Aug 262014
 

My muse: Alina, with the Nikon V1

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon. I would like to present to you and your readers my muse: Alina. She’s my youngest kid, 4 years old, and she’s not (camera) shy at all. (Put a plastic toy microphone in her hands, and she’ll start singing instantly!) The pictures below were all taken in the past couple of weeks, and were taken with my Nikon V1 and the Nikon 1 18.5mm f1.8. I shoot jpeg, not raw, and the pictures were treated with Lightroom and Nik Software plugins, esp. Silver Efex Pro 2. I use natural light only. No flash.

I wrote about the V1 for your website about a year ago. Then, I wrote about the surprising video capabilities of this camera. 

The V1 has become my favourite ‘family trip’ camera for still images because of its fast focus and compact form. I don’t have the budget, honestly, for fancier gear, so I make the best of what I’ve got.

I live in Belgium, a country that has quite strict privacy laws, especially towards the under age. For photographers, it basically implies you need a release form when post portraits online, unless you are the parent (or legal guardian), which I am, of course. Aside from the legal aspect of publishing my children’s pictures online, I do have other reservations as well. I have friends who would never publish pictures of their (young) children online for safety reasons. In the late nineties, Marc Dutroux, a serial child molester and murderer, shocked the country, and now parents of young children are particularly sensitive about the issue.

To be honest, there is a bit of a guilty feeling, mixed with suspician, each time one of my kid pictures is liked or favourited on Flickr… which is sad, not? But there is yet another angle to this. A while back, I was asked by one my best friends to remove pictures from my flickr account. The reason: the kids have now reached puberty, and they are afraid to be bullied for these pictures, which their fellow class members are googling for.

Professionally, I’m a teacher at a secondary school (ages 12 up to 18), and I am the unofficial ‘official’ photographer for many school events. I always take care only to publish pictures in which the kids look good/cool and not goofy or whatever, just for that reason. (When children enroll to our school, they automatically must sign a release form too). Here is a link to an article I wrote for Steve about such a school event.  This is the reality of the world we live in, and I am writing this post because I’m curious about what you, Steve and Brandon, and your readers think about all this.

This is my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,
Ivan Lietaert

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May 202014
 

Living With Dementia

By Mark Seymour

Dad, 82 years young.

I’m not a great wordsmith but a documentary wedding photographer and son who with his mum learned that dad had Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. Mum has been the most incredibly strong woman married at the age of 19 and now nearly 60 years later has until yesterday cared and looked after dad every single day, seeing the man she vowed to be with for better or worse gradually decline. Dad yesterday was admitted to a dementia care home for mum’s safety.

Here is the story of the last few years with dad in his garage workshop, visiting the Ace cafe where they dated and the brilliant nurses and carer’s that have helped mum and now dad. Many tears have been shed making and putting together this short slide show at the end of these few images…….Please let me take just 120 seconds of you time……….

Thank you

Mark

http://markseymourphotography.co.uk/dementia/ see the slide show

All images shot on Nikon V1 / Nikon D3s and Nikon D4 over a 2 year period

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May 032014
 

By Request: Nikon V3 vs Nikon J1 – OOC JPEG

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I had a few ask of you me to post a couple of quick side by side snaps to compare the brand new Nikon V3 to the old 1st gen Nikon V1. My son has the V1 with him right now so I used the next best thing, the J1. The J1 has the same IQ as the V1, same sensor, and same IQ.

So how did the old J1 fare against the new V3? For starters, keep in mind that I paid $200 for the J1 with 10mm 2.8 lens, new. The V3 sells for $1200 as a kit with the new kit 10-30. For this test I just wanted to show straight out of camera JPEGS here. Both with the same 10mm 2.8 lens (it does better than the zoom) and both cameras set to their base ISO (100 for the J1 and 160 for the V3).

I can say the EVF makes the V3 more of a joy to use over the J1 that does not have an EVF of any kind but in the hand, they both feel good with the V3 coming in at a little bit smaller of a size.The little $200 J1 feels solid though.

Below are direct straight out of camera JPEGS. Both cameras were also set to “Neutral” color in the setup menu and both cameras were set to matrix metering. Both had the Active D Lighting set to off. What you see is what you get. The V3 has more megapixels but is also rendering the images differently Same lens was used, same spot, same moment.

What are your thoughts? Click on each image for full size file. Right click and open in a new window to see full file on your screen correctly. Each image is labeled with what it is.

 

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The V3 seems to be less harsh and less contrasty but also loses some of the bite of the 1 series. How about high ISO? This is where we should see a huge performance increase as we are going from 1st gen to 3rd gen sensor for the 1 series.

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So it is no question that after shooting both that the V3 offers more megapixels and better low light performance. The question you have to ask yourself if you are a 1 series shooter is “is this worth upgrading my current camera for”? Only you can decide. Me, after shooting a teeny bit with the V3, its response is up there with the fastest I have shot with, even faster feeling than the Olympus E-M1. But, for $1200 I will stick with the V1 and J1 for now (for my 1 series shooting). Like I said here, the V3 could have been so much more and using Micro SD cards really killed it for me up front.

