Category Archives: Gear

Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Camera Review: A lesson in expectation management

How does the Nikon 1 V1 perform?

Count me among those who were less than overwhelmed by Nikon’s “big” announcement of its small interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon 1 system. For years, many Nikon enthusiasts, myself included, have wanted a small camera that delivered great image quality and high performance. The consensus was that if Nikon built a compact, mirrorless camera based on one of its APS-C sensors, they’d have a real competitor for the Leica and Micro Four-Thirds system cameras out there. Instead, it seems that Nikon chose to go the other direction by giving us a new format, CX, with a sensor size of 13.2mm x 8.8mm and 10.1 megapixels. CX is smaller than APS-C and M4/3. In fact, it has a “crop factor” of 2.7x. Nikon touted this camera as a fast performing alternative to a traditional point and shoot camera with a good set of lenses and accessories to support it.

It’s at this point in the story where you have to remember how Nikon engineering works. They decide who the product is targeted to, and design it to that perceived market. So to all of us who are in the pro/advanced DSLR camp, the Nikon 1 system seemed like a disappointment. After all, we’re the ones using our DSLRs in near darkness. And while we may be disappointed that the Nikon 1 system wasn’t going to be the APS-C based walkabout camera we wanted it to be, we need to consider the actual intended target market for this camera: people who want a small, compact camera that is responsive and produces good images in most conditions. In other words, families.

It is in this light that I’m going to review the Nikon 1 V1. I have a Coolpix P7000, and while I like it in general, it still frustrates me at times. It does not focus fast enough for any kind of action shots, and the tiny sensor makes noise reduction a must at just about any ISO. Moreover, the Coolpix P7000 only produces an 8-bit NRW format RAW file, which isn’t as good as the 12-bit NEFs my DSLRs generate.

I bought my Nikon 1 V1 after a lengthy conversation with a colleague, who had recently tested one in Africa. He, too, has a Coolpix P7000 and a Canon G12, and he said that after using the V1, he’ll never touch either of those cameras again. I had a family trip to Disneyland coming up, and I wanted to get good shots but also travel light. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to test the V1, so I went ahead and bought one from B&H, along with three lenses, the 10mm f/2.8 “pancake,” the 10-30mm VR zoom, and the 30-110mm VR zoom. I also picked up the accessory Speedlight, SB-N5. Continue reading Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Camera Review: A lesson in expectation management

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Photographer in Your Family

This would make a fine stocking stuffer if your a photographer!

Each year, I put together a list of good “stocking stuffers” for Nikon photographers. Many of these items will work for other brands, too, like memory cards and books.

To make it simple, I constructed a public wish-list over at B&H Photo (they do seem to have just about everything) to keep everything organized. Also, by shopping at B&H, you help support the bandwidth costs for this website.

Click to see my 2011 Holiday Wish List for Nikon photographers.

If you want to see more specific gear recommendation lists, you can check out my recommended kits, here.

If you’re looking for software products, don’t forget to take advantage of the 15% savings at Nik Software. Shop from this link, or enter JODELL at checkout to get 15% off all Nik products (US/Canada residents only).

Dont’ forget, all my eBooks and video tutorials are on-sale through November 30th, 2011 when you use coupon code anniversary11 at checkout.


Tip of the Week: Supporting Telephoto Lenses

Long focal length telephoto lenses are a staple of wildlife photography. If you save up enough money for one of the truly big lenses (400mm and up), you’ll also need to take into account how you’re going to support it. The big lenses are too heavy to comfortably hand-hold, and you’ll need to make sure your tripod is sturdy enough to hold the weight of your lens/camera combination.

I personally use one of two tripods for my telephoto work, the Gitzo 3541LS and it’s bigger brother, the Gitzo 5541LS. Both of these tripods are sturdy, carbon fiber designs that I can pack in my suitcase with the head removed. Most of the time, the 3541LS is plenty, but when I use my 600mm f/4 Nikkor, I use the heavier tripod for maximum rigidity and support.

After you have chosen a tripod, you’ll need to put a good head on it. Most of the time, I use the Really Right Stuff BH-55 head. However, when I’m using a big lens, like my 200-400mm f/4 AFS G VR Nikkor, the ball head isn’t quite ideal because the rig tends to flop if you aren’t careful to lock everything down. For big glass, I prefer to use a gimbal-style mount.

The simplest gimbal mount is an adapter, the Wimberley Sidekick. It mounts in your ball head and is small and easy to pack. It works great for lenses like a 300mm f/2.8 and my 200-400mm f/4 VR. However, when I pack the big gun, I also go with the Wimberley WH-200 gimbal head. This head replaces your ball head and gives you maximum flexibility for balancing the biggest lenses, like the 600/4 and 400/2.8.

Here’s a short video that shows how the three different support types (Ball head/Sidekick/WH-200) differ in use.

Get a free Think Tank Photo module with any purchase of $50 or more when you shop with this link.

Sometimes, size really does matter

If you want to photograph birds, you need as much focal length as possible. This image was taken with a 600mm lens.

Wildlife photography is probably my favorite activity. Of all the wildlife subjects, birds are by far the most challenging subject to photograph. They are fast, small, and extremely wary of humans. In this case, having the right gear really does matter. If you’re going to be a bird photographer, you not only need as much focal length as possible, but you also need a camera with fast autofocus, a solid tripod, and good technique. Continue reading Sometimes, size really does matter

Who needs a multi-row pano kit?

Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. 5-shot pano stitch (Click to enlarge)

Panoramic images are a current hot topic in the digital photography world. For the uninitiated, a panoramic image is any image that has an exaggerated aspect ratio; much longer (or taller) than it is wide. You can produce panoramic images in one of two ways:

  • Cropping
  • Stitching

While cropping can work great, you throw away image resolution when you do it. With stitching, you need to take multiple images and blend them together. Doing so gives you images with far more detail than you’d get from any single image frame. Consider a simple stitch with two shots from the 16 megapixel Nikon D7000, which produces a 4,928 x 3,262 pixel image. Simply by combining two shots end to-end, you’d get a composite image that was at most 9856 x 3262 pixels– 32MP. Continue reading Who needs a multi-row pano kit?