through the F-Mount -  photography by Jürgen Becker
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R.I.P. Nikon 1 system?

April 2, 2018

Extract from of March 30, 2018.

While Nikon's websites create the impression that the 1 system is a living one, experts know it is not. The newest camera body of the system is the J5, announced three years ago...

Selling all your Nikon 1 gear on ebay? Because the offer of (better) Nikon 1 gear on ebay is limited, not so many people seem to do that. I guess they love the small cameras, just like I do!

I began four years ago with a 1 V2, first of all for getting more reach, see my article Getting more reach: Nikon 1 V2 vs. Nikon TC-20EIII. Another niche for the CX sensors (13.2x8.8mm) is microphotography, see my article Microphotography for a small budget. Today, I use my Nikon 1 gear mainly for black and white photography.

My current Nikon 1 equipment is this:

Nikon 1V2 with Nikkor 30-110mm f/3.8-5,6 VR (~70-300mm full frame), Nikkor 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (~18-35mm ff) and Nikon 1V2 with Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 (~50mm ff).

The image quality delivered by the Nikon 1 system is clearly worse compared to a full frame DSLR. Nevertheless, the IQ is good. On the other hand, the advantage is obvious: everything together, including all hoods, caps, straps, batteries and memory cards weighs only 1180g! Moreover, the parts are really compact. Save a photo bag and buy a jacket with large pockets instead. This is the system for inconspicuous photography!

As an old SLR shooter I want a camera with a viewfinder. Only the three V models have an EVF (V1 and V2 built in - V3 optional as an accessory). In my opinion the 14MP V2 offers the best value for money among the three. I bought my first one new fours years ago. For the second - the white - one I paid 200 euros a few months ago.

No, I don't really like white cameras. But the 1V2 is not that easy to get on the used market in Germany. White samples are easier to get and a little bit cheaper than black ones. On the other hand, owning a black and a white camera ensures that you can easily distinguish between them, even in low light situations ;)

Lens options

The 6.7-13mm Zoom-Nikkor is a very good lens - both in terms of optical and build quality. Due to the very effective VR you can shoot hand-held down to 1/4sec, even at the long end! A pity, this is not a lens for shooting into the sun (like e.g. the full frame AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8). You can go close with this lens - max. magnification is about 1:6 full frame equivalent. The filter size is the good old 52mm.

My zoom lenses at maximum extension.

If you want to go closer, a tube set is a good idea. I am happy with my Kooka set (10, 16 and 21mm). It is an option for my 18.5 and 30-110mm lenses.

Shot with 18.5mm plus 16mm tube.

Together with both cameras I got a Nikkor 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR as a kit lens. The build quality is average and my first sample is out of function due to a problem with the aperture control. The optical performance is ok, but not great.

The build quality of the 30-110mm zoom is also average, it is a bit wobbly. But the optical quality is top notch in the the range 30-80mm and very good above 80mm. The filter size is 40.5mm (just like the 10-30mm and the 18.5mm). Closest focus is 1m - the max. magnification is 1:4 full frame equivalent.

If you are looking for a narrow depth of field, a 50mm f/1.8 full frame lens is much better than the Nikon 1 standard lens 18.5mm f/1.8. The depth of field of the 18.5mm wide open is comparable to 50mm at F4.5 on a full frame body. But otherwise, the 18.5mm is very good both optically and mechanically. It is absolutely usable wide open and sharp all over from F2.8 on. You can focus down to 20cm and the magnification then is about 1:3 (full frame equivalent).

There are two lenses I think about sometimes:

The 32mm f/1.2 (~85mm ff) is said to be the best lens of the system in terms of optical performance. The lens is still available new and costs around 730 euros. On the used market it is a very rare lens! The filter diameter is 52mm. In contrast to the above-mentioned lenses this one has a dedicated manual focus ring. Max. magnification is about 1:5 (full frame equivalent) - maybe, the 3T or 4T close-up lenses can be used additionally.

When it comes to reach the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR (~190-810mm ff) is an interesting option. In contrast to an adapted full frame 300mm Nikkor the weight balance with this lens is much better and it has no restrictions for the AF system. But it is not a cheap lens: a new one costs around 900 euros in Germany. On the used market it is very rare.

Black and white photography

If I convert an image from a DSLR to b&w it looks very clean, too clean for my eyes. A bit of noise should be present for my taste. There are many tools for b&w conversion on the market and they allow to produce artifical noise. But the 1 V2 can produce analogue-looking noise out of the box. Set the camera to b&w, switch off noise reduction and select an ISO value in the range of 400 to 1600. If needed, you can additionally activate a colour filter in the b&w menue. In contrast to a DSLR, setting the 1 V2 to b&w also turns the viewfinder into b&w mode - what you see is what you get!

As always, I recommend to shoot RAW. That allows you to activate colour mode or noise reduction in post-processing, if necessary.

Nikon lets the 1 system die. But instead of resting in peace, my 1 gear still has to work! And the main reason is the fun I have with it when photographing (not completey perfect) b&w images.

Sample images:

In February 2018 I spent a week in the Harz mountain range (Germany), mainly for visiting the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways, a metre-gauge network with a total length of about 140km and about 15 operational steam locomotives! In that week I photographed solely with my Nikon 1 equipment. This image shows engine 99 7237 leaving Mägdesprung station, captured with the 6.7-13mm at 9mm (~24mm ff) at F5 and ISO 800.

Leaving Wernigerode with destination Brocken, the highest peak in Northern Germany with a height of 1141m. Nikon 1 V2 with Nikkor 30-110mm at 30mm (~70mm ff), F5.6 and ISO 800.

Snowy landscape near the top of the Brocken. Captured with the 6.7-13mm at 13mm (~35mm ff) wide open at ISO 160.

Evening mood in the Wernigerode railway yard. Shot with the 6.7-13mm at 13mm (~35mm ff) wide open at ISO 1600 and 1/6sec hand-held.

Locomotive 99 7243 is shunting at the Gernrode railway yard, captured with the 18.5mm standard lens at F5.6 and ISO 800.

A closer look at the image above.

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