Nikon 1 J5 at high ISO

Without question photographers who depend on excellent low light performance from their gear are best served by full frame cameras. Many of us mainly shoot under good lighting conditions and we only periodically challenge our cameras by shooting in low light situations. I recently purchased a Nikon 1 J5 and wanted to put it to the test. So, earlier today I went out to Bird Kingdom to try my Nikon 1 J5 shooting at high ISO.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400

I typically capture images using Manual mode and let my ISO float by using Auto-ISO 160-3200. Since I wanted to push my Nikon 1 J5 I set my ISO to 6400 and changed my camera settings to Aperture priority.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 132mm, efov 357mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 132mm, efov 357mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-6400

As you look through the photos and the accompanying EXIF data some of the exposures setting will look a bit strange…ISO-6400 combined with a fast shutter speed. This is simply a product of me wanting to shoot at ISO-6400 during my visit to Bird Kingdom.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400

I’m still not used to composing images from the rear panel of the Nikon 1 J5 so it took me a bit longer than usual to frame many of my images. I think I will soon grow accustomed to this approach and it won’t be as big of an issue in the future.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400

I did notice that the auto-focusing on the Nikon 1 J5 isn’t quite as fast as with my V2’s. This was especially true in low light areas of Bird Kingdom. Since I’m not planning on using the J5 to capture any images of moving subjects under dark conditions this won’t be an issue for me in the future.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-6400

Since many of the birds, especially in the Small Bird Aviary, are quite skittish it made it quite a bit trickier to capture images not having a camera equipped with an EVF.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-6400

The larger birds did not pose as much of a challenge. I liked the small birds that were sleeping best!

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-6400

In the Nocturnal Display I had to use a fairly slow shutter speed and the camera set-up handled it without any issue as I could prop the lens up against the glass of the enclosure for added stability.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.6, 1/20, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.6, 1/20, ISO-6400

Once in the Main Aviary it was easier to frame images as it is a more open environment and many of the birds remain perched for a bit more time.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400

Rather than just show you a few images this article has a selection of 20 photographs, all captured hand-held this morning. When sharing test results with you folks it’s always my preference to show you a decent selection of images to help give you a better idea about the capability of the gear I’m using.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208mm, efov 561mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208mm, efov 561mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-6400

All of the images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite with PRIME noise reduction, CS6 and Nik Suite.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-6400

I didn’t do anything special to any of these images or spend an inordinate amount of time on any of them. I simply used the adjustments I typically would apply for bird images captured at Bird Kingdom so I could compare them to past images taken with my V2’s.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 149mm, efov 403mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 149mm, efov 403mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-6400

Overall, I was quite happy with how the Nikon 1 J5 performed and how the files it produced responded to OpticsPro 10 and my other software.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-6400

While I wouldn’t make it a habit to capture images with the Nikon 1 J5 at ISO-6400, depending on the type of use the images would get, I would not hesitate to shoot at this ISO when appropriate.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-6400

I even used ISO-12800 for a couple of test images, including the duck below. I think this is more of an emergency setting when no other option exists.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 121mm, efov 326mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-12800
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 121mm, efov 326mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-12800

Like all cameras, the dynamic range and colour depth of my Nikon 1 J5 decreases as higher ISO’s are used. Images do suffer as a result with more colour blocking and fewer details in shadow and highlight areas.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400

This is to be expected when using a camera with a small sensor at higher ISO’s.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-6400

You’ll also notice that the colour transitions are not as smooth as they could be because of the high ISO’s I used.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-6400

Images captured at ISO-6400 with the Nikon 1 J5 would be acceptable for web use and potentially for smaller sized prints.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400

I’ll be doing some additional testing with my Nikon 1 J5 over the next few weeks and will be sharing additional results with you.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-6400

Matching up a Nikon 1 J5 with a V-Series camera like the V2 or V3 makes a great combination as the cameras compliment each other very well.  As long as I didn’t absolutely need a camera with an EVF I would choose the much improved image quality of the J5 over a V3.

Composing from  the rear screen does take a bit of getting used to, but I think the better sensor performance of the Nikon 1 J5 is a reasonable trade-off.

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to make a modest $10 donation through PayPal to support my work it would be most appreciated. You can use the Donate button below. Larger donations can be made to tom@tomstirr.com through PayPal.

You can also support my efforts when you purchase anything from B&H by using the Thomas Stirr affiliate link. Even the smallest purchases will help support this web site.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store by using promotion code AMPLIS52018TS.

Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. While we do allow some pre-authorized links to our site from folks like Nikon Canada and Mirrorlessons.com, if you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.

11 thoughts on “Nikon 1 J5 at high ISO”

  1. Great photos as always. You are an excellent ambassador for the Nikon 1 system! Do you always use the default settings for noise and sharpness in DxO 10/11 or do you treat each image with different settings for noise/sharpness?

