Nikon V1 in Vietnam Part 3 – Final Thoughts by Colin Steel

Nikon V1 in Vietnam Part 3 – Final Thoughts

by Colin Steel (see his blog HERE)

Hey fellow photo travelers, welcome to the third and final installment on my Nikon V1 minimalist kit travels in Vietnam. Regular readers will recall that I went to Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam with a lightweight camera kit and processed most of the images in Nik softwares Snapseed app for the Ipad. I had a number of requests to see what the shots look like if processed from the RAW files so I have done that here where I also want to make some final comments on the V1 system.

Nikon V1 High ISO

Here are a couple of shots that I took of some old women on the Thu Bon river in Hoi An. These are shot at ISO 3200 and to be honest they pushed the V1 out of its comfort zone however to its credit it focused fine in the low light and with a healthy dose of noise reduction in Lightroom I have a few usable shots as long as they are not blown up too big.

There is some light on the women in this shot that came from an LED lamp that some Chinese tourists had brought along and I benefited from their thoughtfulness. This is also where prime lenses come into it for me. Although not particularly fast at F 2.8 the 10mm V1 prime at 27 mm equivalent was much easier to use in the low light and by using the V1’s ability to fire rapid bursts you can generally get a decent shot. I often get asked why I mostly use prime lenses whether it be on my Nikon or M43 gear and this is one of the main reasons. It is much easier to use primes in low light, especially if they are a bit wider and I favor the 24 mm and 35 mm focal lengths for exactly this circumstance, they are usually much faster than zooms and with decent camera craft can be used at very low shutter speeds without blur. Try it and see, its amazing how quickly you will adapt to the lack of zoom.

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Here’s a final low light High ISO prime lens shot to emphasize the point. I also used a flaw in camera metering systems to enhance the photo. The room was much darker than it looks here and as a result the meter overexposed it, wrongly calculating the light level by averaging. I suspected that this would happen but when I reviewed the file it had opened up the shadows and I thought the shot looked better this way. Downside of this was that there was a fair bit of noise that had to be smoothed away but I have to say that somehow I think that enhanced the shot even further and gave it a creamy smooth look that, although far from accurate, was somehow more pleasing to the eye.

V1 RAW Files

While we are on the subject of low light and primes I wanted to revisit a shot that I took at Khai Dinh’s tomb in Hue. I found the following version which is slightly different from the one used in the previous post and I processed it in Lightroom. Personally, I much prefer this version. I like the composition more and the contrast is really nice.


While we are on a roll, here are two more slightly different versions of shots used before and again, although I am a big fan of Snapseed, I have to say I like the color and contrast better.


I think it goes without saying that invariably better results are achievable by shooting RAW and editing in a good processing tool.

Editing V1 RAW files are not without their issues and I did find myself putting more time into it than normal and that’s not good, I get bored very quickly when editing photos. It’s as if the files are a little ‘flimsy’ and I found myself having to stretch the files to get the full dynamic range and adding more contrast than normal which is not ideal as this increases the susceptibility to noise and as a consequence I had to put a healthy dose of noise reduction into many of the shots. Having said that, I still like the results and its worth that bit of effort.

Black & White

What I did find worked very well for my taste was B&W and High key conversion where I got a very nice contrast as below.


It also suits the flat lighting that can be a feature of the coastal areas in Vietnam. I really like the simplicity of these two shots and it also made for easier and faster editing which has to be a good thing, right ???

Here are another couple from the same trip on the Thu Bon estuary. This was one of the trip highlights for me with the nets and fishermen, just make sure you go very early for the best light.

The parting shot on the Thu Bon, maybe not the best composition but I really liked the three nets and the simplicity that can be achieved by reducing the complexity of the shot and using contrast.

The Markets

To continue the theme of the post here are the Lightroom RAW edits from the fascinating street markets in Hue and Hoi An.


As a general observation, I found the people of Hoi An to be more receptive to being photographed and this is where the V1 becomes such a valuable travel tool. Fix the 10mm prime on and you have a very discreet and non-threatening combo which, when coupled with the little Nikon’s extremely fast focusing, makes for a deadly street shooter.

