Nikon 1 J5 landscape photography

As the final instalment of articles in advance of my hands-on review of the Nikon 1 J5 I went out today to test the camera’s capability with landscape photography. One of our readers, Ray Miller, was kind enough to act as my guide today and took me to a number of very interesting spots at which I could put the Nikon 1 J5 through its final hands-on test.

I specifically looked for scenes and situations that would challenge both the dynamic range and colour depth of the J5’s new 20.8 MP BSI CX sensor. All of the images in this article were shot hand-held using the Nikon 1 10-30 mm PD kit zoom. Each is shown as full frame captures, no crops of any kind were done to the images.

I used my standard workflow to make adjustments to RAW files for almost all of the images in this article. Only the first image is an out-of-camera jpeg which is there for comparison purposes. I found the RAW files produced by the J5 were excellent and very easy with which to work. From a hands-on perspective the J5’s RAW files have more latitude in terms of dynamic range compared to those produced by my Nikon 1 V2’s. Colours also seem smoother and a tad richer.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

As I mentioned earlier I really tried to find challenging scenes for the Nikon 1 J5. To give you an example the following is an out-of-camera jpeg before any OpticsPro 10 adjustments were made.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30 PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160

And, here is the same image after OpticsPro 10 adjustments were done. Obviously not all of the images needed this level of adjustment.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160

We started out fairly early in the morning at an area golf course and found some interesting tracks in the dew. I found that composing from the rear panel was easy to do and I was able to get the framing I wanted without too much difficulty – in this case using the tracks in the dew as a leading line entering from the bottom left corner.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 20mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 20mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160

A series of stairs and trails led us down to the waters edge of the Niagara Gorge.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400

We found a tribute to one of our fallen heros.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 26mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 26mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-1800

I often like to use rock outcroppings as feature elements in my compositions.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 19mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 19mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600

Or, as a partial reveal in a composition as in the image below. As is my common practice I used single point AF for all of the landscape images in this article.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 17mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 17mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600

I found the ‘X’ pattern in this scene intriguing.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-3600
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-3600

It can often pay dividends to look behind you when hiking. In the image below I noticed a strong shadow ridge that had covered the rock path in darkness. I was able to lift the shadows sufficiently to reveal a good level of details.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160

Parts of the shoreline along the Niagara River can appear quite tranquil, hiding its true power and danger.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-250
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-250

Some very high contrast scenes can cause highlight clipping with the Nikon 1 J5. This can be expected given its dynamic range rating of 12EV on DxOMark. Compared to my V2’s, dynamic range performance is much improved with the new 20.8 MP BSI sensor and the J5 held highlights better than does my V2. There are also more shadow details available. The cement pier in the following image would have absolutely been blow out with my V2 but some of the highlights held with the J5.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-800
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-800

Some bright flowers in dark shade by Brock’s Monument.  Sky is blown out but shadow details held well. I purposely used a fast shutter speed to force the J5 to auto select a high ISO and thus reduce the dynamic range as I wanted to see what kind of image would result.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-2500
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-2500

I also had the opportunity to test the Nikon 1 J5 with some typical subject matter often found when doing landscape imaging.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-360
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-360

Even though the subject leaf was in harsh, direct sunlight the J5 held highlights quite well.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-320
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-320

I often find tree bark quite appealing and somewhat abstract.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-2800
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-2800

A flower garden in harsh, direct sunlight was also a good test for the J5’s new sensor.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 12mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-180
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 12mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-180

Overall I was quite pleased with how the J5 performed. Composing from the rear screen posed a bit of a challenge when in strong, direct sunlight but not to the point where I could not get my desired image. The dynamic range and colour depth are both improved from previous Nikon 1 models such as my V2’s.

People looking for a small, light, and capable camera for landscape photography will enjoy the Nikon 1 J5.

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Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

28 thoughts on “Nikon 1 J5 landscape photography”

  1. I own the V3 and my girlfriend just bought a J5. Currently only LIghtroom and Photoshop can handle J5 raw files (and of course the Nikon software). They are of course are not as good as DXO. I use DXO primarily for all of my V3 files. I do not understand the delay is supporting the camera. Their test on the camera came out a few weeks ago but still no module has been created for the camera. Is this a question of priority or a problem working with Nikon?