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the positive comment – much appreciated!

      In terms of handling noise with Nikon 1 files I always apply the standard PRIME setting to all of my images regardless of the ISO at which they were captured…even base ISO-160. I have some custom presets that I created in OpticsPro for various types of images and each of them uses Global lens softness set to 1.20 and Detail at 70. This, of course, is personal taste and some folks will apply less or more than I do. I typically don’t apply micro-contrast to landscape images, but will use it for bird photos, mechanical subjects, flowers and such. I haven’t used OpticsPro 11 too much yet but I think it automatically applies micro-contrast to images. I noticed that it will sometimes bump my typical micro-contrast setting of ’10’ up to ’13’. To my eye that doesn’t make a discernible difference, but for some folks who don’t apply any micro-contrast to their images they would likely perceive them to be ‘sharper’ due to improved edge acuity.

      Tom

  2. The J5 has long looked impressive for sure. I was holding on getting one, until the price drops. Then the DL line came into view and I think they will use the same sensor.

    So who knows now…

    But your post process is remarkable. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the positive comment – much appreciated! I think the assumption that folks are making is that the 20.8MP sensor in the quoted specs for the DL series of cameras will be the same BSI one in the J5. This is a reasonable assumption. Since those cameras have been delayed it is anyone’s guess at this point whether that will actually happen though. While the recent announcement from Sony about stopping the development and manufacture of ‘high end camera modules’ for third party manufacturers may not apply to their sensor business at all…if it does then all bets could be off with Sony sensors in other brands of cameras. This could potentially affect the DL. To me, a bird in hand is always worth two in the bush. I really don’t have any interest in the DL models but I do love the sensor performance of the J5 so I pulled the trigger and bought a J5…and this week ordered a second J5 to boot. This helps to ‘future proof’ my Nikon 1 system investment.

      Tom

  3. Your skill at processing shows up well here. I’m not sure I would be confident in processing such high ISO – I must give it a go sometime.

    Thank you for sharing this Tom.

    1. Hi Ian,
      Thanks for the supportive comment! If my intent was to photograph a subject and produce a large print I certainly wouldn’t use ISO-6400. With the J5 I’d likely keep it to a maximum of ISO-1600 instead. One of the reasons that I ‘gave this a whirl’ was to see if the new 20.8BSI sensor behaves much differently than the Aptina in my V2’s. My early view is that not only is the dynamic range and colour depth better, there may be a couple of other things that can be done as well. Pushing things to ISO-6400 is one of them. The other one…well…still doing some testing and not 100% sure quite yet. If it works out – there will be a future article on it.
      Tom

  4. I remember shooting an NFL game in Tokyo Dome years ago. Used some Kodak iso 800 film pushed to 1600 and the photos were so bad but that’s all we could do.
    Photography has come a long way in the past 25 years. (12800 iso!)
    Great shots Tom, keep testing, we love it.
    jgb

    1. Hi Jack,
      I remember my film days too! My very first camera was a Nikkormat when I worked in the newspaper business as an advertising sales rep. We’d have to sell the ad, do the layout, write the copy, and take our own photos. Back then we were given black and white ISO-400 film to use. Like you at the Tokyo Dome I often had to push film to ISO-800 and even ISO-1600 to get the right exposure. Luckily the images were used in newspaper ads which hid the resulting grain to a large extent!
      Tom

  5. Tom – as always, I appreciate your appreciation of the Nikon 1 system. I have been debating about the J5 vs V3, and perhaps will go J5. Your articles are really good because of your descriptions of the techniques you use – f/stop, speed, etc., – and these make a world of different IMHO because I really learn from your posts. Thanks for the great work! – N

    1. Thanks for the positive comment N – much appreciated! For those of us who are used to having cameras with a viewfinder the Nikon 1 J5 is a bit of a challenge. I know that’s how I felt about it when I did my review on the camera about a year ago. I loved the improved image quality from the new 20.8MP BSI sensor but I really couldn’t see myself being happy with a non-EVF camera. Well…as with all things photographic the J5 has trade-offs. The image quality is much better, in my experience, than the V3. Noticeably better dynamic range and colour depth. Handling isn’t as good as with a V3…more like the V2 which for me is acceptable. You’ll have to decide how important an EVF is to you. I plan on using my J5 mainly for landscape, street photography, and with extension tubes so the EVF isn’t that important for those genres. But…it is a very personal decision and one that you’ll need to really weigh in terms of pros and cons.

      Another factor, of course, is cost. At $500 for a J5 vs. about $1200 for a V3 there is a big cost spread. It is large enough that you could almost add the 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm and the 18.5mm prime (or 30-110mm instead) and have a nice, compact kit for about the same money as just the V3 with a kit 10-30mm PD lens.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *