Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nikon J1 – Review Part 3 – FT1 Adapter

Since I am a long shooter by nature, I decided to get the FT1 adapter at the same time as I got the J1. This makes a ton of sense when you realize that the adapter can auto focus AFS lenses. Here’s what that looks like (don’t laugh.)

Nikon D7000 + Tamron 28-75 2.8 @60mm  1250 iso  f/11  1/250

It can shoot in meter A prio or Manual with AFD lenses as well, although one must manually focus those lenses. I’ve even tried an Ai lens on it, shooting manual mode with the aperture ring performing the necessary adjustments and that works fairly well also.

There is one major caveat, that being that auto ISO seems to not work well at all. It always chooses 100 ISO, which really makes life tough sometimes. So one is forced to manage ISO oneself … luckily the camera has unbelievably fast shutter speeds and pretty deep depth of field, so one can set a wide open aperture and let the camera deal with it.

What I found so far is that manual focus is difficult, but works more often than you think. I would like the magnification to be configurably increased for the J1 … please consider that if you are reading this Nikon. [Edit: Oops … Thom Hogan points out in his excellent Nikon 1 guide that you can further increase magnification with the magnification lever :-) … duh. Serves me right for not reading Thom’s book all the way through the first time.] It works pretty well as it is, but it will be much better for smallish subjects with greater magnification now that I know that it is there :-).

Further, I found that hand holding is not a very useful option. Too much jiggling and swaying at higher magnifications. A monopod makes all the difference. Tripod even better.

So without further ado … some images …

Here are a couple of shots with the Nikon 105 f/2.5 Ai lens (think Afghan Girl image in National Geographic) manually focused. The lens creates some beautifully smoothness that really gives a sense of dimensionality. Edges and bokeh are also very smooth, with no “digitalness” to the look, despite the high ISO on a smallish sensor.

Nikon J1 + Nikon 105mm f/2.5 Ai on FT1  1600 iso  f/2.5  1/15

Really lovely output with that quality of lens. I suppose this means that I will have to upgrade my D7000 lenses to this quality … *sigh* …

The next day, I took both cameras to the Battle of Britain Ceremony that was held at our Aviation Museum on the parade ground out back. I had the 70-300VR on the J1 and the 18-200VR on the D7000. An interesting combination …

I chickened out on bringing the monopod into the bleachers, but I needn’t have. There was plenty of room and I could easily have used it. Oh well …

The parade ground held a couple of large flights of cadets and servicemen with a band and the armed forces pipes and drums. There was also an honor guard of cadets. A nice setup and something I have not seen since my days as an Air Cadet in #6 Jim Whitecross Squadron in Winnipeg.

Nikon J1 + 70-300VR on FT1 @300mm (810mm EFL)  400 ISO  f/6.3  1/1250

Hand holding is really east at lower magnification … here I shoot at 110mm, which is a mere 300mm .. I could obviously have shot this with the kit lens, but of course swapping back and forth is not gonna happen in real time. This lens is also ridiculously sharp at this focal length.

nikon j1 + 70-300vr on ft1 @110mm (297mm EFL)  800 iso  f/11  1/800

One more image at 300mm … really crisp and clear. Again hand held ….

nikon j1 + 70-300vr on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL) 800 iso f/9 1/800

I’ll do a more complete post of the ceremony itself at some point soon. Meanwhile, I took the cameras to the local ornamental gardens and shot with the Sigma 105 2.8 on the J1 with an occasional use of the Canon 500D achromatic close up lens, and the 70-300VR on the D7000.

Here is an example of the usable range of apertures … f/14 versus f/2.8 – which amounts to a full frame aperture range of 7.56-37.8 … yet the effective focal length is about 300mm, so this still gives us some background blur.

nikon j1 + sigma 105 2.8 on ft1  400 iso  f/14  1/500

nikon j1 + sigma 105 2.8 on ft1  400 iso  f/2.8  1/8000

Am am really pleased at how the second one looks. And it illustrates so well that even moderate focal lengths can produce very nice background blur on this sensor. This was shot from monopod, so I did not need many images to get keepers. These two are the only images I took of this flower, and both shots turned out.

An example of f/2.8 operating from a bit of distance … still a lovely background.

nikon j1 + sigma 105 2.8 on fti  400 iso  f/2.8  1/8000

Eventually, I found manual focus on the monopod to be tiresome. I was not able to confirm the number of keepers in the field, so I wanted a change of pace. I swapped the 105 to the D7000 and the 70-300VR to the J1. Of course, I also switched AF mode to AFS and shooting mode from manual to A prio. What a nice difference :-) …

nikon j1 + 70-300VR on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL)  400 iso  f/5.6  1/250

That last one is wide open at full zoom and is still sharp. The shutter speed is also a bit low for 810mm, but VR works great on this lens.

F/5.6 is enough to keep the entire flower in focus, even at 810mm …

nikon j1 + 70-300VR on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL) 400 iso f/5.6 1/500

This combination is just a joy to shoot from a monopod. No fumbling for focus, just point and shoot.

nikon j1 + 70-300VR on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL) 400 iso f/5.6 1/320

This is not a macro lens, yet the clarity makes for some interesting shots of insects …

nikon j1 + 70-300VR on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL) 400 iso f/5.6 1/250

Probably my favorite demonstration of the bokeh this lens combination is capable of … even on a tiny sensor …

nikon j1 + 70-300VR on ft1 @300mm (810mm EFL) 400 iso f/5.6 1/320

Well, that’s enough … I think you get my drift. Shooting AFS lenses is very viable on the J1. Manually focusing Ai and AFD lenses also works, but takes a lot more effort. Still, I don’t find it overly difficult. Just a bit of a hassle sometimes. I think it would work best from a tripod.

For the whole series … see:

Battle of Britain:

Ornamental Gardens:

If you are a Nikon owner and are hesitating to get this combo as your lightweight kit and fun machine … you are really missing out :-)