Gear

Quirks and why I seek them with the Nikon V1

The V1 is very different and it is a very quirky camera with few real strengths. These quirks are what make the camera a unique experience for me, some are very frustrating and some are a bit of a brain teaser but this is what makes the camera fun to use.

Fun in the way photography on a smartphone is fun, it's a tool that makes the ultimate goal harder to achieve. Why oh why is that fun? My iPhone is a great tool but a very limited one, I find joy out of knowing what it's shortcomings are and how to tweak it to work the way I want. These tweaks are usually in the form of apps and boy do I have a lot of those. Now to the Nikon V1, it is in fact a camera first where an iPhone is... Well a phone first.  The Nikon has lovely interchangeable lenses and lets me shoot in my preferred mode of aperture priority. So what's not to love? What are these so called quirks and what makes this camera "fun" to shoot with?

Back again to the iPhone, it allows me to comfortably flex my creative side and it does it in a very automatic way. I frame and I shoot, this is then followed by about five or so minutes in post (apps followed by apps). The V1 gives me that sense of easy image acquisition but allows me to change settings and do more thinking than just what would fit best within a square frame. In aperture priority one can change the aperture by pressing up or down on the lever on the back, when in manual the lever and circular dial on the back work together to change exposure. This is definitely not the traditional way of changing aperture and I find myself knocking the lever too far up or down so when I am ready to take a photo the settings are drastically different. Another oddity that is very similar to that is how the mode dial is quite easy to bump and change. Quite a few times I will raise the V1 for an image and I find out that I am in video mode.

So manual settings are there and so are all of the rest that usually come with professional cameras (well most consumer cameras too nowadays) but like smaller compact cameras these settings can only be changed while in the menus. The first time you enter the menus especially if you are a veteran Nikon user you will find that the menus are far far leaner and quite a bit simpler than your typical camera. The menu system also seems faster than its counterparts due to the screen has what seems an incredibly fast refresh rate (60fps) so settings can be changed as fast as you can access them without lag or loading. The camera seems to do a lot of waiting for the user and you can see this with the camera quite a bit from its tamagotchi like sleep light to its buffer that it fills before you take a shot in certain modes. ISO can be found in the menus and this is the only way that it can be changed, I actually leave mine on the auto ISO 100-3200 feature which is actually the default unless I am shooting long exposure on a tripod. An oddity with the auto ISO feature is that it never displays the current ISO rating for the metered scene, it will only show you after you take the picture which is quite frustrating. That along with the fact that the camera will always choose a slower shutter speed instead of raising the ISO by an additional stop. Even though high ISO shooting is better than most point and shoot cameras the V1 would rather you have a blurry image than one with more noise. I for one and I am sure everyone would agree a noisy image is a much easier fix than an unusable blurry image.

Probably the most frustrating and oddly slow part about this camera is the time it takes to change from extreme exposure changes. For example when changing from a bright sky panning down to the darker street level below will take one to two seconds for it to catch up with the rest of the camera. Usually when I am taking images and I have the time I will let the camera rest on the scene for an extra second to make sure the camera has it metered properly.

I should take a brief pause on pointing out its flaws and I am going to go over a few advantages of this camera. The screen and viewfinder are actually quite excellent. The display is covered in a nice hard glass that looks great, it's a screen that exceeds the quality of what the camera is capable of. The viewfinder isn't quite the big screen experience that other cameras with EVFs have but it is amazing and sharp for its size. In low light it doesn't get very noisy and the refresh rate is equal to that of the speedy display which seems like 60fps as mentioned previously. Build of the camera is fantastic, it's a metal body that has a surprising about of heft to it, everyone that has held my V1 has mentioned how well it appears to be made.

The camera is fast, very fast and in a way where it's a bit of a mind reader in the way to can determine what the main focus of the image is. I am going to be bold and say that it is the fastest AF camera I have ever used, Nikon says the same but realistically when the difference comes down to milliseconds it really doesn't matter that much. What is more important to me is that the camera rarely ever hunts for focus, this is something that I found Sony NEX cameras do much more of.

The lack of flash you would probably assume would be a negative but in my opinion it was a huge draw for me to buy the camera. I love the fact that there will never be a single flash accidentally popping up from this little guy, I could buy an external one but I would rather save the money. I am a huge fan of natural light and this camera forces me to work with what I have available.