The V3 is available HERE.

 

Apr 142014
 

How the Nikon V1 is changing my approach to Photography

by Francois Kaplan

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Hey guys!

First let me congratulate you for the blog, it is always interesting and refreshing to read!

When I was 13 years old, I got my first serious camera, the Nikkormat EL with a 50mm prime. I enjoyed taking photos for years, mostly during my vacations. For some reason, studies, work, other activities probably, I gradually used it less and less and at one point, like many, I moved to digital cameras, this was the future! I bought a Canon ixus which had great reviews, but it broke, the cost of repair was prohibitive, almost like buying a new one. Anyhow a new one was just announced (of course) so I bought it. Unfortunately it fell also and broke a few months later. Even though I was the one who dropped it, I was upset with this concept of using fragile cameras and being driven to have to buy a new model each time something happened. I got a bit emotional with the whole thing and decided I will stop using digital cameras altogether and came back to my good’old Nikkormat.

This was my first shock! The process of taking photos was maybe a bit more complex than with the digital camera (but at the same time very refreshing and delightful) and when I got the prints back…. wow! They had a completely different quality to them, they had… soul (can I say this?). So here I was, happy again with my Nikkormat, rediscovering a treasure I had and also happy to beat the system.

But a few weeks later (of course) my good’old camera proved too old and broke twice (this time, not my fault, the shutter mechanism stopped working)… L and I was left on one hand with the realization of how much I liked photography and wanted to take photos and on the other hand completely unsatisfied with what I got from digital cameras.

I started to study a bit more, read many articles and in the end, decided to invest in more serious equipment. I did this progressively. I started with the D5000, then moved to the D7000, improved my lenses collection, bought in the middle the X100.

Each time, I went through an up and down process, starting to be enthusiastic with the progress I got from my previous equipment, but after a while feeling I was kinda cheating myself and had to admit I did not get the same “soul” experience than with the Nikkormat.

I definitely got soul with the Fuji (still not as the Nikkormat) which I love, but at the same time, I was also not fully satisfied with having to use the 35mm focal only. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the discipline of having to use one focal only, this limitation drives creativity. I did several trips using only the X100 and enjoyed it a lot, especially when I was visiting cities such as New York or Paris, there the X100 shines.

But at the same time, I also missed the ability to use a wide or a good tele which I had with my Nikons.

After many hesitations, reading more reviews and encouraged by my wife, I made the jump to full frame and bought the D600. I found it was a serious step up from the D7000 (reviews say IQ is similar, but I experienced a real improvement). I still could not get the same “soul” of the Nikkormat or the X100, but it was really top-notch and produced a different type of photos, maybe colder, but definitely better than what I had previously.

In the process, I read your enthusiastic article about the V1 and also bought it when it was around $300 with the kit lens.

It felt OK, toyish, the slow motion movies was nice to play with and the ability to use my 70-300 with the FT1 adaptor was also fun, but I did not relate to it as a serious camera and I almost did not use it. Cheap, but lost investment… or was it truly?

I was quite happy with my Fuji and D600. They lived side by side, I used one or the other, never together as they are not complementary, which was a bit of a shame really. BTW, I happened to use the Fuji more often than the D600 (remember the “soul” aspect, even though the D600 is full frame).

Then, I decided to spoil myself more and bought a top lens, a prime, the Nikon 58mm 1.4.

This was my second shock: the quality of the photos I got from this prime were at a totally different level than with the zooms I was using until now. They finally had the “soul” I was looking for! This was not a quantitative improvement, but a qualitative jump, the D600 was actually overcoming my memories of the Nikkormat (which is quite an achievement, as competing with memory is always unfair).

The recent V3 announcement reminded me that I had a V1 and one day I decided to play a bit with it and adapted the 58mm 1.4 to see what it would give. Third shock! or should I say, third and fourth shock.

Third shock: the photos were really good, sharp, very shallow DOF. See the first flower photo. This made me understand something I read but never really got, which is that glass is more important than camera body. The photos I got with my V1 with the 58mm 1.4 were better than the photos I got with the D600 and the kit 24-85 lens! I did not check at pixel level, but they looked and felt better.

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Fourth shock: even though using the 58mm in the V1 was challenging, it also drove creativity. 58mm on CX is equivalent to 157mm on a FX, which is an odd focal for portrait, it is too long. But I found out this disadvantage could turn into a fun challenge, I had to frame differently, showing only part of the face, the hands, etc… It was more difficult to strike the right balance, but it gave character to the portraits. Plus, the DOF added even more character. See second example of the dog photo:

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I was really not expecting this, the V1 producing photos at that level? Mmm… this was great news as it is so small + it is complementary with my D600! I could now use my prime twice, as a 58 and 157mm!

I looked at the V1 with new eyes and decided to complete this system. I bought the wide angle (6.7-13), which is a type of lens I was missing so much. It is maybe a bit expensive, but not so much actually if you consider wide angles + it is very very small and also very good.

With it I could combine in one small bag 18-35, 58 (close enough to 50) and tele ~160! A full system in a minimal and light space!