    Steven

    1. Hi Steven,

      I’m not sure what the hold up is on the J5 module…other than there has been a lot of new products introduced by a number of manufacturers the past several months. It could be that priority is given to DSLR related products.

      Tom

  2. I appreciate the service you’re rendering with the thoroughness
    with which you’re testing the J5. I had a question on some of the high ISOs such as 1600, 3600, 6400, etc. Did you have the adjustment on auto-ISO, i.e., is the camera finding and setting the ISOs or did you select these yourself after a trial and error? What was your rationale for such high ISO on landscape shooting? I was also wondering why there was such a large swing from low ISO landscapes and the high ISO landscapes? (I’m asking these questions from the viewpoint of learning from your expertise and experience.) All the best, David

    1. Hi David,

      I was shooting in manual mode with auto-ISO and at times I was purposely trying to force the camera into using very high ISOs. I did this so I could see how the camera handles ‘high noise’ situations with landscape subjects. There currently isn’t an OpticsPro 10 module available for the J5 but I wanted to make sure I had some examples of high ISO landscape for further investigation once the DxO module is available. In a practical sense I would always try to shoot at the lowest ISO possible as to get the best dynamic range and colour depth from the sensor. By forcing high ISOs it gives me some sample images to look at dynamic range and colour depth loss with RAW files once the DxO module is available.

      Tom

      1. Thank you, sir, for your clarification re ISOs on the J5 shoot.
        Very instructive and appreciated. I look forward in your ultimate review to seeing a comparison between jpeg and raw renditions if the raw module becomes available. Is J5 raw available in Lightroom or Aperture — could you use one or the other to open in raw? Also it would be fascinating if you were to take a few landscape shots with the D800 or an APS-C sensor and compare to the same with the J5. This approach would offer real world comparisons instead of abstract test scores.

        1. Hi David,

          Sorry…I don’t know if a J5 module is available in either Lightroom or Aperture as I don’t use either one of those programs. I don’t think there would be any contest between a D800 or a recent DX sensor Nikon body with the J5 in terms of dynamic range or colour depth…even at base ISO the larger format sensors would win hands down. Shooting against entry level and mid-range Canon DSLRs may be a different story.

          Tom

          1. I do event photography with a Nikon 610 the excellent 3.5-4.5 24-85 lens. Yes , of course, on paper the dynamic range of of the D810 is far superior to a J5; but until I see it in actual photos it remains theoretical. I’d shoot shoot the comparison myself using my D610 but I don’t have a J5. P.S. I’d be very happy if the V4 were a J5 with a viewfinder. Very happy indeed.

            1. Hi David,

              I think we can expect to see a V4 from Nikon no later than by the first quarter of 2016 and I think we can assume that it will have the same sensor as the J5. This will be a significant improvement from the Aptina sensors used in previous generations of Nikon 1 cameras. Like you, I am very much looking forward to the V4!

              Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    In my book, you are one of the best photographers. Some street shots you took in Greece for instance (here and here) provoked in me that rare wow factor.

    I also saw full resolution (5568 x 3712) of nice street photos of Warsaw taken with the J5 and 10-30mm PD kit zoom there on flickr, as well as photos from a talented guy in Russia, also a J5 set on flickr.

    Knowing the difference between the sensor sizes of the a5100/a6000 and J5, I’m still bewildered by the crispness and clarity of the J5.

    Your recent shots on landscapes, flowers or bees are another testimony to my ongoing bewilderment.

    Awaiting for your review of the J5 as I’m about to decide between the Sony a5100 or a6000, and Nikon J5…

    Thanks for your work!

    Gilles

    1. Hi Gilles,

      Thank you very much for your most generous comment – it is greatly appreciated! I’m glad you have been enjoying the articles and the images! I am hoping to have my hands-on review of the J5 completed by the end of the month if at all possible. There likely won’t be any additional new images, but rather a summary of what I have been posting to date with some summary comments on the Nikon 1 J5.

      Tom

    2. Hi Gilles,

      I had the A6000 – I sold it a week ago. As with everything, A6000 vs J5 you gain some/you lose some.

      The A6000 has much better sensor – dynamic range and colors. I would recommend the Sony 16-70mm for general use, the 24mm 1.8 for low light and the Touit 12mm if you are into wide angle photography – this is a light kit which worked for me greatly during a couple of vacations.