Markets in Asia never fail to amaze me for the range of foodstuffs and goods that can be bought. I found myself flipping between the excellent viewfinder and very usable rear screen for framing giving me the option of low-level shots when required. This can be a valuable way of removing the often ruinous, messy backgrounds that plague market shooting and with the V1 not having any great DoF control I found myself shooting low down quite frequently. I would advise using your thumb to release the shutter when using the rear screen and a surprisingly stable hold is possible using this technique.

It’s also a great way to get under the eye level of the conical hats worn by the Vietnamese villagers. Having said that, don’t be afraid to go high either as this again takes the background issue away and the round hats often complement the circular bowls, dishes and baskets.

Here’s a couple of final shots from the delightful and fascinating Hoi An market.

Note the sluggish shutter speed in these shots, I think its good to try to ‘liven’ your market shots with that little hint of movement whenever possible. It’s always nice to get some sense of motion as these are active and vibrant marketplaces and this simple effect brings that little extra to the shots. Just be careful that the overall sharpness of the subject is not lost.


and of course, always keep an eye out for the unusual..


The People

Something I notice in my travels is that photographers often tend to take shots of places and things, often without a person placed meaningfully in the frame. When I look back at my early images I also notice this in my own work and I think it’s a combination of lack of experience and confidence. Very few travel photographs work well without a subject that can be related to in the environment and context of the place you are visiting.

I would strongly urge that you watch for people who you can place in context or simply ask someone who looks right for the shot to pose for you. This is vitally important, once they agree – don’t rush the shot. wait until they look natural, show them the photos and explain what you want, keep a sense of humor in it and you will be surprised how helpful people will be.

Alternatively, wait your moment and try to catch people when they are in a natural state and not paying attention to a camera. I said it before and I will say it again, this is where small, fast cams like the V1 excel, they are somehow less intrusive to people and will definitely attract less attention when you are shooting discretely.

I think this approach also works well where you find people in a work environment, its worth just waiting around until they get used to you and trying to capture something intrinsic in what they do.


I know this advice borders on being patronizing but I so often see photographers not thinking enough about where they are and how to show the local people in some interesting way.


Nikon V1 – The Final Thoughts

First up, I had great fun with the V1. It’s light, tough and simple to use. Sure, some of the criticisms laid at its door are true, it lacks fast lenses and the RAW files are not as good as other systems (think M43 or NEX) but the available lenses are very sharp and well stabilized (except the prime which has no stabilization) and the files are more than usable for most purposes. In the context which I have reviewed it as a travel cam, I have to say that it has been a great little companion. It’s size and flexibility have been an absolute boon, its battery life superb and its flexibility in use perfect for most of the environments I took it to. I am sure that when the faster primes arrive Nikon will have an unbeatable little travel system on its hands although, given the way they have marketed it, I am sure that’s more accidental than intended. Have a look at Gary Perlmutter’s shots from Venice that Steve posted if you are in any doubt as to what can be achieved with good subject matter.

Well that’s it for the V1 in Vietnam folks, I am in the process of finalizing a trip to Tibet in June and can hardly wait. I hope you guys found something useful in here and happy and safe traveling to you all.




  1. Extremely interesting stuff! I’ve been living in Vietnam for a couple of years now, and the photo opportunities are always there, but even so, capturing them isn’t always easy. Great job on what you’ve done here!

  2. Hi Colin,
    thanks for this nice fotostory. After I read your blog I decided to buy this nice V1 (maybe you can get some money from Nikon for that ;-)). I mostly use my gear for taking fotos when I´m travelling, but always hated to carry a lot of stuff with me and for that the V1 is the perfect camera for me, its a good compromise between stuff to carry and IQ, altough you have to get used to the handling of the camera when you use it first. I would really loved to have this camera already when I was travelling in Lao and Cambodia, because you will not attract so much attention when shooting for example in the lovely markets, you can do it more discrete and the people behave more natural. I really waiting for your fotostory about Tibet. Do you already know what camera(s) you are taking with you?


  3. Still enjoying using my wife’s V1. So much so that I am seriously thinking of trading in my D200 17-55 for one. Perhaps when a couple of fast primes are available..

    the more I read about this camera the more I think Nikon have reduced something really great. whilst the rest of the world is going after mega pixels etc they have taken a different path and come up with something quiet different to everything else on the market.

  4. Nice set of photos and nice article. I was born there and left Vietnam in 1975 after the war and have never had the opportunity to return. I appreciate seeing great images of my country. Thank you. BTW you mis spelled ” Vitenam” on your cover photo.

