Using Extension Tubes with Nikon 1

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 51.2 mm, f/4.2, 1/60, ISO-1400, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 55.1 mm, f/4.2, 1/125, ISO-640, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 38.5 mm, f/3.8, 1/125, ISO-280, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 39.8 mm, f/3.8, 1/320, ISO-160, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 51.2 mm, f/4.5, 1/320, ISO-1000, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 39.8 mm, f/3.8, 1/320, ISO-2500, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 41.2 mm, f/4, 1/320, ISO-5600, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 39.8 mm, f/4.5, 1/320, ISO-800, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 55.1 mm, f/4.5, 1/320, ISO-2000, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77.1 mm, f/4.8, 1/320, ISO-5000, 16 mm extension tube used

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.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 44.2 mm, f/4.5, 1/320, ISO-2800, 16 mm extension tube used

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.


Technical Note:
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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6 thoughts on “Using Extension Tubes with Nikon 1”

  1. Hi Thomas

    Great post. How would u compare the 30-110 + 16mm tube with using FT1 with 60mm or 105mm nikkor macro. Would u get similar magnification. Also how would u compare J5 vs V2 or V3 for flower photography. Lastly can u use in built speed light to trigger an SB600.

    Thanks isaac

    1. Hi Isaac,

      I always found the 1 Nikkor 30-110 with extension tube(s) much easier to use than the FT-1 with the Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 macro. Using the native Nikon 1 set up was much lighter and easier to handle. The magnification was not as great with the dedicated Nikon 1 set-up but it would auto-focus much better than using the Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8. I found the F-Mount full frame lens was frustrating to use handheld as it would hunt for focus constantly. The native Nikon 1 set-up auto-focus was fast and accurate. I also found that the FT-1 with the Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 was awkward and heavy when mounted on a Nikon 1 body. Even when I owned full frame Nikon gear I never used the 105 mm f/2.8 macro very much. It always felt too heavy and the auto-focus was hit or miss even on a D800. I have a friend who also shoots with the 105mm f/2.8 macro with a Nikon D7100 body. He finds the auto-focus ‘OK’ when shooting handheld but not great. He recently purchased a D500, but I don’t know if he finds that body works better with the 105 mm f/2.8 macro.

      I enjoy using the Nikon 1 J5 the most for macro type photography. The 20.8 MP BSI sensor is noticeably better and the tilting rear screen is very handy. Overall the combination is very lightweight and easy-to-use. Using the J5 at higher ISO values also produced better images than the V2 or V3.

      I never tried to use the flash on my Nikon 1 cameras to trigger another flash so I can’t comment on that aspect, nor can I comment on the F-Mount 60 mm macro as I never owned or used that lens.


  2. I have read posts from you about using extension tubes with the 1 Nikkor 30-110mm lens in the past, and you had mentioned using Vello tubes. This time there was no mention of a brand. Are there any brands of tubes (Vello, others?) that are compatible with the Nikon 1 mount that you might feel comfortable recommending at this time?

    1. Hi Craig,

      I own two different brands of extension tubes for Nikon 1… Vello Deluxe and MOVO. I would not recommend the standard Vello tubes as they do not have metal mounts. Since Nikon 1 has been discontinued for over a year, I’m not sure what extension tubes may still be available. That is the reason that I mentioned tube construction rather than a specific brand.


  3. Hi Thomas,another top set of images with the 1 system.Now here`s the thing that is concerning me and it`s that my feelings towards the Olympus images that I`ve seen so far have left me disappointed and I know that it has nothing to do with your skills with a camera.Like you I have been using the 1 system since the early days of the V2,70-200 F4 for my wildlife photography and perhaps I have gotten used to the way that the Nikon system renders compared to the Olympus set up.Like you I have been looking to taking the next step and micro four thirds seems like the obvious choice for weight and portability so I will follow your progress and look forward to more of your trials maybe with a longer focal length as you have obviously had to crop more than you would like to with what you have at the moment.Just as a point of interest there have been 3 pro wildlife photographers here in the U.K. who have switched from Nikon/Canon to Olympus.They are David Tipling,Tesni Ward and the big surprise was Andy Rouse,might be worth looking at their sites to compare notes.So I look forward to future testing but whatever happens it does show how good the 1 system is in capable hands.

    1. Hi Stuart,

      Any of the E-M1X bird images that I have been posting have been quite severely cropped (some as much as 75%) as I do not have a long telephoto lens to use with my E-M1X. When I post images I capture with Nikon 1 gear I typically use 100% captures without any cropping done to them at all. So… the Olympus images suffer quite a bit as a result. I am still not 100% comfortable processing my Olympus files either… so that may also be a factor. I suspect that having to severely crop my Olympus bird pictures is the largest issue… having a lot fewer pixels on a subject means that a lot of detail is lost. It would be the same thing as using an image from a Nikon 1 V3 at 100% and comparing it to another V3 image that was cropped 50% to 75% on the long side. The cropped image would look quite poor compared to the 100% one.

      I can say that the M.Zuiko lenses like the 40-150 f/2.8 PRO are extremely sharp and are excellent. I have seen some of the images done by the photographers you noted and they produce stellar work. From what I’ve seen the vast majority of it was produced using the M.Zuiko 300 mm f/4 prime which is an exceptional lens. I do not like shooting with prime lenses so the 300 mm f/4 is of no interest to me. I imagine that they did not have to crop their images very much, if at all.

      Olympus is rumored to be launching a 150-400 f/4.5 PRO with a built-in 1.25 teleconverter, as well as a long telephoto zoom geared to consumers… likely in the 200-800 mm range. Based on what I have seen with the M.Zuiko lenses that I own, I imagine that the 150-400 f/4.5 PRO will be an exceptional lens. So… we will need to wait to see what happens when more long telephoto glass is available. My MC-20 was back-ordered. Once it arrives I will be doing some work with the M.Zuiko 40-150 f/2.8 PRO and the MC-20 combination.


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