I’ve believed from the start that Nikon 1 cameras are capable of great results. Before I bought the V1 last November, I counted myself lucky when one of my images on flickr was viewed 100 or 200 times. Although I’m perfectly aware that flickr views are meaningless, it’s nice to be able to produce photographs, which interest people. The fact that many of my images taken with the V1 are rather popular (500 views on average) reassures me that I’m not a deluded fanboy praising the camera to the skies. Other people seem to like the output the V1, especially with the 18.5mm f/1.8, is capable of just as much as I do. I now have over a dozen photos with over 1000 views (UPDATE: over a 170 photos as of 12/2013). Here are some of them:
Shortly after I bought my Nikon V1 with the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 last November, I decided to get a nice, small bag for my Nikon 1 kit. My previous “bag” of choice was a worn out Nike sports rucksack, which I used to carry around my old, analogue Nikon SLRs, Contax G1 and Bronica ETRS. The rucksack was way oversized for a small N1 kit. Since I wanted a small bag, large enough to carry around a medium-sized kit (at that time I only had the V1 and 10-30mm, but was planning to expand my lens collection), I made a decision to get Lowepro Rezo 110 AW.
For a long time I was considering to write a review of the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 lens, but wasn’t able to find the time. Busy work schedule and taking photos with the lens, instead of writing about it, kept me from doing it. But now, after more than 8 months of use, I’ve finally managed to sit down and put my thoughts on paper.
What is it about this lens that makes it so special in the Nikon 1 realm? It is a relatively fast standard prime, which comes at a reasonable price point. At the time of writing the price in EU is around €180. I’ve paid €200 in February 2013 and found the price more than justified considering the very fast autofocus action, the very good optical performance at wide open apertures and some unique features of the N1 cameras which increase the usability of this lens greatly in comparison to any other standard prime. I will go into more detail on that later, the point that I’m trying to make is that people who compare the 18.5/1.8 to a much larger and material intensive 35/1.8, and whine about its price, are simply wrong. The 18.5/1.8 is one hell of a lens, which is worth every penny.
As every Nikon V1 user knows, the camera has many strengths, but also many flaws in the handling and controls department. A DPReview forums regular, SimpleCams, has posted an interesting image of a V1 concept with revised controls and user interface. PASM dial on top, standard flash hot shoe, exposure compensation dial in a position where you can easily reach it with your thumb, functional f-button and ISO-button, and many more improvements. Here is what it looks like. 🙂
I tried to photograph some of these stray cats with a DSLR, but as soon as the mirror claps most of them run away. This doesn’t happen with the Nikon V1 and Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8. As soon as the electronic shutter is enabled, the camera is silent. If you close the aperture, there is a faint noise of aperture blades closing, right before the images is being captured. If you stay at f/1.8 however, the camera makes no noise whatsoever. The loudest sound is the finger tipping the shutter release button. 😉
I’m not a big landscape shooter. I usually don’t have the patience to carry a tripod, mount my camera and use the remote. Often I shoot landscapes “from the hip” or out of a driving car. At this day and age, where almost every serious camera has more than 16MP, the V1 is not what would one would consider a resolution monster. And resolution is one aspect which is pretty important for landscapes. Years ago I used to have a Nikon D40, which only had 6 Megapixels, so I’m not bothered with only having 10 on the V1. One thing that bothers me though is the corner performance of the Nikon 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 at wide angle. Otherwise it’s an excellent kit lens, but the corners at wide angle are nothing to write home about. Nikon should most definitely up the corner performance of this lens in the 2nd edition/revision or release a faster, IQ-wise more serious, standard zoom. Both the wide and telephoto ends of the 10-30mm are great when taking photos from up close, and the lens does focus really, really close for a kit zoom. Take a look at some of my macro shots with the 10-30mm. Landscapes are however still possible with the kit lens. Like any Nikon the V1 has excellent WB, metering and color out of the box. All images are available on Flickr in Full HD. Just click on the image you would like to view larger.
The Nikon V1 with the Nikon 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 or 18.5mm f/1.8 is such a small package that you can take it anywhere. I sometimes even take it with me when I’m BBQing or going out with the fellas. Some of my friends don’t like to be stalked with a camera, they however are far less likely to make a fuss when I’m using my V1. The smaller camera doesn’t seem to intimidate people and make them go into defensive mode nearly as much as the big guns do. I, on the other hand, am far more likely to shoot motifs which I usually don’t consider interesting, like food, when not having to lug a heavy camera for long periods of time. 🙂
I really like the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 for portraiture. It gives me a nice balance of DoF and sharpness. With some lenses for the larger formats, I have the feeling that I constantly need to think about how much I should close the aperture, to obtain sufficient DoF for human faces. The 18.5mm has enough DoF at wiede open, f/1.8. When shooting people I never close the aperture with this lens. IMO bokeh is nice, and the colors are what you expect from a Nikon. Awesome skin tones. But look for yourself. 🙂
The Nikon V1, with its small size and thanks to the electronic shutter silent operation, is a perfect cat capturing machine. Which lens you end up using for cat pictures is up to you. I use the Nikon 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8. If you get close, you can achieve nice bokeh with both of them. The 18.5mm is best used at full aperture at f/1.8 and the 10-30mm at the long end, also wide open, if bokeh is what you are after. Here are some cat samples with the V1 and both the Nikkors.
I find that the Nikon V1 with the Nikon 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 is a nice, carry anywhere set up for long exposures provided you have a strong grey filter (like the B+W ND 3.0 1000x) and a step-up ring on hand. Even when shooting at ISO100 there is some grain visible at 100% magnification, which I don’t find disturbing at all. In fact V1’s noise reminds me of film grain. It is kind of organic, pleasant to look at, if you are an ex analogue user like me. The following six photos were all taken using a Nikon V1, the Nikkor 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the before mentioned B+W 1000x and a tripod. Hope you enjoy them. 🙂