I recently went on a business trip in Ireland, and took with me the V1 only with the 6.7-13 and the 58mm. The kit was so small it easily fit in my computer bag. This was a great experience (apart from getting little sleep so I could be at the beach at 6:00 ready to take photos and enjoy the golden hours J), the battery life enabled me to take several hundred shots, the process of taking the photos was fun, I had the sharp wide lens available to photograph the beach from low angles, which I would never had with either my D600 or Fuji, and overall, the IQ was very good, with this famous “film like” quality grain reported in the reviews. See 2 examples of tree1 photo, beach photo and tree2 photo.

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This was my second lesson: a good camera with you is better than a great camera that you left at home.

Added to the first lesson: a good camera with great lenses is better than a great camera with good lenses.

Gave me this conclusion: a small good camera with great lenses is always fun to use!

You can see the folder of my Dublin trip: http://500px.com/francoiskaplan/sets/dublin_april_2014

So here I am now, re-discovering simple truths that have been explained many times on the web, but that I never fully understood until now.

I will now focus more on lenses vs body, prioritize those with great quality, original focal and light weight so I can have them with me at any moment and use them.

The combination of the V1 and the D600 opens many opportunities and combinations here.

Thanks for reading!

Feb 122014
 

Using the V1 for shooting an ‘Open Stage’ school event

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I teach at a secondary school in Belgium. At school I often shoot pictures during extra-curricular events for the for the school archives, and more importantly for the official school website and social network. Last week, the annual ‘Open Stage’ took place: students aged between 12 and 18 can show off their talent on stage to a wild crowd of enthusiastic fellow students. It is the most anticipated and fun event of the whole school year. Mostly, young kids take the stage in their debut rock bands, playing covers; some impressive street dancing, a blossoming singer-songwriter, it ‘s all really varied… this year, we even had an illusionist who had quite some tricks up his sleeve.

Ideally, when shooting this kind of event, a full frame camera and a really fast lens, something like a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, would be the camera of choice. I don’t have that kind of pro-gear. Last year I used my 550D/T2i with a non-stabilized Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens. (Soon, I found out that was not good enough, so I swapped it with the ‘nifty fifty’ EF 50mm f1.8 and did some serious cropping in post.) The pictures turned out quite fine, back then.

But this year, I decided to take a risk. I decided to use my Nikon V1, which has a smallish one inch CX sensor, mounted with the Nikon 1 10-100mm VR Power Drive Zoom. I love this little combo for video shooting (https://vimeo.com/85671971), but I knew that in low light, with an aperture of 4.5-6.5, I was taking quite a risk. I do own the faster 18.5mm f1.8 as well, but as this lens is pretty wide, close-up shots would be out of the question, and cropping them in post doesn’t make much sense either, as the V1 only produces 10 megapixel size pictures.

So there I was, holding the V1 and the 10-100mm PD Zoom and the bands started playing loud! I was shooting raw, in manual mode, exposure set at 1/40 or 1/60 with iso at 3200, and aperture as wide as possible. I used no flash, and to make things even worse, a fuse had blown, so only half the staging lights were properly working. I was a bit worried, because I knew that with these settings, I really was pushing the V1 beyond its comfort zone (being iso 1600). Autofocus, usually lightning fast, was now struggling a lot, and there was a lot of hunting, and I did miss quite some good pictures because of that.

So when I got home, I felt quite uncomfortable. After import into Lightroom 4.4, I did a first selection. From the 360 pictures I had taken, I had to throw away about two-thirds, for the usual reasons: bad framing, motion blur, bad composition, closed eyes, out of focus, boring etc. Mind you, in the 120 pictures I kept, there were still some that were slightly out of focus, but hey, these kids don’t care too much about this! As long as they can show off with them on their social networks!

Of course, when zooming in on these iso 3200 pictures in LR to the 1:1 level, detail and sharpness is horrendous. I decided to leave it to the standard LR treatment, without any tweaking, and instead to quickly move on to Google’s Nik Collection Plugins. I really love them and I still have 12 days of trial left. I used the Analog Efex Pro module, and went for one of the ‘Vintage Camera’ presets. There, I would fine tune some of the settings. I love to tweak the light leaks, the bokeh and the frames which come with the plugin. When done the tif-file would be saved. Back in Lightroom, I would then export to the jpeg format, which is suitable for distribution.

Late into the night, I uploaded the ten or so pictures picture I processed through Nik Software to one flickr set, and I uploaded the 120 ‘regular’ pictures to another set. I then posted both sets on our school’s Facebook page and the school’s website. Then I went to bed. The next day, I enjoyed watching the stat counters going up, and the ‘likes’ on Facebook growing. Sometimes, being a teacher can be very rewarding!

This is my personal flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,

Ivan Lietaert

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Feb 112014
 

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My trip to Japan with the Nikon V1

by Brandon Huff

Hello to all readers of this site! I am Brandon Huff, Steve Huff’s son. Last year in I went to Japan and I used my Nikon V1 for this trip 100%.  I just wanted to share some of my photos with all of you as well as my experiences I had along the way with the little Nikon.

