One of the lenses never produced for the Nikon 1 system was a dedicated macro lens. Nikon 1 owners can still experiment with macro-type photography by using extension tubes. This article provides some tips on using extension tubes with Nikon 1 gear. Many of these suggestions can be used with other interchangeable lens camera formats.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
When purchasing extension tubes it is important to choose tubes that communicate fully with your camera’s auto-focusing system and exposure controls. For best durability choose extension tubes that have metal mounts. Buying a three tube set of extension tubes, for example 10 mm, 16 mm and 21 mm, will give you the most flexibility.
Any Nikon 1 body can be used with extension tubes. My favourite is the J5 as it has a flip screen and the best 1″ sensor used in a Nikon 1 camera… a 20.8 MP BSI version. Various 1 Nikkor lenses can also be used. You will need to experiment using various tubes with your lenses to see which combinations work best for you.
My favourite combination is the 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 coupled with a 16 mm extension tube. I find this gives me a lot of composition flexibility and image sharpness, while not losing too much light. It is also small, light, and easy to use.
Extension tubes shorten the minimum focusing distance of a lens. This has the effect of increasing the apparent magnification of a lens. They also limit how far in the distance a lens can focus… for example focusing at infinity is no longer possible when using extension tubes.
You can stack extension tubes one on top of another to increase the magnification effect. The longer the extension tube… the more light you will lose. This will cause you to utilize higher ISO values which can affect overall image quality. I tend to only use one extension tube at a time.
I use a two-stage focusing approach with extension tubes. After identifying a good subject, I move my Nikon 1 camera into position in front of the subject. When I begin, the subject is totally out of focus. I then adjust the focal length of the 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm zoom lens until the subject begins to come into decent focus.
By moving my camera closer, or further away from the subject, I can get the composition that I want as I concurrently adjust the focal length of my zoom lens. Once I am happy with the basic composition, I use a single auto focus point to fine tune the focusing of the photograph. To do this, I place the single auto focus point on the most critical part of the composition.
It is important to remember to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid image blur when photographing hand-held. I captured the images for this article earlier this week at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory, using shutter speeds between 1/60 to 1/320. My Nikon 1 J5 was set to Manual, using Auto ISO6400.
Like any photographic composition, lighting is an important consideration. It is also advisable to find uncluttered backgrounds as these can help focus a viewer’s gaze on the most important part of your composition.
Extension tubes can be a simple and affordable way to extend the functionality of your camera system. In the case of the Nikon 1 system, they are the best option to use for macro-style photography.
If you would like to find out more about the Nikon 1 system, you may find our eBook The Little Camera That Could of interest. The eBook is available for purchase and download. It is priced at $9.99 Canadian. Readers interested in purchasing a copy can use the link below.
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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