The Ninja Strikes Again

The Ninja Strikes Again

So, to say I’m a photographer would be a complete shot in the dark, because I am the farthest thing from it. All I have under my belt in regards to photography are two classes of imaging tech that I took in high school, one of which I was put in as a mistake. I’m not skilled in perfecting aperture or using the rule of thirds, I just don’t have the sort of eye for it. So when I was asked to continue the Nikon 1 series while on my trip through Europe, well let’s just say I knew I wouldn’t be able to provide as much of a technical viewpoint as the first post. That my take on the camera would be more along the lines of a review you would read on amazon rather than a complete overview of the camera.

With that being said, Europe is absolutely amazing. You tend to fall in love with cities while looking at pictures of them and that was definitely the case for me in regards to London and Paris before I was ever given the opportunity to travel there. So in using the camera, my goal was to take photos that would capture the beauty of each city. Essentially you can return home and talk about how great the trip was but it’s different when you’re able to tell the stories while showing the pictures.

My favorite thing about the camera hands down was it’s size. While the people I was traveling with were lugging around giant cameras, I was carrying one that, I felt, provided me with just as high quality images, just in a smaller package. Although I’m one to stray from wearing a camera around your neck and embracing the whole tourist look, the camera is so compact that hardly any attention was drawn to it at all.

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The Red Ninja In New York City

The Red Ninja In New York City

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?

The combination
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.

My expectations
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.

DSC_1068_1024 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.

DSC_1268_1024 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.

DSC_1429_1024 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.

DSC_1374_1024 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.

Why Nikon 1?

Why Nikon 1?

Initial Thoughts
I am, and have always been intrigued by the mirrorless and interchangeable world.  Nikon has a fairly new system under the name of Nikon 1.  Back when it was released a few years ago, I took a look at the offering of lenses and I to be honest, wasn’t too impressed.  The smaller sensor didn’t bother me too much because this was the system I wanted the Sony RX100 to be.

The Drive
During the announcement of the Nikon 1 V3 I decided to revisit this smaller system.  I saw the 32mm f/1.2 lens and I think I almost fell in love with it.  However, I was still unsure of the Nikon 1 system.  The forums didn’t seem to have many positive comments about the Nikon 1, but that didn’t stop my curiosity.  I was determined to find out if I would like this mirrorless system enough to get the 32mm lens.

Went For The Purchase
I ended up purchasing the Nikon 1 J1 in red with the 10mm and 10-30mm kit.  Being that it was a little over $300.00, I thought it was a good deal.  It was pretty small and an attractive kit, but when I attached the 10mm to the body, it wasn’t as small as I thought.  The Lumix GF3 with the 14mm f/2.5 lens was about the same size of the Nikon J1 with its 10mm f/2.8 lens.  Right now there is no size advantage to both systems with similar lenses.

Being fairly close to resting on the borderline of disappointment, I  went ahead and took a few shots to try out the camera itself and I didn’t think it was all that bad.  I choose the J1 because of the price point and I didn’t want to invest in the Nikon V1.  The J1 was supposed to be smaller, and that’s what I wanted.  Plus I needed to see if Nikon’s strategy with the J1 to bring on point-and-shoot consumers would make sense in this camera model.  After fumbling through and trying to figure out the custom settings I found the camera to be annoying.  I knew that I wasn’t going to get any professional setup with the J1, but it didn’t hurt to hope.  At least it wasn’t lacking staple modes like Manual and ISO control within the menu system.

The Real Measure Of A System
So for me a critical measure of any camera system is the 50mm prime offering for the camera company.  Why do I believe this? Because the mystical idea that the 50mm is a staple for all photographers needs to be tested.  I think that since a camera company knows this, the 50mm at any price point should allow for trust to be instilled in the buyer, that this starter prime lens is the measure of a company’s ability to make amazing lenses.  If Nikon can’t make a 1 series 50mm(18.5mm) lens that is no less than amazing then I shouldn’t continue investing.  Needless to say I purchased the 18.5mm and was pleasantly surprised.  The lens was very light and capable.  I was happy that Nikon didn’t cut corners with a key  item in their lens line up.

Nikon Passed

  • The J1 design in red was really cool for me
  • ISO 200-400 was pretty clean
  • Basic options were available and not difficult to get to
  • The 18.5mm f/1.8 was a small gem that performed very well
  • All images taken were acceptable to me

What’s next?  Since I was satisfied with my own initial assessment of the Nikon 1 system from the J1 and the 18.5 I was ready to consider the purchase of the 32mm.  Within minutes I made the purchase and the lens arrived in a few days.



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