When I was deciding on a camera for my trip I wanted something small, something light, and mainly great quality.  The Nikon V1 seemed to match up to what I was looking for and I am happy with my choice.

In this photo I was experimenting with night photography and long exposures. This is my Step-Brother Kyle in the desert a about a week before I headed off to Japan.

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Kyle and I left in the early morning to arrive at San Diego California, It is about a 6 hour drive from Phoenix Arizona, here are a few a photos from when we were in California.

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 About a week later, I parted off from my family to join my new family for two weeks, the People to People group. This is a bunch of High school Students, Elementary school students and Teachers where we go off and explore many areas of Japan as well as visit with a home stay family for two days. Here are a few of the pictures from Japan that I snapped:

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I have to say that when traveling to another country and having to carry a camera over 8 hours a day the Nikon V1 turned out to be much easier than I first imagined. The battery life is great, easy to just point and shoot quickly when needed and overall a wonderful experience with the camera. Japan was a great and beautiful place and the people of Japan are really kind and are happy to smile for the camera when asked.

Thanks for reading and looking at my pictures. BTW, the lens I used was the 18.5 1.8 which gave me a fast 50mm equivalent.

Brandon Huff

Jan 012014
 

Surf, Beach and Bikinis at 810mm with Nikon V1

By Joe Marquez – His website is HERE

This past weekend I photographed the final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters on the Northshore of Oahu. This Hawaii based mega surf event held at Pipeline attracted 10,000 beachgoers to watch world-class surfers duke it out for a number of championships including the Vans Triple Crown and the ASP World Title.

This seemed like a fun and perfect opportunity to test the Nikon V1, Ft-1 adapter and the longest lens in my bag – the Nikon 300mm f/4 Af-s. I also tossed a Ricoh GR in my shorts pocket for a few wide-angle shots.

For those unfamiliar, the Ft-1 adapter allows Nikon F mount lenses to attach to Nikon 1 system cameras such as the V1, V2 and rumored V3. Once attached the angle of view is longer by a factor of 2.7. As a result, my 300mm f/4 lens transformed into a 810mm f/4 super telephoto lens. Amazing.

Back to the beach. Surf conditions were ideal – 20 foot waves, bright sunshine, slight breeze and temperature in the 80s. Sorry rest of the world but Hawaii in December (or any month for that matter) is tough to beat.

Compared to surf photography pros with their DSLRs and 500, 600 and 800mm bazookas on heavy-duty tripods, I looked like a silly amateur with my 300mm lens attached to the mirrorless V1 on a rusty old monopod. I could have hand-held my rig but found it useful to stick the monopod in the sand to mark my territory between all the pros.

Overall I was happy with my setup. Focusing was quick enough in good light early in the day and a bit slower later in the afternoon sun. This is probably more a function of Nikon’s 300mm lens – which has never been a focusing speed demon. Rumor is there will be new Nikon 300mm lens soon.

I shot in manual mode with iso at 100, aperture between 5 and 6.3 mostly and shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/1600. The goal is to not blow out surf highlights. This is a concern because the V1 with a tiny CX sensor does not have the dynamic range of larger sensors. Fortunately, I managed to keep highlights in check.

With the Ft-1 adapter, there is only one central focus point but this was not a problem for a couple of reasons. The surfer was pretty easy to track or if I wanted to recompose, the wave in the background was a solid focusing surface preventing the lens and camera from trying to focus at infinity. The other reason one central focus point was not a problem is the DOF of a CX sensor is much greater than a DX or FX sensor, thus it was easier to keep wave and surfer in focus. Sometimes greater DOF is a benefit.

Also, did I mention the FT-1 allows for continuous focusing and tracking? This is the result of the latest firmware update (a Nikon rarity) and this allowed me to capture some amazing surf sequences. Thanks Nikon

I was concerned with the buffer size and speed of the V1, but with only two surfers in each heat, I never lost a photo as the camera was writing to the SD card. If there was more action I think there would be a concern. I believe the V2 has a larger buffer than the V1 and hoping the rumored V3 will be even better.

And of course at all surf events, there is a bit of downtime between wave sets and this gives photographers an opportunity to hone their photographic skills on bikini-clad beach babes. A few practice shots included.

As far as processing, I decided to add a slight Fuji film look to the images. Again, this is all for fun.

In conclusion, the Nikon V1 and Ft-1 adapter worked great to give me 810mm of reach in a small and low-cost rig. At future events and with a lesser crowd I plan to carry this small rig along the beach to shoot into the barrel or get some great backdoor shots. As much I love great full frame image quality, it’s nice to get super telephoto reach in small rig at a fraction of the cost.

Final note: Congratulations to Kelly Slater for winning the event, John Florence for claiming the Vans Triple Crown and Mick Fanning for winning the overall 2013 ASP World Title.

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Sep 172013
 

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It appears that the wonderful NIkon 32 1.2  lens for the Nikon 1 system is now a special order only item, with no return possible at B&H Photo. While this lens has sold out every shipment at B&H Photo and Amazon, and rather quickly, for some reason it will n longer be stocked at B&H. You can special order it, wait a few weeks for it and it can NOT be returned. Odd.