I am going to go ahead and pronounce a love for the 10mp sensor. It all comes down to how I use this camera and how I feel most people will, this is not a landscape camera nor a professional portrait camera, it is simply for memories. Our smartphones fill this purpose quite well but for a lot of situations it just can't do those moments justice. It is a creative exercise camera where I can take this out and flex my mind and just have fun. I love the motion snapshot mode and I am always looking for scenes where this feature would shine. Our smartphones take images just adequate for memory and web but when we want a bit more and the ability to capture a difficult scene nothing will do it better than the V1 at its current price.

When it comes down to it this camera is currently selling for $300 or so over at B&H and just a bit more over at Amazon. At this price it is as cheap as the Canon S110 series and in my opinion it is a better option for those who don't mind its larger stature. It is also the cheapest camera with EVF and removable lenses by FAR on the market.

So in conclusion this peculiar camera can take beautiful images of fleeting scenes and does with with a few shortcomings. From its insane burst rate of 60fps full still raw mode to the super slow 400fps movie mode the camera just sparks something in me. To me the camera is inspiring and I find a lot of joy out of challenging cheap gear and reminding people that something great can come of not so great equipment. There's a special feeling that you get out of pushing this camera to it's technical and unintended limits.

Quick Look: Nikon D800 from D700 eyes

This is a very early quick look about the new camera that I have had now for 3 days. I don't have a good enough connection to fact check so I apologize ahead of time. 36MP Sensor: It has been said before but I am going to say a few things here anyways. The sensor is no doubt incredible but it will indeed punish camera users who's skill set has not been refined, and for those who have been it will just simply make you a better photographer. I try to explain, the sensor because it has so many pixels will make the flaws within your photographs stand out / magnify them. The problem is hard to explain but similar to the effect of a telephoto lens and a slow shutter speed. Not the same nor the reason why but even with speeds that should be fine the images are not tack sharp. This is simply due to the fact that you are provided with so much information. The same settings on a different camera (with less MP) would look much better but once again this is due to the fact that the information is not available. So once again there are other ways to explain this but I'm not in the right place to do so. If the image was scaled down it would look the same, the problem is not a major one for most uses.

So in conclusion chimps will be chimpier and photographers skills will be refined over time.

Autofocus: As far as I can tell there is really no difference. It still focuses very quickly and in a couple of occasions I was able to focus under moonlight, maybe that will be rare or maybe I'll just get used to it. The new way to change between auto and single point is taking the most time to get used to. I usually end up scrolling the wrong wheel but I'm sure with time I'll get used to it.

Metering: I know it has it's big brothers AF and metering so I know it's an improvement. In normal usage I don't see a difference but then again colors are usually a bit different with newer sensors. Also every once in awhile the camera will render a scene as if it's already been post processed, its something that you just have to see Nikon is known to have the best images straight out of the camera and I love them... But I feel as I get to know this camera better I will learn to control the beast.

LCD: When they announced the D800 I was bummed that they didn't upgrade the pixel count on the display. Little did I know that the amount of pixels that wasn't holding it back but it appears that it was the files itself being viewed. Images on the display are incredible but still keeps a realistic impression of what the image truly looks like (cough unlike another company cough). They say that they moved the panel backwards to make it better in bright lights but it looks the same as the D700 in my opinion. I see the issue now more that I am shooting video and having to stare at the display more. It's not bad, but I just dont see the improvement.

Video: New to the camera obviously but there are a few quirks. Settings being used before switching to live view are not retained. I haven't had the time to figure out or pay attention to what's going on but I saw a post online with someone saying the same thing. The internal mic is quite good compared to previous on camera mics. I am going to go off topic for a bit and talk about the rode videomic pro. It's incredible to be able to monitor this fine piece of equipment while recording. I picked up a dog barking from 250 feet away and the slightest move of my feet on the ground. I just can't wait to record something serious with it. A very nice addition to the video department is that the native 1080P files play back on an iPad without any tricks over the camera connector.

New Settings: Even years after owning my D700 I would find a new setting or set up a better way to shoot with the camera. I don't think the D800 will be any different. I'm going to list a couple of settings that I have not seen mentioned online. First the self timer setting now has an option to fire off a set amount (up to 99) with another setting for how long in between shots. I have been using this to bracket 3-9 images. Another option was to give the command wheel the ability to change ISO when in certain modes. For example in aperture priority the front wheel changes aperture while the back wheel does nothing, now it has the ability to change ISO by just scrolling. I feel that simple steps like these end up saving time and shots when there are less presses involved.