  5. Thanks Colin for this series of well written articles of your travel with the V1 and your very good travel pictures.

    I’ll recommend people to visit your travel blog and see your larger versions of the photos (still downsized though). They are much better and definitely not soft at all Unfortunately the EXIF data is removed from the pictures, otherwise people could see the crazy slow shutter speeds possible with the V1 camera in some of your pictures.

    • Thanks Ole, I am really glad the articles connected with you. I have to agree about the quality issue, to my eyes the shots look totaly different on the blog site. You are also right about the shutter speeds, its possible to go crazy low and shoot bursts to get a few sharp shots.

      Thanks again,


  6. Thank you Colin. I like the improvement in the processing. The pictures are very good, as always!

    I’ll take both my V1 and M9 clobber with me next week to Cambodia and see who gets more playtime.

    • Thanks Jon,

      My moneys on the M9 for Cambodia 🙂 If its Siem Reap, then apart from Tonle Sap lake, most of the photography will suit your wider lenses and I also think that to be that bit different on the cliche shots the DoF you would get would be useful. I love Cambodia and would like to see some of your shots when you get back, could you please e-mail me or better still ask Steve to post on here?



  7. many very nice pics
    A few seem to be alittle out of focus. I wander is your foucus automatic?
    Maybe i am wrong but i would love Steve to comment on this issu

    • As above Dan, could you have a look at the original blog post and let us know if you still think the same?

      Also, its weird that many people comment on lack of DoF with the V1 and thats true but bear in mind that it is there on one or two of the shots; the giant marble head and the tailor are two that spring to mind where the focus was on the face and the magazine poster on the table as opposed to the people who blur slightly. This was fully intentional and I have to say that I find the lenses and sensor to be quite ‘crisp’ so was a bit surprised to read your comment.

      The other thing I suppose is that the first three shots are shot at very High ISO (for this and most small cams) and I had to pour on the noise reduction in Lightroom.

      As you say, interested in any view that Steve has…



      • Which means the V1 is not worth the trouble of needing PP on one’s travel pics.

        Upon my return from vacation I have too many things to do and caatch up with.
        I have no time to try to correct the deficiencies of a camera with PP.

        • Interesting logic, I, like you, have a very strong dislike of spending time in PP, its just no fun 🙂 I have to say though that I have never travelled and not had to spend some time in PP (even sorting through the load of files) and the V1 took no longer than the D3 for example, the point I tried (probably poorly) to make is that the V1 files I found to be ‘flimsy’ and therefore needed stronger PP not necessarily more time.

          The return from vacation is always a terrible time, the mail backlog etc but lets face it the process doesn’t end until you have the shots the way you want them to look and we all spend more time on some shots regardless of the camera used. That for me is part of the purpose of travel photography, its not a function of the time taken but more a question of how much you value the end to end process.

          I don’t want this to come over as too heavy and I am genuinely interested to hear your views on how to short circuit the process as, like I said, it depresses me to spend time on the computer after a trip and I simply hate the editing process.



          • First, Thank you for a real dialouge.

            I recently posted elswhere on the web that the minute Nikon offers a ‘V1’, either by firmware or a new ‘V2’, that has the same items on my D7000’s Retouch Menu, that I will immediately run out and by the camera and all ‘1’ system nikon glass that is available. Mainly for the video stills that I can grab while shooting video.

            As a photojournalist, I currently do most of my PP in camera, which avoids the PC and enables me to upload my images promptly.

            If I had such a V1, it would be a no-brainer to take it on vacation.

            Doing the same at slow moments while on vacation would be very useful.

            No, I don’t bring my D7000 and DX stuff, nor my D700 and FX stuff on vacation.

            I use my Samsung TL500 and rarely need PP other than cropping or leveling.

            I am waiting for V1 in camera processing.

            Thank you.

          • Got it, the V1 is clearly not the best choice if you do in camera PP. Having said that, I quite liked the ‘vivid’ look on the jpg’s and not sure you would want to do too much to them if they are exposed correctly. I also think that the V1 has a certain attraction for photojournalism with its lightening focusing and high burst rates and discreet looks, never tried it for that kind of work but might give it a go. Looks like you are happy with what you have though and that’s no bad thing 🙂

            Thanks again though for commenting and chatting,



  8. Any of the Olympus/Panasonic M43 cameras offer superior IQ, especially with the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 prime lens.