Is this is strange but subtle sign that maybe the Nikon 1 system may indeed be going away silently and slowly. I do not know this for sure, but why Nikon or B&H would make this a special order lens with no returns is strange. The 32 1.2 is the best lens for the 1 system. 

What do you think it means for the Nikon 1 system? I checked Amazon and it says “ships in 2-4 weeks” which is about how long it would take to special order. Notice it has 11 reviews, all 5 star :)

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Sep 052013
 

Nikon pushing on with the 1 system? It seems so!

Nikon has announced the soon to be released the video and photo light for the Nikon 1 system (and some coolpix models), the LD-1000. It is available in black or white and can be pre-ordered at Amazon HERE. Looks like a cool little device that will screw into the bottom of the camera where the tripod mount is. The design is pretty slick if I do say so and these will be shipping at the end of October. The video capability of the V1 and V2 is quite good so having a light like this could be useful to those who want to light up the scene.

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I was hearing some inside info a couple of months back about a Nikon V3 and then shortly after the internet was all abuzz with rumors of the Nikon 1 demise due to the fact that the cameras did not do as well as Nikon expected. In the past three months Nikon has released the 32 1.2 lens and this video light not to mention the newer 6.7-13 Zoom lens. The 32 1.2 is constantly out of stock and every time Amazon or B&H restock it, they are gone within 3 days. I have been keeping my eye on these things as I am one who really hopes Nikon comes through with a kick ass V3 using the latest 1″ sensor tech (which is quite amazing). This will bring the 1 system and these new lenses and accessories to a new level IMO.

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The V1 and V2 cameras are already  kings in the usability world with speed, great color, metering and AWB. I love the V1 and own two of them. I can imagine that a V3 with the latest tech will be much better than the V1 and V2. But Nikon needs to release it and it is my feeling that they will. Hope so!

Sep 012013
 

David and Goliath – The Nikon V1 vs. the Nikon D600 – Wide Angle

by Steven Norquist

Hello Steve,

You always have such interesting comparisons of lenses on your forum that I thought I would do a little test for your readers. I have really enjoyed using my V1 with the 6.7-13mm lens. The pictures the V1 produces with this lens have perfect sharpness edge to edge and corner to corner, seemingly an infinite depth of field which is perfect for my style of photography which is architecture and landscape.

Also this lens/camera combo has excellent contrast balanced with nice dynamic range so highlights don’t blow out and shadows don’t lose detail.

But how good is this combo really?

I decided to find out.

I borrowed my friend’s Nikon D600 and rented the Nikon 16-35mm wide-angle lens. This lens is Nikon’s newest and best full frame wide-angle.

I decided to compare it directly to the V1 with 6.7-13mm lens.

The V1 with 6.7-13mm is a $800 setup.

The D600 with 16-35mm is a $3300 setup.

UPDATE: In every test, the top image is from the Nikon V1 and the bottom image is from the D600!

As you can see below the D600 is a beast with this lens on it.
The V1 looks like a little toy by comparison.

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The D600 with this lens is very, very heavy and I cannot even consider roving the country or the city with this thing for hours and doing the kinda of photography I do.

Just having the D600 and the V1 around my neck for the length of time it took to do these samples made my neck really hurt!

Here are the test parameters I used for this comparison:

  • Each photo was taken at the same time, hand held one right after the other.
  • Focus was automatic spot focus on the same exact target for each camera.
  • ISO used was the base of 100 for both cameras.
  • Exposure was Automatic Matrix metering.
  • No exposure compensation was used.
  • Focal length was 18mm and 35mm for the D600, and 6.7mm and 13mm for the V1.
  • This assured that the equivelnt focal lengths as far as composition area would be the same.
  • The D600 was shot at F11 and the V1 at F4. I tried to make the depth of field of both cameras as close as possible.
  • Everything was shot in raw and digital development and post processing (Adobe Raw and then Photoshop CS5) was the same process for both camera’s raw files.
  • Each image was then re-sized to 1200 pixels on the long side and layered into a single image for direct comparison on the web.

Here is the challenge for your readers: In each of the four tests, which camera is which???

Good luck!

For those readers that are interested, you can view my other V1 pics with the 6.7-13mm at this link.

TEST 1

Test 1

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TEST 2

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TEST 3

Test 3

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TEST 4

Test 4

 

Aug 272013
 

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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.

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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

Aug 232013
 

The Panasonic 20 1.7 II Lens on the Olympus E-P5

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Hello to everyone out there in camera land! Today I am talking a little bit about a new version of a legendary lens and one that helped to propel Micro 4/3 to huge sales back when it was launched almost four years ago. The lens that when attached to an old E-P2 beat out a Nikon D3s with Nikon 50 1.8 in all areas back in Jan of 2010 right here on this very blog. Yes, I am talking about THAT lens, the Panasonic 20 1.7 but in its new updated version, which is called “VII”. This will be a shorter than normal post/review as this lens is basically the same exact lens as the version I that I have written so much about with a few tweaks. If you missed the original reviews you can see them at the links below:

When this lens was announced many of us thought “YES! Finally an improved version of the 20 1.7, but HOW can Panasonic improve on what is already a killer lens”? At least that is what I asked myself because I am a huge fan of the original, even though it has been beaten out in IQ from the newer and larger Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4. But for size and cost, the 20 1.7 and now 20 1.7 II is a force to be reckoned with and I know MANY who use this as their one and only lens for their Micro 4/3 camera. Yea, it is that good. So the question is..if you already own the original, is this one worth upgrading to? Well, read on and find out what I think about that :)

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So what is really new with the lens?

