Photographing bees with Nikon 1 J5

I thought it might be fun to try photographing bees with the new Nikon 1 J5 so I went out in the backyard for about 40 minutes or so to see what kind of images I could capture.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes

I attached my Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR lens to the J5, along with the 10mm and 16mm Vello extension tubes.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes

I shot hand-held using manual settings and auto-ISO. I tried both matrix and centre weighted metering. Most of the time I used AF-S with single point AF.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-800, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-800, Vello extension tubes

Since it was quite windy I had to use a faster shutter speed. I also had to try to time some of my shots as the flowers were bobbing around with the bees clutching onto them. The auto-focus on the J5 was very quick and I was able to grab a number of usable images.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes

Most of the images were shot in bright, direct sunlight as I wanted to test the dynamic range of the new 20MP BSI sensor in the J5. I was quite pleased with how well it was able to hold onto the highlights in the images. I was very pleased with the results after processing the RAW files using my standard process. The dynamic range is much improved from those produced by my Nikon 1 V2’s.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-500, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-500, Vello extension tubes

This article was originally published using out-of-camera jpegs as the Nikon1 J5 module was not available at the time of writing the original post.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-1100, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-1100, Vello extension tubes

While I personally would not buy a camera that did not have a viewfinder I think the Nikon 1 J5 is a really great little camera. It is very well suited for use with the Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR lens when used with extension tubes to take macro-type images of flowers and insects.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-1250, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-1250, Vello extension tubes

All of the images in this article are full frame captures with absolutely no cropping done to them. I thought it was important that readers could see how close one can get with the J5 when using the Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR lens and the 10mm and 16mm Vello extension tubes stacked together. Personally, I think this is the best Nikon 1 lens to use with extension tubes as it is so light and easy to handle.

To view more images of bees captured with the Nikon 1 J5 click on the following YouTube video (please note that the video uses out-of-camera jpegs as per the original article):

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31 thoughts on “Photographing bees with Nikon 1 J5”

  1. Very nice! , Thanks that I found your site, interesting topics and nice pictures. I am a new to photography and after reading more then 100 websites this is just one which I like the best.
    I grow the aquarium corals and fish, I like them and see that can not have all of them and I have to make videos or pictures. I like disign of j5 and want only this camera. I do my videos very close to the glass 1-5 cm, 1,5-3×1 magnification with canon ixus 500 HS aquariumlife.eu. I like to go closer to the coral and need better quality camera and more practice. I got some advice that Canon 60D with f1.4 lens can be very good video quality for my work. Will it be very big difference with this big machine ? I can not imagine myself with big camera only j5. Thanks again
    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,

      You will likely find that the Nikon 1 J5 is much easier to position using very small tripods…at least this is what I have found doing industrial videos. I often need to get my cameras into tight spaces to video moving machinery etc. and the small size of Nikon 1 bodies is ideal. The quality of the video footage is quite good, especially if you can keep your ISO to ISO-800 or lower. For close up work with my Nikon 1 cameras I often use extension tubes. You will lose some light but you will be able to get a ‘macro-like’ effect. I would investigate the J5 further and also look at some of the Nikon 1 prime lenses like the 32mm f/1.2. With an extension tube you’ll be focusing almost right on top of your subject.

      The J5 will render nicer colours and will have better dynamic range than other Nikon 1 cameras since it has a new 20.8MP BSI sensor. Another option is the AW-1, or a J4 with an underwater housing. This would allow you to shoot video from inside your aquariums…although you may not be able to focus as close to your subjects as you may like. One of these options would give you an entirely different perspective. I may have a few minutes to test out the minimum focusing distance with my J4 when in the WP-N3 housing over the next few days. If I do, I’ll provide you with some additional information.

      Tom

      Tom

  2. hi thomas –

    thanks for the great macro photos. i bought an olympus 60 macro for my gh4 in hopes of taking photos of my miniature orchids, but i can’t seem to get enough depth of field to take a decent photo, even adjusting the aperture with aperture priority. the lens works fine otherwise, just not for macros. thanks for any tips.

    john

    1. Hi John,

      You have me at a disadvantage since I have never shot with that particular lens on a M4/3 body. I used to have a full frame Nikkor 105 micro and tried using it with my Nikon 1 V2’s and I was never happy with it. I found that I got much better results using the Nikon 1 30-110mm (efov 81-297mm) with extension tubes. If you have a long telephoto M4/3 zoom lens I would use that with extension tubes and then compare the results you get with the two approaches.