Lenses: Nikon has actually made an approved list of lenses on their site for their camera. This is because the camera can potentially out resolve the glass in the lens. This is a potential bummer because the sensor would show off all of the flaws of the lens. Honestly I have a whole range of consumer to pro glad and do far I haven't seen issues with any of them. I have noticed that I have been incorrectly shooting my 70-300VR lens, I guess it needs a faster shutter than what I had thought. It's probably a reason why Nikon added an additional setting to auto ISO to match the focal length. Without zooming once again you can't tell but if you want to double check behind door number zoom you can see if you have a winner. Also I have not noticed any diffraction yet with smaller apertures. When I finally review these images on the computer I'll find out the truth.

File Size / CF Cards: 4GB cards were what I survived on with the D700. RAW files are nice and thin compared to the D800. When a card is formatted in the camera it still underestimates the amount of photos that you could fit onto the card. Although it is quite funny to see the D800 quote you 50 RAW images on a 4GB card where it used to get me over 200. I'm sure that amount would lurk near 100 but still it's laughable. I saw it online a few times that people were having issues with their old memory cards just not working with the D800. I tested each of my cards with photo and video after a fresh format and I didn't have an issue at all. Although some of the cards processed the images very slow. So far I have been shooting a Sandisk Extreme 16GB 90Mbs card alongside a Patriot 32GB class 10 SDHC card. No issues (glances around for wood).

Laundry with the NIkon 70-300VR

I recently went on a shopping spree. First the NIkon 16-35mm f/4 VR and now the Nikon 70-300mm VR. I took the lens with me to the local laundry mat and took a few pictures.

I am happy this lens arrived on my doorstop this morning. Its a very quick lens that I will have with me for a long time.

(all images were simply stamped with the toy camera effect in Aperture 3, nothing else)

PMA 2010

So I decided to have a little me time and attend one of the biggest photography shows on this planet. If you are not so interested in anything but images I would not continue. For those who can handle it ( and have a good internet speed ;)) please click and continue! PMA 2010

I really didn't know what to expect. I just knew I was going to be surrounded by the industries giants. This was my first year at PMA.

PMA 2010 - PanasonicPMA 2010 - PanasonicPMA 2010 - Panasonic

I stopped at the Panasonic booth  first. I checked out the GH1 and GF1 cameras. I have heard great things about these little monsters but have never seen them in person. I tried the EVF (electric viewfinder) on the GF1, I had no idea what to expect since I have never looked through one before. When the EVF is turned on it powers off the live view display immediately which is nice. EVF was very bright (far brighter than the traditional SLR viewfinder) but what it gained it brightness it lacked in sharpness. I found my self just trusting the little green focus squares.

PMA 2010 - SigmaPMA 2010 - SigmaPMA 2010 - SigmaPMA 2010 - SigmaPMA 2010 - SigmaPMA 2010 - Sigma

Sigma had announced a brand new 85mm f/1.4 so I was excited to get my hands on it. Couple of sad facts right off of the bat, they didn't have a Nikon mount to test and they would not let me test on a body of choice. From what I could tell it was equal to the 50mm f/1.4 that they make. I was unable to give it a good run through because all they had was a cheap canon test camera. I would have loved to see it on a FF sensor or at least get to take some images home. I at least got to play with the biggest sigma made... I also played with the Sigma DP series of point and shoots. The camera was A LOT light than I expected. The camera appeared when looking at it to have a heavy sturdy body, one equal feeling to a Canon G series point and shoot. So it was light and felt just like a point and shoot. I just wasnt impressed, if I were to spend $500-$800 on a camera that didnt shoot raw I would at least want it to be tough.

PMA 2010 - Lowepro

Lowepro announced at PMA the bag I had been waiting for, The model is the Passport Sling. I instantly fell in love when the rep showed me the bag. I told him exactly what I was / have been waiting for. He was..."oh follow me right over here". The bag isn't double wide like my current sling, it will hold a good few lenses and has just enough padding to protect and serve. A front zipper to expand the bag a bit more and has a little pocket on the back for a bottle of water. Plenty of room and plenty comfortable. This $50-60 dollar bag will soon replace my current Lowepro bag.

PMA 2010 - NikonPMA 2010 - NikonPMA 2010 - NikonPMA 2010 - NikonPMA 2010 - Nikon[flickr video=4381113082]

Oh Nikon, you stole the show. Nikon bags and lanyards pretty much filled PMA. They had in my honest opinion the largest presence at PMA. The spread some beautiful prints over their space ranging from shots taken from all the latest cameras and videos taken with them. The camera counter was filled both days with people getting their hands on the new 16-35mm f/4 VR lens and 24mm f/1.4 lens. I was shooting around and a man stopped me with a few questions. He wanted to record me talking and giving my opinions on Nikons latest lenses. He let me know that my audio would be used in the Nikon Press podcast which will be released after the show.