The lens is small, looks great, has a metal barrel and mount and gives you a 40mm equivalent on Micro 4/3. The older version, which is still a capable and amazing lens, did NOT have a metal barrel, it was made of plastic. So right off the bat, this guy is made of metal even though it is still feather light and feels like plastic. The lens looks slicker and nicer. I always found the original a little on the ugly side with the grey and black so in all black it looks great. So far, a metal barrel is all that is new. But there HAS to be something else…right?

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According to Panasonic, the only other change is that it supposedly has an improvement in the FLARE department but I found that claim to be off. My old 20 1.7 flared every now and again and I have seen flare in the new one within the 1st 5 shots I snapped. Is this just a fluke, shooting into the sunlight and seeing flare? Well, maybe but the Oly 17 1.8 does not do what this lens does with flare (in my experience/real use). So the 20 1.7 II lens still can exhibit flare. In regards to flare, I feel the Olympus 17 1.8 does better. Then again, if you are shooting on a Panasonic body I 100% recommend this lens over the Olympus.

The Flare is There! But the contrast, sharpness and color are rocking it wide open!

As always, click on ANY image to see the correct and larger version!

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CONTRAST BABY!

Panasonic has also stated that this lens will give a better contrast to your images, and I believe it. The results are crisp, have great color and look very good in the contrast department. That 20 1.7 look is there :)

Tasty color and contrast wide open. At 1.7 this lens beats the Olympus 17 1.8

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Auto Focus

This has NOT been improved so the AF is still on the slower side for Micro 4/3 but guess what? It runs circles around the Fuji X-M1 and Zeiss 32 Touit I have here for AF – both speed and accuracy :) But do not expect any improvement in auto focus speed over the old version. With that said, I never had an AF miss or issue. It locked on without fail in all situations. I shot it on an E-P5 the entire time. (which is a camera that has grown on me quite a bit..that EVF-4 is amazing).

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This will equal a 40mm field of view with light gathering of a 1.7 Aperture lens. Sweet!

Yep, a 40mm field of view, which to be honest is a little oddball when you hear it but when you shoot, it feels natural. It’s in between the 35 and 50mm focal lengths and to me, this is a great in between to have. Just enough reach to get some nice shallow DOF and still wide enough to get quite a but in your frame.

A fast 1.7 aperture is why this 20mm lens is one of the original legendary choices for ANY Micro 4/3 system camera. You can use it in low light, bright light or any light. It is easy to hand hold and on the Olympus OMD or E-P5 the 5-Axis IS is INCREDIBLE with this lens. Superb!

Also, FYI,  I have been shooting it alongside the Olympus 17 1.8 and to be honest, this lens is giving me the better looking images even though I see more CA and flare with it over the Oly. With the 20 I am getting crisper results, as in “sharper” and cleaner with better contrast. The Oly is just a tad soft wide open and while I prefer the design of the Oly with the snap manual focus feature, for size, cost and IQ, this one is tough to beat. Also, the AF of the Olympus is faster.

You can read my Olympus 17 1.8 lens review HERE

Wide open at 1.7 but converted with VSCO to B&W using the AGFA SCALA 200 preset

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So should I upgrade if I own the old one… and is Micro 4/3 the real deal?

Well, I would not do it because by the time you sell your original and pay for the new one you will be out about $200. Not worth it for a metal barrel and a contrast boost. But, if you LOVE the new slick look and want that extra bite to your images with the lens, then go for it. The truth is simple: Micro 4/3 is fantastic and those who call it rubbish, or no good, or a toy system or anything other than what it is are fooling only themselves. At the end of the day Micro 4/3, and especially cameras like the E-P5, OM-D and whatever is coming up from Panasonic and Olympus, are fantastic image taking machines. Some of my favorite images of the past 4 years were taken with an OM-D or Nikon V1, two systems many scoff at and call “garbage”.

This one was shot at f/2 where the lens gets really sharp while giving a nice smooth Bokeh – rich with plenty of depth.

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Micro 4/3 vs the APS-C or Full Frame

Last week I made a post in my Facebook page for this website (you can see it or like it here) and I said that I was enjoying the new Fuji X-M1 more than the X-E1 or X-Pro 1 due to its tiny size and cool swivel screen. It is the size of an X20 but has a huge APS-C sensor inside, pretty incredible. At the same time I wondered if “that was enough” from Fuji due to the competition as the X-M1 is $700 for a pretty tiny and basic body that feels almost too light and airy (feels “cheap”..sorry, but my true opinion) and when the large Fuji X lenses are on the body it feels unbalanced. Someone replied “what competition, and I do not consider Micro 4/3 competition”. All I can say to that is in my experience, and that experience is pretty vast, I much prefer a camera like the OM-D, E-P5 or even my V1 and 18.5 and 32 1.2 to any of the Fuji X bodies. I even did a slew of personal comparisons, WANTING to enjoy the X-M1 more than these other cameras but it did not even come close. Not because of image quality, which can be gorgeous from the Fuji X..but in all areas that I look at when evaluating a camera.

