Surf, Beach and Bikinis at 810mm with Nikon V1 by Joe Marquez

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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  1. Very impressive photos of 300mm on the V1 camera. I was about to buy this long lens when I was also impressed by the 32mm f/1.2 lens so I ordered the 32 mm. I still have my Nikon 70-200 mm ED F/2.8 lens to play with and will be waiting for the 1 Nikkor 300 mm zoom lens. It will bee smaller of course. It will be release sooner or later. So it is worth waiting and meanwhile I can play with the 1 Nikkor 32mm f 1.2 lens. The 32mm F1.2 is a great lens and I love it very much. Thanks for sharing too.

    On the other hand I may buy this FX 300 lens later as I can have a chance to use it on my SLR outfits.

  2. Joe, I forgot to ask, but I find when I use Nikkor lenses with the FT1 I get a lot of CA appearing in the photos. I guess with the pixel pitch equivalent of the V1 being so much greater than even the D800 it would be noticeable. I use Lightroom to correct but I wondered if other people see the same thing and what they use to correct it? I would imagine there would be some in the shots above perhaps due to the contrasts??

  3. Great shots and colors. Photos very sharp.
    Those surfers are crazy.
    Shoveled snow for five hours yesterday in -10 windchill so the girls are appreciated as well.

  4. Joe…lovely work…my V1 goes with me almost everywhere…it is a very misunderstood camera…I have used it to shoot rugby…but I love it with the 10mm for street photography…if people paid attention to your work…they would gobble this camera up….I have sold off my DSLR cameras and now only carry an E-M1 and the V1 …and my work has never been better…needed to go lighter for personal reasons……I think I have seen some of your work elsewhere…can’t recall but I am a big fan

  5. Really great stuff again Joe. I love my V1 but have little opportunity to shoot surfer dudes!

    I started a small Facebook group for V1 fans and have pasted this link over there I’m sure some are already followers of Steve’s blog but there are some new ownerscar there who would be interested.

  6. Great pics and great to see some sunshine and warmth! Not that it’s important, but sensors don’t have DoF; lenses do.

  7. If you are noting the effective focal length it is also worth noting the effective aperture. It does not equal f4

  8. Wonderful, warm, rich and gritty shots. Pure V1 magic Joe.

    People keep underestimating this camera but really it is one of the best cameras to come out in some time.
    It is so “photographic” it has such a personality and it does everything right with no fuss.

    I have became a V1 convert ever since Steve first reviewed it and I picked up one on discount for $250.

    I was so impressed even with the kit lens that I added the magnificent 6.7-13mm lens and have never looked back.

    They say a CX sensor should have limited dynamic range but in actual practice I get ‘more’ dynamic range with the V1 raw files than any of my other cameras including the E-M5.

    Check it out:

  9. Nice shots Joe! Great to see the ‘little camera that could’ do it again. I just keep on delivering (at least, in such skilled hands as yours!) Have a great New Year!

  10. Nice work, Joe. I have a house in front of Pipeline (where I’m writing this now). We lost our new step railings in that swell. Wasn’t there for the contest, but watched it online. Best Masters surf in years.

    These are impressive shots with the little V1. Great shots of Kelly coming out and his floater. NIce contrast and color in your water frames – there’s always so much mist in the air you have to crush your blacks to get this nice clarity.

    Oh… and lovely captures of the exotic flora and fauna. πŸ˜‰ Thanks.

    • How cool is this! I’ve always wondered how it would be to shoot from the homes of Pipe, however, I really like those low angle shots. But you are absolutely correct – the mist is pain. However, on this day no mist so I was a happy shooter. Kelly did his usual magic and the finals was a grandmaster chess match. Great day of shooting.

  11. Great photos! I love action shots. Nice to see something other then snow also this time of year, speaking from very cold, northern Canada.

  12. FYI, I went out later in the week and conditions were quite different – cloudy, drizzly and windy. This time I had the Nikon 200-400 f/4 on the V1 via the Ft-1 adapter. Focusing was significantly slower, but once I locked in on a surfer or boogie boarder the combo was still able to track well. Every time the sun came out, focusing speed improved dramatically. Moral of the story, in good light the combo works very well, but in poor light don’t expect miracles. Now waiting for the V3.

  13. Nice shots, Joe. I’ve been using exactly the same rig for some time now as my birding camera. Yes, the autofocus of the 300 leaves a bit to be desired, but once you’re locked on, the incredible multi-shot speed is terrific for anything that moves, and the image quality in good light is more than acceptable.

  14. Great shots! Might start to lobby my wife to get an Ft-1 adapter so my 180 will become a 486mm f2.8 AF lens…

  15. Joe, what a great set of photos. It just goes to prove that it is the content of the photos, and not the photographic gear they were taken with, that matters most.

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