      The J5 has smaller lenses, a touch screen and faster autofocus and picture rate. Overall I have much more fun with the J5, but this is personal.

      The quality of the lenses is similar for both systems.

      I would recommend that you go into a store and handle both cameras to see which one clicks with you.

    1. Hi Dan,

      The images were taken at a variety of locations in the Niagara Peninsula that can be reach from the Niagara Parkway between Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Butterfly Conservatory. Most of them are not very effectively marked with signage and I was lucky to have Ray Miller point them out to me. I will need to get some exact instructions from Ray on how to get to these various spots as they are difficult to find. I have driven by some of these locations literally hundreds of times in the past and I had no idea that they even existed. I’ll see if we can put a more detailed set of instructions together and post it here in the future.

      Tom

      1. That is a great place which is overlooked by everybody driving to Niagara-On-The-Lake. There is a bike trail parallel – more or less – with the road where we biked about 10 years ago. Beautiful place.

        1. Hi Dan,

          The bike trail is excellent for folks that enjoy that activity. Many folks do not realize that the Niagara Parkway goes virtually all the way to Fort Erie and is a beautifully scenic drive almost any time of year.

          Tom

      2. You talk about “difficult to find” spots. I used the Nikon 1 GPS in many trips to track where we’ve been. Funny enough the Nikon 1 GPS is the best one I used so far with a camera – no cables, and if you update it before leaving to the excursion the satellite lock times are great. Usually first lock in a new place takes 2-3 minutes, all the subsequent ones about 10 seconds. Not even that, if you leave the camera on.

        And it is dirt cheap, as GPSes go – check it on BHPhoto.

        The only thing I did not figure out so far was how to print the map with the GPS pins. 😀

        1. I completely agree. The Nikon 1 GPS is the best I have ever used. Having GPS is non negotiable. Hopefully the V4 will allow concurrent use with the viewfinder.

    2. Hi Dan,

      Ray Miller was kind enough to provide the following detailed instructions on the various locations we were photographing to put images together for this article.

      1. Niagara Whirlpool
      First Parking lot on east side (river side) of the Niagara Parkway immediately north of the Niagara Parkway – Whirlpool Road intersection and across the road from the Whirlpool Golf Course. The parking lot is about 150 meters north of this intersection. Once parked, walk about 50 meters south (towards the intersection) and you will come to a set of stairs leading down to the whirlpool. A bicycle rack is located at this entrance. A small sign about conserving nature is all that is there to indicate this stairway. There are multiple stairways and pathways with rocks underfoot leading to the water. Take extra care when walking both down and up from the whirlpool. The whirlpool has a rocky shoreline and often fishermen are present along the arc of the whirlpool. Do not attempt to enter the water as this area is very dangerous with fast moving water and undertows.

      2. Locust Grove picnic area.
      The entrance on the Niagara Parkway to this scenic outlook over the Niagara River is located about 100 meters south, just prior to entering, the traffic circle at the entrance to the Queenston Heights Park on top of the escarpment. A small sign is all that is there to indicate the entrance. The sign states: Locust Grove Picnic Area. The viewing area overlooking the Niagara River is also home to a number of Turkey Vultures and a few Red Tail Hawks and many other bird species.

      3. Queenston Boat Launch
      Located at the bottom of the hill in Queenston on the Niagara Parkway, turn right on Dumfries Street and proceed to the boat launch roadway immediately after crossing Front Street. The boat launch road is bumpy with many pot holes but accessible by most vehicles. Early in the morning, just after sunrise is the best time to visit where Herons, Egrets and other birds are feeding.

      4. Niagara on the Lake waterfront.
      As you travel north along the Niagara Parkway and approaching the town of Niagara on the Lake turn right on Ricardo Street which will take you to various river side scenic areas. On your left going down to the water level will be Fort George. The first parking area on your right near the bottom of the hill will be Navy Hall which has free parking and there is a dock on the water where great views of the river traffic and the Youngstown, New York marina can be seen. Continue north along Ricardo Street, (which becomes Front Street after crossing King Street) and other scenic views of the river await you. At the very end of Front Street where it meets Simcoe Street, the Town has erected a Gazebo which offers great views of the mouth of the Niagara River and out into Lake Ontario. Directly across the river, on the New York side, Fort Niagara can be seen.

      Tom

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