Changes to Nikon 1 V3 BIF Technique

I’ve had my Nikon 1 V3 for about a week and a half and finally got the opportunity to go out and shoot with it with a bit of sun in the sky. Not much mind you…but at least it wasn’t totally overcast. I took about 45 minutes out of my rather hectic schedule to experiment shooting birds-in-flight (BIF) at Grimsby harbour.  I ended up making some changes to my Nikon 1 V3 BIF technique this morning and got a lot more keepers with these adjustments.

Note: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

I like using gulls as practice subjects as they are more erratic flyers than large birds like geese, and tend to take flight and land much more frequently, creating more test image opportunities.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 258mm, efov 695mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

Some things didn’t change. I still used AF-C with subject tracking.. I switched from shooting at 20fps down to 10fps. I found that this frame rate was still fast enough to yield a good assortment of wing positions with the birds.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 258mm, efov 695mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

Obviously my buffer filled at half the speed and I found that I was able to shoot in short to medium bursts without having to worry about missing shots due to a full buffer.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

I used Manual settings and shot using Auto-ISO160-3200, letting my ISO float as needed.

I’m quite used to extending my 1 Nikon CX 70-300 out full and picking up incoming birds using a focal length of 300mm when shooting with my Nikon 1 V2s.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800

I noticed today that the Nikon 1 V3 seems to have a little bit of difficulty picking up a bird and acquiring focus on it when the CX 70-300 is fully extended. And, when my V3 misses a bird…it really misses and hunts for a while, causing a lost image opportunity.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800

I decided to back off my CX 70-300mm to about 200mm to 220mm as I was trying to pick up approaching birds in the V3’s EVF. I wanted to see if having the bird a bit smaller in the frame would help the V3 better acquire initial focus.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-400

The V3’s auto-focus worked quite a bit better when more of the subject was showing in the frame using the 200mm-220mm zoom starting position.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-400

Once the V3 acquired initial focus I would then zoom in (at a moderate speed) to fill more of the frame with the incoming subject bird.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

To help ensure that I wouldn’t lose focus while adjusting my focal length I lightly tapped the shutter once or twice during the zoom adjustment.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

The shutter taps worked quite well and in the vast majority of cases I didn’t have any issues holding auto-focus while zooming in.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 517mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-220

Going from about 200-220mm out to 300mm on the Nikon 1 CX 70-300 is only about a 1/8th rotation of the zoom ring so it was quite easy to do.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

I know a few readers have mentioned that they have also been experiencing a lower keeper rate when using their Nikon 1 V3 compared to a V2. Hopefully this modest BIF technique adjustment will work as well for you as it has for me.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

Technical Note:
All of the images in this article were captured hand-held in available light using a Nikon 1 V3 and 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. All images were created from RAW files using my standard process of OpticsPro 11, CS6 and Nik Suite.

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9 thoughts on “Changes to Nikon 1 V3 BIF Technique”

  1. Have you found setting the a/e a/f lock button to “AF-ON” to allow for “back-button” focusing helpful on the V3? I do not own a V3 but have read this is one of the major advantages of the V3 over the V2 for getting a higher keeper rate for bird in flight photographs. Any thoughts?

      1. Hi Tom,
        Thanks for the reply. I will look forward to the article. Just a quick question, and perhaps you have addressed this elsewhere, but what was your motivation to get a V3 now? I have followed your writing for some time and know that you have been pleased with the V2. Just curious.
        Thanks,
        Mark

        1. Nevermind! I just scrolled down and saw your “Changes to N1 kit” article. Will give it a read. Cheers, and I look forward to your continued writings about the V3.

    1. Thanks for the tip Mark. It is extremely convenient to use back-focusing and always leave AF-C on. I use it all the time on my DSLR and now also on my V3.

      That way you are always ready for shooting both stationary and moving objects.

      However, I’m not sure that it will be an advantage when shooting birds in flight as you would already use AF-C in that case.

      You set the AE/AF-L button to AF-ON in Setup -> Assign AE/AF-L button.

      1. Thanks Anders. Re: back-button auto-focus as advantage when shooting birds in flight. I suppose it might depend on the flight path of the bird, birds coming towards or moving away would probably require AF-C but birds moving, say, from left to right, you might be able to lock focus at a certain distance and capture the bird in its flight path that way. I only have the V1, my best option I have found for the latter case is just to shoot a long continuous burst while tracking the bird. In that case I do not need to refocus and it also avoids the annoying V1 feature of automatic image review, saving me from missing a shot because I have to pause for image review because I have to pause for the buffer to clear anyways. So, lacking first-hand use of back-button auto-focus, it is interesting to read that you don’t use it for tracking BIF. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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