During my recent trip to Cuba I had the opportunity to try out my Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 lens shooting some hand-held video of various birds that were in the small wetland area that was adjacent to the hotel.
NOTE: click on images to enlarge
Typically when shooting video outdoors with my Nikon D800 I would have used a variable neutral density filter to help get correct exposures, a solid tripod, a fluid video head, and a shotgun microphone. Since I packed light for my holiday I didn’t bother bringing a tripod or video head and shot hand-held with my Nikon 1 V2 and CX 70-300 instead.
I did bring a variable neutral density filter with me but I ended up not using it. I found that my Nikon 1 V2 was having a difficult time acquiring and holding AF-F (Full-time AF) when I had to cut 3 stops of light from the scenes with my neutral density filter to get reasonable exposures. In addition when using the filter-darkened EVF to shoot hand-held video it was quite challenging to assess whether the subjects I was videoing were actually in focus.
Since I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in post-production with any of my holiday video clips I changed some of the settings I would typically use. Here are a series of screen shots showing the settings that I used:
I shot the video in 1080 HD at 30 fps.
I used Manual exposure settings so I could control all aspects of the exposure. To get natural looking motion at 30 fps it is important to shoot at 1/60th shutter speed. I also kept ISO set at 160 to help keep exposures close to where they needed to be.
Since I was shooting in a range of lighting conditions I used Auto White Balance.
I set vibration control for ‘Normal’ as I found that ‘Active’ caused too much internal lens movement and made the footage look a little jumpy.
I would typically do quite a bit of colour grading in post with client productions and as a result set Picture Control to ‘Neutral’ to give me flat looking base footage. Since I considered this footage as ‘holiday clips’ only I wanted to spend as little time in post as possible so I used the ‘Standard’ setting instead.
After trying various metering modes I determined that Matrix seemed to work best for these quick, hand-held video clips.
Since I was anticipating doing a lot of panning of birds swimming or moving around the surface of the water I used AF-F, Full time Auto Focus. This worked reasonably well and as long as my AF-F focus point didn’t get confused with plants or branches in the scene my Nikon 1 V2 seemed to hold focus with a decent level of consistency. It did lose focus from time to time but seemed to pick it back up again without too much hesitation.
And, finally to allow for subject movement towards and away from the camera I set my Nikon 1 V2 for subject tracking.
I shot a few video clips using my Nikon ME-1 shotgun microphone to try to get some useable background nature sounds for the Blue-Winged Teal production that I did for this article.
The majority of my video footage was shot with my Nikon 1 CX 70-300 fully extended to 300mm. This made hand-holding a challenge as even the slightest camera movement with static subjects was quite noticeable, and in my view made most of the clips of static subjects I shot unusable. I was hoping for better but without a tripod and fluid video head these types of captures were generally beyond my hand-held skill level when shooting the CX 70-300 fully extended to 300mm.
Shooting birds swimming or wading in the water did work better as the subject movement tended to mask the unavoidable camera movement.
Since I couldn’t use my neutral density filter for the reasons mentioned earlier, I had to stop the Nikon 1 CX 70-300 down to try to achieve proper exposures. As a result many of the individual video clips were shot at f/16. While this aperture setting for still images would have produced soft images due to severe diffraction, the motion in the video clips helped to hide the lack of sharpness to a degree.
Overall, the shots panning with swimming or moving birds seemed to work out the best. If I was going to try more nature video I would definitely purchase the tripod foot for the CX 70-300 and use a tripod and fluid video head to capture footage of static subjects. I think hand-holding, even at 300mm, with this lens can produce acceptable footage of moving subjects, but it does take some practice, coupled with some patience.
You can view a couple of YouTube videos that I produced for this article by clicking on the links below. The Blue-Winged Teal video took less than an hour to assemble and edit, while the Turkey Vulture one only took about 20 minutes. I did a few very minor exposure adjustments to some of the clips but didn’t bother with any other adjustments at all. I think the quality in these videos is a reasonable representation of what folks with very little video experience could produce from some holiday footage. Hope you enjoy them…
Turkey Vulture video:
Blue-Winged Teal video
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