Who is the red ninja?
The red Nikon J1 of course! Why you might ask? Well because of its disarming color and very stealthy ability to take random photos among the human race. The J1 takes photos so fast and silently that no one knows what’s going on. Silent, quick, and deadly… but eye candy to the little kids. They will look and stare at the camera, with wide glassy eyes. It’s ok though, the red ninja doesn’t mind, or does it?
For this trip I didn’t want to bring my other lenses for the J1. Instead, I took the kit lens. I am not a fan of kit lenses or zooms most of the time, but I wanted to see how the J1 would fair. Besides, I knew that I would be using the camera in daylight.
I thought that the J1 would provide me with the ability to get really fast shots at super high speeds. I wasn’t entirely sure where it would focus; so I prepared myself for quite a few, misses. Keeping in mind that the point though is to try to get the photo. I shot mostly in S mode to prioritize 1/250 to 500. And predicted a lot of keepers to arise, given the fact that I let the camera shoot at least 2 frames per shot. I was also expecting that most people would simply disregard the camera, shrugging me off as a tourist.
I didn’t expect to take this shot and it took a second take before I could get it in focus. I wasn’t really looking for this, but it was a good chance for me to add the architectural centerpiece with the motorists in the foreground.
This is one of the unique times when the subject gives you time to compose. Of course, this stranger could get up and leave at any moment so it’s a risk to take my time. All in all it took me a good two minutes to get everything that I wanted into this frame.
The next one here took a lot more luck than you would think. At first they were sitting and were romantically smiling at each other and I thought I was finished. Then when I was about to leave they took their bags and set them under. The guy even used a bottle as a pillow while his girl used his arm. I had to walk back and redo this vertically and I think it was meant to be that I got this version of the shot.
I hadn’t seen anyone with large shopping bags through the park yet so when I saw these two I wanted to try out the speed and focus of the J1. I let the camera shoot them up close and then zoom while it was shooting. The other shots came out pretty well, but this one was definitely the keeper. The subsequent ones also had a delay because as soon as I stopped shooting the preview came up and I couldn’t cancel it fast enough to continue. As far as I can see I couldn’t turn preview off. Here you can see the older woman talking to the younger woman as she listens, and the young girl is walking opposite of the two. It makes me think that this picture captures a great contrast of a life journey; where one is new and the other two have a relationship where they can now walk together.
Moments come to those who wait. I was walking from the opposite end looking at the shot and the tunnel was great with the acoustics assisting the artist. I took a few frames but it just didn’t seem to turn out right. As I passed the sax player I was still frustrated that the scene was perfect and waiting for a good shot, but it never came. Just before I completed the tunnel I turned around and saw someone walking towards the gentleman to possibly drop in some money. I ran back and waited until the three people in the middle were perpendicular to each other and I fired. I let the camera complete five more frames, but when I went back to review, my first shot was the one that had all the elements that I initially wanted.
What I learned
- The Nikon J1 makes me invisible to most people.
- The kit zoom produced very good images. They are not Zeiss quality, but it’s nothing a profile in Lightroom and some post can’t fix.
- Focusing on the J1 was pretty accurate. I had it set to Auto-Area and Face Priority. There were some frustrating times when I set to center, but not often.
- Definitely set to center focus when you have a moment to compose because you need to take control or the points seem to be very random.
- This camera is silent and the continuous shots are extremely fast. The speed alone will let you cheat from camera shake.
- Going through the menus to set A, S, and M finally frustrated me when I knew I had only a few seconds to take the shot but had to change modes.
In the end
This little camera won’t let you down for that decisive moment. For some reason, if you just want to shoot at that second it makes a pretty good decision, but when you actually stop and compose you’ve got to do more manual labor. The smaller sensor and aperture of the lens will allow you to get more in focus so if that’s what you like then that’s great. It will drink in a lot of detail and the only downside is noise beyond ISO 100, which I can live with for all of the other benefits.
I’ve been asked many times as to what I “shoot” with and I am always tempted to vary my answer based on the question, but since the question is so general, I will give the most simplistic answer that I can. When I first started out, my dad gave me an Olympus E-500 along with the kit lens. Soon after, I ended up upgrading the kit lens to a Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 because naturally, I loved macro, and the reviews on the lens were excellent in regards to portrait usage. I didn’t have a flash for it at the time, so it was just the E-500 and 50mm at my disposal with a 500w softbox. These pairings gave me, what I personally felt was one of the best photos that I took during my first year as a professional photographer.
Shortly after a month or two I realized that I just simply loved portraits. Maybe that’s the reason why I also love macro. It’s the combination of isolation and attention to the primary subject that drew me in; even though I would try to take a full body shot of people, I was really bothered by the busyness of the image as a whole. Realizing that I was sensitive to the face and expressions more than anything, I began to just focus on what I liked rather than the picture as a whole.