Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nikon V1 in AZ - A Review! - 18 Mar 2012

The week of 29 Feb to 7 Mar gave me an opportunity to put the new Nikon V1 camera and 10-30 mm lens to the test. We spent the week in Sedona, AZ, and I had the opportunity to digiscope at locations like Red Rock State Park, Oak Creek, Bell Rock, and Babbitt Tank near Flagstaff.  After some unplanned for setbacks with the camera (my fault) I was able to give the camera a heavy workout and produce some really-pleasing images that I was happy with.

My first full day of digiscoping with the V1 occurred at Red Rock State Park, where I had hoped to photograph some Anna's Hummingbirds.  Digiscoping opportunities were so fast and furious that I did not realize that the Mode dial had been accidentally switched to "Motion Snapshot Mode", which captures a single frame and a 1-second video at 30fps and plays it back at 2.5 sec speed. So, instead of shooting multiple frames at 10 fps I was shooting 1-second videos! Grrr... Oh, well, no better way to learn a new camera than making mistakes of epic proportions. At least I was able to get a few keepers out of the single-frame captures. The Anna's Hummingbird spreading its tail (below) is a freeze-frame from one of the videos I mistakenly took. Not bad! The Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee and Canyon Towhee are the single-frame captures that were taken with the 1-second video.

Having corrected my Mode dial snafu, I went back to the Oak Creek and had the chance to digiscope some of the numerous Mallard that frequented the moving stream next to the L'Auberge Resort.  Among them were two pair of Mandarin Duck, American Wigeon, Wood Duck, and Gadwall.  During the sunny afternoon of my 2nd day I took these images from 20 - 45' away.  The camera was set to Auto-ISO (100-400) and Aperture-Priority.  Using the Electronic Shutter I was able to shoot at 10 fps.

I returned to Red Rock State Park to exact revenge on the Anna's Hummingbirds that taunted me from their perches a few days before. This time, with the V1 properly set I attempted to digiscope the male Anna's at the moment he would turn his head just enough to display his gorgeous magenta gorget.  Here is where the 10 fps continuous shooting really shines (no pun intended).  Fast autofocus and quick response of the camera helped to capture these frames:

A trip to Flagstaff, AZ to look for Chestnut-collared Longspurs allowed me to test the autofocus speed of the Nikon V1.  A flock of 100 - 150 Horned Larks and longspurs swirled around Babbitt Tank, a small water-filled hole in the middle of the Arizona desert.  The nervous flock searched the still-frozen pond surface for a place to drink, and tended to flush just as they landed in a location. This required me to be fast w/ the scope and with the camera.  I managed a few keeper images of my attempts, which were taken from ~100' away.

In our attempt to look for the Energy Vortex at Bell Rock lookout, we discovered a wonderful birding location just outside of Oak Creek, only 10 minutes from Sedona.  The open fields give way to dried riverbeds and hillside scrub land that attracts Western Scrub Jays, White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Verdin, Canyon and Spotted Towhees, and more Anna's Hummingbirds.  I encountered numerous Bewick's Wrens, Juniper Titmice and Bushtits, as well.   Skies were clear during the morning, but afternoon brought overcast skies, and an Anna's Hummingbird male that gave me fits trying to digiscope it from 50' away. It tended to perch w/ its back to me, and then, when it did perch facing me it only stayed for seconds before taking off again. 

One caution regarding Aperture-Priority shooting: the small toggle switch next to the function button at the top of the camera has a tendency to be bumped by the thumb, causing the camera to shoot at apertures much lower than expected.  On a number of occasions I realized I was shooting at F8 to F16 and had to toggle back down to F4.5 to F5.6.  Be careful when holding the camera, because this toggle switch is easily moved! And Beware of the moving Mode Dial!

Another hint: If you find the optical viewfinder suddenly stops working when the camera is on, check the tiny sensor next to the electronic viewfinder (EVF).  If it gets even a little bit of dust the camera's EVF will stay on all the time.  Use a Q-tip to wipe off the sensor and it should work just fine.

The camera used by itself is also wonderful!  I took these stills of scenic Sedona and surroundings w/o doing anything more than adjust the Exposure Compensation to -0.3 to -0.7 and shooting Aperture-priority. The panoramas were stitched together using Photoshop's Photomerge program.

Final thoughts? The Nikon V1 is destined to be the new champion camera for digiscoping.  It has the fastest autofocusing engine of any P&S, mirrorless/EVIL camera out there, full HD video capability, and Continuous shooting capabilities up to 60 fps.  The 10-30 mm lens is ideal for most scopes and eyepieces, and the 2.7X sensor will provide approximately 27 - 90mm zoom range equivalent 35mm format.  The EVF is bright, and eliminates the need for a Hoodman-style viewfinder shade for the optical viewfinder on the back of the camera.  My tube-style digiscoping adaptor is perfect for the 40X W eyepiece on my Zeiss 85T*Fl scope, so I have a fast, hands-free optional setup for quick acquisition and capture of even fast-moving birds.  With the 40X W eyepiece I have a digiscoping rig with ~1900 - 5800 mm range. Can't wait for shorebird season...


Myles said...

Jerry awesome shots. I'm just starting digiscoping in that I just got my vortex RAZR hd scope and I'm seriously considering the Nikon v1. Any other tips on camera settings? Appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance. My email address is Thanks.. Myles Hurlburt

Gordon Hodgson said...

Hi Jerry! My name is Gordon Hodgson. I've got the 82mm Nikon Fieldscope with the fixed 30X eyepiece for digiscoping. Until now my camera has been the Nikon P5100, and it has done great. But I am seriously considering the Nikon 1 V1. Do you have any suggestions re mounting the V1 to my scope? My preferred email is: Thanks for any help you can offer, or a website you know would help.