32 to get more artsy images including some nice subject isolation (yes, subject isolation on the Nikon CX sensor).

Joe Marquez v1 Ballet Studio 32mm Lens

The ultimate challenge was shooting a walk-through rehearsal on the dark Blaisdell stage. The stage lighting program was not used so the stage was darker than usual. When it was time to test the V1 I used the fastest lens I had – the 32. The 1.2 glass allowed me to keep shutter speeds and iso quite manageable. I was able to focus, track and capture several dancers at the decisive moment – including lovely Maki Onuki performing a jeté with her broom. This was the first time I’d seen her Cinderella performance. I had one and only one chance to get the shot with the V1. As she danced around the stage I kept tracking her through the viewfinder. When she jumped – I pressed the shutter and the V1/32 combo nailed the shot. By the way, Maki loves this particular image.

Joe Marquez Ballet v1 32mm Lens 1.2

Would I use the V1 for a live ballet performance? Absolutely. I’d certainly never sacrifice an important ballet shot by using a less capable or inferior camera, however, I have no doubt I could shoot an entire ballet with the V1 and get superb images. The V1 will never surpass the image quality and low light capability of a full frame DSLR. However, the silent shutter and fast-focusing sensor are ideal attributes and the image quality is more than adequate for capturing all the beauty of a ballet performance.

So what next? I may purchase the Nikon Ft-1 adapter and try the 70-200mm lens (converts to a 190-540mm f/2.8 lens on a V1) at a live ballet performance. If so I’d probably purchase a V2 and disable image review (can’t do this on the V1). Or I may wait for the Nikon V3 and hope for improved ergonomics and low light capability while maintaining the current features that make the V1 special. And finally, I really must try using the 10, 30 and 60 fps burst rate. Might make for some wonderful captures of a ballerina in mid-air.

Joe Marquez V1 Ballet 18.5mm Lens

Joe Marquez v1 Ballet Blaisdell 32mm 1.2

SIDENOTE

Just for fun, I’ve also included a link to a short video clip utilizing another feature of the Nikon V1 – slow motion at 400fps. The young ballet students were in a character class, dancing in a large circle. After a few photos I realized still images alone weren’t capturing the energy of the moment so I switched modes and took five seconds of video. This converts to a one-minute slow motion clip. This feature, fun as it is, would be so much more useful at higher resolution than the current 640×240 pixels.

 Hope Nikon improves this feature in the V3.

FINAL ACT

Joe Marquez v1 Ballet 32:1.2 Studio

The inexpensive and diminutive V1 continues to amaze. Focusing speed is outstanding and image quality is more than adequate for ballet photography. In particular the 32mm lens on the V1 is a superb combination with the ability to capture fast-moving, talented dancers at decisive moments in good light or bad. Now I must patiently wait to photograph the next major ballet performance in Hawaii. In the meantime – bravo Nikon V1, bravo!

Special thanks to Ballet Hawaii, The Washington Ballet, Septime Webre and the many talented performers including: Maki Onuki, Luis R. Torres, Jared Nelson, Morgann Rose, Tamás Krizsa and of course the students at Ballet Hawaii.

 Joe Marquez v1 Ballet 32:1.2 Blaisdell

Jul 282013
 

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Refurb Nikon V1 Black Body – $249 on Amazon now

Nikon V1 Refurbished from Cameta Camera on Amazon

YES! More Nikon V1 talk, but this is the last post about the 1 system until my new 6.7-13 Lens review which should be in a week or two. I am posting this due to the fact that MANY of you are asking me where to get a cheap black Nikon V1 body, so I found some :)

Yep, lots of you have asked where to get a BLACK Nikon V1 at a similar price to  the $279 deal on Digital Rev (that was a white one, new with 10mm). Today I spotted that Cameta Camera on Amazon has a bunch of refurb BLACK V1’s for $249 a pop. This is a body only, Nikon refurb with one year warranty. A Refurb is a camera that goes back to the factory for one reason or another. A return, an issue, etc. Nikon goes over the cameras, replaces parts, repairs or just fixes cosmetic issues and then packages them back up for refurb discount sales. So if anyone wants the black V1, and they are getting harder to find these days without paying $600+ then this is a good deal.

Check out this video about the Nikon V2 and Street Shooting (V2 is no better than V1 in speed or IQ)

Just click the link above or below to check it out. It is NOT prime eligible but I have ordered from Cameta on Amazon 6 times in the past and they always came through with super fast service and it was always problem free.

Nikon V1 Refurbished from Cameta Camera on Amazon

I know I have been doing quite a bit on the Nikon 1 lately but that is because of these insane prices on such a great little camera. With these new lenses out now, it is a killer system, 1″ sensor or not. I have one more Nikon 1 review coming and that is for the 6.7-13 Ultra Wide Zoom. Stay tuned for that. Until then, you can check out the video below showing my three fave lenses for the system.