PMA 2010 - OlympusPMA 2010 - OlympusPMA 2010 - OlympusPMA 2010 - OlympusPMA 2010 - Olympus

Olympus had quite a large presence as well at PMA. They were all about touting their new EP series of micro 4/3rds cameras. I checked out the EP cameras and to my surprise they were quite nice little cameras. Well built and the viewfinder was much brighter than the previous Panasonic EVF. The little pancake lenses on the cameras made the cameras near invisible when looking from the sides ;).

PMA 2010 - ZacutoPMA 2010 - HoodmanPMA 2010 - Hoodman

Accessories galore could have been the name for PMA. I looked at so many little accessories that I would never get to see in person. Some of them were quite inspiring. I checked out the Hoodman loupe and the Zacuto viewfinder. The Zacuto was far far superior to the hoodman but it should be since it is a $3-400 dollars compared to the $80 of the hoodman.

PMA 2010 - MatinPMA 2010 - Matin

A Korean company with the name Matin brought some of the most beautiful camera bags I have ever seen. The man I spoke to could barely speak english and it took me a good 5 minutes to get the price out of him. The price of the bags are in the $200 dollar area. I feel like they should hold pretty Leicas and not my dirty Nikon D700 :).

PMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - Sony[flickr video=4380376383]

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PMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - Sony[flickr video=4380406841]PMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - SonyPMA 2010 - Sony

Sony Sony Sony, You had in my opinion the greatest space set up period. lets see what you had... You had cameras around a moving car track so people can get a real world feel for what they can do. You had the normal booth with people who knew a decent amount about your cameras to answer questions and show off lenses. Last but most important you had a theater with presenters. Not just any presenters but "professional Sony Alpha shooters" who came on stage and talked about their work or actually shot a model on stage. Wait they had what? Yes, Sony had a model on stage with a pro tethered to several big screens surrounding the stage. They did what you have always wanted camera companies to do, show you images taken directly from the camera. Amazed? well they took it a big step further, they printed some monstrous images shot directly from the camera after the presentation. I can tell you in all honesty before I attended PMA I despised or even hated Sony Alpha cameras. The whole booth blew me away. I saw it in action and got to put it into action. I got comfortable with the body and sorta fell in love. I definitely left tiny bits of Nikon love somewhere in the Sony Booth. As a landscape photographer I dream of seeing my images that large and with that amount of detail. Sony also had prototypes of their new mirrorless cameras, I personally think it will be sometime before these types of cameras catch on... but they will.

Sony, bravo sir, bravo! You made me an Alpha fan. I can now safely place you as my second favorite camera (I dont have a third, sorry canon).

PMA 2010 - Samsung NX10PMA 2010 - Samsung NX10

Kinda hard to follow up after that large Sony chunk there but here is Samsung. Samsung had recently released a mirrorless camera. This camera, the NX10, is different from the rest of the heard by packing in a full size aps sensor. The body felt great for its size and the idea never popped up in my head that it felt small. The camera itself is a very tiny package.

PMA 2010 - AccessoriesPMA 2010 - Accessories

There were little this and thats all over PMA. The folks over at Rime Lite were very nice. The happened to be carrying the largest lighting gear in the building. They were incredibly friendly but very hard to understand. I almost walked out of there with a very nice beauty dish but I decided to do the right thing and walk away... I can still order online... ;). I will have to look at the Rime Lite website but everything seemed very well made and affordable.

PMA 2010 - PrintsPMA 2010 - PrintsPMA 2010 - PrintsPMA 2010 - Prints

Prints. Prints. Prints. They were all over each booth at PMA either promoting a certain type of paper or showing off what a companies camera can do. I fell in love with this pearlescent metallic like paper that added an unreal 3d like appearance to the print. I spent quite a bit of time looking over prints and printed books.

PMA 2010 - AccessoriesPMA 2010 - KodakPMA 2010 - Accessories

So here are the leftovers... I found Holga accessories, a wide and tele adapter that slid onto the existing lens. I also played with a surface for the first time... fancy spancy Kodak! I also sorta fell in love with the underwater housings by ewa-marine (which are not pictured).

Overall the whole experience was just amazing. I took home enough catalogs to fill future coffee tables for the rest of my life.

So close I can feel it...

Service Type: FedEx Priority Overnight Ship Date: 07/25/2008
Scan Activity: Date/Time:
Left FedEx Origin Location 01 TOPEKA KS US 07/25/2008 18:43
Picked up by FedEx 08 TOPEKA KS US 07/25/2008 15:11