To the naysayers of Micro 4/3 – this format is here to stay and the reason is simple. This system has the best lenses, and makes the least compromises while delivering stellar IQ and capabilities. Micro 4/3 today is miles better than it was 4 years ago and it gets better every year. Today, the files I get from an Olympus E-P5 and a lens like the 20 1.7 or 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 or 12 f/2 are as good as anyone needs. I know many pros shooting Micro 4/3, some of who dumped their large full frame DSLR’s to do so. Are they happy? YES, of course. The only thing a full frame camera will do over a Micro 4/3 camera is give a more shallow DOF, a richer file and better extreme high ISO performance (12k, 25k)  - in other words, ISO’s no one ever uses in reality.

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Full Frame cameras like the Sony RX1R, Leica M and Nikon D800 are superior to the Micro 4/3 format, of course. But you also lose out on things like weight, size, cost, speed while gaining an adavantage in low light and shallow DOF. These days, cameras like the OM-D or E-P5 deliver superb performance and anyone who has researched this will agree, because they have to, the proof is there.

If you want the “best” and have a healthy budget – buy a full frame camera and be done with it (Leica M or RX1R). They can be BEAUTIFUL and usually are but they will cost you. They are superior in the IQ abilities, hands down. But if you want a slight compromise and want to save some money and do not need all of that insane power, this format is, IMO, the best there is in the mirrorless world. Yes, I prefer it to APS-C systems for three reasons. The three S’s.

  1. Size
  2. Speed
  3. (Lens) Selection

Micro 4/3 is smaller, faster, and has superior lenses and many more of them to choose from than any other mirrorless system.

The E-P5 and 20 1.7II next to the Fuji X-M1 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 I much prefer the Olympus/Panasonic setup that comes in at a few hundred less than the Fuji combo pictured.

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For me, it takes four things for a camera to stick to me..to motivate me and to make me WANT to go out and shoot at the crack of dawn.

  1. It must be made nice/built well with good control and it must feel good in my hand. Solid, giving me confidence in its ability. Not too large nor too small. 
  2. It must have fantastic usability. Accurate AF matters more than speed and it has to be able to be controlled easily. Issue free while out in the field in all areas.
  3. Image quality has to be good. I am not talking about “Bokeh” – but image quality in general. 
  4. Lens selection and quality has to be there. This is most important.

If I get all four of these things in a camera body then I am thrilled. Cameras that do this for me? Olympus OM-D E-M5, Olympus E-P5, Fuji X100s, Nikon V1 or V2, Sony NEX and Leica M series. Cameras that fail this test for me? Leica X-Vario, Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-E1, X-M1, Samsung NX300, and a few others. But this is ME, my opinions for how I like to shoot. Also, those cameras on the “did not do it for me list” were all amazing in IQ but failed me in other areas such as usability, design, AF, or something similar.

The 20 1.7II at 1.7

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As for Fuji, the images from the Fuji give me different color and slightly more shallow DOF but I can achieve images that are just as nice, or powerful with a Micro 4/3 camera or even Nikon 1 camera. Same goes for my Sony or Leica cameras. The moral of the story is that ALL cameras are fantastic these days and I use and recommend what I enjoy using. Micro 4/3 has come a long way since the early days of the E-P1 and GF1 and the Fuji X system cam provide jaw dropping results.

But Micro 4/3..In the mirrorless world they have the fastest focus, the best image stabilisation, the best prime lenses available, the best made/built bodies, superb usability, fantastic viewfinders and astonishing versatility. I am mainly talking about the Olympus E-P5 and OM-D series due to what they offer. 

So Micro 4/3 is here and here to stay. They do not need, nor will they ever have larger sensors. If that were the case, it would no longer be micro 4/3. The newest bodies supply the tools needed for amazing output and if the photographer is up to the task, can squeeze out special images just as easily as one can using a full frame camera.

I have used and tested them all my friends and Micro 4/3 is no joke. 

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Pros and Cons of the new 20 1.7 II Lens

Pros

  • It is small and flat, a pancake lens
  • It is sharp even wide open with great contrast and color
  • Looks great in the all new slick black or silver colors
  • Metal Barrel
  • Works great on Olympus or Panasonic bodies!