    No matter how you sugarcoat it, the V1 is NOT that great, especially for the price.

    • Hi Darren,

      I agree about the about the M43 comment (see this post I did last night ) but there is not so much in it as you would think.

      IQ is not the out and out issue for me though (otherwise I would be packing a D3X or 5D Mk2 or something) and I just think that as a package the Nikon V1 works great as a small robust travel kit. I also dont get the price thing, I bought it as a two lens kit for around Sing$1100 which I thought compared pretty well to the M43 offerings at least in Asia. Prices may of course be different elsewhere.

      I also kind of like trying what for me was a radicaly different type of camera and it did make me shoot a little differently and its a very enjoyable camera to use. I have almost never used a long zoom before and I got what I think were some nice shots that I wouldn’t have got with my usual widish prime kit.

      Could I also urge viewers to have a look at the original blog post? To my eyes the quality is much better and the shots can also be viewed larger.

      Thanks for some good debate though guys, did you sell your V1 Darren? I would imagine there is a decent market for used given its still new. Have you tried the Panasonic 14mm? I am thinking of buying one now that I have a renewed interest in the GF1 🙂



      • Hey Colin,

        As you’ve mentioned, it is a bit of a compromise trying to get the best IQ from a reasonably priced and sized kit.

        I’ve had great experience traveling with a Panny GF-1/20mm combo for wide-angle shots and a K5 with a 2,8/35mm and 1.8/85mm or a 1,4/50mm and 2,8/100mm vintage manual-lens kit. Together, I have more opportunities to create the shot I want, and not miss any important ones. I prefer the manual primes for the character, colors and depth they lend to the images. They’re also more compact and command less attention from potential thieves.

        You have such wonderful shots, I look forward to your travel review of the OM-D, X-Pro1 or GX-1!


    • Hey Alessandro, Steve puts these captions on, not me. I guess he wanted it to sound healthier 🙂

      Thanks for looking anyway,



  9. Sorry, but your images all appear to have a soft mask covering them.

    The landscapes and street scenes have too much detail for the V1 sensor.

    My Samsung TL500 provides better OOC Jpegs of smiliar scenes that are crisp and clear.
    I also have a Raw option, which I always shoot but rarely need to convert when a Jpeg could use a better processing workflow.

    For close-up people pics the V1 seems great. Not for landscapes ands wide street scenes.

  10. Another well written article Colin and some superb images, really like the market people ones. It really is a great little camera the V1, I am getting some getting street images thanks to its faultless AF. Would love Nikon to bring out a fast 35mm equivalent prime with say at least an f2 aperture, what a cracking combo that would be!

    • Spot on Gary, its a real shame there is no 35mm decently fast prime. I think you will agree that it would be a street shooter par excellence given the AF as you say.

      Thanks for commenting, the feedback is really valued, Colin

  11. Colin…really great stuff….!! Enjoyed your photos and your article(s)…You will frickin’ love Tibet….I was there before the railroad was built, and it still ranks as one of my top trips ever!! Keep up the great work!!

  12. Colin, your three part write up was masterful!!! Great reading and awesome photos. I enjoyed them very very very much. I feel like I know Vietnam a little bit better. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey, thanks so much, I am really glad that some insight into the country came through. Thanks for taking the time to look and comment.



  13. The photos are good. But the camera seems to be the limiting factor here. I see a lot of harsh/blown highlights, kinda disturbing.

  14. I rather like these photos. The little Nikon V1 seems to be a great little travel camera. I just started using the Nikon P7000 during travel and get pretty good results (especially with post processing).

  15. I especially like the third photo with the lady sitting alone in the restaurant, it is very atmospheric, reminds me a bit of Edward Hooper’s Nighthawks.

    Other photos are really good as well, people who obsessively use very shallow depth of field and blur everything could learn a thing or two about the story telling from your work

    • Thanks Mika, I know a little bit about Hooper but more the sailing type shots, I must have a look at this, thanks for commenting.


  16. It’s the photographer, its got to be the photographer 🙂 A take on the old Mars Blackman ads for the AIR JORDANS. (showing my age)

    nice photographs.

