From time to time I like to go out on a limb and try something experimental just for fun. Before I get too far into this article I’d like to thank one of our readers (and a fellow photography writer) Ross Chevalier for sparking the idea for this article (you can check out his site here). In one of his comments Ross suggested that it may be possible to use elastic bands to affix a Hoodman or Zacuto Z-Finder to a Nikon 1 J5 and create a viewfinder. Sounded like an interesting idea to me so I tried it, then went out to photograph some cormorants in flight with the Nikon 1 J5.
First let’s have a look at the Nikon 1 J5 rigged up with a 3X Zacuto Z-Finder.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Quite an interesting looking little beast isn’t it!
Attempting to capture birds in flight while supporting the bottom of the Z-Finder with the thumb of my shutter hand, trying to grip the J5 by pinching in the heel of that same hand, keeping my index finger on the shutter, and operating the zoom with my left hand…was an interesting experience in coordination. After a while it actually wasn’t that bad to keep things together. Although I wouldn’t choose to do this on a regular basis, cobbling something like this together when needed could be a viable option for a lot of Nikon 1 owners who do not own a V-Series camera. Rather than using elastic bands I think Velcro straps would hold a Hoodman or Z-Finder much more securely and result in an improved shooting experience.
Let’s have a peak at three images from the same AF-C run shot at 20 fps using manual settings and auto-ISO.
I went out to Eastport Drive in Hamilton Ontario to capture these images. It is one of my favourite spots to photograph cormorants in flight – although I arrived later in the day than I would have liked and had to deal with the birds flying a bit towards the sun which caused them to silhouette.
I used my standard RAW workflow to process all of the images for this article. I found the J5’s RAW files to be excellent with which to work. From a practical standpoint there is more highlight and shadow detail.
Once I became accustomed to the set-up (well as much as I could) I started to notice some things about the performance of the Nikon 1 J5.
The first thing that was apparent is the AF-C on the Nikon 1 J5 doesn’t grab focus quite as fast as does my Nikon 1 V2. It wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination but there was a bit of a pause before it grabbed.
The Nikon 1 J5 appears to be capped at 20 frames when shooting in AF-C and the buffer obviously filled up very quickly. Once full the buffer was agonizingly slow to clear. In Nikon’s defence they likely are not anticipating users of a camera without a viewfinder to use the AF-C at 20 fps very much.
It will be interesting to see how a future Nikon 1 V4 performs under similar conditions. I imagine that the buffer will likely be capped at about 40 images like other V-Series models. I hope Nikon does something with the firmware so writing to the card is much faster. It would also be helpful if the AF-C didn’t have that slight pause before it grabs. I found that I unintentionally moved the shutter a number of times. This was probably caused by my ‘coordination efforts’ with the Z-Finder more than anything else.
The other thing that I noticed was that the AF-C had trouble picking up birds flying over choppy water, especially at a distance. I suppose most cameras would struggle with this but I was not able to get any usable images under that specific shooting scenario. This seems to be less of an issue with my Nikon 1 V2.
For part of my time at Hamilton Harbour I shot single frames in AF-C with subject tracking rather than doing any 20 fps bursts. I was missing so many potential shots because writing to the card was so slow that I was getting a bit frustrated.
Even when shooting single frames I could detect that slight pause with the AF-C before it could grab focus.
Overall I deemed this little experiment to be a success, although I’m not in any rush to go out and shoot like this again.
I think the new 20 MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 J5 is a great improvement to the camera and anyone who is currently shooting with a Nikon 1 V1 or V2 (and other 10 MP and 14 MP Nikon 1 models) will definitely notice the difference in megapixels in terms of cropping potential. This should also broaden the appeal of a future Nikon 1 V4 considerably.
The more that I shoot with the Nikon 1 J5, the more that I enjoy it. I’ll be finishing up my field work later this week, then starting on my review of the J5.
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Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.