Cons

  • Same IQ and AF speed of the original
  • Can flare in some circumstances
  • Does exhibit CA wide open in some situations
  • No real improvement over the old version

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THREE SHOTS

Three shots, one with the E-P5,  and 20 1.7 II ($1450 combo), one with the Nikon V1 and 18.5 1.8 ($430 combo) and one with the Fuji X-M1 and 32 1.8 Zeiss ($1600 combo). It is easy squeezy to spot the Fuji as it does have that signature Fuji color and a more shallow DOF and a biting sharpness. With that said, of all three cameras I enjoy shooting the E-P5 the most with the V1 just behind it. TheHad a frustrating day with it today and out of 12 shots taken of the cows with the Fuji, 7 were in focus. The E-P5 and Nikon had zero missed AF shots. The images below are all looking good IMO and my fave came from the Nikon 1 and 18.5. :)

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With that rant out of the way, this new Panasonic 20 1.7 II is a joy to use and gives stupendous output and should do very well on the new Panasonic GX7 or any of the Micro 4/3 bodies available today.

WHERE TO BUY?

If you own a Micro 4/3 camera and DO NOT own this lens or the Panasonic 25 1.4, I HIGHLY recommend this lens, without a shred of doubt! It sells for $429 and can be purchased at the links below from my recommended shops:

Buy the 20 1.7 II in black at Amazon or B&H Photo

Buy the 20 1.7 II in Silver at Amazon of B&H Photo

You can buy the Olympus E-P5 at PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or Amazon

 

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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! 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 +

Aug 192013
 

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Grassfire with the Nikon V1

By Sue Wotton

On Thursday 15th August, a grassfire started near homes at Maryland, NSW, Australia. I had not intended to do much that afternoon but when I wandered out the front of my house and saw massive clouds of billowing black and brown smoke, I knew there would be a photo-op there. It was also an ideal opportunity to put my newly acquired Nikon 1 V1 camera to work. I had bought a J1 with a 10mm f/2.8 and a 10-30mm a month ago, and the V1 twin kit (10-30 and 30-110) just a week ago. Yes, the J1 impressed me that much!

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Knowing I would not be able to get very close to the action, I decided to use the V1 plus 30-110. The V1 has a most excellent viewfinder, for those bright sunny days… which describes Thursday, perfectly. The extra reach as well, was something which would be needed and I did not wish to be switching lenses about, in a fire zone. I also took the J1 with the 10-30, but ended up not using it at all. Because the fire was so close to houses and the walking track, there were various Fire officers and Police present to make sure people did not get too close, and place themselves in harm’s way, and the entire street was blocked off, but as luck would have it, the burn was happening just off a huge grassy area which is usually frequented by dog walkers and others…

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By the time I arrived, my favourite tree was already under threat. Smoke was billowing around its base and it wasn’t long before the flames reached it. I was expecting to see flames running up the tree and into the canopy, but the fire burned so fast, it had passed the tree before being able to damage it. The grass was a different matter. It burned bright, and hot. Even green grass was going up in flames, and small rodents were hopping and running to escape as their habitat disappeared. I think more than one house in the near vicinity would have had new residents that night. There were birds of prey, wheeling in and out of the flames, hunting small animals trying to escape.

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Someone commented to me later, on seeing the photos, that it was almost apocalyptic… and it certainly looked that way at the time…

The firemen worked hard and hot all day, fire trucks came from other locations, at one point there were about 5 present, as well as two helicopters which were waterbombing the more difficult to reach spot fires. I think the local backyard pools would have needed a refill by the following day!

The little Nikon performed beautifully under these circumstances. With the changing of the wind and the need for fast shooting, the V1 was amazing. I mostly shoot manual with my K-5 and other cameras, so I naturally chose manual for the V1. It is so easy to switch settings *fast* that I had no need to use any auto mode. I used both the LCD screen and the EVF (EVF most of the time) and found both very easy. The LCD screen benefited later in the day with less direct sun, but at 921k dots, it’s fairly good even in sunlight. The EVF at 1.44k dots is bright and beautiful and it kept me on track for my photographs for the day.

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I honestly could not fault the performance of the camera, nor the results which I saw later after upload to the computer. I found that I had the zoom at full most of the time, and this was a good thing, being as how the action was quite a distance away. I am completely won over by the Nikon 1 system… and am happy to have a 10MP camera instead of a honking great monster. Its light (relatively speaking), easy to use, quick to respond and fast to shoot… dare I say it in mixed company? *whispers*… even better than my Pentax K-5. What more could one want?

As a followup: 80 hectares were burned out, and officials are still looking at whether the fire was deliberately lit.

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Enjoy the photographs, I sure enjoyed taking them :)

Please visit my Flickr pages for more: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyte50/

And my blog for all kinds of rambling :): http://www.hamarana.net

Aug 132013
 

Back from the 4800 mile road trip! Back to normal post schedule!

I’m back, and as a matter of fact, I have been back 10 minutes! As some of you may have read a few days ago I was on a 12 day road trip with my son Brandon and we put 4,800 miles on my car in those 12 days. We drove from AZ to Illinois to Kentucky and into the Mountains to visit family and then back again. Was a great trip. On the way back we drove some of old Route 66, which is always fun to do. The site will be back to normal posting schedule as of today and I am expecting some new Sony news any day now :) Stay tuned!

I will also be posting some cool stuff a little later today so check back!

Just a few snapshot pics I snapped over the past 3 days, as always click them for larger and clearer versions!

1st up, some Sony RX1R shots – My Review HERE

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and a couple of RX100II shots – RX100II is available HERE

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And some Nikon V1 images:

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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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