    • Thanks John, really appreciate you saying that. Can you point me to the ad you mentioned, I would be interested to see it and, as a Scotsman not too familiar with AIR JORDANS 🙂

      Thanks again,


  17. Nice pictures in these 3 articles but I really cant see a difference to pictures I shot with my Canon s90 in Dubai for example. Small sensor, not to bright apertures, high iso not too nice.
    The only thing in favor for the Nikon is the EVF and the faster AF, I guess ?
    Not my type of camera but to each his own 🙂

    • Hi, I too have an S90 and I loved it. You are right though, there is an enourmous handling difference between the cameras and the longer zoom in a very small form factor was why I bought it in the first place for a trip to Myanmar.



    • I have to agree. Fantastic composition and some great travel shots, but the IQ doesn’t seem any better than my S95.

      Although I do agree the Nikon’s handling is better than the tiny S95.

      • I can assure you that the N1 IQ is better than the s95 and by a large margin. I own both J1 and s95. The s95 is very good but not that good 🙂

      • make some larger prints and you will see the difference. I use a G7 and make very nice 11×14 prints (at low ISO). I’d take the V1 if I had to choose…

        thanks for reading


        Greg Hall

  18. After seeing your first shots from Vietnam, I bought a V1 for my wife, but she has since then ordered an OM-D, so now it is mine, and I just love it! It will most surely be the one I will use for years to come, while I’m not so sure about the DSLRs!

    Often I bring my NEX-5N, with the Zeiss 1.8/24, and the Nikon V1 with the 30-110, and sometimes also a Pentax K-5 with a Tamron 10-24 (neither the V1 or the 5N has any really decent wides). That way I have all bases covered, but the really long. Hopefully Nikon will produce a faster lens, with a 30-300 range.

    That would be just perfect, but until that happens I have to make do with my Sigma 150-500

    • Thanks Tord, that’s some great kit you have 🙂 I am glad you liked the V1, it has limitations for sure but its a great little go anywhere camera.



  19. Seriously impressive. Amazing colors and beautiful, sentimental, approachable shots. Did you have to tweak the saturation at all?

    Again, really loved the shots and never once thought “hmmmm, great shot, but with just a bit of DOF…”

    • Hi Nick, thanks for this. Yes, I meant to say that when I was talking about the RAW file processing, I did increase saturation a bit using the Lightroom ‘vibrance’ control which is a little less agressive than the saturation slider. As you will well know though, all of these changes introduce trade offs and that’s where I think you need to be a bit carefull with the V1 RAW files and not push them to much.



  20. A fantastic set of images, and great thoughts. I have been reading each of your articles, and have come away quite impressed. Thanks for the detailed travel experience with this camera!

  21. “When I look back at my early images I also notice this in my own work and I think it’s a combination of lack of experience and confidence. Very few travel photographs work well without a subject that can be related to in the environment and context of the place you are visiting.”

    I think that is a personal preference thing not related to experience or whatever. Personally, I like a scenic/landscape type photo without any subject in the frame taking away from the scene unless they are actually part of the picture such as in a busy market etc. Depends entirely on what you are wanting to take away from the image IMHO.

    • Sounds like a nice little compact travel cam by the way. Nice photos. I’d prefer one that could get some shallow DOF shots but then the size gets bigger!

      • Not true! Try de Sigma DP series. I have a Sigma DP2x and the DOF is very very shallow, it’s like a reflex because it has APS-C sensor! And even better because it’s a a aps-c FOVEON sensor.
        Sereiously, think about the Sigma. The big flaw is the autofocus though.

        • i second the recommendation for the dp2 (or dp1 for wide shooters); there is no better quality pocket camera out there, period. i think i tried them all (or almost).

          if you what you want in a camera is light speed focus, shooting in darkness, mega video, loads of special effects and gizmos, do not even consider it.

          however, if your priority is image quality, it is well worth considering.

    • Hi Doc, you are right, its a bit of personal preferance.

      I came to photography late in life and was initially inspired by the travel work of people like Steve McCurry and then evolved to looking at the magnificent work of the Magnum photographers and I noticed that almost all of their shots had some interesting aspect on people in the context and that’s what promted the comment.

      I do agree with you that you may want to show the landscape and I did that a bit more in the Myanmar post at Bagan, U-Bein and the Pagodas but I still personaly prefer the shots that have some human element. Just preference as you say.

      Thanks again for looking,


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