Links to my fave three lenses:

Nikon 32 1.2  – Nikon 18.5 f/1.8Nikon 6.7-13 UWA Zoom

and IMO, a MUST own accessory for the V1!

What to expect IQ wise from the V1 with these lenses

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

Nov 072012
 

Hello Steve

Thought I would give you a few pictures with the new Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5 mm f/1.8 lens. Got a hold of it yesterday. It was released in Sweden / Europe on 1 November and to this day I can not find it on some Swedish sites. There are a few German sites that have them. I ordered direct from Nikon Store. Above all, the black lens is hard to come by right now.

It is really fun to shoot with compared to the standard lens 10-30 mm f/3.5.

The two images of the toy car is taken with Cool White fluorescent white balance. The other two in Auto mode.

Thanks for a great site.

Jonas Hallström

Helsingborg, Sweden

 

My flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonashallstrom/

 

Oct 232012
 

The Nikon V2 Announced Soon…details on the follow up to the V1

UPDATE: Damn, the V2 is one of the ugliest cameras I have seen in many years. At least it makes it easy for me..I wont get it based on that design alone. Nikon, what have you done to the good looks and simpleness of the V1? You made it look like a coolpix P&S. Ugly. Period. Yes, looks matter to many believe it or not. It is one of the reasons many rush to the Leica, the Fuji…but I think many will be running from the V2. Especially if the IQ is not much different than the V1. Maybe I should go order one of those cheap V1 sets while I can. I gave mine away recently in a YouTube contest awaiting the V2 announcement. Arg. I do applaud them for adding some dials for control but they could have kept the same vibe with the three S’s as they did with the V1..sleek, slick, simple. Instead they went the three U’s..UN attractive, UN sexy, and UGLY. Boo.

Well it is fact, the Nikon V2 is coming and coming today. After a flood of e-mails about it I decided to post about it. Most of you know I am a fan of the V1 even though most of the readers here and most of the online photo community snubbed it. I am not one to cave to pressure so I just write my own feelings on whatever I use. The V1 was and is a fantastic camera capable of gorgeous results in the right hands, as shown by Craig Litten in this post.

The Nikon V1 is actually on super clearance right now at Amazon, nearly half the cost of when it was announced. My hopes? That the V2 is able to compete with the Sony RX100 because if it can then it will be the top dog in this category of sensor size. It can never beat the RX100 on size or pocket ability but maybe it can on IQ if this new sensor rocks the V2.

I look at this and ask “How many cameras do you need Steve”? I am happy as a pig in poop with my Leica setup and my Olympus OM-D and I will have a future RX1 as well. I do not need the V2 but if it delivers amazing IQ I would be tempted only because I absolutely love the body, size, feel, battery life, ruggedness and speed of the V1. I also hope they removed those gimmik modes on the V2 as the J2 has them intact.

I am also happy about the new lens they have coming in November which is an 18.5 1.8 giving a 50mm equivalent. A fast 50 equiv. One of many lenses this system needs. I also have a feeling that they may release the V2 in Silver as well. The above image is a mock-up as the official word has not been released yet on the camera. I noticed the 18 is being released in black, silver and white. The J2 is available in all kinds of colors but my bet is on a silver V2. We shall see.

PRICE? IT IS $799 WITHOUT A LENS – You can now pre-order it at B&H Photo.   It is $1149 with the two kit lenses and they have that available as well. 

SPECS OF THE NEW NIKON V2 

Brand new super high-speed AF 14.25MP CMOS sensor

Brand new image processing engine EXPEED 3A

15 frames per second continuous shooting, 60 frames using electronic shutter – THIS IS FAST

Still has the slow motion capabilities

73 AF areas, 135 single AF points – The V1 was a speed demon, looks like the V2 will keep up with that

Same EVF and LCD as the V1

Full HD video just as the V1 had but not sure if there will be any changes or improvements

Shutter speed: 1/4000-30 seconds

ISO sensitivity: 160-6400

Sep 132012
 

Finally a fast 50! The new Nikon 18-5 f/1.8 Lens for the “1” System. 

Nikon announced (so far) ONE lens for the Nikon 1 system. You know, the “camera I expected to hate”. I am expecting a V2 announcement after they released the J1.2 (J2) but who knows..let’s see how it goes. All I know is that the new 18.5 1.8 lens will finally bring a fast 50mm equivalent to the 1 series and I for one am excited to see how this lens renders on the 1 series camera. Though I would expect a V2  to be announced simply due to the fact that Sony came out swinging recently with the RX100 and while the sensor is the same size its performance easily exceeds the Nikon 1′ sensor. So something like a V2 with better sensor performance would be sweet. Add on this 18.5 lens and you have the fast 50 experience on the little 1 series. So far all I have seen from this is the lens and no samples. It’s cheap but most generic 50 1.8 lenses are. You can pre-order from Amazon for $186

 

You can pre-order the Nikon 18.5 f/1.8 Lens HERE for $186!

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