      Tom

  3. Hi Thomas
    Impressive bee pictures and a interesting topic.
    I have a question to ask. I have been looking into purchasing the 14E or 17E TC’s for my lenses I use on a D800E to photograph mainly wildlife.
    It would now seem there is another option to use a Mirrorless System to give extra reach with a FT1.
    Would it be a sensible choice to use a V2 or V3 as a Type of TC,
    with the added bonus of a high frame count per second ?
    Would I see a trade of in loss of image quality that is worse than the 17E degrade ?

    John

    1. Hi John,

      Glad you liked the images and thanks for your positive comment!

      You are comparing two very interesting options. The 1.4X Nikkor teleconverter is not going to affect image quality much at all so that may be a better choice with your D800E depending on what lens you are matching up with it. If you are using a long telephoto prime it should be an awesome combination. Using it with the Nikkor 80-400 VR zoom…not so much. That lens does not do very well with teleconverters.

      Between the V3 and a Nikkor 1.7 teleconverter I’d probably choose the V3. There is no low pass filter so the images are a tad sharper than the V2 and the sensor is a bit bigger to give you more cropping potential. There will be a pretty big trade off with dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance not using your D800E but I’m sure you already realize that. If you can wait for a while your best solution may actually be a future V4. I’ve been doing some work with the J5 and the new 20MP BSI sensor is a significant improvement over the V2 and the V3 in terms of dynamic range and colour depth. Not much difference between any of the V-series cameras in terms of low light performance.

      If you use the FT-1 adapter you will be limited to one focus point in the middle of the frame that cannot be moved, but the AF-C should work fine as well as the fps…20fps with full AF, and 30 or 60 fps with the first frame locking focus.

      You need to check teleconverter compatibility with your existing Nikkor glass before buying a teleconverter. Not all Nikkor lenses will accept teleconverters. You can find teleconverter compatibility on the Nikon web site. If you try to use a teleconverter with an incompatible lens you may damage the lens mount.

      Tom

  4. Thanks for the feedback. I looked up the Zacuto Z-Finder on B&H and it looks huge as well as incompatible with the small footprint of the Nikon System 1.

    Changing the subject: I grew up with a Rolleiflex and loved the human engineering of holding the camera with elbows locked
    and looking down to compose and focus. Other reasons: 1) I don’t have a camera blocking my vision the moment I’m taking a photo; 2) there’s no disconnect between the subject and the photographer and 3) I can take candid photos of people without drawing attention that I’m doing so. However, many times a viewfinder is essential so I like both ways of seeing the world and connecting to it. Your views?

    1. Hi David,

      Yup…once you see how I cobbled together my Z-Finder with the J5 it does look quite bizarre! But hey…it was just an experiment! I am a viewfinder shooter plain and simple. For certain subjects such as macro-type flower and insect images I’m quite comfortable using the rear screen, other than that I always like to take an image through a viewfinder. I find it gives me the most camera stability and allows me to frame shots exactly as I want them. This is especially important when I shoot hand-held at slower shutter speeds which I often do in lower light situations.

      I’m likely the worst person on the face of the planet to ask about technique when taking ‘candid people photos’. My wife will attest to the fact that the absolute last thing I ever want to take pictures of are people!

      Tom

  5. I am impressed with the depth of field of the macros. I am not a big fan of the macro rings – usually I give up and end up buying a macro lens anyway.

    Thom Hogan was also mentioning at some point that he is using exclusively Nikon 1 cameras for macros – now I realize why.

    1. Hi Dan,

      I used to own a Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR and used it with my D800. It was capable of great images, but the set up was so big and heavy it was just a pain to use.

      I tried using it with the FT-1 adapter with my V2’s but the lens would hunt like crazy for focus and I ended up missing a lot more shots than I got with it.

      I decided that for macro-type work that I really liked using the Nikon 1 30-110mm with extension tubes on my V2s the best. I really like how I can move the single focus point to precisely what I want in focus in terms of the key spot on the frame. The set up is incredibly light and so fast focusing that I very rarely even use a tripod any more.

      Tom

      1. Thank you for the tip – I fought with myself long and hard before deciding not to buy the FT1 and the 85mm DX macro. I have now a clear conscience. 🙂

          1. I sold all my Nikon bodies – I am holding only the 1.4 primes and a couple other lenses which are very undervalued on the market. Nikon will have to come up with a full frame mirrorless at some point.

