Nikon 1 - The genuinely small solution - If you work at it.

Nikon 1 V1 6.7-13mm lens

Yesterday when I went out with my Nikon 1 V1 and 6.7-13mm, 18.5mm and 30-100mm lenses I realised just what this allows me to do. Carrying this outfit around is just no effort at all and gives me a range of options to create images with.

Wide-angle macro.

Nikon 1 V1 6.7-13mm lens

Limited depth-of-field

 Nikon 1 V1 18.5mm lens

 Nikon 1 V1 30-110mm lens

 Nikon 1 V1 18.5mm lens

 Nikon 1 V1 30-110mm lens

Deep focus.

 Nikon 1 V1 6.7-13mm lens

 Nikon 1 V1 6.7-13mm lens

 Nikon 1 V1 6.7-13mm lens

This was my annual daffodil shoot at a location near to where I live (somewhat late this year) and I've never gone out with so many focal length options. Even with m4/3 I couldn't do this. I could get an equivalent outfit that would be similar, say Panasonic G5 with its electronic shutter and built-in EVF plus Olympus 9-18mm, Panasonic 20mm, Panasonic or Olympus telephoto zoom, but that would would still be heavier and larger than this Nikon outfit and wouldn't have image stabilisation either.

Another thing that worked for me is that there was a strong wind blowing, so I was having to use high shutter speeds and narrow apertures. The 1" sensor however allowed me to get what I wanted at f/4, f/5.6 etc. rather than my customary f/8 and f/11. The whole afternoon, in fact, I was constantly thinking 'This really works for me' in terms of handling, usability and what I could do with the camera and the three lenses. 

Plus when I got home I spent some time working out a raw conversion preset and post-processing options that gave me a good dynamic range, the sharpness I wanted AND allowed me to upsize the files to 18MP - 50MB with the quality required for my picture libraries. 

And yes this is another article with me banging on about how good the Nikon 1 system is. 

However I would enter a word of caution here. To produce files that stand comparison with larger sensors and higher pixel counts, which is pretty much what I'm doing, isn't easy and does require some work. I have of course had years of experience squeezing the most I can from m4/3 files, so I know what is required. Once I got everything to work as I wanted however, I put everything onto ACR presets and Photoshop actions so I have the whole thing automated. What I'm trying to say is that the Nikon 1 system won't do this without some serious adjustments. The images posted above are from OOC jpgs. and they have burnt-out highlights and aren't, at full size, particularly sharp. So I would warn, if you aren't inclined to spend time getting the best quality out of raw files with a fair amount of post-processing, then you may be disappointed with what the Nikon 1 system can produce.

However if you are, then there is actually a fair amount of flexibility or 'elasticity' as I like to call it, in the files. Highlights ARE recoverable, shadows CAN be lightened noiselessly, but it does take more work than with other cameras, though as I said much of this can be be assigned to Photoshop actions.

The main problem was keeping the highlights under control. I like to shoot and process 'light and bright' since that is what picture libraries like and this of course can lead to highlight burnout. Now even my D800E struggles with this from time to time, so it is a problem with digital capture in general, but there are ways of getting raw files to produce workable files, particularly with the latest ACR highlight and shadow control.

So having gone through that, its back the fanboy stuff. I've only managed three serious shooting trips with the V1 so far, due to the weather, but on all occasions I've had a great time. This time, as before, I pretty much had a smile on my face the whole afternoon as the system was such a joy to use. Its fast, the metering is great, the AF locks on accurately and the camera feels great to take pictures with. My (small) camera bag was so light with the two lenses I wasn't using in that I did actually forget a couple of times I was carrying it. I did also think to myself several times, 'Why the hell am I bothering with anything else' since this gives me virtually everything I need, particularly as I can now produce large files from the sensor. 

I know I'm going on and on about this, but I'm really impressed with the whole system. To me, this is a revelation. A truly small-scale solution that has the lenses to match the camera. And at the same time there is no gimmicky / gadgety throwaway feel to any of it. The camera and lenses feel and look like they should, like photographic equipment and not like electronic playthings. 

I suppose when I took a swipe at this system when it was first announced, I should have perhaps stopped and thought about who makes it. Nikon know a thing or two about making cameras and lenses and far from coming up with something that is just a half-hearted foray into the mirrorless market, I think they have come up with a little masterpiece of a system here. Different certainly, and liable to make many of us go 'Mmmmm....' when we first look at the specifications, but for the right purpose, and I will again reiterate that this has to be what you want and need, its absolutely brilliant. It fits in with my needs and my tastes almost perfectly. I did (and still do) love the m4/3 system, but this takes that on a stage further for me. 

Certainly the prospect that I can take this 3-lens system virtually anywhere I go to shoot and not have to worry about struggling to carry it, is an incredible bonus. I thought that this might be a system that I use for certain specific types of work, but at the moment everything else is struggling to get a look in. 

However, I am going to spend some time having a detailed look at the D7100 since I have two jobs coming up which are going to require DSLR's and I need to know it better. So those of you who remain less than enthusiastic about the Nikon 1 system, will I'm sure be breathing a sigh of relief.