            Meanwhile I bought into Sony A7 – I am not very happy with the move – practically same weight as with full frame Nikon, but a smaller body.

            This summer vacation I will make an experiment – I wild leave only with my Nikon 1 equipment J5, V3 an all their lenses except the 10mm. Let’s see how will turn out. The only reason why I am a bit dubious about this decision is that this will be an Alaska cruise and trip – lots of scenarios where the bigger DR of the bigger sensors would come in handy.

            1. Hi Dan,

              This is the same type of dilemma that I wrestled with before I went to Greece in 2014. I ended up leaving all of my FX gear at home and relied solely on my Nikon 1 gear. Overall I was really happy with how things turned out. Sure, it would have been better if I had more dynamic range and colour depth but the images still came out very well. You have the advantage of being able to take a J5 with the new BSI sensor. This will make quite a big difference in terms of dynamic range and colour depth from what I’ve been seeing with the jpegs. Once OpticsPro 10 has the J5 profile I imagine that the RAW files will be really good. Nikon has filed a patent for a full frame mirrorless body…so who knows?

              Tom

  6. Hi David,

    Depending on the angle of the sun it can be problematic but some adjustment of the screen angle does help. I didn’t have too much trouble today when photographing bees…I could see well enough to get them framed.

    I will be doing a rather ‘unusual’ experiment later this week with the J5…I have no idea if it will work or not so I’m not going to ‘let the cat out of the bag’ quite yet.

    Tom

  7. Thanks Thomas for your photographic essays and evaluations of the J5, the latest being the entry on photographing bees. I love the Nikon system one cameras and lenses but I need both the hinged monitor of the J5 and the viewfinder of the V2. I wanted to ask you how good the monitor is on the J5 on a bright day.

    1. Hi David,

      I did a bit of a test this morning and attached my Zacuto Z-Finder to the J5 by way of a couple of thick elastics. Not the most elegant of solutions but it did work. This could be a fall back position for folks worried about not having a viewfinder with the J5. I’m just sorting through some BIF images to see if I have anything usable.

      Tom

      1. Hi Thomas,
        Thanks for replay. I really like this small little camera and just looking to get it for better price. I do not understand will ‘ loose some light but you will be able to get a ‘macro-like’ effect.’ Will extension tubes effect picture quality? May be I need some real macro lenses DSLR cameras? I like lots of light.
        I will be waiting for result with with 32 mm f/1.2 lenses, very interesting! Thanks again
        Mike

        1. Hi Mike,
          Extension tubes do not affect image quality, but they do move the lens further away from the camera body so there is some loss of light in terms of exposure. Whether you will need a dedicated macro lens or not will depend on how much magnification you need, as well as the minimum focusing distance you need between the subject and the camera. Before buying gear you’ll need to figure this out.
          Tom

          1. Hi Thomas
            I make video or pictures 1-10 cm from my camera to the glass with 4,3,2 x 1 magnification. What do you think about Fuji X 100 f? I like two of them and do’t know which is the best for me. Thanks
            Mike

            1. Hi Mike,
              You may be best served with a system that can provide you with a dedicated macro lens. I really can’t comment about Fuji as I have never shot with their cameras so I have no first-hand experience with them. Since most Fuji cameras are not supported by OpticsPro it is not a brand that I would personally look at…but that’s just me. Many Fuji owners are very pleased with the results that they get with Fuji gear. I’d suggest going over to mirrorlessons.com and check out whether Mathieu and Heather have done any reviews on the specific Fuji gear you are considering. Their website specialize in mirror-less cameras.
              Tom

                1. Hi Mike,

                  The minimum focusing distance of my J4 with the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD lens appears to be about 4.5-5 inches (11.3 to 12.7 cm)away from the front of the waterproof housing. While this would not give you ‘macro’ images being able to shoot stills or video underwater in your tanks may be an interesting option.

                  Tom

                  1. Yes Tom, but my tanks are too small with lot of corals, and with special light on the top for them. Any changes of directions of the light or any disturbance into the water gets stress for corals. For this reason i have optiwhite glass aquariums. I like my canon 500 HS x 12 optical zoom, it is doing great job for me but I need more professional better quality small nice camera like j 5. When corals are feeding i would like to jump inside into the coral with my camera, like into the flowers but with corals I have to do it very fast. Thanks
                    Mike

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